Thursday, November 7, 2013

Fears tackled (or dirty dishes be darned!)

Facing my fears.
That's how I concluded my last blog post.
Of course I'm anxious about war and crime and homelessness and disease.
But are these the things that stress me out on a daily basis? Maybe. But maybe the all too common feeling of "overwhelm" is what really gets the fear ball rolling around on my court.
This morning I woke up to a full sink -- and counter-top --  of dishes.
My bathrooms were relatively clean, Halleluiah, and the floors were recently vacuumed, but the laundry hamper was overflowing and my kids were crying for socks and spoons and underwear.
(Never mind that maybe it's time to teach them to wash their own socks. And spoons. I'll save that blog post for another day)
And of course I was due in to work in exactly 90 minutes.
What I wanted to do was:  A. Call in sick and spend the day catching up. 2. Blame hubby or 3. Sit down and cry.
But since none of these options would address the sickening and ongoing sense of overwhelm that comes with working-parent territory, I decided to make good on my promise to "face my fears", jump in and tackled the dish pile.

This time, instead of drearily focusing on "scrub, Scrub, SCRUB!" I invited my mind wander to fun and recent conversations, upcoming plans and "weekend activities".
Of course you know the rest of the story. In very little time the dishes were rinsed and nestled in the dish washer. The returnables bagged, the recylables shuttled to their proper basket.
Best of all, I felt like a princess.
No, a queen. The queen of my domain. 

I haven't conquered my fear of fear or all those endless anxieties.
But now, at least I know I have the heart of a warrior.
OK. The hands of a warrior?
A weekend warrior?
Oh heck. I can confidently tackle a big, scary pile of dishes.
And today, that feels pretty good :)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Family Anxiety: Childhood fears linked to parental stress?

My 11-year-old son is an avid Halloween enthusiast and has been since nearly birth.
Our family will never forget the year his near-obsession revealed itself, during the Halloween season of his 4th year.
Starting in about September, he jumped out of bed at 5:30 each morning, touting new ideas for the family and friends "Costume Contest".
A seating chart for the participants, complete with place settings and name tags was designated, along with the menu and guest list.
Long after Christmas 2006 had become just another journal entry, my little Halloween-o-phile continued to speculate on whether Batman, Dracula or the kid dressed up as a character from the Cars movie, would win the "Costume Contest's" next installment.
These days Halloween is still a magical holiday for good ol' No. 14.
But now, most of his creative energy is funneled into trying to build the scariest, house-front display in the neighborhood.
Obviously, he didn't inherit the fear factor gene that for many kids, comes with the season.
My 10-year-old daughter? That's a horse, err girl,  of a different color.
Purple to be specific. By day, she cheerfully dressed herself in a violet Afro, skinny pants, t-shirt and "sun" glasses to represent the color purple.
But night time was a different story.
During the nights leading up to Halloween, and on the great night itself, my typically sassy sistah, held me tightly under the covers of her cozy double bed, tearfully insisting that a warm, parental body be unconditionally provided.
Not just until she fell asleep.
But all night long.
Every time I got up up for a stealthy return to my own bed, she woke to unleash yet another breathy torrent of pleas: "stay with me!"
A day or two of extra special nuzzle time I understand.
But this had become a nightly arrangement of moaning, tears and hyper-ventilations of seeming unknown origin.
It wasn't until she said: "I feel anxious all the time!" that I started putting the pieces together
To quote the inspiring personal trainer Dolvett, of ""Biggest Loser" fame: "Kids pick up on the negative or positive energy that their parents send out."

