smile, Author at SMILE Community Action Agency
archive,author,author-smile,author-1,customer-area-active,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,select-theme-ver-2.2,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-4.5.2,vc_responsive



Making Footprints in Galaxies Far Away and Here at Home

Don’t ask me to explain Einstein’s theory of relativity, but there’s a star out there, jet-setting around the Milky Way’s Black Hole – destined to test it. S0-102, its name. And maybe one day, if man is successful, it’ll help us to better understand the bending – or rather, curving – of time and space.

Next door on Mars, curiosity hasn’t killed the Rover. Instead Curiosity has resulted in the discovery of ancient water streams. What does that mean? Only time will tell because in this case, space is relative. Mars is our neighbor. And that gives man more to contemplate.

Perhaps, we wonder: were there really men on Mars – space cousins? A great civilization? But like Pompeii, like the dinosaurs – they perished? And if so, is that an omen? For us?

Perhaps, we decide: what happens on Mars, stays on Mars? Bring Curiosity home! We don’t want confirmation of bad news.

No, instead we agree: we boldly go, and continue to make footprints. In space. And right here at home.

We make footprints like Neil Armstrong, designated as the reluctant hero when he recently passed away in late August. But as the first man to walk on the moon, Armstrong will long be remembered. His lunar footprints are immortalized just like his lunar words four decades ago: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

In Armstrong’s honor and the honor of all others who boldly went – wherever their destinies took them through time – through history – we boldly go too.

Armstrong’s death was a poignant reminder of our limitations – no matter how far we go, we cannot control time and space. We cannot control the future. We cannot even control today.

But that doesn’t mean we should just halt. Instead, it means that we should be eager to send more Rovers like Curiosity out there, and we should continue to test such things as Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Of course, being control freaks might make life a little easier. But it would also make life a little too dull knowing what to expect every day, every minute, every second.

The excitement of life is in the discovery. Learning new things. Discovering new galaxies. Out there. And here at home.

Yes, it’s true: we don’t know the future. We don’t know what future we’ll face – even in our personal lives. And that’s kind of scary. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t always great days ahead. Great discoveries. Great excitement.

I remember the excitement as a child watching all the space shuttle launches. The NASA countdown was thrilling to me. I loved when they said, “All systems go.” I loved the rocket engines roaring – the breakaway – as we leaped into space.

During my early days as a journalist, I covered an astronaut’s visit to Lafayette. I don’t remember his name. But I clearly remember who he said his role model was – his hero – the man who helped him fulfill his dream of becoming a doctor in space. The man who inspired him as a boy.

He flashed his slide presentation, and we all cheered as a photo of Dr. Leonard McCoy appeared on the screen. The original McCoy. The real McCoy.

And for us Trekkies in the audience, he was also “Bones” – the endearing nickname that Captain Kirk called him. Perhaps if he were here, he would say, “I’m not an astronaut, I’m a doctor.” But he – a fictitious character – had inspired an astronaut decades later to achieve reality.

So it doesn’t matter who your role models are. It doesn’t matter if they’re real or not. All that matters is there are role models. There are heroes. And that they inspire you to not only exceed, but for you to also provide inspiration for others.

When Armstrong died, his family released a statement, which included: “For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.”

We know not where life will lead us, but we don’t want to take life for granted. And since life was breathed into our bodies, we each have a role to play.

And that role should benefit mankind. No matter how large or how small.

Therefore, we must each take a step. And consider it as a leap of faith for mankind.

It begins with us – you and me. So – at this moment, at this time, consider taking your first step into whatever dreams you have, into whatever galaxies you want to go. Remember, like a baby, we will totter and fall. Maybe more times than not, but we must still take that first step.

As long as there are Milky Ways and other galaxies out there – and here at home, we must boldly go.

And like Neil Armstrong, it may be a small step. At first.

C’mon, are you ready? And remember, don’t forget to wink.


Ruth Foote is SMILE’s Director of Grants/Communications. She can be reached at (337) 234-3272, Ext. 210. Email her @


Secretary of State: Right to Vote is Central to Democracy

Election season is one of the busiest times of the year for the secretary of state’s office. The integrity of our elections is paramount to me because our right to vote is so central to our democracy. I hope that everyone plans to exercise that right so that your voice can be heard!

Early voting began on Tuesday, October 23rd and runs through Tuesday, October 30th (excluding Sunday, Oct. 28) from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. You don’t need a reason to vote early so consider taking advantage of this alternative method in order to miss the long lines expected on Election Day. Early voting is held at each parish’s Registrar of Voters’ Office and other designated locations in the parish. For a complete list of early voting locations, visit:

If you don’t vote early, you have a 14-hour window to do so on Election Day—November 6th. Polls open at 6 a.m. and remain active until 8 p.m. Items on the ballot include the presidential race, the congressional primary as well as nine state constitutional amendments. Additional local races and propositions are also on ballots throughout the state.

