Saturday, November 5, 2011

Living Optimally: Happier, healthier, longer, better

By Susan G Parcheta

What is it we all want, but which always seems just beyond our reach? For most of us, it’s a life-long quest.  We all want to live happier, healthier, longer and better.

What does it mean? And how do we get it? This optimal lifestyle the experts say we should all strive for. 

I know I’ve been through many phases in my personal quest.  There was the Earth Day-inspired environmental stage; the recycling stage; the anti-sugar, pro-sprouts, healthy eating stage; the food co-op stage. Then I mellowed out to the everything-in-moderation, don’t-be-afraid-of-the-supermarket stage. My family was glad about that.

I’m now in the process of re-thinking it all, as probably you are, too. Information is flowing fast and heavily – from a deluge of health magazines and medical newsletters to Internet sites on every area of body, mind, spirit and the environment. How do you absorb it all?

Does all that in italics sound new, old, or ongoing?  Probably all three. That  was  the beginning of the first column I wrote (1998) for our local paper, Fowlerville News & Views.  I have to laugh, because I’m always re-thinking it all.  And now, I’m thinking about how far we’ve come, or I’ve come, on this quest since then; yet it remains a constant theme.

‘For Love of the Game’: Winning, losing, baseball, that silly game, and writer’s block

 By Susan G Parcheta

‘You win sometimes, you lose sometimes; sometimes it rains and, sometimes, it pours. And then, sometimes you win BIG. Even when you least expect it.
No, it’s not what you’re thinking.

Granted this is baseball playoffs season, and my favorite team, The Detroit Tigers won their Central Division, went off to New York for the American League playoff series first two games with the New York Yankees, before coming home to Detroit for the next two games, only to have to go back to New York for the fifth game to determine which team would advance to the American League championship series against Texas. Did I get that right?

Still, it’s not what you’re thinking.

I got so wound up this summer, following the Tigers after having been to Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, FL this past March to watch spring training for the first time.  Max Scherzer was pitching the day we were there. And Jose Valverde, as I recall. Who knew, at that point, that by the end of the summer the Tigers would get this far? Or that I’d be watching those two pitchers on that last game-saving night.

Tiger Pitcher Max Scherzer 3-8-11

Nope, not what you’re thinking.

Baseball is a highlight of the summer around our house.  It‘s a sport my husband and I can both enjoy.  We spent countless hours this year, keeping tabs on our Tigers.  But, for love of the game?

I’m not talkin’ baseball, I’m talkin’ that favorite Michigan/Florida sport (is playing cards a sport?) of Hand and Foot.

Friday, November 4, 2011

‘Come walk with me!’ — Over ‘The Bridge’ and through the woods with Michigan’s own Clayton Klein, ‘The Walking Man’

By Susan G Parcheta (August 30, 2011

“If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.” In formal Latin:  Si Quaeris Peninsulam Amoenam Circumspice

I love the motto of the State of Michigan. I love it because it’s an invitation, to enjoy and explore the beautiful trails, woods and waters of the amazing Mitten. Yes, right there in the top middle of the map of the United States, sits the beautiful Great Lakes State. It’s the state with two beautiful peninsulas – Upper and Lower.

There’s another beautiful thing or two about Michigan. It has the Mighty Mackinac Bridge that connects the two peninsulas. It also has Clayton Klein the Walking Man, 92 years young, who loves to walk over the five-mile span every Labor Day for the annual Mackinac Bridge Walk; and he especially loves it when his friends walk with him.

Come Walk With Me...Mackinac Bridge Walk 2011
First contingent of Labor Day Bridge Walkers 2007 50h Anniversary of the Mackinac Bridge (built 1957). See Clayton (with backpack) and all the walkers heading south from St. Ignace to Mackinaw City. Buses are coming from there carrying more walkers! Thousands of them. A beautiful day walking!

Consider this an invitation: If you’re in that neck of the woods on Labor Day morning, you are welcome to join Clayton Klein on his annual Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Walk. Want to walk with the Walking Man? Be at the St. Ignace side of the bridge at 9 a.m.

Great Lakes Folk Festival brings you Elizabeth LaPrelle and her sweet songs from the Blue Ridge

By Susan G Parcheta
(August 8, 2011

Once again, the sweet ballad sounds of folk singer Elizabeth LaPrelle will be wafting over Michigan’s Great Lakes Folk Festival the weekend of August 13-14 in East Lansing.

