Senior Viewpoint: Social Isolation Coping Tips from Marquette’s Senior Center, Akasha Khalsa

social isolation coping tips, senior viewpoint, Marquette Senior Center

For many older adults, the continuing COVID-19 pandemic has caused a great deal of stress and isolation as separation from their families and friends is still necessary for their safety. Grandmothers and grandfathers must stay removed from their grandchildren despite the ache, uncles and aunts are unable to stop by and visit, and this situation has been quite hard on everyone.

Maureen McFadden, a social worker at the Marquette Senior Center, said she has seen a great deal of clients who have developed anxiety during the pandemic, and that issues relating to isolation affect perhaps half of the approximately 1300+ people the senior center serves. Knowing the struggles faced by her clients, McFadden focuses on three crucial areas to help cope with any sadness or anxiety stemming from the isolation as we gradually move toward herd immunity through vaccinations.

Firstly, she recommends that older adults engage in at least fifteen to twenty minutes of physical activity each day so their bodies get moving to keep them physically and mentally healthy.

Some older adults may be hesitant to attempt exercise.

Perhaps they worry about slipping on ice if they exercise outside, or falling inside the home. If this is a concern, McFadden recommends exercises that can be done while sitting in a chair.

If interested, seniors can seek instructional guides for chair exercises at their local senior center or public library. Such organizations will often mail guide materials directly, or offer curbside pickup.

Along with exercise, McFadden focuses on a second area to promote wellbeing: socializing safely. If seniors plan visits with friends or family members during this time, McFadden recommends following CDC guidelines for a safe interaction. This includes social distancing, wearing a mask, and meeting outside when weather permits.

There are also alternative platforms for social interaction which older adults can access with a basic understanding of technology, or with the help of a family member or friend. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is currently offering a service called GetSetUp Michigan, which includes free virtual small group classes on topics such as how to schedule and host Zoom videoconference meetings, and how to get started with Gmail, as well as information on COVID-19 vaccines.

“We’ve noticed that a lot of people have been kind of branching out of their comfort zones during this pandemic, and they want to try to use this technology,” McFadden said. “So, the GetSetUp Michigan is a really wonderful free resource for older adults because it helps teach them those independence skills in regards to technology.”

These skills enable seniors to attend social gatherings online.

For example, the Marquette Senior Center currently hosts virtual tai chi classes through Zoom. Plenty of other centers offer similar services. Those interested can reach out to local public libraries and senior centers. If desired, older adults can also reach out to religious organizations to see what kinds of events or outreach programs they may have planned.

Last but not least, McFadden said seniors must focus on nutrition. Some may have varying issues acquiring meals due to a number of barriers. She recommends utilizing resources such as Community Action Alger-Marquette or Meals on Wheels to get access to proper nutrition.

“We have to make sure we’re feeding our bodies well during this time, especially if you’re suffering from a financial instability due to the pandemic,” McFadden said.

Keeping these three central concerns of exercise, safe socialization, and nutrition in mind will help seniors cope with the difficult and stressful situation in which we find ourselves. Luckily, many resources are available, and older adults are encouraged to take advantage of them to assure their own wellbeing.

Akasha Khalsa is a student at Northern Michigan University, where she studies English literature and French. She is currently employed as a desk editor for the North Wind Independent Student Newspaper.

Excerpted with permission from the Spring 2021 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2021, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Chef Val’s Virtual Cooking Class – Creamy Pasta Casserole with Mushroom Sauce

healthy cooking, vegan organic anti-inflammatory cooking, U.P. holistic, U.P. wellness publication
Chef Val

Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine’s Healthy Cooking columnist will be teaching through the Peter White Public Library, Marquette, MI on Tues. March 30th, 7 to 8 PM – through Zoom 

Casseroles are great winter time comfort dishes. Chef Val will teach how to make a whole foods casserole featuring brown rice pasta. The recipe features a white sauce with two different types of mushrooms-maitake and white button. All the health benefits of the ingredients will be discussed as Chef Val teaches how to make the casserole. The recipe is vegan, whole foods, plant based, organic, anti-inflammatory and delicious!

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Green Living: Electrified Beauty Steve Waller

green living, environmental sustainability, U.P. holistic business, winter sports, U.P. winter recreation

U.P. snowmobile trails are legendary. Sleds contribute huge economic benefits. They get us outside in winter to enjoy the season’s unique beauty. But there is a new opportunity available, a way to reverse the most ridiculous mismatch for our frozen forests.

