Bodies in Motion: PRCA-Cooling Cabin Fever & Empowering Kids

Parents, do you ever feel like your kids are climbing the walls, especially in the cold winter months? It’s common to spend more time cooped up inside once the snow starts to fly, though of course there are plenty of fun ways to get outside, such as skiing, snowshoeing, or building a snowman. A new way you could consider getting the kiddos out and moving is trying the sport of ice climbing—yep, an organized way to “climb the walls”!

The Pictured Rocks Climbing Academy, or PRCA for short, is a Michigan non-profit that provides low-cost rock and ice climbing opportunities to Upper Peninsula youth ages 7-18. They are based in Marquette and rock climb in the Marquette area in summer, and ice climb around Munising in the winter. The PRCA was established in 2016 when world-renowned alpinist Conrad Anker noticed no local kids were ice climbing at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. At that year’s annual Michigan Ice Festival, money was fundraised to start the PRCA.

Since then, the PRCA has gone full steam ahead with all things climbing! The PRCA prides itself on providing not only climbing opportunities to those who might not otherwise have them, but also fostering community and stewardship for its members. From guided outdoor rock and ice climbing, volunteer opportunities at local events, weekly indoor group climbs during the school year, yoga, attending climbing festivals in the Midwest, and more, the PRCA provides unique experiences to UP youth. No gear or experience is required to climb with the PRCA, and membership costs are low, with scholarships available to those who need one.

For many, climbing is much more than just a sport—it’s a lifelong pursuit that connects them with wild places, a strong community, and opportunities to constantly learn. Climbing pushes you to trust yourself and those around you, constantly learn and adapt, and widen your comfort zone. Climbing also promotes positive mental and physical health, such as improved strength and balance, and higher feelings of self-sufficiency. The PRCA is run by volunteers with years of climbing experience who teach these values and experiences to UP youth. 

With climbing’s rising popularity, thanks to more gyms opening across the country and the sport being featured for the first time in the Olympics, it’s important to understand the mentorship aspect the sport has compared to other outdoor pursuits. Climbing is inherently dangerous, and historically was taught almost strictly through mentorship. These days people can get started climbing in the gym, through online videos, etc. While it’s great to have these more widely accessible resources available, without mentorship it’s possible to have gaps in knowledge and safety. The PRCA helps serve as a bridge for this mentorship gap.

Safety is the number one concern of the PRCA. All guided rock and ice outings are facilitated by Michigan Ice Fest Guides. These guides have taken and passed one or more guiding courses and assessments run by the internationally recognized and accredited American Mountain Guides Association. The PRCA teaches youth many things—climbing movement, gear use, anchor systems, belaying, and more—all adjusted to the age and experience level of the climbers participating. 

So, parents, if your kids are interested in a new way to recreate outside, face fears of heights, be more active in community stewardship, or just want to try something new, check out the Pictured Rocks Climbing Academy. 

To get involved with the PRCA, reach out through their website’s “Contact Us” page. If you’re over eighteen and would like to volunteer, don’t hesitate to reach out as well! 

Facebook/Instagram: @picturedrocksclimbingacademy

Laura Slavsky (she/her) grew up in Marquette, MI and began climbing in 2014. She has guided ice climbing clinics at Michigan Ice Fest, is a Community Ambassador for the national climbing non-profit Access Fund, and has volunteered with the Pictured Rocks Climbing Academy since 2019.

Excerpted from the Winter 2021-22 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2021, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

An Alarming Trend in Kids—What Great Lakes Recovery Centers & We Can Do About It

Many call the U.P. “God’s Country,” and see it as a great place to raise kids. Good reasons for this abound, however, our kids have become increasingly endangered by a threat many of us may not easily see—suicide.

The most recent U.P. Community Needs Assessment reports that suicide related calls to Dial Help in the U.P. tripled between 2010 and 2017. The U.P’s suicide rate for 10 to 24 year olds was 14.2 per 100,000 residents, while the average for Michigan was 7.9. And stressors have only increased since then.