No, Halloween doesn't make me jittery.
But wasn't I just telling a friend: "I'm always anxious!"
The mystery was solved: my little Lulu was picking up on the household anxiety I was unwittingly beaming out.
Now that's scary.
I guess its true what they say about having to "take care of yourself before you can take care of anybody else."
Reassuring my daughter that "everything was going to be OK" was the easy part.
Doing the same for myself is another matter.
To recycle one of my favorite, anonymous quotes: "I never said it was going to be easy. I said it would be worth it!"
One of my fellow bloggers, Jennifer Meyers recently asked: What are you afraid of?
Indeed. What am I afraid of? And once I figure it out: then what?
The jig is up.
Time to face the face in the mirror.
Ready. Set. Go. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Healthy-habit hunting after ice-chewing pica

When you nurse a bad habit most your life, you don't expect to wake up one day and suddenly be obsession-free. 
But that's exactly what happened to my ice chewing habit.

One minute I was chugging back 176-plus ounces of crunchy "bliss".
The next, I wasn't.
In the good old days - roughly two weeks ago – I'd squeeze in a trip to the corner Speedway for two, towering cups of ice each morning before work.  

At lunchtime, I'd grab another couple of 44-ouncers, and if I was lucky, additional and final sustenance on my afternoon commute.
Home-made ice hasn't been an option in recent years -- I just couldn’t achieve the proper, soft-yet-crunchy texture. This means I knew exactly which restaurants/gas stations all over Macomb County featured the "soft" chewable varieties and which did not; who was willing to sell for a fair price, or even better, provide "free" to frequent flyers like myself. (FYI: Speedway gas stations always got two big thumbs up for location/availability, cube size, texture, and "price")
One of my earliest, ice-chewing memories is begging for the milky white crescents from my friend Josie's Italian kitchen back in the 3rd grade.


More recently, neither myself nor my hair stylist will forget the time pregnant me bought a huge, four-pound bag, to maw on throughout my appointment.
Then, one day this summer, seemingly out of the blue, it was like: "Ice? Yaaawwwn."
Now, if I think about it too long, my teethe start to sweat: "No! Please! Not again!" 
The game-changer? Finding a treatment for anemia that worked for me. When that happened, my ice craving, called a “pica” disappeared, along with those ungodly blood counts. 6.9 was a recent low. 12 is normal. 8 is transfusion territory.  
As an added bonus, now that my hemoglobin level has reached a more respectable level, I no longer see stars when I get out of bed in the morning, or feel like passing out five minutes into exercise. Or wear my winter coat while making dinner over a hot stove. (yes, that really happened, many, many times last winter.)
Sure, I still grind up a few refreshing chunks now and then for old time's sake.
But it's not the same.
And that's the problem.
I miss the mental and emotional break that chewing ice provided. 

Now, when I want a time-out, I’m not sure what to do or where to go.  Should I start to smoke? My husband would kick me out of the country. Besides, I hate smoking – and can’t afford it -- financially or otherwise.  
Gum-chewing is a possibility. Not sure about the satisfaction levels though.
What about letter-writing? I have some wonderful friends and family members out-of-state with whom catching up with would be a treat.
Often when I ask myself deep, spiritual questions like this, hee hee, the answer is "yoga." But I've already increased my practice to three times a week. Besides, I’m not sure the executive editor would appreciate my doing headstands in the newsroom. Or in my car.  

Eventually I'd like to start running again, but I’ll wait for a clean bill of health – gulp! -- before I tie on that tennis shoe.
Since I've been feeling better, I have been putting a bit more time into tidiness – my desk, my house, my yard, are somewhat improved -- but who am I kidding? I'm no housekeeper. My mother and husband will attest to that. 
Recipe hunting and cooking are past-times I can definitely sink my teeth in. I’ve already started experimenting with chicken pot pie, tomato basil soup, lentils with caramelized onions, banana cream pudding and several fruit smoothie varieties.
But if I continue on this trajectory, I will need to add another healthy habit to my life: Weight Watchers.  
Former smokers, over-eaters, nail-biters -- and ice chewers: Which healthy habits have you embraced in the wake of your “recovery”?
Is there life after addiction?
And if so, what does it look like?
This inquiring mind wants to know.  