LaPrelle and her mom, Sandy Newlin LaPrelle graced the stage during the 2008 festival.  Traveling from the Crooked Road of southwestern Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains to the blue lakes of Michigan, the mother-daughter duo brings you the tuneful treat of a lifetime.

Sandy and Elizabeth LaPrelle
It’s a rare opportunity to hear authentic mountain music, sung as it was a hundred years ago, with many familiar folk songs that have stood the test of time.

I was introduced to Elizabeth and Sandy’s music during the spring of 2008, when spending a week in the Blue Ridge. Before, I’d never heard such beautiful mountain sounds. I was hooked, as I know you’ll be, if you get a chance to visit the festival.

May the creek not rise over Williamston Theatre — one of my favorite things

  By Susan G Parcheta 

One of the fun perks about blogging is that I get to write about my favorite things. High on that list is Williamston Theatre, mid-Michigan’s professional theatre in downtown Williamston.

You might be wondering about the blog title. Well, it goes along with the title of the current play by award-winning playwright Joseph Zettlemaier  –  And the Creek Don’t Rise.
It’s a fantastic play; and attending the first night (our preview night tradition) was – as it always is – a fun and memorable visit with the Williamston Theatre family.

Going to WT productions is one of my favorite things. After three seasons of play going, I’ve come to feel part of the WT family; and I love how they’ve transformed and inspired the community.  So, the existence of this creative force here, I see as vital for the benefit of all of us who live in mid-Michigan.
As I was chatting with friends (newbies to this WT force) at the performance, I was thinking about the impact of the theatre on Williamston and surrounding communities. Five years later, despite a lagging economy, it’s still going; it’s still contributing its dynamic and creative spark, with its mission being to kindle that spark in us.

But, oh, how I hope “the creek don’t rise” over Williamston Theatre. I want it to go on forever.  The thought was running through my mind as I looked over the play program; I was also picturing the letter that WT Director John Lepard had written to patrons a few weeks earlier.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Water World Revisited: The Joys of a Backyard Pond

By Susan G Parcheta July 7, 2011

Do you ever wish you could stop time and revisit a scene from your past?
Do you ever wonder how your world can drift slowly off into a new direction, before you ever realize it?Do you find it odd — or comforting — that even though that happens, some things stay the same? Just that, perhaps you have to view them from a different, maybe even parallel perspective?

If I could freeze-frame a scene from the past, or restore it, I’d put the time machine on rewind; and I’d go back to…

Water World 1998
(Living Column: By Susan Parcheta, Fowlerville News & Views)

Our backyard has taken on a whole new dimension this year. We’ve succumbed to the pool and pond mania sweeping across the country.

The garden magazines, the newspapers, all feature the wonders of the backyard pond. The photos are beautiful…enticing you to try your hand at carving up your yard.

I never thought I’d be on a soapbox, encouraging people to create a water garden.  I never figured I’d be studying the environment of fish, frogs and snails…or pondering thoughts of water lilies.
Backyard pond, a frog oasis

Being around water is considered therapeutic. That’s why we naturally head for the lakeshore…the ocean…a stream. We love fountains, rivers and waterfalls. We’re transfixed by waves lapping a shoreline. We intuitively feel restored when surrounded by calm waters. “By the shore of Gitche Gumee, By the shining Big-Sea-Water,” penned Henry Wadsworth Longfellow of our land of Hiawatha.

Hydrotherapy is healing to body and soul: Nature has its own version. I’ve rested by the ocean in Florida, feeling the power and surge of endless waves curling up, dumping treasures of seashells. I’ve monitored the tides at Galveston and at the monastery at Mont St. Michel on the Normandy coast. I’ve felt the mystery of a night flight over the blackened ocean below, lit only by a shaft of moonlight.

I’ve visited the shores of Gitche Gumee.  This year, on my birthday–on the far reaches of the Keweenaw– I reflected on a magnificent sundown.  I tried not to blink, keeping my gaze steady as the searing orange-red ball that warms our planet melted silently into the watery cauldron. Surely this was Hiawatha’s song.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Summer roars for motocross racer Jerry Lorenz (#881), living childhood dream on national circuit

By Susan G Parcheta, July 1, 2011 at

I am confident. I am bold. I am determined… and I will win.”

Motocross racer Jerry Lorenz of Morrice, MI leads off his website home page with words as bold as his dreams.  I’m not surprised.  I first met Jerry (now 23) when he was 11 years old, during an interview for the Fowlerville News and  Interviewing kids was always fun, but with Jerry (son of Jerry and Sandy Lorenz and brother of Dylan), you knew – even then – that he meant what he said.