Snowmobiles zip along at 60+ MPH with 150 horsepower, gas engines, a price tag of $10,000-$20,000, not including the trailer or tow truck, to push a ±200 lb. human across our winter wonderland. It’s ridiculous because a single horse, fueled only by grass, grain, and water can haul a log weighing 1,500 pounds. Horse loggers have done this for centuries and still do. Using 150 horses just to move a snowmobiler is severe overkill.

But I get it. The thrill, the feeling of power, speed, being on the edge, sticking that turn without going airborne into a tree, the shiny colors, the windproof heated gear, the chance to enjoy friends, good food, and an occasional beer. Sleds bring the roar of a combustion engine to our snowy silence, emitting 88 grams of carbon monoxide per kilometer, and 22 times the amount of nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbons emitted by a passenger car. But a new machine now cures the ills of those gas guzzlers.

Introducing— electric snowmobiles!

Acceleration? Zero to sixty in 3.5 seconds standard configuration (2.9 sec. performance configuration). 120 HP standard configuration (180 HP performance configuration); all under 600 lbs. Significantly more power than leading sled engines. Zero throttle lag. Unaffected by elevation, temperature, and riding style. Peak performance in all conditions. Range— 80 miles. DC fast re-charge to 80% in 20 minutes. AC 240V L2 charge in 2 hours. An advanced thermal management system ensures the battery will always be in its sweet spot—even when temperatures get as low as -40˚F. No starting problems ever. No pulleys, no oil, no maintenance, period. Save up to $2,500 in maintenance while spending less time in the garage, and more time riding.

Electric sleds are here. They outperform your existing fossil sled. For about the same price, you can end your recreational gas burning, and ride the hottest machine—cleaner, faster, more reliable, and absolutely quieter. Even those who live in the forest are more tolerant of sleds that don’t disturb our quiet winter. Electric snowmobiles have no emissions.

I know, you are going to freak out about charging. Everybody new to electric vehicles freaks out. “Range anxiety” is why you don’t already own an electric car. You worry about running out of energy. But thousands of electric car owners are beyond worry. They love their electric cars. Still, where do you charge your sled? What if you run out of charge?

The typical fossil sled has average fuel consumption of around 10-20 mpg so tank size matters. But how often do you ride 200 miles without stopping? If you can add 80% of charge to your sled in 20 minutes, you can get 60 more miles of charge in less time than you can drink a beer. Electric outlets are more abundant than gas stations. Your electric sled will be the center of attention. At $0.15kWh, a 27kWh sled battery costs $4 for a full charge from empty.

Electric sleds are another piece of our new way of life.

CO2 must go. Everything needs to be electrified—cars, sleds, ATVs, furnaces, trucks, stores, industries, mines, everything. Recreational gas burning must end. Electricity can and will fill the gap better, more cleanly, and more powerfully. The transition is happening now. The U.P. has finally started installing solar farms, bringing clean, stable, cost-effective energy to all of us. Feel the power. Ride electricity.

Sources:
https://taigamotors.ca/snowmobiles/
https://www.uky.edu/OtherOrgs/AppalFor/draftl.html#:~:text=A%20team%20of%20horses%20can%20pull%20a%20load%20of%20about,DBH%20and%2032%20feet%20long
https://elischolar.library.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1012&context=yale_fes_bulletin
https://mountainculturegroup.com/montreal-company-unveils-worlds-first-electric-snowmobile/

Steve Waller’s family lives in a wind- and solar-powered home. He has been involved with conservation and energy issues since the 1970s and frequently teaches about energy. Steve can be reached at Steve@UPWallers.net.

Excerpted with permission from the Spring 2021 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2021, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

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HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY!

U.P. wellness publication, St. Patrick's Day

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March 17, 2021 · 4:02 am

Positive Parenting: Mindfulness for Parents during COVID-19, Angela Johnson

mindful parenting, holistic wellness, U.P. holistic wellness publication

With COVID-19 here and affecting nearly every aspect of our lives, it is not surprising that many families are reporting heightened levels of stress. The pandemic is placing additional pressure on parents in many different way—from working from home, job insecurity, or complete job loss, to homeschooling, heightened behavior issues, and a lack of social connection. Although no two families are experiencing these challenging times in exactly the same way, we are all in some sense struggling through this together.

However, the struggle need not be for naught because as Einstein once said, “In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.” Mindfulness is one of these great opportunities, as it is a powerful tool scientifically proven to reduce stress—the very thing we need! By turning our attention inward, we can still the waves of restlessness and worry in our active lives. Mindfulness teaches us how to do this.

As a parenting educator and meditation teacher, I feel especially called to share mindfulness with families now more than ever. I focus on both formal (meditation) and informal (everyday activities) mindfulness practices to help people learn to be more peaceful and fully present to their lives. I will share a few of these practices with you here.