Monday, August 13, 2012

Facebook hits and misses: tales from a social media Mom

A good friend recently made mention of certain people who “always seemed to be online”.  The implication, of course, being: “don’t they have anything better to do?” I nodded my head up and down vigorously, then shook it hard from side to side, hopeful that she left the conversation feeling supported.
In reality, however, I am one of those people who is "always" on-line.
Yes. I get paid to be here. 
As community engagement editor for The Macomb Daily and Daily Tribune, it’s my job to market our products and services to online audiences -- read, you! --  particularly those who read blogs like this one, and use social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus
Explaining this to a friend/recipient of numerous (and of course “relevant”) online links, pics, memes, news items --  was told: “I want your job!”
I won’t lie. It is nice to be in the know; a big part of the reason I got involved with journalism in the first place.
After five months into the position, I'm getting a good feel of what triggers people’s interest – and what does not, at least in our particular u-verse.
Here is an informal breakdown of our greatest "hits", literally: 
·        Landscape Shots. Brightly-hued photos celebrating the natural beauty of Macomb County and Michigan -- particularly those showcasing sun, sky and water.(The above photo taken by Macomb County photographer, Cathy Rudd, at Lake St. Clair Metro Park)

 Humor. A recent meme of a gracefully dressed Victorian lady, with head and arms folded over the table above this caption: “Why do they want dinner every single night?”  Not quite as popular, but still good for a few laughs, an animation of a phone-toting tween walking past a cautionary street sign: “Slow. Children Texting.”   
·        Solar Power (as in tributes to our solar system) A stunning, Super Moon photo gallery proved a huge hit; also drawing warm favor from fans – the first photos and video from Mars.  
·         Nostalgia. Our second biggest post ever, reminiscing about the childhood tradition of “calling out” our friends to play; a post on Merchurocrome “Did it sting? Or was that Iodine?” and a picture of the early seventies fire that destroyed Federals department store in Roseville.
·        The DIA – We had a spirited discussion about whether it was a good idea to support the Detroit Institute of Arts the day of the millage vote; then, afterwards, readers were happy to give us a like when we posted the DIA’s famous, Diego Rivera assembly line mural as our cover photo.
·        Michigan Patriotism.  A meme titled “You might be from Michigan if …” drew 70 plus interactions
·        Guns -- Guns-rights folks are always passionate and vocal on our bulletin boards; a recent photo of a window sticker of a gun family drew a whopping 152 interactions.

 A question re:  “Do you still care about American Idol?” was also hot
·        Select local crime stories – a story in yesterday’s paper regarding a car chase into Detroit that injured an innocent bystander and destroyed a vehicle drew 50 plus interactions.   
·        Select local news stories – motorcycle helmet law, Michigan fireworks law, the local fish fly invasion, alcohol at local movie theaters and roundabout safety captured readers’ interest. Surprisingly, a post asking for nominations of the most dangerous intersections in Macomb County got luke warm attention.   
·          Select Olympic stories, discussions and photos. For example, a pic and story re: Canton's Allyson Schmitt carrying U.S. women to gold was popular, but a question re: “Which Olympic events would you eliminate?” Barely caused a stir.
·       Severe weather updates 
 And good news: A story about a New Baltimore Police cadet who instantly drafted a comprehensive plan to locate a missing child who was autistic got tons of attention and a story about Kid Rock collaborating to donate a new home to an injured vet grabbed more than 270 interactions, shattering the old record by more than 100 interactions.
News items that crashed and burned
·      Updates on the Jane Bashara murder trial
·     Anything Tigers, Lions or sports in general. ??? (I know, right? Makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.) 
·      Madonna star gossip
·      Anything about books; even movie and TV discussions get very little traction.