One day, he’d told me, he’d be on the national motocross circuit. His dream was to be a professional racer; and now, he lives that dream. He lives the dream, not only because of his fierce determination, but also because of the support of his motocross-loving family. 
2009 Redbud Nationals photo of Jerry Lorenz #881 courtesy of Scott Kapfhamer of
For Jerry and Sandy L renz and sons, it’s been life in the fast lane of the world of motocross.

Besides having parents who stand fully behind his dreams, young Jerry benefits, as a racer, from his father’s mechanical expertise. Lorenz, Sr. (who is head mechanic and manager at Fowlerville Sunoco) keeps #881’s Kawasaki 450 in tip-top racing shape.

Strawberry Solstice Forever

(Posted by Susan G. Parcheta at LivingstonTalk June 24, 2011)

John Lennon may have had a soft spot in his heart for the phrase strawberry fields forever, but my strawberry image suggests a different twist. Here’s what I wrote about it for a blog at this beautiful season of celebrating summer and the strawberry fields of Michigan in June 2008.

Strawberry fields call to you in Michigan in June...

‘Strawberry Solstice Forever’

I’m not sure where I came up with my catch phrasestrawberry solstice forever; I think I was corresponding with a friend once, regarding June strawberry fever in Michigan, and I signed off with that. My equivalent, I guess, of a toast to strawberries. Somehow that sounds better than Cheers to strawberries!
It’s a fever forever for our family because of living in the vicinity of a favorite strawberry farm, DeGroot’s Strawberries (owned by Marsha and Roy DeGroot) near Fowlerville, MI.  It’s a fever because we get that “strawberry fever” every June about the time of our anniversary and our daughter’s birthday. It’s forever, because after three decades or so….well, it’s become an entrenched family tradition to go pick berries.

Marsha DeGroot weighs up strawberry memories
Not only has DeGroot’s been our favorite strawberry picking place, there’s also the subject of favorite ways to fix strawberry shortcake once we have them home.
Which do you prefer? Biscuits? Or pound cake? Talking to our daughter the night of our anniversary…thinking of restaurant strawberry desserts…we mulled the subject over again. That’s a tradition, too. Debating about which way we like strawberries the best.
She called to wish us Happy Anniversary. They were on their way to a 60s rock concert (near their Maryland home) thinking we’d know the band. We didn’t. The strawberry issue surfaced, as usual.

Strawberry Harvest: Berries a-plenty for biscuits or pound cake...
We’re for biscuits; our son-in-law’s favorite is pound cake. She laughed because she had to admit that she asks before she orders strawberry shortcake when eating out. “Do you serve them over biscuits or pound cake?”
Well, as I’m writing this, the summer solstice is upon us. June…you wish the long days of sunlight would go on forever. You wish strawberry season would go on forever…not just for a couple of weeks out of the year.
Of course, that makes the season special…the beginning of summer.  And traditions continue…for that June birthday person that requests strawberry shortcake to mark the special day.

Bringing home the harvest of a day in strawberry fields...with my father-in-law at DeGroots
When our kids were growing up, the storybook character ofStrawberry Shortcake was popular. Now it seems to have resurfaced for another generation. And I’m glad. Not because I have grandchildren. I don’t. But because I love the creativity of Strawberry Shortcake. I love the essence of fun her character embodies. I’ve been thinking of becoming a Strawberry Shortcakecollector, now that she’s on the market again. Just to remind myself to not take myself too seriously.
Bright, plump, red, juicy, sweet…sensational…heavenly…strawberries…aahhh.
I wish you pleasant dreams of strawberries – biscuits, or pound cake – and, here’s to Strawberry Solstice Forever.
* * *
Three years later, June strawberry season brings back all the memories again. This time, it begins as I arrive home from a long road trip, on the evening of our anniversary. My husband had received the u-pick reminder card in the mail that week. He was gone when I pulled into the driveway. I’d forgotten it was berry time, and was curious as to where he’d gone.  Seems he’d hurriedly rushed over to the strawberry patch after work to pick some of the beautiful gems.
Strawberry solstice, strawberry fields, strawberry anniversary. Oh, how lucky to have June to celebrate the sweetness of strawberries and raise a glass to the years together.

Forever June: Cheers to Strawberry Solstice Forever
Cheers to Michigan; cheers to strawberries; cheers to a beautiful summer ahead. But, better yet, strawberry solstice forever; or…may the joys of summer always live in your heart.

