My daughter and friends and Ian Somerholder

Here’s a link to the article about Greer and Ian Somerholder: If you go to, you can see the whole article and photographs. Needless to say, the girls had fun!

Strut Your Mutt boasts a celebrity supporter
12:47 AM, Sep 23, 2012 |

Written by
Claire Taylor
NEW VIDEO: ‘Vampire’ actor Ian Somerhalder at Strut Your Mutt

Pugs and poodles and Pomeranians padded out to Parc Sans Souci on Saturday for a doggone good time at the Strut Your Mutt fundraiser for the Best Friends Animal Society.

While dogs dominated the day, teens-turned-paparazzi were more interested in a two-legged guest: Ian Somerhalder, star of the hit CW show “The Vampire Diaries.”

A native of Covington, Somerhalder has appeared in several movies and television series. While popular now for his role as Damon Salvatore of “The Vampire Diaries,” it was his role as Boone on the hit TV series “Lost” that got him noticed.

Somerhalder participated as a team captain in Saturday’s event to bring attention and donations to organizations that support animals, particularly his Ian Somerhalder Foundation.

Somerhalder told the crowd he’s buying a farm in Tangipahoa to create a “completely green, sustainable, off-the-grid animal sanctuary.” The ISF Animal Sanctuary will be a youth education camp where bullies will go to work with the animals to co-rehabilitate.

“I invite you all to come and hang out with us and volunteer and work with these animals,” Somerhalder said. “I will be there a lot “» and we will house and save a ton of animals and help youth that need our help.”

It was easy to spot Somerhalder among the hundreds gathered downtown Saturday. You just had to look for the crowd of teens snapping photos with their cellphones everywhere he went.

Annabelle Greer Naudin of Lafayette and three teen friends were hot and out of breath at the end of the Strut Your Mutt walk, led by Somerhalder.

“We walked right beside him the entire way. It was so amazing,” said Annabelle, a fan who watches “The Vampire Diaries” every week. “I love my dog, but he’s the main reason” she attended the event.

“We love him,” Lucia Pacheco of Mexico, a student at Academy of the Sacred Heart in Grand Coteau, said.

“I told him, ‘We love you,’ and he said, ‘I love you, too,'” Lucia Padilla added.

Natalia Corona Lopez, also from Mexico, said she told Somerhalder that the group is from Mexico, “and we came here just for you.”

“I got him to wish my friend a happy birthday,” Annabelle added.

Dogs and their owners participating in Saturday’s event could have their photos taken in the kissing booth or win prizes for best kisser and best dancer.

Angie Santiny’s pug, Gabby, took second place for best kisser for showering her daddy, Chad Cain, with love. Her doggie sister, Bella, also a pug, watched from the sidelines.

“Both our dogs are rescue dogs, so we’re supporting the Acadiana Humane Society,” Santiny said. “That’s where Gabby comes from.”

LSS: Family Reunion guide

To my 15-year-old daughter’s dismay, Dr. Who and his time-traveling police box are figments of the ample imaginations of the British Broadcasting Company.

For the most part, I am OK with the lack of possibility for time travel — and I believe that gift is in large part due to parents, family and a host of others who insisted on my being engaged with whatever it was that going on at the moment.

Including family reunions.

When I was growing up, my family had family reunions more often than my friends’ families went to the movies. Of course, with time, and the distance it creates, we don’t get together nearly as often as we once did. But in a few weeks, the descendents of my great-grandparents will have what my great-aunt declares “very well may be our last reunion.”

“We’re getting old,” she said.

My great-aunt Joanna is one of the youngest of a slew of children. Her only younger sibling, Mary Ellen, had down syndrome and passed away a few years ago. Aunt Jo still has three brothers and a sister living, but I fear she might be right. Even still, we have a long line of family reunions to uphold.

Since my family lived a block away from Family Reunion Center, aka my great-grandmother’s house, getting to the party was easy. I almost always took my trusty bike. My great-grandmother’s tiny two-bedroom house, with a single bath, seemed like the only logical choice for a reunion locale to any of us. We certainly didn’t all have a place to sit. For that matter, we couldn’t all be inside at the same time. Yet, things worked. Or maybe I just thought they did because I was a kid.

While those people and gatherings shaped so much of my life and perspective, my memories of the events a blur — with people, fried chicken, caramel cakes, tubs of ice and plastic cups asunder.

Those jumbled memories have inspired A Guide to Family Reunions — for one and all, but especially for children, teens and pre-teens.

Few children, teens or pre-teens are going to accept this challenge with their whole hearts. Do them a favor and coax them with what works to do it. In the years to come, they will be glad they did.

