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: http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/anemia/risk-factors.html
I recently learned that the grain quinoa, particularly when soaked overnight, is an excellent source of iron. www.ironrichfood.org/iron-quinoa
With that in mind, looking forward to testing the following recipe: www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Black-Bean-and-Tomato-Quinoa-238939/

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 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZgUN2TGKS0&feature=related saluting every detail.
From Traverse City http://www.traversecity.com/, to Ludington, www.ludington.mi.us/; Petsokey, http://www.petoskey.com/ to Frankenmuth, http://www.frankenmuth.org/ 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. http://www.villageofportaustin.com/


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 http://www.holidayinn.com/hotels/us/en/reservation?sicreative=9657188713&dp=true&sicontent=0&sitrackingid=237723296&cm_mmc=Google-PS-HolidayInn-_-G+B-Core-_-Holiday%2BInn-_-holiday+inn&siclientid=1952 .
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.
Halleluiah.
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: http://www.macombcountymi.gov/msuextension/communityfoodsystem/index.htm

For a $2 off coupon for strawberries at all three Blake’s locations, click here:  http://conta.cc/JZxUtx
  
            

Friday, April 27, 2012

National Park Service & MichiMom offer sweet adventure sugs





Hi all and happy Friday. From kayaking to cycling, letter-boxing and reading -- on a sun-drenched beach or beneath a green-leafed canopy -- there are dozens of ways to experience the inspiring, natural environment that characterizes our state and community. 

As National Park Week 2012 wraps up Sunday, April 29, I'd like to share some some sugs from the National Park Service and National Park Foundation  for planning excursions to Michigan's five national parks --  Isle Royale National Park , Keweenaw National Historic Park , Sleeping Bear Dunes and Pictured Rocks National LakeshoreNorth Country Scenic Trail -- and beyond. And while we're at it, also planting a few seeds of inspiration for enjoying our local, Huron-Clinton Metro Parks: 
 
* Yoga on the beach at Lake St. Clair Metro Park beginning Saturday, May 29 at 8 a.m: http://www.metroparks.com/content.aspx?ID=949

* Nature, wildlife or action adventure photography. Exploring on your own is often the most convenient (read: cheapest) route, but don't rule out the benefits of working with with a guide via http://www.richardbernabe.com/PhotoWorkshops.htm  Either way, once your film has been processed, (read: downloaded) share photos and videos, along with stories from your national park travels at www.nationalparkweek.org. This site also contains a calendar of events and lots of information on how to visit and support the national park system.

* Half-marathon running at Stony Creek: http://shelby-utica.patch.com/articles/stony-creek-hosts-half-marathon-may-22

* The 16th annual Astronomy at the Beach event, Sept. 21-22 at Kensington Metropark.  Using a portable planetarium, visitors will take part in simulation tours of the constellations and other current objects. A children's sky tour treasure hunt will be featured and organizers urge early arrival to check out sun spot or late departure to observe dozens of celestial objects moving through the night sky., weather permitting. Go here for more information about this event.

* Sheep sheering, fireworks, discovery cruises, etc : For more information, visit http://www.metroparks.com/content.aspx?ID=931
  
Now, for 8 great ideas for getting fresh air and exercise through park experiences anywhere as thoughtfully detailed by the NPS and NPF. 



* Take a Hike: Explore the 18,600 miles of trails built especially for you for short hikes or a day-long expeditions. Cross the Continental Divide on the High Line Trail in Glacier, go vertical on the Moro Rock Trail in Sequoia & Kings Canyon, or tackle a section of the Appalachian Trail. If you’d like to hike with an expert, many parks offer daily ranger-led guided tours, including the Everglades, Jean Lafitte, and Hot Springs.

* Dive In: Enjoy 43,000 miles of national park shoreline. Walk on the beach, go for a swim, snorkel an underwater trail in the Virgin Islands, dive the aquamarine water and fish-bejeweled coral reefs of Biscayne or the kelp forests and sea caves of Channel Islands. Take a canoe or kayak ride through Big Cypress to observe manatees and birds.
* Go Underground: Travel below the surface and discover the dazzling sights found along more than 900 miles of cavernous passageways. Visit Mammoth Cave – the longest cave in the world or the 14-acre Big Room in Carlsbad Caverns. Sign up for a spelunking trip.
* Sleep Under the Stars: Experience the simple pleasure of an evening campfire, sleep in the great outdoors, and wake up in some of the most beautiful surroundings in the world. Choose your setting – mountain view, ocean view, or even city view. The NPS's 12,000 campsites include New York City and Boston.
* Go For a Drive: Some of the prettiest scenery you’ll ever see is along the 5,450 miles of paved, NS roadway, with 1,100 miles specifically designated for sightseeing. Just be sure to get out of the car at overlooks or trailheads to stretch your legs. Wander a short distance to a waterfall at Shenandoah or meander through a meadow at Rocky Mountain
 