Voter turnout for the past three presidential general elections was 67.23 percent (2008), 66.9 percent (2004) and 63.5 percent (2000). We predict this year’s turnout to be 65-70 percent based on this historical data. In the tri-parish region comprised of St. Martin, Iberia and Lafayette parishes, turnout averaged 70.18 percent (2008), 69.6 percent (2004) and 65.7 percent (2000).

Currently, 85 percent of eligible Louisianians are registered to vote. The specific statistics for registered voters are as follows:

Total registered voters: 2,914,172

    • White: 1,887,837
    • Black: 893,963
    • Other: 132,372
    • Democrats: 1,406,691

    • White: 655,839
    • Black: 711,419
    • Other: 39,433
    • Republicans: 801,638

    • White: 747,686
    • Black: 23,642
    • Other: 30,310
    • Other Parties: 705,843

    • White: 484,312
    • Black: 158,902
    • Other: 62,629

Specific parish registration statistics can be viewed by visiting:

Finally, here are some helpful tips to voters who plan to get out and vote on Election Day:
Download our free smartphone app, GeauxVote Mobile, for iPhone, Android or mobile viewing. The app allows voters to check their registration status, view their sample ballot, find their polling place and view their elected officials.
Visit our Voter Portal at where you can apply for an absentee mail ballot online, make changes to their registration online, view the election calendar, and track the status of their mail ballot
Remember that anyone in need of assistance can also call the secretary of state’s voter hotline at 800.883.2805.
Consider participating in our Honor Vets Vote program by visiting our website at and entering the name of a military serviceman—past or present. This program is a way to pay tribute to those who fought and sacrificed for our freedom, including our right to vote. You’ll receive a certificate in honor of the veteran you designate, a lapel pin and a bumper sticker.
Join me on Election Day in celebrating our right to vote and participating in our great democracy.

Geaux Vote.


Guest Blogger Tom Schedler is the La. Secretary of State.


With Arms Wide Open, Let’s Welcome Opportunities

I didn’t run into too many people in 2012 who were ready for the holiday season – particularly, Christmas. For most of us, it had sneakily snuck up upon us, and we weren’t ready. We pondered: where had the time gone? Then the next thing we knew, the decorative red and green reign of Christmas had already been replaced in the stores by festive purple, yellow and green – tempting Mardi Gras king cakes. Christmas had come and gone, and the next holiday was getting ready to go up to bat. And once more, we pondered: where had the time gone?

In the midst of all, 2013 was becoming impatient. It was knocking at the door, waiting to come in. And we knew whether we opened the door or not, liked it or not, were ready or not, 2013 was going to step over the sill. We really had no choice in the matter.

After all, we knew time waited for no one.

So with arms outstretched – with arms wide open, why not just open the door and welcome 2013 in?

That reminds me of Creed’s hit song, “With Arms Wide Open,” written by the band’s lead singer Scott Stapp upon finding out he was going to be a father. With arms wide open, he sang about welcoming his child into the world, and being the best he could be. Of course, that was before he auditioned as a bad boy after the song’s immense success, and began hanging out with Kid Rock. Not sure where Scott is now or what he’s doing, but I remember how much I loved his band’s song even though its radio and video plays went into overdrive at times. But I never stopped liking the song. It remains a fitting and memorable song even in 2013. Google the lyrics, and see for yourself.

More than a decade has passed since the song made its debut. It just goes to show you that life goes on. And that means a new year is always beckoning – waiting at our door, waiting to come in.

It also means that it’s still not too late to welcome in 2013 even though it has definitely stepped over the sill already.

But let us take note, in case we didn’t get the opportunity to officially toast 2013̓s arrival, that we welcome it now with arms wide open. Most of all, we welcome the opportunities it brings. While we know not the future, we know that each year offers us opportunities – opportunities to make our dreams come true. As a matter of fact, each second that we draw in breath offers us the same.

Yet we are peculiar creatures, and we like to view time in the totality of segments. Since it goes so fast, we like to view it in years, months, weeks, days. For now, we’ll set aside the minutes and seconds, and concentrate on the larger timeframes. After all, they offer us the chance to set – and break – resolutions. The other day, can’t remember where except on television, they named reading more books and losing weight among the top New Year’s resolutions for 2013.

Whatever your resolutions are – whatever your dreams, your goals, your hopes, your aspirations – why not turn them over to 2013? Why not let 2013 be the year that you really put at least one into effect? The most important thing about goals, according to the experts, is not in making them but in implementing them. And according to the experts, that’s where accountability comes in. If you want to make goals, you have to become accountable in order to enforce their implementation. In other words, share your goals with others, and recruit a buddy to keep you focused.