Parents, this is a little reminder that you have to take care of yourself first and foremost. Peace begins within. Then it spreads.

Let’s begin with a couple of definitions . . .

“Mindfulness is paying attention to your life, here and now, with kindness and curiosity.” —Dr. Amy Saltzman

“[Mindfulness is] the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” —Jon Kabat-Zinn

Here are some exercises for you to begin your practice today:

Sitting Meditation

Meditation is both a state of deep present-moment awareness, and a practice intended to bring about that state (Ananda Sangha Worldwide). There are many different meditation approaches and techniques ,but ultimately, the universal intent of all is to learn to experience life more from your center, and less from external input. The benefits from this practice are overwhelming, from stress reduction to lower blood pressure and better sleep. I recommend using a guided app or taking a class to get started. Make sure you practice in a quiet space. Sit up with a straight spine, as relaxed awareness rather than sleep is the goal. Close your eyes, gently lift your eyeballs and focus, and breathe. For the best results, a daily practice is recommended, even if for only a few minutes each day.

Mindful Breathing

The mind and breath are interconnected so that when the breath slows, the mind automatically follows. Therefore, taking the time to bring awareness to your breath can have an immediate calming effect. Try it and see for yourself.

You might also place a reminder somewhere in your home or at work that says “breathe,” or get in the habit of taking a few deep, intentional breaths at the start of your day, or when you get in the car, or before responding to your child’s behavior . . . the options are endless. Our breath is always with us, so it is just a matter of intending to notice it, follow it, and then feel the relaxation that results.

Walking Meditation


Walking meditation is an ideal practice for bridging the gap between outward activity and inward peace. It is best to walk outside in fresh air. Any amount of time is good. As you walk, focus on the natural flow of your breathing. Smile. Listen. Look. Feel your feet as they touch the earth. Walk tall, and with strength. Notice and enjoy the fresh air on your face and the natural beauty of the day that surrounds you. Be present with your body, mind, and soul on this walk, in this moment.

Mindful Nature Play

This one is especially enjoyable to practice as a family. Go outside in nature and play. Follow your child’s lead (inner child or actual child). Get down on his or her level. Be present to him or her, to this moment, and to the natural beauty surrounding you. Be free and have fun. Climb a tree. Build a fort. Roll down a hill. Follow a bug. Feel your connection to all that is and you will find peace.

Mindful Eating

Mindful eating will not only bring you pleasantly into the present moment, but will also enhance your gratitude and enjoyment of food. Begin by taking one minute at mealtime to take slow bites and savor. Notice the smell, the texture, the taste. Think of where your food came from. Feel your connection to the earth in each bite. Be silent and grateful for this moment

“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.” —Thich Nhat Hanh

Angela Johnson, Great Start Collaborative (GSC) Director for Marquette and Alger Counties, works at Marquette-Alger Regional Educational Service Agency (MARESA). The Great Start Collaborative (https://www.maresa.org/early-on/marquette-alger-great-start-collaborative/) works in communities throughout the state to ensure Michigan is making progress toward four priority early childhood outcomes.

Excerpted with permission from the Winter 2020-2021 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2020, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Spotlight On…. The Brownstone Inn with Co-Owner Deb Molitor

the brownstone inn

Tell us about the Brownstone Inn.
The Brownstone Inn is a family business serving comfort-style food in a really beautiful area—Au Train, Michigan, at a nearly-historic site. Twenty-nine years ago, we resurrected a sweet old business that hadn’t had much care, and ever since we’ve worked to keep it consistent historically and add modernizations where it doesn’t show.

It had been a restaurant with an inn that had rooms upstairs and cabins that were rented until the mid-60s. The upstairs became a large apartment for subsequent owners. We got to raise our two kids here. They got to grow up in this village called a restaurant, which is an unusual way to grow up. Community came to us in a lot of ways.

I grew up on a family farm. It was really similar in a lot of ways—everyone worked together. There was a lot of care for everyone who worked for us, and a lot of their children worked for us over the years.

Some of our staff members here have been with us since we opened. Without the really talented, experienced staff we have, as well as a community that’s super-supportive, we wouldn’t be able to do this right now. People that would not go out because of health concerns order takeout and tip our staff. Those outside the area don’t see it, but there’s community here, and it’s super-important to us.

Our menu is based a lot on the kind of food both of us grew up with, having really talented moms in the kitchen.