– Before you go to a family reunion, ask questions.

– Ask as many family members as possible to tell you a significant family story.

– Find out why your family lives where they live. How long have they been there, and where were they before?

– Ask why you eat the food you eat at family reunions. Who created or perfected the recipes?

– Ask how it is you’re related to other relatives. If your closest adult doesn’t know, find one who does. Keep asking until you have a picture of your family tree in your mind — or better yet, create a family tree on paper.

– Take as many pictures as possible at the reunion, but be sure to take at least one picture of each person there. If you’re ambitious, affix the pictures (digitally or otherwise) to your family tree.

– Take pictures of people bringing food, cooking the food, eating the food and the table in general.

– Take at least three group shots. Group shots are not easy to organize and usually work better before the big meal. If a child is driving the photo, for some reason, it works better. So, kids, don’t be afraid to take the initiative.

– During the reunion, take video if possible. Ask relatives to tell you a story on camera.

– Identify in writing the people in the photographs as quickly as possible. Explain how each person is related.

– Various Internet genealogy sites are great aids in creating family trees.

One day you and those around you will be grateful you took the Family Reunion Challenge. I wish I had done it myself. I regret that so many of those moments that seemed inconsequential at the time aren’t more clearly in focus now. Back then, I mainly concentrated on how long we would have to wait to eat or which game we would play next.

I wish I had one more chance to walk through that living room, dodging legs and stepping over piles of people, listening to that bizarre combination of laughter and awkward silences family reunions sometimes inspire. In my mind, I can see flashes of faces clearly, but I’d love to watch and listen for a few minutes more.

However, if Dr. Who showed up and offered me a trip back, I’m pretty sure I’d head straight to the kitchen and sit with my great-grandmother as she made yet another apple pie — and I’d take it in as best I could.

(Jan Risher’s column Long Story Short appears Sundays. Email her at

LSS: Grit and grace

A few months ago, one of my daughters was weeping and whining about a skinned knee. The lamenting continued until I proclaimed, “Seriously, I have clearly coddled you girls too much. Skinned knees are a part of life. You two have had so few that you don’t get that. From this point on, I will coddle you both less.”

And with that, I began to try my best to coddle less.

In truth, I don’t believe I changed much about my parenting skills. I promise I didn’t begin pushing them down to prove a point. Maybe it was a coincidence, but something changed. My daughters began to get skinned knees and shins and elbows much more often.

We went through more Band-Aids this summer than we’ve gone through in their lives. We weren’t living a rough and tumble lifestyle, but bumps and bruises, albeit (and thankfully) inconsequential, just kept a’ coming.

And with every tiny scratch, my daughters would thrust their elbow in my face and say, “You see this. This is because you’re not coddling us anymore.”

The litany of minor injuries became somewhat of a joke. Even still, both girls were making less and less of their scratches and scrapes. Even they would admit they were becoming, inch-by-inch, scratch-by-scratch, more resilient — and more confident.

While I wish for nothing but the best of health for my children — and yours too, for that matter, I am becoming more and more convinced that a little grit only adds to their potential for grace.

Grit and grace — that’s what we want for them. If everything in childhood is easy, when they become young adults, normal dilemmas and difficulties may set them back too far.

After marveling at my girls gaining in poise and self-assurance in the midst of a few scrapes and scratches, I heard a radio interview with author Paul Tough about his new book called How Children Succeed. Tough argues that the qualities that matter most in a child growing up and into success have less to do with intelligence and more to do with character — including skills like perseverance, curiosity, optimism and self-control.

When our children make mistakes — and like all children, they do, my husband and I try to walk that line between teaching them the importance of making good choices, the value and necessity of consequences and the hope tomorrow offers.

Our discipline techniques go back to our family mantra, “Acknowledge and move on.” If we’re even mildly mentally healthy people, eventually we’re going to move on. Why not do it sooner rather than later?

Holding something over another person destroys relationships. The key is to embrace the “we can do better” attitude. We’ve learned our lesson. Our mistakes don’t define us.

Part of making the parent-child relationship work is about transparency. Our children have to know that consequences don’t happen because they told us something we wouldn’t want to hear. The consequences need to be directly linked to the problem — not the telling of the problem. And we want to build these kids up enough that they have the confidence to tell us things — even things they know we won’t want to hear.

Our prayer is that these scratches and mistakes remain small and manageable and continue to be the building blocks of stronger characters.

(Jan Risher’s column, Long Story Short, appears in the Sunday Advertiser. Email her at

LSS: No instant replays

The age of multitasking and the technology that makes much of it possible offers certain gains to society.