I’m sure we’d all like to hire a life coach who would work to ensure that we adhered to our aspirations, and implemented our goals so that we could rejoice in our accomplishments. For those of you who can, follow your path, and then consider helping someone else to reach theirs.

For those who can’t, let’s visit our local library for books on implementing goals, or google online for advice. Wouldn’t it be nice when 2013 draws to an end and 2014 beckons at the door, we can look back and feel great that we accomplished something we’ve been dreaming about for years? That something can be as simple as clearing out a closet or a garage even though that might seem mountainous. But I bet we’d feel great afterwards.

When we were little, we would have been willing to testify in court that time stood still. We would have argued such was the case: time took forever and ever and ever.

Now that time seems fleeting, let’s make each moment count. Let’s vow to do all that we can so that 2013 overflows with our accomplishments. That way – when 2014 arrives, it won’t have to knock. We’ll already have the door wide open.


Ruth Foote is SMILE’s Director of Grants/Communications. She can be reached at (337) 234-3272, Ext. 210. Email her @


Staying Upbeat While Looking for a Job

Very few experiences are more emotionally draining than searching for a job. It ranks right up there with divorce and other major negative life events, according to psychologists. Of course it’s even tougher if you’ve been laid off or you’re completely out of work for whatever reason because chances are the financial pressures are making it even tougher to be upbeat. Yet putting your best self forward is critical when trying to sell yourself in a job interview, and talking about bills or financial strains are not good selling points to getting hired.

So how do you keep a positive outlook in the face of the anxiety, frustration and rejection that are often a part of job hunting? Well here are some great tips and ideas to consider:

Get Real

Acknowledge your true feelings throughout the process. The sooner you confront them, the better off you’ll be. A lot of people say, “I didn’t get the job, but it doesn’t bother me” or “I don’t care.” However, if we could peel away the outer layer, we would see that inside they may be feeling let down or even scared. It’s good to talk with a trusted friend or spouse, but avoid pity parties.

If you don’t have a confidant, then express those thoughts and emotions in a private journal or say them aloud in a tape recorder—even in the mirror will do. Don’t deny your feelings even if you are mad, and once you get them out, don’t dwell on them either. Internalizing or denying feelings only leads to stress and anxiety, which left unchecked can fester and grow and manifest in many unhealthy ways. You never want to exude distrust or anger or start crying in an interview.

Get Organized & Get Out

Another reason people who are out of work feel sorry for themselves is they don’t know what to do. Once you establish a routine and plan tasks just as you would at work, you will feel better. So make a list of at least five things you will do each day towards the goal of getting a job. Get up and get dressed at a decent hour and get out of the house some days. It is true that a lot of jobs are listed and can be applied for on the internet, but you can get lost in cyberspace and it will suck up all your meeting, networking and interviewing time if you let it. You can get on the computer in the morning and next thing you know, it’s 10 p.m. and you are still in your pajamas, hair and teeth have not been brushed!

Mix it up. Some days you need to get out and do some networking and always, clean up, comb your hair and dress at least business casual, even if you are just going to pick up a job application. Why? Well the answer is simple… you never get a second chance to make a first impression. You never know who could be looking.

Get Balance

As important as your job search is, don’t get so consumed by it that you put the rest of your life on hold. Center yourself by allowing something you enjoy each day that is not job-related—listen to your favorite music, read poetry, say a prayer. Just ten minutes of exercising, deep stretching or even a short brisk walk releases endorphins that alleviate anxiety and boost energy.

Pursue a hobby, organize a room, or finish up projects you weren’t able to complete while you were working long hours before. This way you can gain a sense of accomplishment regardless of how your job search is going. Also, a few hours of volunteering for a worthy cause can help put your misery in perspective. Volunteering looks good on a résumé because it shows you are an involved citizen and sometimes job leads can come through your volunteer circle.

Get a Good Perspective

Focus on what you can do today instead of on yesterday’s regrets or tomorrow’s worries. Keep trying new approaches. A part-time job or temporary one can help structure your day, bring a little income in, build your confidence, and expand your networking while you’re looking for a full-time position. Gather your kudos, little notes of praise, good performance reviews and awards and post them up to remind yourself how much you have to offer. Or just make a bullet list of your great qualities and attributes that would translate well in any job. Don’t forget to add some to your résumé if appropriate.

The stress of looking for a job can take a toll on even the strongest person. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling down. Take a couple of days to recharge, and then get back to your job hunt. Finally, recognize that getting rejected is just part of the process. Try to remember that each rejection brings you closer to that positive outcome of securing the right job.


Rachel M. Mouton, a professional development coach, is the founder of Professional Portfolio LLC —a consulting firm specializing in the design, development and delivery of employee training programs & motivational workshops. She can be reached at (337) 247-6575. You can also email her at

Smile Community Action