A few trends on my personal Facebook page.
Major Engagers
·        Cute, inspiring, or humorous stories about my kids, for example, their being embarrassed of everything I say and do.
      ·   Colorful images of my kids and family, especially against stunning backdrops (when they’re available) i.e. cool vacation shots.
·          Hot guys. Including one of a good-looking man presenting us “girls” with “organic kale” and another shirtless specimen I dropped in, hoping to inspire a lively discussion about summer reads. (My friends – kindly! –did take the time to weigh in, but alas, not necessarily about the books. Sigh. Lol)
 Occasional cultural trend references re: current movies such as Brave, my interest in cooking, wine and working out.
Crash and Burn Part II
·  *  Story links. 
·          Again, book discussions 
·          Pictures of people my friends don't know well, including my cousins, doing amazing things like leaping over hot flames or over giant hurdels on motor cross bicycles.
FLastly,  a few words about the way we react to “tone”.
Although I’m not surprised that most of us are turned off by arrogance -- superiority complexes and narcissism aren’t well- tolerated offline either -- I was surprised how coldly sarcasm is received online.
Any post or comment that smacks of superiority in the slightest, dies like a 70s rock song at an elementary school dance.  Halleluiah.
Not sure how sarcasm ever got a positive rep in the real world -- generally, sarcasm s considered funny and acceptable -- if you doubt this, just click over to the Disney Channel for a minute. 
Webster New World College Dictionary, however, defines sarcasm as the “intent to hurt by taunting with mocking ridicule, veiled sneers, etc.” Wow. I wonder if people who use it ever stop long enough to realize it's impact? 

OK. Now it’s your turn. What online posts grab you by the throat and make you want to share your innermost thoughts, opinions and laughter??
Inquiring minds want to know.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Seeing red. Do health factors impact our color passions?

It started innocently, with an appreciation for Hispanic and Native American art work: bold images, rendered with voluptuous brush strokes by artists like Diego Reveria had suddenly caught my eye.
Soon, however, hubby and I were using comforting terra cotta tones to showcase the biggest accent wall in our home.
Next, we covered the hardwood floors in our living space with enormous area rugs that subtly picked up the rich, red tones from the wall and inspired complimentary pillows and artwork.
Furniture choices – warm cherry wood of course -- reflected our chosen, color family.
Even soup pots began to whisper – and sometimes shout -- "red!" 
Meanwhile, I was busy fueling my love affair with strawberries, tomatoes, apples -- old-fashioned red barns, pumpkin patches, autumn leaves and red, white and blue Americana decor.
Which begs the question: Who? Who is so completely and helplessly attracted to the color RED?
Dracula? Hitler? Ruby the Clown? 
Well, my husband Bruce, for one.
Red is and was his favorite color growing up. Until now, I had always assumed it was because he was Canadian -- and an enormous Red Wings fan to boot.
Then there’s my son, Jack, who choses red clothing, bedroom accents and school supplies - etc.! -- every chance he gets. 
Of course he's an Aries, Aries the Ram. So, with these astrological influences in mind, red makes sense. 
Can you see where this is going?   
Soon, even my super sweet – well, mostly -- daughter Annie was putting reddish “oranges” and orangey “yellows” on her favorites' list.
Still, I felt compelled to fight the tendency towards red, because, as bluntly described in a CARE2 article: “’Red’ people are abrupt at times, determined to get all they can out of life, quick to judge people and take sides… restless… not at all introspective… they find it hard to be objective and may blame others for any mishaps.’”
Dislike. Strongly.
The mere thought of yielding to these pressures makes me er, well .....see red.     
Then, earlier this summer, I received a phone call from my doctor's office that shed new light on the trend: my hemoglobin level had dropped once again, this time to a staggering 6.9. The standard rate for women is 12.
As in the past, my doc started threatening "blood transfusion" if my numbers didn’t go up. I had received similar prognoses shortly after college graduation college, and again, after giving birth to both my children.
So far, however, we haven't been able to come up with a long-term, solution that works for me --- with “for me” being the operative phrase.
Soon afterward, I stumbled upon the following reasoning for red-loving, and begin to feel a bit better: “Red is the color of strength, health, and vitality. It is often the color chosen by someone outgoing, aggressive, vigorous and impulsive -- or someone who would like to be. Quiet people with a preference for red may feel the need for the warmth, strength and the color’s, life-giving qualities.”
Here, here.
Now that’s a theory I can cuddle up with.
Not that anyone’s ever called me "quiet" before. 
This time, the doc has an entirely new plan, one I'm embracing whole-heartedly and crossing my fingers will work.
But with the prospect of healing brighter than ever, I’m starting to wonder:
If this works and my hemoglobin levels spike permanently -- I am once again allowed to donate blood and my constant and voracious craving for ice comes to a halt – will I still want to keep all those delicious, red influences in my life?
Will I continue to sprinkle cinnamon on top of my coffee grounds for a warmer, richer brew?
Will I still want to catch, no chase! -- Michigan's spectacular, red-tinged sunsets? 