As Great Lakes Recovery Centers (GLRC) Foundation Coordinator Amy Poirier explains, “If someone’s having suicidal thoughts, it’s not one thing, one incident behind it. Multiple factors can be involved.”

“I see what’s happening with our kids,” Poirier continues. “They don’t know what life will be like from day to day. It’s hard for kids right now. Every day, kids are seeing their friends being quarantined or needing to be tested. What goes on in the minds of all those kids—is my name, my friend’s name, my teacher’s name going to be on that list? The stress that they’re going through right now is unbelievable. And that’s just COVID, that’s not even counting the everyday life stressors of a teenager.”

Poirier facilitates the West End Suicide Prevention coalition.

She is also very active in the Marquette County Suicide Prevention Alliance, is one of the Marquette County Suicide Prevention Walk coordinators, teaches suicide prevention courses, and works with social media and community outreach.

“We’re trying to break down the stigma around mental health,” describes Poirier. “Between one in 4 or 5 people are suffering from mental illness, yet there’s so much stigma, and no one wants to talk about it. Our goal is to open up the conversation, normalize it, help people realize ‘It’s not just me. There are also a lot of other people out there that are having this problem. We can get help, help one another, and get professional help too.’”

GLRC coordinates several of the U.P.’s Communities That Care evidence-based coalitions that work to reduce kids’ risk factors. Nearly all of these have a suicide prevention work group. The West End Suicide Prevention coalition, a diverse group of people on the west end of Marquette County, developed LIVE, a positive mental health campaign (Love yourself, Include others, Value life, Engage community) which was brought to the entire Upper Peninsula through a grant from the Superior Health Foundation.

GLRC helps coordinate and teach various suicide prevention courses throughout the U.P.

GLRC also works with many U.P. schools to help reduce the stigma around mental health issues, and on any suicide prevention activities the school might want to do. The LIVE Art & Word contest for high schoolers to support suicide awareness and prevention efforts was just completed on Nov. 15th. Seven cash prizes will be awarded, including a $500 grand prize. You can vote for your favorite visual art, word, and song entries at West End Suicide Prevention’s Facebook page.

GLRC also opened Child & Adolescent Psychiatric Services in Ispheming a couple of years ago to help address the unmet psychiatric needs of kids with mild to moderate mental health issues who don’t necessarily qualify for community mental health services. This includes Trauma Development Assessment to look at where a child’s development is at due to trauma they may have experienced, psychiatric evaluation, medication management, parent education, different types of therapies, and psychiatric consultations.

However, with an issue as pressing as children’s suicide prevention, support is needed across the community. Whether you’re a parent, grandparent, work with children, or not, below are some ways you can help.

Take part in a suicide prevention gatekeeper training course, such as:

Mental Health First Aid – An evidence-based, free eight-hour course for adults only. Instructors from GLRC and other agencies teach you a five-step process to help someone who’s having a crisis, whether it involves suicide, anxiety, depression, psychosis, eating disorders, or substance abuse. You can sign-up at Once enough people register, a course is organized.

QPR (Question Persuade Refer) – A one-hour course that can also be presented to adolescents (as young as 12) and adults. This course is often taught in schools. Parents can ask if their school has this program.

ASIST Training – Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training for anyone in the community. No prior training is required. DIAL HELP, a U.P. center that provides crisis support 24/7 by phone, text or chat, will hold the next one Nov. 18th and 19th in Hancock. Contact Krissy Martens at to register.

Promote the LIVE campaign – Put up a decal in the window of your home or business, keep informational cards on hand for someone who might need the national suicide hotline number. If they are local, the call goes straight to DIAL HELP. To receive these items, call the GLRC Foundation office at (906) 523-9688 or talk to any member of West End Suicide Prevention.
Support and be present at locally held events such as suicide prevention walks and Walk a Mile in Our Shoes.

Get involved in a community coalition. Almost every U.P. county has a suicide prevention-related group. Contact Amy Poirier at (906) 523-9688, for info on a coalition near you, or go to to learn more about West End Suicide Prevention.

If you’re concerned your child or a child you know may be having suicidal thoughts or feelings, talk to the child. Get them the help they need, and help the child as well as their parent understand that they’re not alone.

Before you get to that point, if you have a kid or know anybody (child or adult), take one of the free suicide prevention courses.

You can also join a free and confidential parent support group–the Parents Support Network of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It meets for an hour and a half each month, currently virtually, and is peer-led by facilitators that have had experience with their own kids’ mental health concerns.

Note from the editor: We are very pleased to announce that Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine’s 2021 annual donation is going to Great Lakes Recovery Centers’ children’s suicide prevention and awareness efforts. For a list of businesses that have helped support this donation, click here.

Excerpted from the Winter 2021-22 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2021, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

Creative Inspiration: Urgent Gifts, Marty Achatz

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U. S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo says, “If you do not answer the noise and urgency of your gifts, they will turn on you. Or drag you down with their immense sadness at being abandoned.”

Gifts are strange things. They come to us out of nowhere. Surprise and fill us with pleasure. There is power in unwrapping a gift. Beneath the bows and paper, in the darkness of the unopened box, anything could exist. A box of chocolates. Music box. Book. Tickets to Walt Disney World. Words.

Yes, words. Because I’m a poet, I have always believed words are gifts. Think of the word “cleave.” It can mean to “divide or split as if by a cutting blow.” But it can also mean to “adhere firmly and closely . . . unwaveringly.” In one word, there is both separation and connection, loss and love. That’s a remarkable gift.

Back in January of this year, I received an email about a grant program sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts called the Big Read.

The NEA Big Read involves organizations creating programming centered around the themes and ideas of one book. Part of that programming involves giving away copies of the chosen book to community members. A gift of words.

One of the options for the 2021-2022 NEA Big Read cycle was U. S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo’s poetry collection “An American Sunrise.” Filled with cleaving (the removal history of Harjo’s people from their homelands) and cleaving (love poems for Harjo’s mother and husband and children), the book spoke to my artistic gifts.

So, I set about writing an NEA Big Read grant. I pulled together partnering organizations, contacted artists and writers, planned events—keynote addresses, poetry workshops, art exhibits, and a chapbook contest. I dreamed big. It was like writing a detailed, twenty-page letter to Santa Claus and dropping it in the mailbox.

The dream was simple in concept: to build bridges. I wanted to highlight the history, culture, and contributions of indigenous peoples. Through Joy Harjo’s words, I hoped to create a dialogue across the Upper Peninsula and bring people together. Using poetry as a vehicle, my NEA Big Read dream would hopefully be a catalyst for cultural understanding and change.

This dream was a gift to me.

A noisy, urgent gift, as Joy Harjo says. And I followed Harjo’s advice: I didn’t ignore that gift.

Several months after sending off my “letter to Santa,” I received an email one morning from Arts Midwest, the organization that administers the Big Read program for the National Endowment for the Arts. That email had one word in its subject line: “Congratulations.” I sat in my office for a few moments, feeling a lot like a kid on Christmas morning, knowing that my dream had become reality.

As I sit writing this article, I’m approaching the final weeks of programming for the NEA Big Read at Peter White Public Library. Over the past month, I’ve heard the Teal Lake Singers Drum Circle perform. Listened to poets and scholars and teachers of Anishinaabemowin. Soon, I will have the opportunity to speak personally with Joy Harjo, listen to her read her poetry, ask her questions.

However, the path to my NEA Big Read dream hasn’t been without its share of struggles, personal and professional. Sickness occurred. Scheduled speakers became unavailable. Loved ones passed. Events needed to be rescheduled or completely reinvented at the last minute. Big dreams are like that. They rearrange themselves like waves rearrange a shoreline.

But dreaming big is important.

Paying attention to your gifts (no matter what they are) isn’t just important. It’s necessary and life-sustaining. Sharing those gifts and dreams with others can be a powerful force for good in the world at large.

One of the events of the NEA Big Read was a three-day poetry chapbook writing competition. Participants were given a list of eighty writing prompts to spark their creativity. One of the writing prompts was this:
Make a list of things you want to do today. Let your imagination run wild with the list, accomplishing impossible things.

Try it right now. Make that list. Dream big. Dream impossible. Use your gifts. Make the world a better place.

Martin Achatz is a husband/father/teacher/poet/dreamer who lives in Ishpeming.  He is a two-time U.P. Poet Laureate and teaches in NMU’s English Department.  He also serves as the Adult Programming Coordinator for Peter White Public Library, where he recently organized and ran the NEA Big Read. 

Excerpted from the Winter 2021-22 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2021, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

Healthy Cooking: Millet Sweet Potato Savory Biscuits, Val Wilson

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During the cold winter months, warm baked goods are always satisfying. And since you may not always be in the mood for baked goods that are sweet, here is a savory, more dense, hearty biscuit recipe. These biscuits are great to serve with your dinner, plus make a great between-meals snack when you get a little hungry.

Millet is one of the oldest whole grains, and has been eaten since at least 2800 B.C. Very high in protein, iron, calcium, and B vitamins, millet is gluten-free and the easiest whole grain to digest. Known for helping to strengthen your spleen, pancreas, and stomach, it is great for anyone with digestive issues. Millet has a creamy texture, making it perfect to create baked goods such as these biscuits. 

Sweet potatoes are native to South America and were domesticated at least five-thousand years ago. The crop must have been an important one for our ancient ancestors because ancient pottery has been found to feature sweet potato images. Sweet potatoes have vitamin D for healthy bones, vitamin C, B 2, B 5, and manganese. They’re also exceptionally high in iron, calcium, and potassium, making sweet potato an excellent food for your heart. Plus, they help boost your immune system, contain antioxidants, and help strengthen your kidneys. In this recipe, the sweet potato creates a mildly sweet flavor that is sure to satisfy your taste buds. 

Millet Sweet Potato Savory Biscuits 

1/2 cup millet 
1 cup water 
3/4 cup rice beverage (non dairy beverage) 
2 cups sweet potato (peeled and cut in cubes) 
1/4 cup olive oil 
1/4 cup rice beverage (non dairy beverage) 
1 tsp. sage 
1/2 tsp. rosemary 
1/4 tsp. sea salt 
2 cups oat flour 
1/2 cup medium corn meal 
2 tsp baking powder

Put the millet and one cup of water in a pot and bring to a boil for a minute. Reduce heat to lowest possible temperature, cover and simmer for 20 minutes until all water has been absorbed and millet is soft. Remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes. Add the 3/4 cup rice beverage to the cooked millet and let it sit covered while you prepare the rest of the recipe. Steam the cubes of sweet potato until soft. Put the olive oil, 1/4 cup rice beverage, sage, rosemary, sea salt, and steamed sweet potato in a food processor and puree until smooth. Put the oat flour, corn meal, and baking powder in a mixing bowl, add the pureed mixture, and mix all together until you get a firm, thick, muffin dough texture. Using an oiled muffin pan, spoon the dough onto the pan into 12 muffin-size biscuits. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes until golden brown on the bottom. Eat them warm out of the oven or at room temperature after they have cooled down. 

Chef Valerie Wilson has been teaching cooking classes since 1997. Visit for schedule, cookbook purchases, phone consultations, or radio show, and follow her on Facebook at Macro Val Food.

Excerpted from the Winter 2021-22 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2021, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

Green Living: Make Your Airfare “Air-Fair,” Steve Waller

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“You are now free to move about the country.” We love to fly, and it shows. Airports and airplanes are crowded. It’s finally affordable and possible to just jump on an airplane and “fly the friendly skies” to grandma and the distant kids for a long-awaited holiday hug. “You deserve a break today” in some warm exotic place. Leave COVID confinement a thousand miles behind. What takes days by car is just a couple of hours away by plane. The power and roar of a jet engine taking off is a sign of “something special in the air”—massive amounts of carbon dioxide, CO2.

But you can fly green. I’ll explain.

A single weekend flight, Detroit to Los Angeles, four thousand air miles round trip, emits more CO2 per passenger seat than the average American car emits in three months. Automobiles with two passengers produce only half the CO2 per person. But airplane miles and CO2 are rated per seat. Two passengers generate 8,000 miles of airplane CO2 instead of 4,000. If you and another fly to Los Angeles, that rate comes to the equivalent of almost seven months of automobile CO2 in a weekend!

Jet fuel, aviation gas, and automobile gas each emit almost twenty pounds of CO2 per gallon. On average, an airplane produces over fifty-three pounds of CO2 per air mile. A 747 airplane can carry up to 568 people and 63,000 gallons of fossil fuel. It burns about 5 gallons of fuel per mile, about 1 gallon per second! That 4,000 mile flight generates (4,000 miles x 53 lbs. CO2 per mile) 212,000 lbs.—100 tons of CO2! In 2019, the average domestic commercial flight emitted 0.39 pounds of CO2 per passenger mile. 4,000 miles x 0.39 CO2 per mile = 1,560 lbs. CO2 per person.

Today, globally, there are more than 100,000 flights per day.

Global airline passengers are expected to double in the next 20 years. Improving fuel efficiency (proudly claimed by many airlines) reduces emissions 1% per year but flights are increasing 6% per year. It’s not even close. Airline CO2 is rising.

Some airlines promise “Sustainable Aviation Fuel” (SAF – biofuels) but hardly any is available. One popular airline boldly committed to replacing 10% of fossil jet fuel with SAFs by 2030 (90% will still be fossil fuel).

Fly greener. Compensate for airline emissions by buying carbon offsets. Offsets try to neutralize airplane CO2 by preventing or removing equivalent CO2 elsewhere. However, it is hard to be sure an offset will permanently “absorb” the emissions your flight generates.

Some offsets plant trees to capture CO2, but seedlings take 20 years to grow big enough to be effective. If seedlings or trees die or are cut down or burn in a wildfire within the next 200 years, the CO2 returns to the air. Instead of planting trees, we must focus on growing and protecting trees, especially the biggest and longest-lived trees, for centuries.

Some offsets support social programs in poor countries that build schools to educate people about carbon solutions and sustainability. They build roads and ranger stations to help prevent illegal logging or provide more efficient cookstoves so very poor families burn less wood for cooking or use less fossil energy. My favorite offsets support methane capture or solar and wind energy projects which directly prevent CO2.

You choose how your offset dollars are used. Average offset prices are between $3-$50 per ton of CO2. Some people annually offset all their CO2. Consider the United Nation’s Gold Standard certification ( or

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

Excerpted from the Winter 2021-22 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2021, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

11 Can’t Miss Holiday Safety Tips for U.P. Homes, Rich Beasley

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The holidays are here! Nothing amps up the holiday vibe quicker than a home fully decked-out with seasonal bling. Many of us are excited to dive into everything the season has to offer after a challenging past year. But before you dig out the holiday gear, let’s talk safety.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates about 200 decorating-related injuries a day take place during the holiday season alone. These injuries can be related to falls, fires, electrical hazards, and more. I will first address electrical issues, as many of the homes in our area feature out-of-date electrical wiring.

Issues such as outdated electrical panels, overloaded breakers, and aging wires can cause unexpected electrical hazards in older Upper Peninsula homes. The good news is there are some super-simple steps you can take to safeguard your home and loved ones during this time of year.

Please review the following holiday decorating safety tips:

Be aware of faulty wiring. If your home was built before 1920, be on the lookout for knob-and-tube and cloth wiring. Knob-and-tube wiring does a poor job of handling the added electrical load of holiday lights and decorations. This presents a fire safety hazard because this type of system has no ground wire. Moreover, knob-and-tube wiring is known to be easily damaged by pests like insects and mice. The resulting exposed wires increase risk of electrocution as well as fire. If you have older wiring in your home, it’s a good idea to have it inspected before stringing holiday lights to be sure it’s up to the task.

Evenly distribute the electrical load. Protect your circuit breakers by not jam-packing your electrical outlets with loads of junctions and extensions (octopus outlets). A safe way to make your home feel more festive is to distribute electrical decorations throughout the house. This way, you don’t blow fuses, overload the system, or start a fire.

Consider no-electricity decorations. Lack of electricity never stopped your great-grandparents from getting in on the holiday fun! There are plenty of ways to decorate for the holidays without overtaxing your electrical system. For instance, you can use mirrors to reflect candlelight around your home, invest in battery-operated LED string lights for your tree, make popcorn garland, or place boughs of evergreen throughout your home. (Just remember never to leave candles unattended, or too close to flammable objects like pine branches. If you have young ones in the house, battery-operated “candles” may be the way to go!)

It simply wouldn’t be the holidays without a large family meal to gather around. But according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, cooking fires are the top cause of residential fires each year.

You can avoid holiday cooking-related mishaps by:

  • Checking smoke detector batteries weekly
  • Keeping flammable objects such as paper or plastic bags and potholders away from the stove, oven, crockpots, and pressure cookers
  • Keeping a fire extinguisher within reach
  • Never leaving cooking food unattended
  • Preparing your meal in stages to avoid overloading your electrical system

One more word of warning: deep fried turkey tastes amazing, but it’s not the safest way to cook your bird. Last year alone, 220 burn incidents involving turkey fryers resulted in $9.7 million in property loss and 81 preventable injuries. If you’re thinking about finally trying a deep-fried turkey for your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, you may want to think again—especially if you have young children in the home or find it challenging to lift heavy objects. If you do decide to go for it, your best bet is to fry that bird outside and away from your home.

But Wait—There’s More! 3 “Cooler” Holiday Hazards to Avoid

Avoiding electrical and fire hazards should be top of everyone’s minds during the holiday season. But no primer on UP holiday safety would be complete without taking note of these three additional common cold climate holiday hazards:
Ice hazards: Come winter, ice can pose a significant risk to the elderly and family members with limited mobility. Clearing your gutters early in the season will help you avoid falling ice and ice damming. And of course, you’ll want to stop slippery sidewalks in their tracks by using eco-friendly de-icing products or sand.

Air quality: Another thing to keep in mind around the holidays is air quality. Each year, countless homeowners report breathing problems when the weather turns cold. Cheap scented candles (especially those made in China) can release volatile organic compounds like formaldehyde, toluene, and benzene into your home. Consider supporting a local artisan by buying beeswax candles that are scented with essential oils. Poorly maintained or aging heating systems are notorious for collecting dust and other impurities which then circulate throughout your home once the heat gets cranked up, so be sure to change your filters and have your unit inspected if you haven’t already this year.

Radon: Lastly, if you’re housing out-of-town relatives in your basement during the holidays, you may want to get a quick radon test to be sure the air is safe.

May Your Holidays Be Safe and Bright

Most people agree that the best thing about holidays is time spent with family and friends. A few simple little precautions can go a long way toward ensuring your memories of this holiday season stay happy and fun—especially if you have an older U.P. home. And if you’re not sure your home is up to the task, all it takes is a quick call to your local home inspector to ensure that your home—and more importantly, the special people in your life—stay healthy, happy, and safe through the holidays and beyond!

Rich Beasley is an InterNACHI Certified Home Inspector and owner of UP Home Inspection, LLC. He holds over a dozen specialty certifications, including Mold Inspector, Radon Tester, Water Quality Tester, Indoor Air Consultant, and many more.

Excerpted from the Winter 2021-22 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2021, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.