Our chef, my husband Jeff, has his own sense of it, creating layers of flavors and textures. He’s an artist who has to have every color in the crayon box. And he uses them all. He wants a nicely composed food plate, and gets excited about anything fresh. At times, we’ve had Hawaiian fish flown in, which is amazing, but the core of our menu uses local products as much as we can. Sourcing is not easy, but we’ve made that a point over the years.

Having a place with a bar in the dining room, we had to decide early on which way to go. My husband was all about the food. Plus there’s a highway out there. It didn’t feel responsible to focus on a bar in this location. That shaped the clientele and the people who work for us.

We were able to expand into the upstairs and create private dining space for weddings, funerals, memorials, anniversaries, birthdays…. You get to know people in another way when you’re part of their celebrations. Some have come every year for their anniversary for twenty-nine years.

What prompted you to get into this business?
It was a big compromise. I was working at a non-profit mental health organization with emotionally disturbed adolescents in California. Coming from a farm background, I was not super-comfortable raising my kids in Santa Barbara. Jeff had finished culinary school and my parents told us the Brownstone was on the market. It was always my favorite part of the U.P. I had spent a lot of time in the U.P. visiting with friends in the 70s. I always felt like I had to get to Au Train Bay. Then I felt like I was in the U.P. For me, it was the doorway, and it never occurred to me I’d be back here.

The U.P. has become home, and I want to make sure my grandkids who are not up here have access to that.

What do customers enjoy most about the Brownstone?
They like the way the building feels. They come in and go Ahhh! It’s old and you can see the dents, and that there’s been a lot of living to it. It’s something the building exudes. It’s warm and accepting, and customers like the food. We’re known for our whitefish and steak, and the burgers are really popular.

We always do our best to be responsive to those with limitations—vegetarians, and those with food allergies.

A lot of our customers have relationships with our servers—baby blankets are made and Christmas cards exchanged. People will come in and ask about someone who waited on them before and through the years. They’ll find out a younger server they had has graduated from college. People notice and care.

Our local customer base is from Newberry to Michigamme, Gladstone. People on their way to Marquette make a point of stopping; they plan the trip so they can have lunch here. For young people going to college here, we become a stop a couple times a year. Typically, we have lots of residents, but this year, it’s been heavily tourists because it feels safe in U.P., and they feel safer here because of the care we’re taking. Our staff was insistent on coming back safely masked. We sanitize all customer contact surfaces. We are distanced. We control the number of people coming in the door, and have balanced it by taking reservations when requested. And we’ve done a lot of takeout.

We close for November to have family time and clean up the space. Our hours for the rest of winter have not been determined yet. They’ll be on our website.

What do you enjoy most about running it?
The relationships and the community and feeling appreciated and successful overall in keeping people comfortable and happy and fed. That’s a primary motivation – feeding people.

What do you find most challenging?
Keeping up with all the tasks that are part of the business. If it were just food and people, staff and customers, that would be easy. Getting enough help is a chronic issue. That’s another reason why I’m so grateful for the staff we have.

Future plans for the Brownstone?
We’re continuing the takeout and working on creating a deli menu featuring smoked items. We’re considering possibly offering lodging. It’s all under discussion. Stay tuned.

Anything else you’d like our readers to know about?

Our intense gratitude to the community that supports us. We’re in an intensely beautiful location but not a downtown one. Without the community responding the way it has, it would not work. This really was a dream.

Excerpted with permission from the Winter 2020-2021 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2020, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Senior Viewpoint: Insurmountable Evidence for Exercise Benefits, Dr. Conway McLean, DABFAS, FAPWHc, FAMIFAS

exercise benefits, holistic wellness, U.P. holistic business

The benefits of exercise are now the stuff of tabloids and daytime TV shows. We are inundated with information about health and fitness, some of it fact, some half-truth, and much of it outright lies. Few do the research to learn the true extent of the positives to health, although most know the basics. It’s good for your heart and blood flow. And, indeed, any form of exercise will have some of those benefits.

How many Americans exercise? How many are able to make these changes in their lives and do so for the “long haul”? This is a complex and nuanced question, but an easy answer is not enough. More than 80% of adults do not meet the guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities. Studies agree that only about 23% of Americans exercise in some form with any regularity. Only one in three children are physically active every day. Human muscle tissue needs activity and exercise to be healthy. This is in contrast to the great apes, who are able to maintain fitness without regular activity/exercise. (They’ve done studies; this is not fictional!)

Muscle disuse results in muscle tissue atrophy, which is basically muscle thinning. Muscle atrophy means inevitably, predictably, weakening. Muscle activity comes in many forms but is required for muscle health, with the heart probably being the most important muscle. Aging obviously has a hand in this weakening process, but less than you might think. If you doubt this statement, learn about the famed fitness guru, Jack LaLanne.