Will I change the color of the red door on my house to green? Or blue? or purple?
Will I become a different person?
I don’t know.
But I'm looking forward to finding out.      
What does your favorite color say about you?
Did you know that up to 10% or more of adolescent and adult women under the age of 49 are iron deficient? Hispanic American and African-American women have double the rate for anemia.
For more information, visit:
I recently learned that the grain quinoa, particularly when soaked overnight, is an excellent source of iron.
With that in mind, looking forward to testing the following recipe:

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Beloved "up north" tradition overshadowed by summer storm

If you've ever lived in Michigan, you know that going "up north" is a beloved, summertime tradition, heavily steeped in redneck spirituality.
We celebrate the adventure by posting photos to Facebook, relive details through riveting dialogue with friends and sing songs saluting every detail.
From Traverse City, to Ludington,; Petsokey, to Frankenmuth, some of our favorite family moments have taken place somewhere "up north".
This summer, in celebration of the July 4th holiday, we patriotically climbed into our dark red mini-van and pointed the GPS "north" for a Port Austin themed vacation.

But instead of running headfirst into the mosquito-netted doorway of our now leaky tent or even the rustic entrance of a quaint, rented cottage, we opted for a “plusher” experience at the resident Holiday Inn .
Not that we don't love the scent of coffee in the morning, cozy campfire fumes at night, fewer electronics… unexpected raindrops, hungry raccoons and flashlight runs to a restroom at 3 a.m.
It was just time for a change; temporary perhaps, but change none-the-less.
The good news is that last time I checked, authorities had not yet tried to revoke our Michigan residency. Yay!
But it’s still early.
Because yes, with temperatures soaring into the high nineties and 100s, we were very much enjoying lake swimming and kayaking by day and our air-conditioned beds at night.
The second day of our trip, however, dawned bleak and rainy.
No problem.
We had a beautiful indoor pool and hot tub to enjoy, along with enough reading material and clean fluffy towels to get us through 'most anything.
Almost anything. 
Even cushy hotel rooms are no match for bad weather back home.
Our phones started blowing up at about 7:30 that night.
We did not know, of course, until 90 minutes later, because we were too busy frolicking phone-less with the cousins at the hotel pool.
Meanwhile, according to our more responsible and extremely thoughtful neighbors, heavy rains, winds and power outages were lashing our Chesterfield Township neighborhood.
Fences, trees, flagpoles and basketball hoops were ripped down, uprooted or snapped in half.
Refrigerators were heating up, along with the air-conditioned homes that housed them. 
And sump pumps, those darn sump pumps, were starting to overflow.
No, we did not have a battery-operated back-up system.
No, we did not have an extra key handy for Floyd and Renee Wickman, who were among those who generously offered to check the flood status of our basement.
So, at 9:05 p.m. a slightly less festive hubby hopped back into the mini-van and high-tailed it down Van Dyke Avenue for a night-time rendezvous with some of the best people we know.
When Bruce got home at 10:30 p.m. – traffic was good! – he didn’t have to ring a doorbell or send a text for Dan Breathour and Joe Media to show up on our doorstep, generator in tow.

