Category Archives: Uncategorized

Senior Viewpoint: Hands of Time, by Esther Margaret Ayers

“Do wrinkles hurt?”

The eleven-year-old boy asked it suddenly as we sat together on the piano bench. I had asked the student to observe my hands on the keys, showing him the proper position: curved fingers, the wrist forming a level bridge from hand to forearm.

“What?” I was caught off guard, unable to think of a simple reply. With three fingers and a thumb, he stretched the thin skin on top of one of my hands. It obligingly yielded, rising in a pale tent of tissue. He released it, and the tent slowly collapsed. “Old people have such cool skin,” he murmured.

“Okay, buster,” I retorted, gently batting his hand away. “Your turn to try this.”

I was thirty-two years of age at the time. I certainly didn’t accept the notion of myself as old. This was the first occasion a student had even hinted at such a thing. After his lesson was over, I briefly contemplated my hands, then set the moment aside. I was, after all, a young wife and mother, a teacher, a graduate student; I had no time to think about Time.

In my forties, a single parent, I continued to teach piano in addition to my full-time job as a vocal music teacher. My students continued to teach me, too.

One student, in her fifties, studied with me for eight years. She had grown up in a poor rural family, but had always wanted to play the piano. Over the years she mastered the basics, learned to play hymns and popular songs of her youth. Yet she loved the classics and we began to learn the much beloved Adagio Cantabile from Beethoven’s Sonata Pathétique. She learned the notes and rhythms readily, but neither of us could understand why certain passages were so difficult, why it didn’t sing. We labored in some frustration until one day she sighed, “Maybe it’s my hands. You’re still young; you wouldn’t understand. But I’m getting older.”

I tried to brush it off. “Oh, we all have different hands. You’ll be playing in your seventies.”

“No, look at my hands. I think it’s the arthritis.”

I looked—really looked—at her hands, seeing them for the first time. I saw the swelling and redness. I had been so focused on the music and the instrument, I had been looking right past her hands. How could I have been so blind?

I took her hands in mine. She encouraged me to feel the knobs forming at her joints. “It’s probably from the laundry.”

“Laundry?”

“Yes, that’s what the doctor thinks. I was the oldest of nine kids. My job was to hang wet laundry outside on the line. He thinks it’s a miracle I can play the piano at all, but says it’s good for my hands.”

I closed my eyes, picturing the little girl in the woods near Big Bay, her bare fingers freezing in the winter wind as she pinned up the family washing.

“Shall I play it again?” she asked.

Yes, please. Tears ran down my face this time as she played the timeless melody.

It’s been twenty years since the woman with arthritis suggested I was too young to understand, and 30 years since that boy cast me as an ‘old’ person. I still work full-time: mornings are for writing, afternoons for piano teaching. Over the years, I’ve had hundreds of students of all ages, all with something to teach me.

This fall, a new student began lessons with me, a professional woman in her forties, with a good ear and a ready laugh. She took lessons as a child. As a yoga instructor, her posture is already perfect. Her fingers curve beautifully over the keys. However, when she plays the Arabesque, I hear a brittle, tense tone. I observe how her wrists and arms are locked.

I say, “Watch me play for a moment.”

“Oh,” she exclaims, after a few measures. “You make it look so easy. Your hands move so naturally.”

“Here.” I pat the bench of my piano. “Come sit beside me. Let’s draw some circles with our wrists and elbows.”

It’s true my presbyopia makes me fiddle with myriad sets of glasses, which amuses my young students. But I wouldn’t trade the eyes I have now for anything; I see more clearly, with more openness.

It’s true my ears don’t work as well as they once did, especially that left one. But I hear my students better, for I have finally learned how to listen to them.

And even I will admit I have “old hands.” But these hands are still learning—from my own teacher, now in her mid-seventies, who guides them in making even more beautiful the music I still desire.

Esther Margaret Ayers (known to her students as Esther LaVoy Barrington) lives and writes in Marquette. She has taught piano from her home studio near McCarty’s Cove since 1983.

Reprinted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Winter 2017 – 2018 Issue, copyright 2017. All rights reserved.

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Spring 2018 Issue Out!

Yes, that’s local surfing legend Dan Schetter on our cover, courtesy of Sharon Bodenus, Bodenus Photography!

Want to know how Sharon got that photo? How to stop procrastinating? Become more balanced? Make the world a greener place after you’ve gone? Deal with kids and smartphones?

Pick up a copy today! (Click here for a list of U.P. distribution points.) HH 43 Cover5

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New Year, New Column!

Happy New Year, everyone!

I’m very pleased and excited to welcome back veteran writer Dr. Heidi Stevenson and share with you our new column, “Life-Work with Dr. Stevenson”! Dr. Stevenson’s knowledgeable, insightful mind, big heart, and well-honed writing skills are put to task here to help us grow through “Life-Work.”

Please read her introductory article below to find out how you can join us in this catalytic new experiment for improving our world!

To see where you can pick up a hard copy with this and many more great articles, click here.

Wishing you a very healthy, happy 2018!

Roslyn Elena McGrath, Publisher

HH 42 coverIntroducing Life-Work with Dr. Stevenson

Heidi Stevenson, PhD

The commonplace practice of judging someone else’s life by its similarity to our own: what is that all about? Where does that tendency come from? Why are we so sure we know what it’s like to walk in each other’s shoes when we often don’t? Why are we so sure there’s not more to learn about our fellow humans? We may not always make conscious decisions to think and act this way, but we often do, nonetheless.

I used to teach college composition. And in those courses, I used to assign auto-ethnography papers. Auto-ethnography is part ethnography and part autobiography. It employs thick, detailed description of a subculture by a writer who tries to live like a member of the subculture in order to deeply understand it (think of Margaret Mead or those “I lived with the ____ tribe for six months” articles in National Geographic), and part autobiography because it asks the writing to define a subculture to which the writer really has belonged for some time. So we can think of it as true insider ethnography or highly focused autobiography.

I loved learning from my students as they wrote about their subcultures. I learned about everything from lacrosse players to Xena: Warrior Princess super-fans to money launderers to furries. Something that almost always came out of that writing, no matter who the writer or what the subculture: people felt like outsiders to the rest of the world because of their membership in their subcultures. They felt defensive and disenfranchised. Even the captain of the football team. Even if the team won a lot. Even the investment bankers and Olympic athletes and valedictorians and swimsuit models.

Because they always assumed they were being judged harshly, they also assumed that was a societal modus operandi and judged others harshly. With fear. Suspicion. Confidence in their uninformed, even willfully ignorant opinions.

But through class discussion of each other’s work, they usually learned they weren’t being judged all that harshly, if at all. And then they learned to do the same. To back off. To chill out. To quit judging things they didn’t understand. To listen to each other, and to believe each other. It was a dependable miracle I was lucky enough to witness 5-6 times a year x 25 students per class from 1999-2016.

I miss that, all those reminders that humans can be better. More importantly, I miss the certainty that exactly this kind of improvement is happening somewhere on Earth because I was watching nothing less than society turning smarter and kinder, less judgmental and more informed.

This column, if I’m being honest, will be an incredibly selfish endeavor. Teaching was my passion; now it’s my compulsion. I cannot help but think like a teacher, and I cannot help but think about the systemic benefits a society can reap with a little guided inquiry.

I am not your teacher, and thus cannot assign you homework. But if you want to do a little life-work with me, here’s your assignment:

Think about a subculture you belong to by birth, circumstance, or choice. It could be your heritage (being Native American, mixed race, from Botswana, Canada, etc.), the specifics of your upbringing (lived in a small town, was raised Catholic, was an only child, etc.), a job you do (plumber, math teacher, anesthesiologist, cashier) a pastime you enjoy (playing roller derby, chess, bird-watching, etc.), or any other thing that is a part of your identity (being vegan, being a “clean freak,” etc.)

Think about what people misunderstand or judge unfairly about your subculture. We tend to remember these incidents more than the times we’ve been treated fairly or indifferently. This should be easy. Jot a few down.

Now go out and learn about a subculture to which you do not belong. The less you know about it initially, the better. Feeling brave? Learn about a subculture with which you’re uncomfortable, people that engage in belief systems, activities, etc. at odds with your own. You can gather primary research—talking with members of the subculture—or secondary research—reading published work on the subculture.

Write down what you are learning. Focus on what members of the subculture say is often misunderstood or judged unfairly. Share your sources. And then share it with me; submit 500 words or less (excluding any links or citations for your sources) to me at heidi.ann.stevenson@gmail.com with the subject line “Life-work #1 submission” for a chance to be featured in the next column. Designate whether or not you’re comfortable with your writing being shared under your name, or whether you’d prefer anonymity.

I look forward to learning from you and with you.

Heidi Stevenson is a lifelong Yooper, save for two years earning a PhD in Pennsylvania. She is a former NMU professor, writing center director, and group fitness and yoga instructor, and a current wrangler of house cats, autoimmune diseases, and ideas.

Reprinted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Winter 2017 – 2018 Issue, copyright 2017. All rights reserved.

 

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Practical Solar for Northern Regions?

Click here to watch a video of Green Living educator Steve Waller’s presentation at last Saturday’s “Myth-Busting & Self-help Tips” forum, in celebration of our 10th anniversary.

And while you’re there, subscribe to Health and Happiness’s Youtube Channel to stay in the loop for more great video presentations!

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The Wonders of Apple Cider Vinegar, by Jenny Magli

apple.jpgApple cider is known as Mother Nature’s miracle medicine!

Apple cider vinegar, (ACV), is a golden liquid concentrated with the healthy goodness of apples. It contains over 30 important nutrients, 12 minerals, essential acids and enzymes. The vitamins are bio-flavonoids, (vitamin P), beta-carotene, (precursor to vitamin A), vitamin C, E, B1, B2, and B6, and it has a large dose of pectin for a healthy heart.

ACV is inexpensive, easy to use and it benefits our health in many ways. ACV can benefit both people and their pets. It is antibacterial, anti-fungal and boosts the immune system. As a high potassium electrolyte balancer, it helps re-mineralize the body and normalize the blood’s ph balance. ACV is the natural king of skin remedies. It is wonderful for itching and scratching pets as well as a superb skin and hair conditioner. Good old apple cider vinegar, straight or diluted 50/50 with water can be applied directly to the affected area and allowed to dry. It will kill bacteria on hot spots, eliminate dandruff, rejuvenate hair and skin, and help sweeten and balance the pH levels in the body.

Apple cider vinegar is a powerful detoxifying and purifying agent. It breaks down fatty, mucous and phlegm deposits within the body. By breaking down these substances it improves the health and function of the vital organs, such as the kidneys, bladder and liver, by preventing excessively alkaline urine. Put a tablespoon of ACV in your dog’s drinking water every day and you will no longer have those brown spots in your lawn from the dog’s urine.

It also promotes digestion, assimilation and elimination, while neutralizing toxic substances that enter the body. It has been found to neutralize harmful bacteria that may be found in certain foods. While dogs and cats do not have to worry too much about the bacteria in raw meat, if you are in doubt, you can pour a little apple cider vinegar over the questionable item.

ACV can also be beneficial for symptoms such as tooth decay and splitting of your dog’s toenails, which can be symptoms of potassium deficiency. Potassium is essential for the replacement of worn-out tissues within the body. This mineral is also as important to soft tissue repair as calcium is to the bones and teeth, which makes it a wonderful supplement for senior dogs.

ACV can be beneficial in the treatment of arthritis, as a supplement added to your pet’s daily water supply (or poured over the food) or with compresses soaked in hot, (not scalding) ,vinegar applied directly to the joints. It can also be helpful when used to treat allergies, candida, (yeast), constipation, muscle cramps, diarrhea, ear discharge, eczema, fatigue, kidney stones, kidney and bladder problems, slow metabolism, and stiff joints, and many other maladies.

The supplementation of ACV has been known to remove naturally  red tear stains around pet’s eyes from the inside out. It is also used to prevent fleas when used in a rinse for the dog’s coat after a bath.

There is nothing beneficial about commercial distilled vinegars except for pickling, cleaning and disinfection! So be sure to get natural apple cider vinegar, which you can find in health food stores. It should be a rich amber color with the “mother” quite visible as sediment on the bottom.

Jenny is a Certified Natural Health Consultant for pets and their people, and an Animal Iridology and Healing Touch for Animals (Level 2) practitioner. She is available for consultations and presentations and can be reached at (906) 235-3524 or 1healthlink@gmail.com.

Reprinted with permission from the Spring 2010 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

*Join us for Myth-Busting & Self-Help Tips: YOUR Health & Happiness Forum, Saturday, Sept. 30th 2017, 1 pm – 4 pm in the Community Room on the lower level of the Peter White Public Library, Marquette, MI, and help us celebrate our 10th Anniversary.  Click here for more info!

**FOLLOW us here and/or on Facebook to be entered to WIN in our 10th Anniversary drawing! 

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Finding Your Fortune, by Roslyn McGrath

pot of gold

What if . . . you received each dollar that came your way with appreciation for all the unknown people through whose hands it had passed, as well as for its potential uses in your life?

 

What if . . . you looked at each penny spent as a clear expression of your values and priorities?

 

What if . . . you felt the balance between what you are giving and what you are getting, each time you made a purchase or received a check?

 

What if . . . you deeply appreciated the wide range of exchange options a monetary system can offer?

 

What if . . . you intended that all the money you spend or give brings good to all its future recipients?

 

Take a moment to imagine doing one or more of these practices. How does it feel?

 

What kind of impact do you think integrating such practices in your life might make on you and others?

 

Most of us were not raised to act on, or even consider, such possibilities. Typically money has been both deified and vilified in our society, yet money is simply a tool, a vehicle for exchange, whose potential is what we make of it. Often there is tension around the topic, and/or reluctance to look at it clearly.

 

How might you bring more clarity, playfulness and positive creativity to the subject in your own life?

 

As we come into a new season of giving and receiving, and each new moment of living, I think it’s well worth considering how we might best clean up our thoughts and ideas about money in order to bring our best to all our future exchanges. Your imagination can be a powerful tool for jump-starting this process.  For example, you could play with imagining a divine hose that clears off any muck from your concepts of money, making way for fresh possibilities, and then act upon them.

 

It takes commitment to change old patterns. If there’s an idea in this article that appeals to you, or one of your own that comes to mind, you might begin there. Gratitude journals have been touted by Oprah and others for their effectiveness. How about keeping a “Re-Creating Money Journal” to reflect on your experiences with this?

 

Or consider the simplest thing you might begin doing right now toward improving your relationship with money and start there, adding your next step when ready.

 

If you prefer an in-depth re-creation of your relationship with money, you might consider implementing the program offered by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin in their classic book, Your Money or Your Life.

 

The world is what we make of it. Let’s bring our best to the topic of money and create our financial relationships anew. You might be amazed by all the other relationships this clears up too!

 

Roslyn Elena McGrath publishes Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, and shares energy, insights and  inspiration to shine your light at Empowering Lightworks.  She’ll be facilitating a “Maximum Manifesting Workshop” on Oct. 15, 2017 For more info., visit http://www.EmpoweringLightworks.com.

 

Adapted with permission from the Winter 2011 – 2012 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

*Join us for Myth-Busting & Self-Help Tips: YOUR Health & Happiness Forum, Saturday, Sept. 30th 2017, 1 pm – 4 pm in the Community Room on the lower level of the Peter White Public Library, Marquette, MI, and help us celebrate our 10th Anniversary.  Click here for more info!

**FOLLOW us here and/or on Facebook to be entered to WIN in our 10th Anniversary drawing! 

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Creative Inspiration: Sticks & Stones, by Kevin McGrath

kevin-smiling-in-garden-2010.jpg

While many people are busy leveling their yards and trying to get the edges straight, spending countless hours making sure all the bushes and plants line up in a nice orderly fashion, clearing unwanted stones and dead wood, I am adding stones and wood, and creating surfaces both below and above ground level.

 
In retrospect, I was inspired by several factors. All of my life I have been in love with both dead and decaying wood and stones. A friend recently told me she believes my stone crush stems from my Irish ancestry. After all, Ireland is a country built with stone – stone fences, cobblestone streets, buildings and castles of granite, and the fields are scattered with outcroppings of this natural rock.
Each hardened sphere is unique in size, shape, color and weight. Especially when wet, their radiance shimmers and dances, exploding with a wide spectrum of color that tingles the senses. Dead and decaying wood are more subtly hued with grays and browns; however, they can often be seen joining forces with lichen and mosses to create a beautifully colored landscape.

 

I have always enjoyed seeing downed branches or trees in their artistic poses, curving and twisting as if in a snapshot of a wooded kind of ballet. Unearthed roots especially excite me, as this secret dark society, which usually lives underground, is finally revealed for all to see. If my stone love stems from my Gaelic descent, then perhaps my wood infatuation is derived from my Native American roots.

 
One can never be sure about these things of course, but I do know that decaying wood and stones have been favorites of mine since childhood. I know my most recent creative inspiration for incorporating these two natural wonders was inspired by a recent trip to New York’s Central Park. My son and I spent an afternoon there, frolicking along streams and through woods, up hills and down slopes, as we meandered along the winding paths.

 

This trip inspired me to take the things I love and, in a micro sort of way, create this hobbit type world in my own backyard. Inspiration can come from all sorts of things, whether from within, where the genes of a distant relative seek expression, or a place that draws you in and makes an impression to the point that you want to recreate it in your own way in a nearby location, where you can see the things you love spread out before you. I believe the most important point, however, is to listen to these urges and see what they bring you.

 
Given his fondness for sticks and stones, Kevin McGrath has been called by many names and is fine with that.

Reprinted with permission from the Summer 2010 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

*Join us for Myth-Busting & Self-Help Tips: YOUR Health & Happiness Forum, Saturday, Sept. 30th 2017, 1 pm – 4 pm in the Community Room on the lower level of the Peter White Public Library, Marquette, MI, and help us celebrate our 10th Anniversary.  Click here for more info!

**FOLLOW us here and/or on Facebook to be entered to WIN in our 10th Anniversary drawing! 

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