One of the most popular and successful methods of exercise is walking. The ability to walk safely depends on a host of factors, some obvious, others not so. The coordinated efforts of many body systems are required, such as the sensory and nervous systems, and cognitive skills. The obvious ones include cardiopulmonary and musculoskeletal. Others are classified as “contextual effects’”and include such things as the environment, the lighting, and the support surface upon which the individual treads.

How greatly life changes when we are no longer able to ambulate, to walk, to go for a stroll!

This is a fundamental quality of life issue, and should be valued as such. The aforementioned weakness, the result of disuse, is generally a gradual process, and easy to miss. Unfortunately, infirmity develops progressively. This often results in a reduction of core strength, an essential component of balance and reduced fall risk.

Balance is also known as postural stability, the act of keeping the body upright and vertical. A critical component of this process is core strength, and there is a multitude of ways to improve that. This is an all-around good thing since working your core muscles is beneficial to your overall physical well-being.

A combination of time and disuse can lead to many orthopedic problems. Most older adults suffer from postural changes, such as a forward-leaning posture. This is clearly associated with balance problems, and thus increased fall risk. Several studies have shown good core stability programs can help improve balance and confidence, consequently also reducing the risk of falls. Particularly helpful to fall prevention programs are “posture-challenging exercises,” something to consider when you’re looking to reduce the risk of falls.

There are many things to consider in regards to these efforts, which should be a common concern as we age. Some are easy to alter, such as clearing your hallways of clutter and furniture. Others not so, such as reversing the nerve damage of neuropathy. From joint pain that limits activity to the weakness of malnutrition (a shockingly common problem in the elderly), there is abundant evidence that exercise interventions have the potential to significantly reduce the fall rate, improve cardio-vascular health, and notably enhance quality of life, especially in older adults.

What does the research show about the true benefits of exercise in all its varied forms?

Improvements to health and well-being can occur in surprising ways, some physical and others psychological. The heart is an obvious beneficiary of regular exercise. Exercise helps the heart do a better job of pumping blood throughout the body. Our blood vessels are healthier and better able to respond to an increased demand for oxygen, such as when walking a longer distance.

People who exercise regularly seem to make better nutrition choices. Exercise also helps us maintain a healthy body weight, as well as reduce belly fat. Both appear to lend themselves to a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Exercise lowers blood pressure, since the heart will pump better and more efficiently, decreasing stress on the heart and surrounding arteries. If you have high blood pressure, cardiovascular exercise may help lower it. If you don’t, fitness activities will help you keep it in a healthy range.

Bone strength, critically important in reducing infirmity, requires physical stress, a clear benefit of resistance training. When you exercise regularly, your bone adapts by building more bone and becoming denser. It should go without saying that these benefits to bone require good nutrition, especially calcium and Vitamin D. The two types of exercise that are most effective for building strong bones are weight-bearing exercise and strength-training exercise. But these aids to bone health are site-specific. Put another way, walking improves bone strength in the legs, but has no effect on the bones in the wrist.

Adding a variety of exercises, such as running, jogging, gym work, even some recreational activities, can lead to improved brain function and faster mental task performance. Studies have shown better learning abilities, and decreased anxiety and depression, achieved with improved fitness. Certain benefits make sense, but aren’t necessarily obvious, such as an increased feeling of energy. Some of the documented psychological benefits of an exercise program include such possibilities as improved mood, reduced stress, and improved ability to cope with stress. If a person is successful with their regimen, increased self-esteem can be expected also.

The consequences of being sedentary, of sitting too much, are substantial.

Even a short walk, performed regularly at mild-to-moderate intensity, can improve your mood and energy, as well as your heart health. For longer-term benefits, you should exercise at least three times a week for 30 minutes per session at moderate intensity. A critical component of physical well-being is core strength, so be certain to include abdominal and back work.

Surprisingly, Medicare now covers the prescribing of an exercise program, typically instituted by a physical or exercise therapist. This tells us the benefits have been proven beyond any doubt. If our government takes it so seriously that they will pay for it, why doesn’t the American public? Why do so many of us eat poorly and get so little activity? As is often the case, there are a plethora of factors at play. But ignorance is no longer an excuse. The truth is out there: get moving and get some exercise. You’ll be getting healthier and smarter.

Dr. Conway McLean is a physician practicing foot and ankle medicine and surgery in the Upper Peninsula (Marquette and Escanaba). McLean is triple board certified in surgery, wound care, and orthotic therapy. He has lectured internationally on many topics. Dr. McLean welcomes questions at drcmclean@outlook.com.

Excerpted with permission from the Winter 2020-2021 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2020, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Inner Nutrition: Discomfort & Cultural Identity, Charli Mills

When I learned that one of the Anishinaabe’s protocol for a Water Walk meant I had to wear a skirt, inwardly I groaned. I grew up out west among ranches, logging camps, and mountains, feeling more comfortable in a flannel shirt than a flowing skirt. However, the walk was not an event; it was a ceremony, and a skirt announced to the earth we walked upon that we People of the Heart were women, the containers of water, the bringers of life.

For this, I would wear a skirt.

Someone gave me a fun thrift-store find, knowing I called my literary community a ranch. It was a Western skirt of many colors with motifs and a narrow lace hem. I planned to wear my walking boots with it and leggings underneath. The night before the walk, I gathered up my clothes for an early morning departure to Copper Harbor from Hancock. To my embarrassment, I realized the motifs were small panels depicting a theme of “Cowboys and Indians.”

No way could I wear this skirt. I called a good friend who was also walking and also white. I told her what I had discovered about my only skirt. She confirmed I couldn’t wear it. Miserable, I ransacked my closet and found a lounger, something like a house dress. Covered with a t-shirt that proclaimed, “The Revolution Has Begun,” our official 2019 Water Walk slogan, and a Women’s March sweatshirt, my PJs passed for a skirt.

I’m writing this column to explore what it is to be white and an anti-racist.

It’s likely the most uncomfortable topic I’ve ever tackled. Can I change the subject? Because discomfort is hard to experience. But here we are, me writing and you reading, all of us willing to sit uncomfortably in the muck of what American cultural identity has become. But as the condensed version of a quote by Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, goes, “no mud, no lotus.”

Let’s talk about my cultural identity since I’m tapping the keys from the hot seat. Then you can think about yours. I’m an American, a fifth-generation Californian who grew up on the Nevada border not far from Lake Tahoe. I could ride a horse before I could walk, and somewhere I have photo-evidence. You might laugh, but Charli is short for Annette. It’s a buckaroo culture thing— nicknames are popular, and my dad gave me mine as a baby. He says Charli was his imaginary friend as a child. He didn’t tell me this until I was fifty-three years old.

My full name at birth was Annette Marie Fernandes. Mills is my married name. I’ve been told all my life, “You don’t look like a Fernandes.” Really? I think I have the nose to prove it. I have my great-grandmother’s nose. According to family legend, I was a “Portagee Red.” It meant I was Portuguese with red hair. Okay, so the hair is unlikely Portuguese. It turns out the nose isn’t either. Great-grandma was Basque and Scots. According to my DNA, I’m Basque, Portuguese, Scots, Irish, Spanish, French, and English with a smattering of Swedish, which is kind of weird because my great-grandfather came from Denmark, not Sweden.

I’m western European. I’m western American. I grew up identifying as Portuguese, eating linguisa for breakfast, and marcella at Christmas. My dad’s family was Catholic, and that’s likely the common denominator among my most recent ancestors. My mom’s mother was half Portuguese and half Danish (until I found out it was Swedish). All my Portuguese ancestors came from the Azores or Brazil, first to Hawaii Territory and then to California.

Why does heritage matter?

I can’t insist that it does because my strongest cultural identity growing up was that I rode horses, pushed cattle on trails, and could braid rawhide leather into horse reins. I wore chinks (Vaquero-style chaps), Wranglers, and satin neck-scarves. I was born a buckaroo (a variation of the word Vaquero, a traditional horse culture that worked the land-grant ranchos and ranches of California and Nevada) and have lived in every western state except Oregon, Colorado, and Wyoming. As a writer, I belong to an organization called Women Writing the West. I write women’s fiction, reclaiming forgotten voices from the fringe and frontiers.

What matters to me are the lost voices of my female ancestors. If I don’t heal my own losses, how can I reach out holistically as an anti-racist? This is a fine line to navigate. Too much self-reflection and I lose the chance to bridge cultural reconciliation; too little and I might unwittingly appropriate a culture not my own. Whether or not you feel called to reclaim your own ancestral roots, an anti-racist must accept the humanity of every person.

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, healing my own ancestry is what drew me to my first Water Walk. The Anishinaabe women (kwe) are committed to bringing awareness to water’s importance in our region. Water is life, no matter where any of us come from. The kwe invite all peoples to join them in understanding this sovereignty of water. They call those who accept the invitation, People of the Heart.