For the past two hours, the pair had been draining sump pumps and sending cooling zaps of power to parched refrigerators.
How lucky were we?
Not to mention, the water in our sump pump was topping out, but had yet to leak a single drop of unwelcome water anywhere.
As Bruce described the damage to our sub over the phone – towering pine trees, tossed around like plastic toys, a trampoline folded in half and wrapped around electrical wires, I couldn’t help but think: wow!
Another reminder that we humans really and truly are not in control.
Not that I don't love being a control freak when the mood strikes – and if you ask my husband and kids, that’s basically all day long. 
It’s just an enormous relief to know that more powerful forces are at work here.
Which is good news.
It means I don’t have to carry the weight and responsibility of person-hood, parenthood, life, by myself.
For one thing, I have awesome people like Bruce and Dan and Joe willing to hold up much more than their fair share.
Even at 10:30 at night.
Anybody out there also find beauty in violent, summer storms? Why or why not?
MichiMom wants to know.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

When life gives you pits, start over w/ frozen, Michigan strawberries

Positive peer pressure can make all the difference.
Case in point: Early Friday evening I was thinking how awesome it would be if I got up at 6:30 the next morning and shuttled my sleepy self to Santosha, for a hot yoga class at 7:30 a.m.
But it wasn’t until I got a text from a yoga pal a couple hours later that I actually committed. Thank goodness for mobile phones, shared interests, oh, and friendship.
After class, I was sweat-drenched and full of energy. And it was still only 8:45 a.m. 
Perfect. I could swing down to the Mount Clemens Farmers Market and pick up a few cartons of fresh strawberries before things got hectic at the MacLeod homestead.
Surprisingly, everything worked out to plan and by the time the Father’s Day

Bar B Q rolled Sunday afternoon, I’d lived several lifetimes, so to speak, having grocery shopped, made a pasta salad, caught up on laundry and housecleaning, hosted a sleepover for my son -- and even sipped wine and ate s’mores 'round a roaring bonfire with friends.  
Pretty soon it would be time for the big berry presentation. 
For context sake, I must tell you, Dad grew up on a farm where he and his family raised cows, pigs and horses; and planted, picked and ate home grown fruits and vegetables.
So, you’d think my berried would elicit a whoop of joy  for the “little guy”; the local farmer who doesn’t use a California hothouse to crank out gi-normous  red, chemically modified -- but practically tasteless -- fruit.
That was not the case, however: “When did you buy those? Oh. My. Goodness! They’re already turning black!”
The kids weren’t much better.
“These are …….. soft,” my son said.
“That’s because you aren’t used to fresh berries,” I said helpfully.
“I don’t like them,” my daughter chimed in, a bit more definitively.
And they were right.  My little gems didn’t look anywhere near as firm or pretty or perfect as hothouse fare strawberries.
But once you got past the texture issue, they tasted like heaven. Sweet and juicy, every nibble bursting with flavor.
By Monday morning, positive peer pressure was on its way in the form of friends from the Macomb Food Collaborative.  Officially, our mission is to:  “To ensure access to safe, fresh, healthy food for all -- by promoting good nutrition, sustainability and a vibrant, local food economy.”
Unofficially? We spread positive peer pressure amongst each other and the community.
Once our agenda items were effectively tackled, we broke bread, er bagels, then naturally gravitated to sharing healthy eating strategies, strategies that real people like you and me can readily accomplish, like making beans and rice for dinner.
Our conversation reinforced to me that awareness, innovation, familiarity and gentleness are often the keys to change.
This morning, I was pumped up and ready to go with a tub of frozen strawberries for strawberry/banana smoothies. This yummy – and quick-to-make --  breakfast was sweetened with honey, sharpened with lemon juice, fortified with low-fat yogurt and dressed up with a dash of cinnamon.
Not surprisingly, I didn’t hear a single, negative peep from the peanut gallery.
Only problem? Not a single drop was left for Mom.
Ha, ha, ha. Back to the cutting board. A challenge I’m quite happy to tackle.

We need farmers and low-income consumers to help us fine tune and reach our goals. For More information about the Macomb Food Collaborative visit:

For a $2 off coupon for strawberries at all three Blake’s locations, click here: