Senior Viewpoint: Head to Your Local Farmers Market ASAP! Kevin McGrath

U.P. holistic business, senior nutritional needs, value of farmers markets for seniors, U.P. wellness publication

Now that summer has begun taking hold, nutrient-rich soils are transferring more and more of their life-sustaining power to the herbs, grains and vegetables that we then consume and absorb. Our farmer’s markets play a vital role in not only making these fresh, healthy, in-season, locally grown foods available for our choosing, but also offer an open air venue where we can safely and easily engage as social beings again.

As a senior who has been primarily cooped up for over a year in an attempt to keep my fellow citizens and myself out of harm’s way and is finally fully vaccinated, I’ve come to truly appreciate the importance of fellowship. Social isolation can become a routine way of life for many seniors, pandemic or no. Farmers markets bring together humans of all ages, which can be particularly helpful for seniors’ vitality. And, as John Lennon once said, “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is a reality.”


Social isolation has been shown to significantly increase your risk of dementia and premature death from all causes, maybe even more than smoking, obesity or physical activity. On top of that, according to the American Psychiatric Association, lonely seniors are more likely to smoke, drink in excess, and be less physically active. 


Additionally, we seniors actually need fewer calories, but more nutrient-rich meals.

Plant foods (vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, and whole grains) tend to be nutrient dense and are also a great source of fiber, which can help prevent Type 2 diabetes, aid digestion, lower cholesterol, and help you maintain a healthy weight. Research supports filling at least half of your plate with vegetables and fruit at each meal.

To get the greatest nutritional value, as well as flavor, from your produce, you want it to have the shortest possible time between harvest and consumption, making your farmers market a winner again. Food imported from other states and countries is typically older, has been handled more (exposing it to more contamination risks), and sat in distribution centers before arriving at the store.

Another consideration that becomes clearer as I age is the importance of supporting local businesses. Our local economy can be hurt by having our produce transferred in from all over the world, and oftentimes even sold more cheaply. If we don’t support our local businesses with our purchases, and then wonder where all our local businesses went, whose responsibility is that?

Nationwide, growers selling locally create thirteen full time jobs per $1 million in revenue earned.

Those who do not sell locally create three. And dollars generated locally tend to circulate locally, bolstering the economic health of local businesses and families. Plus, if natural disasters continue to increase, affecting the growth and distribution of food from elsewhere, we’ll certainly become even more grateful to have locally-sourced options.

So with summer in full swing, I look forward to seeing my experienced neighbors and friends taking advantage of nature’s “farm-aceuticals” at our local farmer’s market, supporting our own health and that of our community.

While Kevin McGrath isn’t a farmer, he has the greatest respect and admiration for our local farming community and can be found visiting farmers markets wherever he may roam.

Research contributed by Roslyn McGrath, a fellow fan of food, farmers markets, useful info, helpful humans, and Mother Nature.

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

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Health & Homes: 10 Symptoms of Mold Exposure—and What to Do About It, Rich Beasley

U.P. holistic business, household mold detection, mold prevention, healthy homes, U.P. holistic wellness publication

With many of us spending more time indoors, ensuring safe air quality is more important than ever before. If your health has been feeling “off” lately, there may be an unexpected reason why: an undetected mold infestation in your home or apartment. Let’s look at some common warning signs that mold is becoming a health problem in your living space and explore some simple actions you can take to fix it.


Mold—A Pervasive Problem

Mold is a much more common problem in buildings and homes than many people think. When left untreated, it poses a significant risk to health and wellbeing. According to some estimates, roughly 70% of homes in the United States have mold of some kind. It’s important to remember that not all mold is dangerous to your health—but many are.

10 Health Symptoms of Mold Exposure

If you’re wondering if an unseen mold infestation could be affecting you or your family, an excellent place to start is by evaluating your health. If you’re currently experiencing one or several of the following symptoms, it’s time to take the next steps towards mitigating the problem (more on that shortly).

  1. Stuffy nose
  2. Sore throat
  3. Coughing or wheezing
  4. Tightness in the chest
  5. Hair loss
  6. Memory loss
  7. Brain fog
  8. Burning eyes
  9. Nosebleeds
  10. Skin rash

Mold exposure will affect each person differently, and this list is not exhaustive. For example, in asthmatic people or those with a mold allergy, reactions will be much more severe than in the general population. Additionally, immune-compromised people or those with chronic lung disease may develop severe infections in their lungs from mold exposure.


What Causes Mold in a Home?

Mold is an opportunistic scoundrel. It enters your home through ventilation, cracks in the walls, leaky roofing, and open doors or windows. Once in your home, mold will flourish on pretty much any surface imaginable, including household dust, insulation, drywall, carpet, fabric, paper, cardboard, wood, and much, much more. If you live in a humid climate (like Michigan), mold may be more of a concern as it thrives in damp areas. As a solution, it’s suggested that you keep your home at less than 50% humidity. A simple dehumidifier will do the trick in most cases.

What To Do When You Suspect a Mold Problem in Your Home

So, you’re feeling off and suspect that mold may be the cause. What’s your next best step?

  1. First, contact your healthcare provider right away to schedule a check-up.
  2. Second, do a thorough search in your home for signs of mold or evidence of water damage. Remove porous materials like carpet or drywall that you think may harbor mold.
    Thoroughly clean hard surfaces with a bleach solution.
  3. If you can’t find obvious signs of mold but still suspect it may be present, schedule a mold
    test with a local home inspector. A home inspector will look for signs of both active and
    prior water intrusion and existing mold in all safely accessible areas, and sample the air
    in your home for mold. Test results are typically available within three business days and
    will tell you whether there is indeed a mold infestation in your living space and whether any existing mold poses a risk to your health.

When it comes to mold, ignorance is not bliss. Listen to your body if something feels off. The sooner you identify the problem, the sooner you can mitigate risk and get back to enjoying your health and vitality.

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

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Positive Parenting: How to Keep Kids Active, Engaged & Learning This Summer, Jamie Hutchinson

positive parenting, U.P. holistic wellness publication, pandemic parenting advice

So, we’re home with our children, and we are limited in what outings we can do. Now what? How do we keep our kids active at home? How do we keep them engaged in learning? How do we come out of this summer feeling like we did our best, especially as we may be working from home at the same time?

As we gear up for the season in these challenging times, it’s important to acknowledge that each family will have their own very unique work and home situation. Some people may have more flexibility, more caregivers in the home, or older children who are more independent. Others may have less flexibility, younger children, and may be the sole caretaker of those children. We honor all of you, and know that you are doing the best you can. The following suggestions are offered as a starting point for consideration while navigating having children home and working at home this summer.

Children thrive on structure. They do best with routine. Create one for your family that will give children some academic time, active time, and FUN time. Also build in some time for you and your work, and you and the other supportive people in your life. Of course, as you create order, create some flexibility too. This will help everyone adapt.

Keep the routines. Do you have a set bath time? Bedtime? Mealtime? Keep these times consistent. It will allow everyone to feel some sense of normalcy. It also allows our brains some breathing room. Change is taxing on all of our brains.


Get outside!

This is really important to do when and where you can. Being out in nature resets our mind and body in so many ways. If you can go outside to a place that does not have a lot of people, then do it. Do you have a yard? Use it.

Have a family meeting to discuss the situation and the structure you are implementing. Ask every family member to step up the best they can. Emphasize that you are all doing this together, as a family.


Be creative and make some memories!

Maybe you make a fort and read books together, perhaps you have a picnic dinner in the living room while blasting your favorite music. This will be challenging, this will be new, but we can still have fun. Actually, fun is essential in keeping our stress levels manageable. Did you know that belly-laughs are therapeutic?


Managing your stress will help your kids manage theirs. Your children will look to see how you are managing everything. Taking care of yourself is the best way to be sure you have something left to give to your family and your work. You are important. You are worth taking care of.


Do you need some ideas to mix things up? Here you go! Write a book, have a family game night, hold a movie marathon, make a craft with household materials, write a rap! There are no limits.


Build in learning with activities.

We all need to eat, right? Cooking together is a fun way to practice practical math. Double a recipe, measure, add, figure out how many servings you will be making. Take the things you do, such as bedtime stories, and ask some reflective questions after you read. What was the most surprising part of this story? Which character do you relate to the most? How many pages are there? Anything that is age appropriate is helpful.


Speaking of learning…there are free online educational programs available while schools are closed. I like Kahn Academy and PBS Kids. If they are going to be on their tablets more, you can make it educational.


What about activity? Adults need 30 minutes of physical activity a day, children need at least an hour, preschoolers need three hours a day. Get creative. Have a dance party in the living room, use the Wii Fit if you have one, make activity stations around the house and rotate them for two minutes each. For example, kitchen: jumping jacks, living room: sit ups, dining room: wall presses, and so on. The main idea is to stay active. A healthy body and a healthy mind are connected. The healthier you stay, the better you will feel.


Work together.

Thinking of doing something fun? Share the list of fun active things to do at home and let the kids choose. Swap menu planning and chef duties among each other. Take turns caring for pets. This will give you some variety, and be an example of how everyone is working together.


Stay connected.

Schedule times you can reflect with your colleagues via teams or Zoom. Pick up the phone and check in on someone you work with to see how they are doing. Connect with your family via Skype or over the phone. Just because we are may be physically distanced does not mean we should not be connected. It will take us all working together to finish getting through this.


You are doing your best. Have compassion for yourself and others. We can get through this.

Deputy Director of the MSU WorkLife Office. Jaimie Hutchinson holds a BA in Psychology from Michigan State University, a MA in Community Counseling from the University of Northern Colorado, is a licensed professional counselor, licensed school counselor, and holds a Global Career Development Facilitator certification.

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

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Bodies in Motion: Getting Social and Fit Andrew Rickauer

U.P. holistic wellness publication, Marquette County trail running, fun fitness, social running group

Who says getting or staying fit can’t be fun?! Marquette Trail Running, a casual group of trail runners open to anyone from a first time runner to ultra-marathon racer, is focused on this philosophy. It’s a social group to share trail tips, introduce others to the sport of trail running, promote group runs, and provide a summer trail series.


The summer trail series is an eight-race trail running points series held throughout the summer on alternate Thursday evenings at 6 pm. Locations rotate around the area to showcase the different trails Marquette County has to offer.  The event is affordable and family friendly. The idea behind it is to bring like-minded people together for an evening of fun. The racing is low-key, untimed, and really all about having a great time. After the race, participants fire up a grill for burgers, brats, or whatever else is handy, and sometimes bring a dish to share while chatting about trails and running.


Aside from the race series, group runs and clinics occur at random, based on when members remember to post that they’re happening. As the director of Marquette Trail Running, I wanted to make the group more inclusive of all fitness levels, so four years ago, I added the virtual race series. A course is set and open for a few weeks. Participants can run it as many times as they want and when it is convenient for them. This series is timed, and participants have to provide documentation that they completed the course and the time they did it in (typically Strava tracked). 


The group started in 2007 with a few casual group runs. Because trail running can be such a solo and independent sport, we started the summer trail series the following year. Someone can run trails every day, and only come across a few people. This is fine, but sometimes it’s nice to see others, share stories, and learn from the more experienced. Also, racing can get very expensive, causing runners to limit themselves to just a few events for the year. This also builds up the pressure to train and perform for these few events. The summer trail series is designed to eliminate these problems. It’s affordable at $30/ season (eight races, and post-race food plus awards and giveaways at each event!). Events are held on weekday evening so they don’t take away from weekend fun with your family, and the races are casual enough so there is no pressure to train or set a course record.  The start line is simply scratched in the dirt, and results are self-reported by placing your name on a board when you finish. 

It really provides all the benefits of racing without the pitfalls, and the group has grown into a great community!


All events are outside, with social distancing and masks recommended.  Many of our group runs are broken into smaller groups, making it easy to stay spread out on the trails.  We also have masks and hand sanitizer available for everyone. 


Marquette Trail Running offers a wonderful way to learn a new sport, learn some trails better and explore new ones, socialize with and learn from some great, like-minded people, keep updated on what is happening with running and trails in our area, and yes, it’s also fun to join in on the race series!


The group is also planning to partner with the Keweenaw Running Group in Houghton and may do some collaborative group events or a U.P.-wide points series.


You can find Marquette Trail Running on Facebook, and it’s open to anyone. All events are free/ by donation for club members, and the recommended fee of $30 to join includes everything.  We will never exclude anyone from anything. This group is open, including, and welcoming to all! Most just show up to the first series race to join.  Others contact me and send me the money, but there is no official form for the group—it’s too much paperwork, and we are all there to have fun!


Andrew Rickauer grew up in Colorado and has been a trail runner since the early ‘80s. He came to Marquette to attend NMU where he met his amazing wife. They live in Marquette with their three girls who all love to enjoy the U.P. woods.

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

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Creative Inspiration: “UPportunities” Abound!

U.P. holistic business, creative opportunities in MI's Upper Peninsula

Though some of us have been inspired to express ourselves creatively to deal with pandemic challenges, others of us may wish we felt inspired. And regardless of the many outdoor recreation activities the Upper Peninsula affords, there are still those days when an abundance of rain, sun, black flies, or mosquitoes may drive us indoors, seeking other forms of fun. Or, there may be times we find our summer or other experiences so special that we want to commemorate them in some creative way.

If you’d like a creative head start—no worries! You’re in luck, as creative opportunities abound throughout the Upper Peninsula! Below is a taste of the many you can sample.

At the Bonifas Arts Center in Escanaba this summer, you can create a fairy house, paint your pet, create ceramics or stained glass, weave, watercolor with ink, and more! Visit bonifasarts.org to learn more and sign up.

The Copper Country Community Arts Center in Hancock is home to a photographic dark room, clay studio, and letterpress, and also hosts classes in other media. Check coppercountryarts.com for upcoming classes and programming info.

pottery making in Marquette, MI
HOTPlate Clayworks

You can also get your hands in clay and create bowls, vases, mugs, jewelry, signage, sculpture, and much more at HOTplate Clayworks in Marquette. Or, leave the three-dimensional creating to others, and pour your creativity into decorating ceramics at HOTplate Pottery, or at your place with their take-home kits. Visit hotplatepottery.com for details.

You may also be inspired by the multitude of talent represented in exhibits, receptions, studio tours, demonstrations, and street performers at Marquette Arts Week, June 21 – 27. Included is Poetic Reconnection Art Exhibition, hosted by the Peter White Public Library in the Lower Level Reception Gallery, where poetry broadsides from local poets focused on the theme of reconnection will be displayed. An outside opening reading/reception will be held Tuesday, June 22, at 7 p.m., with music by Troy Graham to follow.

Also as part of Marquette Arts Week, Life Lines & Notes, an event to reconnect heart and soul through words and music, will feature U. P. Poet Laureate M. Bartley Seigel and musician Ani on Saturday, June 26th, on the steps of the Peter White Public Library .

spoken word album
Slow Dancing with Bigfoot Album Cover

Two-time U.P. Poet Laureate Marty Achatz will be releasing his spoken word album Slow Dancing with Bigfoot, featuring music by Streaking in Tongues, in early summer. There will be a live performance as part of Art Week, plus other live and virtual performances throughout the summer. You’ll find Art Week details at mqtcompass.com.

Live music continues at Peter White Public Library with Concerts on the Steps this summer, featuring popular local musical acts. Visit pwpl.info or the Peter White Public Library Facebook Events page for more details.

The Peter White Public Library also hosts Authors Reading Virtually. At 7 pm on the second Wednesday of every month, local, state, and national authors read from their work and participate in a Q & A via Zoom. Past authors include: John Smolens, Dennis Hinrichsen, Natasha Trethewey, W. Todd Kaneko, and Megan Alpert, among others.

You can get into the writing act yourself with poetry workshops at creativity sanctuary Joy Center in Ishpeming. Marty Achatz will lead a special evening of Bigfoot prompts on June 20th, and also share new prompts every first Thursday of the month at 7 p.m., with a Zoom repeat on the first Sunday of every month at 7 p.m. Poet/musician/filmmaker Ron Ferguson will facilitate “Flying Kites: Discovering Your Electric Ideas in the Brainstorm and Beyond” by Zoom on June 24th for beginners and experienced writers alike. All you need is pen, paper, and imagination. Join in for some poetic inspiration.

creative sanctuary in MI's Upper Peninsula, U.P. holistic business
Joy Center

Joy Center will also host art-making workshops facilitated by Sarah Still this summer. Check the Joy Center Facebook page for details on these and more creative live and Zoom events, or join the snail mail list by contacting owner Helen Haskell Remien at helenhaskell@yahoo.com.

Regardless of your geographic location, you can stay posted for more writing opportunities, including monthly workshopping and open mike time via The Marquette Poets Circle. Contact intrepid organizer Janeen Rastall at janeenpergrin@gmail.com or check the Marquette Poets Circle Facebook page.

And our beloved art fairs are anticipated to make their return this year! You can soak in the creative achievements of local, regional, and even national artisans, and perhaps get some new ideas or energy for your own creative pursuits.  In Iron Mountain, Art for All will be held June 26, from 10 am to 4pm in the City Park. Outback Art Fair and Art on the Rocks will be held in Marquette throughout the final weekend of July, the 24th and 25th. The Waterfront Arts Festival will take place Aug. 7th overlooking Lake Michigan in Escanaba’s Ludington Park. The Eagle Harbor Art Fair will be held in Mohawk on Aug. 14th and 15th. And while the focus of the Keweenaw Summer Celebration in Lion’s Park, Calumet is on health, wellness, and spiritual guidance, you’ll find talented artisans there as well.

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

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Bodies in Motion: Spring into Your Boogie Shoes! Roslyn McGrath

physical fitness, U.P. holistic business, U.P. wellness publication

Feeling a drag in your step? A wish for a happier time, or place, or way of doing things? Or simply tired of the same old routine, the decreased options of a typical pandemic day?

Or perhaps you’re a skiing fan without enough snow, a hiker log-jammed by too much spring slush or mud, an active (or sedentary) person sidelined by an injury or long-term physical restriction?

There’s a form of exercise that can brighten your day, customize to your needs, be done inside or out (depending on your daring), express your preferences, and support your health and wellness.

I call it…. “Dance Party”!

Pretty much any tune you want to wiggle, jiggle, or sizzle to can be heard online nowadays. If you’re computer-challenged, get a little help from someone with a tad more tech savvy if needed, or simply pull out some CDs or cassette tapes. Bu not radio please, unless it’s ad and interruption-free, as you don’t want to break that flow. So queue up what you’re in the mood to move to, using multiple browser windows if necessary. If you’re not sure what you want, Google up your preferred genre for the day– danceable rock, show tunes, funk, bluegrass, disco, big band, etc., and have at it!

Dilemmas have you down and you need to vent your feelings? Go for those bluesy or dramatic tunes. Extra points for belting your heart out! Letting off some steam can go a long way in helping you cope. Just don’t make playing down-in-the-dumps music habitual, as it may then have the opposite effect.

Maybe you can’t move to the music the way you’d like to right now, or like you used to, but chances are you can move something. (And if you choose music from a time when you moved with ease, that may help some.) Start with whatever’s working best for you or feels fun—a foot, a finger, a hand, a head. Dancing from a seated position can be full of variety, and even freeing if you go into it with an open mind. You can tap, clap, and wiggle along, and move slower or faster to any tune. Explore what you can do without pushing the river. Notice as much as you can about how moving one part of your body affects another. The more you get your brain in this game, observing what’s happening, the better off you’ll be. Plus, this can keep your mind too busy to get “judge-y” on you. “Dance Party” is meant to be fun, not win prizes! You can do it in a safe way, and with as much privacy as you like, or get social by Zooming with friends, taking turns choosing music.

physical fitness, U.P. holistic business, U.P. wellness publication

If your mobility is not restricted or medically ill-advised, give yourself some freedom and move through as much open space as is reasonably available. Pay attention to what your body wants and needs as you go. If this is your first time dancing in a while, start with a shorter duration than you might expect, and build this up gradually. You can be an excellent biker, skier, or hiker without using your muscles, joints, and tendons in the ways you may when dancing.

Do your best to get your blood flowing, your parts moving, and that smile back on your face as you create your own Boogie Wonderland. Happy Spring!

Roslyn McGrath helps you live your true spirit to uplift your world through Empowering Lightworks & Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Visit EmpoweringLightworks.com for more info. on upcoming webinars, appointment scheduling and related products.

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 CINCO DE MAYO!

U.P. wellness publication

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May 5, 2021 · 4:04 am

Healthy Cooking: Greens for Spring, Val Wilson

spring greens, healthy cooking, stir fry recipe for spring, U.P. holistic, U.P. wellness publication

Once the long winter months are over, we start to see the first signs of spring appear in nature. Everything starts coming up green! Not surprisingly, the signature color of spring is green and we can reflect that in our cooking to feed our bodies healthy vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Most greens have a few things in common: Chlorophyll, which helps heal skin and helps cleanse toxins out of the body; glucosinolate, which is a sulfur-rich compound proven to reduce cancer risk by preventing or delaying cancer cells at various stages of development; Vitamins, A, C, B6, and E; Vitamin K, which is very important for bone health; and the minerals iron, calcium, magnesium, and manganese.  

Each green has it own taste, and you can combine a variety of greens to create a delicious dish. Collard and kale taste similar to cabbage. Carrot greens have a sweetness similar to the root part of the carrot. Daikon greens are more bitter to the taste. For the following recipe, you can use your favorite greens. Dandelion has a nice bitter taste. Bok choy is a light cabbage with a sweet taste. Nappa cabbage is wonderfully sweet. Arugula and watercress are both bitter and pungent.

Mixed Greens Stir Fry 

1/2 onion (thin half moons) 
1 carrot (cut in matchsticks) 
3 large collard greens (cut up) 
1 cup chopped carrot greens 
1 cup chopped daikon greens 
1 T. olive oil 
1 T.  tamari 
1 T. lemon juice  
2 T. toasted sunflower seed for garnish

Sauté the onions in a little olive oil and a dash of tamari until translucent. Add the carrots and greens. Add the olive oil, tamari, and lemon juice. Cover and turn heat to low. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until the greens have wilted, and the carrot is soft. Serve with toasted sunflower seeds sprinkled over the top. 

Chef Valerie Wilson has been teaching cooking classes since 1997. You can attend virtually. Visit http://www.macroval.com for schedule, cookbook purchases, phone consultations, or radio show, and follow her on. Facebook at Macro Val Food.

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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Spotlight On…. Steward & Sheridan, PLC with James Steward

elder law, U.P. wellness publication Steward& Sheridan PLC
James Steward, Steward& Sheridan, PLC

What does Steward & Sheridan, PLC offer, and what is your role?

Our practice area relates to estate planning as a major starting point in many cases, and, whether or not we’ve done that for the particular client, we also handle Medicaid application work related to long-term nursing home stays. So maybe that client or other person who contacts us ends up in a nursing home, and it looks like they’ll have to stay longer than their Social Security benefits provide for, and they should consider the possibility of Medicaid benefits, especially if married. Rules are very different for couples. Medicaid nursing home stay expenses are quite high, $11,000/month. Most over 60 need to consider possibly needing longer-stay nursing home care at some point. This can be taken into account with the estate planning process, and provide some protection for the person’s assets. It’s important to have these discussions early so decisions can be made, or at least evaluated, as there are quite a few different options that should be addressed.

We also offer probate and trust administration—dealing with the assets, paying the bills, and distributing to the beneficiaries, which sometimes can be simple, and other times not.

Clients meet with me or Angela Hentkowski. We’re the only actively practicing certified NELF (National Elder Law Foundation) attorneys located in MI’s Upper Peninsula. We’ve both been certified for quite a while. There’s a level of expertise and knowledge that goes into that rather than someone who just occasionally goes into these areas. Our knowledge base addresses elder law, and we keep up with it on a very regular basis, as things change quite often.

We have many clients with disabled beneficiaries—their children or grandchildren. In many cases, a disabled person will need to rely on government programs to provide services, particularly medical services, so in most cases it’s best to establish a special type of trust that will be there for their lifetime but can be used for the beneficiary. Advanced planning is needed to put this into place.

How did you get into this line of work?

The firm I was in forty years ago needed somebody to do the probate and trust work. I was interested even in law school, so I started doing that work way back then. That depth of experience is very helpful in today’s world.

In 2010, a substitute statute replaced Michigan’s 1978 probate law, making it more comprehensive, and it has been modified since. I worked on the 2010 MI trust code substantially, and a bunch of other statutes and statutory amendments. Over the years after that, I was directly involved in the probate planning section.

I was also directly involved with membership in committees related to the elder law and disability rights section of Michigan’s state bar. Angela and I have been very active because we feel it’s important to keep up on what’s happening and be part of the process so when changes are being discussed, we have input into those considerations.

Medicaid is largely driven by federal stature that the state is supposed to follow but in many cases does not, resulting in litigation. Recently, Angela and I were directly involved in litigation on Michigan’s Department of Health & Human Services applying a federal statute in a way we felt was wrong. This went through the Court of Appeals. Some situations become way more involved than you want them to be. It’s necessary to have knowledge of statutes that apply and their wording, especially in Michigan, because sometimes Michigan feels it does not have to follow federal requirements.

What stands out about your firm?

We have a depth of knowledge and explain stuff. When we meet with a client the first time, we review their total assets because that’s driving elements. They must be taken into account regarding options we’re recommending or pointing out, as well as the family situation, including whether or not there’s a disabled child or grandchild, and whether or not the client is a veteran of the U.S. military. That can open up additional benefits the client may be eligible for in the future. As people get older, those disabilities can change, so that’s something to consider.

We always start with the client’s concerns, their family situation, and what they’d like to accomplish regarding the distribution of their assets. We spend quite a bit of time discussing factors going into making it all work, I think more so than most attorneys, so clients get a better sense of the overall complexity, and why an estate plan is needed. So there’s an ongoing discussion. It’s important for clients to revisit their estate plan every several years so it still fits their situation. People live longer now than their parents and grandparents did. The chances of disability are much greater than when they didn’t live as long. The chance of outliving one or more of their children is greater. Quite often people don’t think of this. That’s something we worry about all the time because we keep seeing it.

You don’t have to be wealthy to need estate planning.

In the U.P. in particular, your family may have a camp or other real estate that’s been in the family a very long time. Many will a property or camp to all of their children. That’s often asking for long-term problems. Everybody’s got to get along and do what they’re supposed to do. Forever. And if the kids ever have any credit issues, or divorce, now the property’s at risk.

I developed a special type of trust over many years specifically to deal with that. It’s something others don’t have. We go over its pros and cons with the client to see if it fits with their present and long–term goals.

We also helped with the correction of a Michigan Health & Human Services interpretation of federal Medicaid law in the Hegadorn case. This was a big deal that took many years to get done. It ended up being a unanimous decision by the Michigan Supreme Court, which is somewhat remarkable.

What do you find most challenging about your job?

One challenge is keeping up with all the changes. Another is dealing with the state of Michigan not following Federal rules for Medicaid. Also, sometimes a client believes they can find out this info on the internet and do their own plan. The thing is you don’t know what you don’t know. You can find some info online that may or may not be correct, and you don’t know how it all fits together. That’s our job—figuring out how it all fits together and making that work.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Helping people, and helping them prepare for the future. In some cases, helping them deal with a medical crisis, nursing home practice, and especially issues affecting the spouse, and otherwise trying to protect for the benefit of their ultimate beneficiaries.

Most people don’t want to make donations to the government that they don’t plan for. And if they don’t plan, the risk of this is much greater, just as with your income tax return. We’re always working with what the law provides and what’s permitted to minimize this.

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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Inner Nutrition: Art & Anti-Racism, Charli Mills

art and anti-racism, U.P. wellness publication

In my Hancock, Michigan home, I have a unicorn and rodeo room. Both testify to living an artist’s life. I’m a literary artist, catching stories, mastering craft, and playing with words. To me, it’s the serious business of imagination, the pursuit of unicorns across the wild West.

I painted the unicorn room shell pink, and encircled the walls with purple vinyl script—Read, Write, Dream, Breathe, Play. On the wall facing my meditation pillow, I hung a giant story board for structuring novels, and a massive collage I created to tell the visual story of my work in progress. Watercolor unicorns, a unicorn quilt a friend made, a blackboard with cut-out unicorn poetry, and a German masterpiece of a rainbow unicorn-horned tyrannosaurus rex chasing Jersey cows in a pastoral scene fill the walls.

Art is my expression. It’s part of my being, my chosen profession. Art gives me purpose.

While the unicorn room feeds my inner life, the rodeo room represents its outward illustration. Not only is it space to reclaim my cultural heritage in healthy ways, but it’s also a place to honor the lost voices of women from the frontiers and fringes of life. My professional genre is women’s fiction, and I breathe new life into women who were overlooked, forgotten, or remain invisible. The art I selected for this room can best be described as feminist cowgirls. No cowboys allowed. Except for my husband, who has his desk in this room. (It’s all about balance.)

So, what does art have to do with anti-racism?

Everything! Art manifests on the outside all that we feed on the inside. Sometimes artistic expression draws out the dark to let in the light, and other times it pulls in the light to chase out the dark. It’s a dance with shadows that can exhilarate the artist. No matter what it compels, the point is, art speaks to us and moves us. One piece of art can give voice to millions. Art is powerful.

When we suppress or segregate art in our homes, we mimic the paths of systemic racism. For generations, the women in my family decorated their homes with the art of the West – men on horseback, men in the mountains, men with guns on the frontier. Have you ever thought about why you choose the art you do? If it moves you, good. But ask why, and be willing to feel vulnerable in exploring your answer. Discomfort signals that we’re holding unseen bias that can be systemic and generational. When I declared my writing genre, it floored me that I had surrounded myself with masculine art. Discrimination can feel familiar and iconic.

We can take a step further in the visual clues we choose to decorate our walls, journals, and desks. In my ongoing journey as an anti-racist, I took a Seven Day Bias Cleanse developed for young people through MTV and research partners. While the event is no longer active, MTV has evolved it into a more in-depth discussion called Look Different. During the cleanse, one activity asked participants to print and display a photograph of a Black woman working in a science lab. The lesson explained how we believe unstated biases (such as, there are no Black female scientists) because we can’t imagine the opposite reality. Art can transform what we believe through what we see.

That’s when I realized how fun it could be to use art to visualize anti-racism. It put me on a mission to find a unique piece for my rodeo room – a Black cowgirl. I found one on Etsy. I saved up money over several months to afford the largest print from the artist. She’ll join a diverse group of women, including a brown-skinned cowgirl tattooed with words such as “I’m enough” and an older cowgirl declaring, “Don’t call me ma’am.” The art in the rodeo room becomes an artist’s statement for what I write. These visual pieces bridge my artistic expression and the affirmations I choose to activate as I work and create. The simple act of art can amplify both artists and the reality of anti-racism.

When the 2021 inauguration team announced twenty-two-year-old Black poet Amanda Gorman as inauguration poet, I felt in my bones that the desire for unity could become a reality in America. An artist was asked to empower the message of coming together across vitriolic divides. A nation asked art to initiate healing. The artist used words to move hearts. What we hear, what we see, we can achieve.

Consider the spaces around you.

Art does not need to be big, but you want to have visual cues to influence your work as an anti-racist. Ask local art galleries to support Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) artists, and buy their work even if all you can afford are note cards or bookmarks. Give art as gifts. Cut out images from magazines or digital printouts to decorate your daily journal, a vision board, or altar space.

As an anti-racist, unleash your creativity. Let art show you the way.

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.

Works Cited
MTV. Look Different. 2021. https://www.mtvact.com/features/Look-Different

Armenti, Peter. “Amanda Gorman Selected as President-Elect Joe Biden’s Inaugural Poet.” Library of Congress. 14 January 2021. https://blogs.loc.gov/catbird/2021/01/amanda-gorman-selected-as-president-elect-joe-bidens-inaugural-poet/

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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