And, the age of multitasking and the technology that makes much of it possible offers certain losses to society.

Case in point: I’ve been a major fan of digital video recorders since my first TiVo back in 1999. The technology changed my life, allowing me to watch what television I chose to watch exactly when I chose to watch it.

Then and now, my favorite button on the digital video recorder remote control was and is the instant replay button. Maybe something is so good you want to hear or see it again. Sometimes, I want to be certain the people I’m with heard it loud and clear. Either way, that single button has alleviated much confusion and concern in my life — not to mention that it’s settled a few arguments, as well.

However, there’s a flip side. The flip side with the constant permission and capability to “go-back eight seconds and hear it again” when watching television is that I’ve noticed oftentimes I don’t listen nearly as closely as I once did. Why? Because I can always hit that little button and have a video version of a do-over. Yes, it works fine for television, but you see where this is headed, don’t you?

I first noticed the problem in my car listening to the radio. Occasionally, when I miss a phrase, my gut reaction is to hit the “go-back” button and hear it again.

Radio has no go-back button.

Neither does the rest of the world. Real life simply doesn’t offer instant replays.

While technology has given us many gifts, it’s also robbing us of some of the biggest rewards of a sophisticated society. If we allow technology or anything else to diminish accurate and active listening, I’m not sure how far we’ve come.

It’s the old two ears/one mouth axiom. According to nature, we should listen twice as much as we talk. The benefits of becoming better listeners are ample and help us to:

» Earn respect from others. Ye olde “You can’t get respect until you give it.”

» Learn more. You’ll be amazed at all you can pick up — not only from the sheer amount of information you hear, but also in how it sounds. If you start listening for nuances in the way people speak, including their tone, rhythm and volume — all those vocal characteristics generally have a specific meaning attached. Listening helps decode patterns and subtexts of what people are saying — or not saying.

» Make better decisions. Gathering information from different sources not only makes us better people, but it leads to having better lives built on better choices.

» Build better relationships. If you’re having problems getting along with folks, make a conscious effort to really listen to what they’re saying. You’ll pick up some cues on what to do to make things better. It’s up to you in what to do with that information.

» Become more creative. By listening to more, you naturally become more open to more ideas.

LSS: Rivals offer new outlook on life

I grew up in a small town.

In trying to convey its size, my memory debated all week if there were three or four stop lights. Either way, you get the picture.

As small as our town was, we were the largest town in the county. Another small town, 12 miles down the highway was our rival.

We were Forest.

They were Morton.

Conveying the level of the rivalry is beyond my skills. But I will tell you that for thousands of people in this county, in football and basketball, whether Forest beat Morton (or vice versa) defined much happiness, self-respect and a basic belief in goodness. The rivalry went beyond sports and deep into our psyches.

They were the enemy.

If you lived in one town and had friends in the other, you were regarded with a strange blend of suspicion and respect by most. In extreme cases, there were people who actually dated people from the other town.

Most of us knew people in Morton, but my family very much kept our social circles on our side of the county.

That is until I started lifeguarding at a lake outside of Morton.

And, in the second summer I lifeguarded, I really crossed the line. Everything about my life was up in the air. I was 16. My mother had a baby. My dad left coaching to become principal of another high school in another town. My family loaded up and moved 50 miles down the road.

The combination of pulling up roots so deep, combined with the new baby and the job change for my dad shook everything I knew to be. My world was spinning. My parents were so occupied that I had more time and liberty than I ever had before.

In the course of that summer that was rather full of magic, I became great friends with Kim Cooper and Cindy Parker — two girls from Morton.

And that grand friendship shaped much of the rest of my life. During those few short months, I realized that I had a lot in common with Kim and Cindy — more in fact than most of my lifelong friends in Forest. Discovering those commonalities with people from, of all places, Morton, forever changed the way I thought about making friends.

The deep friendships we made that summer sent me on my way to making strong friendships with new people across the world.

Looking back, the whole rivalry scene blows my mind. But it wasn’t crazy back then. We all believed in our little towns, and they had a great sense of place.

Even though these girls were from less than 15 miles down the road, their friendships led me to the discovery that I could become great friends with people I hadn’t known all my life and with people I perceived to have very different backgrounds than my own.

And to learn that with a little exploring, finding common ground with others really wasn’t all that tricky.

When I count my blessings, those two girls are on my list.

Jan Risher’s column, Long Story Short, appears in Lafayette, Louisiana’s The Daily Advertiser ever Sunday. Email her at