Often, the heart needs healing. When we turn to address the history of a nation built on slavery and genocide, it’s enough to diminish any heart. Origins of America as a nation cause the ultimate in discomfort when walking the path of an anti-racist. How can one be proud of cultural identity and reconcile our past? Avoidance is one strategy. That may temporarily protect the heart from pain. Deflection is another. Some people get angry over the subject.

To heal, we must look back to understand our present moment to choose a better future.

Despite the discomfort, it doesn’t last. That moment when I really saw my Western skirt in a different gaze, I felt embarrassed. I sought support. A good friend may help us sit with the uncomfortable emotions and support the right choice. I learned to recognize cultural misuses and found a creative solution that hurt no one. I could still be a buckaroo who helped kwe in a water ceremony that heals us all.

This is not the end of the story. This year, I did not participate in the Water Walk. Part of the reason was COVID-19 and my reluctance to gather. Mostly, it was due to the demands of my thesis at the time. But I still went into solitary sacred space for the weekend, meditating, singing a song to Nibi, and contemplating what it means to be Indigenous. I am not Indigenous to America, but my ancestors were once Indigenous to Western Europe. All my DNA leads back to the tribes of Celts.

Native singer, speaker, and poet Lyla June Johnston’s song “Mamwland” took me home to my earth healers, whose voices I can hear when I hold the earth in my hand. Healing as an anti-racist, I realized, may look a lot like the reclamation of cultural identity—not to create further division, but to understand that we are all humans indigenous to this great round world.

It is important to me to actively seek out where racism yet roots within me. When I sit with the discomfort that can rise from my European cultural identity, I get the chance to give up unnecessary trappings. And I get to wear something new with broader, inclusive meaning.

Charli Mills grew up out west where she once won a rodeo trophy for goat-tying. Now she wrangles words from the Keweenaw as a literary artist, writing about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history. She makes literary art accessible at CarrotRanch.com.

Recommended Listening: Earth Talk: Mindfulness, Healing and Racism: Cultivating Right Relations with Lyla June Johnston, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20dOZaIzF1c

Work Cited: Johnston, Lyla June. “Mamwland.” YouTube. https://youtu.be/TeGLDwfrvb8

Excerpted with permission from the Winter 2020-2021 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2020, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Healthy Cooking: Making Millet & More, Val Wilson

Cooking for the holidays can be a joy or stressful. Here are some tips to keep things upbeat. Use recipes that are simple when making dishes for the holiday. Trying to follow an elaborate recipe can create stress, especially if you spend a lot of time on it unsuccessfully. Prepare some dishes ahead so you’re not overwhelmed on the big holiday. Loafs can be made the night before, or even a couple of days ahead, and refrigerated. Then all you have to do is bake it the day of your holiday dinner.  


Millet is creamy, nutty, slightly sweet, and gluten free, plus the easiest whole grain to digest. Millet has a high amino acid protein profile and iron content. It also contains B vitamins, phosphorus, 15 % protein, and feeds and nurtures your spleen, pancreas, and stomach.  


Tempeh is a complete protein containing all eight essential amino acids, and is 19.5% protein. Made by partially cooking, then fermenting soybeans, tempeh is easy to digest. Soybeans have easily absorbable iron, many B vitamins, and carotin, and support detoxification. Known for promoting vitality, and having anti-cancer properties, soybeans feed and nurture the lung and large intestines.


Kudzu is a thickening agent that is also very medicinal. When purchased, it looks like white chunks. Dissolve the chunks in water before adding them to the hot gravy for thickening. Kudzu helps to alkalize your body, relieve stiff muscles, and may help relieve migraine headaches by dilating blood vessels. The plant arrowroot is also a thickening agent used in cooking. Arrowroot is very soothing to your digestive tract.  


Tempeh Millet Loaf with Onion Gravy 

1 cup millet 
2 cups water 
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 (8oz.) package tempeh 
1/2 onion (diced) 
3 garlic cloves 
1/4 cup walnuts 
3 T. tamari
5 T. tahini 
1 tsp. basil 
1 tsp. marjoram
1/2 tsp. paprika 
1 carrot (grated) 
1/2 cup rolled oats 
2/3 cup water

Put millet in a soup pot with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 20 minutes until all water has been absorbed and millet is soft. Let sit 5 minutes, then stir in the 1/2 tsp. sea salt. Puree the tempeh, onion, garlic, walnuts, tamari, tahini, basil, marjoram, and paprika until smooth. In a large bowl, mix together the millet, pureed tempeh mixture, grated carrots, rolled oats, and water. Press into an oiled loaf pan, bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes before cutting. 

Onion Gravy 

4 cups water 
1/2 onion (diced small) 
1 tsp. sea salt 
3 T. tamari 
4 T. kudzu or arrowroot, dissolved in 1/2 cup water 
1/4 cup minced parsley 

Bring water to a boil in a pot. Add the onions, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the sea salt and tamari. Simmer for 5 more minutes. Dissolve the kudzu or arrowroot in the 1/2 cup water and add to the pot, whisking as you add the thickening agent. Gravy will thicken as it continues to cook. Turn off heat once thick, and add the parsley. 

Chef Valerie Wilson, aka Macro Val, has been teaching cooking classes since 1997. She now offers cooking classes you can attend through Zoom. Visit http://www.macroval.com.for class schedule, purchase of any of her five cookbooks, phone consultation appointments, or radio show, Facebook Macro Val Food.

Excerpted with permission from the Winter 2020-2021 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2020, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Gifts from Nature: Sprouts!

Crystal Cooper

As we prepare for winter amid these overwhelming times, great opportunity and responsibility exist for maintaining our health and strength. Relying on our abilities and resources has become vital as our societal systems sustain prolonged, multi-faceted stress. One way to move forward with health-focused lifestyle changes is to grow food indoors for whole-being inspiration. Considering combined nutritional value, cost, and required effort and maintenance, one method outshines them all—sprouting! By harnessing the ancient practice of sprouting seeds, we can reap the benefits of eating live food while it’s too cold for plants to grow outside.

Through the sprouting process, water and electricity awaken and enliven stored enzymes, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants. Eating sprouts is like eating every part of an entire plant at a very young age. It’s as simple as soaking, draining, rinsing, and storing. Given the convenience of such a power-packed food, sprouting is a historically popular form of ancient agriculture.

The advantages of eating sprouts are vast. Being easily digestible, the bioavailability of sprouts provides a synergy of nutrients with gut flora. This makes them a notable source of energy and protein. The sprouting process also inhibits certain anti-nutrients found in many grains and nuts. Enjoying your crop as raw as possible provides the most benefit, as heat can damage nutrients. It’s also wise to introduce sprouts in small quantities, as some bellies may be sensitive to this live, concentrated food.

In addition to being a superior food, studies have shown that sprouts particularly benefit the brain, heart, lungs, organs, and bones, as well as help with cancer prevention and lowering cholesterol. They also regulate blood sugar and are therefore ideal for those with diabetes and inflammatory issues. You can access these benefits by incorporating sprouts long-term into your diet. Furthermore, not all sprouts are created equal. Specific plants provide particular health advantages. Sproutpeople.org is a great resource for research.

An abundance of information and options exist in the simple world of sprouting.

A cornucopia of seeds can be used, including all edible grains, seeds, and legumes. From a simple mason jar or hemp bag to self-draining, variable ventilation, stacking sprouters, a range of growing mediums are available. Sproutpeople.org is a complete sprouting info and resource website, providing all one needs to know about sprouting while streamlining the process of purchasing quality seeds and growing mediums.

Dry seeds can remain viable for one to five or more years, making them ideal for stocking up and storing. Dormant seeds should be stored in a cool, dry, dark place. You can freeze them for increased shelf life; just be careful to avoid freezer-burn. Since refrigerators are humid, they are not ideal for dry seed storage. However, once the seeds have been sprouted, rinsed, dried completely (towels or a salad spinner are helpful), and stored in air-tight containers, they’ll stay fresh and bacteria-free in your refrigerator for weeks.

With a fresh crop of sprouts, occasions to experiment with flavors, textures, and consistencies are infinite! From spicy to sweet, big fava beans to small sesame seeds, recipes are limited by only your creativity level. They can be added to salads—but not just spinach and lettuce ones. Sprouts spice up anything from tabouli to potato salad. Being the most bio-available and nutrient-dense protein for the cost, sprouts are a sustainable meat alternative. Sandwiches, soup, hummus, salsa, pizza—they can even be dried and ground to make bread flour. Sprouts are a natural, nourishing way to support us when we need it most.

It can be challenging to remain happy and healthy throughout our long U.P. winters. We can grow these fun, teeny kitchen gardens to satisfy our minds and bodies with a living harvest during our darkest months. Making sprouts a regular part of one’s diet can provide extra energy, vitamin C, and weight loss—something many particularly appreciate this season. Plus, these baby plants can delight us with their sweet spark of new life in our indoor winter world.

Crystal Cooper has called Marquette home for over a decade and is passionate about natural healing modalities as well as personal and global sustainability. Crystal advocates resiliency-promoting actions within the community in the face of our changing climate.Crystal.coocooper@gmail.com.

Excerpted with permission from the Winter 2020-2021 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2020, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

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