* Check out Wildlife: Take advantage of some of the best places to view wildlife in their natural habitats. Don’t get too close, but if you're patient you'll catch glimpses of everything from baby birds to two-ton bison. Appreciate the strutting grouse's  annual courtship dance at Grand Teton or the spring migration of grey whales at Point Reyes. Encounter prehistoric wildlife including the saber tooth cat at Badlands or a Stegosaurus at Dinosaur. Some 233 national parks showcase preserved fossils, some of which date back two billion years.
* Be a VIP: Check out a list of volunteer opportunities at http://www.nps.gov/getinvolved/volunteer.htm 
* Cycling: Set your own pace and stop to take in the view. One of the newest bike trails was charted at New River Gorge where more than 1,400 Boy Scouts and leaders donated 78,544 man hours to carve out a 12.8-mile mountain bike trail. Other popular bike trails include Acadia which has 45 miles of old carriage roads, Canyonlands, home of the 103-mile White Rim Road loop, and the C&O Canal and its 184-mile long towpath.  
For more information, check out www.nps.gov


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Kids gardening workshops mark Earth Day






One of the best things about my job as a writer and editor for The Macomb Daily and Daily Tribune is the opportunity to meet superstars.
John Cusack, Cybil Shepherd, Doris Roberts, Jerry Lewis and Suzanne Sommers spring to mind.  
Talking to a Hollywood diva who once dated Elvis was cool.
But what I really love is the opportunity to get to know the superstars in my own community, who share their passion and expertise in so many warm and wonderful ways.  
Since joining the Macomb County Food Systems Collaborative last year, I've met a whole team of said whiz kids, including Jean Persely, mom, Marine vet and Master Gardener extraordinaire.
In addition to her own military service, Jean is also the wife of a former, active duty marine. As such, she and her family transferred to Macomb County’s L’Anse Creuse school district some nine years ago.
Soon afterward, Jean embraced her signature “bloom where you're planted” philosophy and started a school garden at LC’s Atwood Elementary.
Building on that accomplishment she has continued to bring people together around her love for good food and agriculture by establishing the Macomb County School Garden Initiative. She also serves on the 2011-2012 Kids Gardening board, kidsgardening.org, an advisory group to the National Garden Association.  
But lest you see her in too responsible of a light, she is also the person to whom I confessed eating a Hostess lemon pie on the way home from MCFSC’s first, Farm to Fork conference in February. She was OK with it.
With her “outdoor classroom”, Jean has done everything from design, build and install gardens, to teach Junior Master Gardener classes. Science lessons have been incorporated; but so, too, have lessons in math, social studies, Spanish, Language Arts, music and PE.
What's really neat is that when the conversation turns to Victory Gardens, Native Gardens and Sunflower Houses or demos on take-home salad pots and worm composting, students become especially motivated to "dig in!" Jean said.
To further spread the love  – and celebrate Earth Day, April 22 -- Jean and Kathe Hale, an educator for the MSU Macomb Extension and MCFSC’s fearless leader, will present “School Gardening 101”, May 14 from 5 to 8 p.m. The cost is $20 a person and identical workshops will be offered in Oakland and Wayne counties, May 3 and May 10 respectively. Topics include: How to choose the best site for a garden; soil improvement; crop selection based on a spring or fall harvest; incorporating garden lessons into existing curriculum and much more. Ideal participants include school (community and faith-based) garden coordinators, teachers, food service directors, volunteers and parents who want to learn more about how to work and play in the dirt with kids.
The Oakland County workshop takes place at the MSU Tollgate Education Center and in Wayne County, at the MSU Extension office. For more information or to register, visit  http://www.macombcountymi.gov/msuextension/ or call (586) 469-5180  To check out Jean’s school gardening blog, visit: http://macombcountyschoolgarden.wordpress.com/ To further immerse yourself in Jean’s humor and expertise, “Compost Happens”, go to http://www.kidsgardening.org/article/compost-happens  Searching for ideas to develop your own, garden-based lesson plan? Visit http://growinggardeners.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/lcng_upper_el.pd For a chance to win a Growums Gardening in a box kit, “Like” Macomb Daily Features on Facebook.  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Macomb-Daily-Features/351316433118 
If all goes according to plan, my 8-year-old daughter and her friends will soon be learning more about vegetable and herb gardening via Jean’s too-cute pizza garden project – it calls for an actual pizza box.  
Watch out Little Caesars. Your competition is green, but growing.
Thank you, Jean.