Walking a Mile in Your Shoes: Genesis House hosts 10th Annual Walkathon for Mental Health

Posted by Susan G. Parcheta at LivingstonTalk June 10, 2011)

Can we really walk a mile in someone else’s shoes?  Often, it’s challenging enough to find time to walk a mile in our own shoes.
At Genesis House in Fowlerville, MI — under the auspices of Livingston County Community Mental Health Services   — club members walk daily as part of the overall focus on wellness.  Then, once a year in May (National Mental Health Month) they invite the public to walk with them, in combination with their annual fundraiser for the clubhouse.
This year Genesis House (founded in Fowlerville in February 1999) passed a milestone — their 10th Annual Walkathon to raise awareness in the community regarding mental illness. Walking is a mainstay in recovery programs which emphasize the management of the symptoms of mental illness, as well as promoting a balanced, healthy lifestyle.

David Prain and Mike Leahy of Genesis House enjoy the springtime beauty of downtown Fowlerville on a daily fitness walk. Club members walk daily all year long, as part of the program emphasis on living a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
Said clubhouse director Lee Kellogg, “I like the idea of mental health awareness and walking.  There is a big annual event at the capital in Lansing (in which Genesis House participates) called ‘Walk a Mile in my Shoes.’ We have consumers of mental health services from all over the state read a statement regarding mental health which ends with the phrase ‘walk a mile in my shoes.’”
While visiting the clubhouse on May 19 with my sister, Mary Reed, and my friend Clayton Klein, I was struck once again by the hospitality and welcoming atmosphere at the clubhouse.

Michelle Kozak greets visitors with Genesis House tour
Michelle Kozak treated us to a quick tour of the premises. She explained the history behind Genesis House and talked about current activities.  Kozak says she likes to call it the “Five Star” tour because of the clubhouse high standing in certification and recognition.
My sister remarked about being impressed with the club house staff and clients. “I really enjoyed meeting them all,” she said, adding, “I learned a lot of very interesting facts.”
Klein is Fowlerville’s “Walking Man,” known for his former annual walks down the State of Michigan from Paradise in the Upper Peninsula to Hell in Livingston County and on to the Ohio border. Averaging 20 miles a day, he’d walk the 420-mile trek throughout three weeks in September. Still walking daily,  the 94-year-old “Walking Man”  walks for exercise and health; and he enjoys sharing stories of his walking adventures over the years.  He is a regular guest each May to help kick off the Genesis House Walkathon.

Guest walkers May 19 at Genesis House from left: Susan Parcheta, Jody Buckholz, Mary Reed, Clayton Klein, Darlene Kimmel
The clubhouse also provides support to members for transitioning into employment opportunities. That day Jody Bucholz and Darlene Kimmel from Michigan Works in Howell joined in the Walkathon. Bucholz is on the Genesis House advisory board. “She is on our Employment Committee,” said Kellogg, “and is really helpful in our efforts to get members jobs.”
Kimmell and Bucholz  said they enjoyed the walk experience with the clubhouse members. Kimmel liked the idea of including the walking program as part of the Genesis House day. “We do that here,” she said [at Michigan Works], adding that it helps creates a lifestyle habit of walking. “It’s a wonderful habit.”
Kellogg said now that the totals are in for the 10th Walkathon, the club members have set a new personal best in the distance at 285 collective miles during the lunch break.
“The annual event has dual purposes,” said Kellogg. “The most important is to impact the health of all Genesis House colleagues.  By participating in the daily efforts of the Walkathon, many colleagues develop a daily walking routine that goes beyond the month of May.
The Clubhouse tracks the ‘frequent fliers’ (colleagues that walked more than five times during the month); and they set a personal best in this area too, with 24 colleagues logging multiple one mile walks during May.”
“The second part of the event is fund raising,” Kellogg added.  And, yes, you may donate anytime during the year to help the clubhouse. “The books are still open,” he said, “and we are optimistic that we will reach the stated goal of $1500 by the time the books are closed at the end of June.”
“These funds,” said Kellogg, “are used to assist colleagues in improving the quality of the program by attending Clubhouse training and conferences and also to help members attend social activities.” Kellogg said that donations may be given to the clubhouse at any time.
He deemed the 2011 Walkathon a success for personal best for distance (despite the wet weather).  “I think one of the big differences this year is the amount of repeat walkers (we had fewer total walkers than last year but will end up going further.)  Next year we will set a goal of number of members who walked 5 times or more per month, because the best outcome we could have is for walking to become a daily habit for even more of our members.”
“We’ve averaged about 13 walkers each day,” Kellogg noted. He also issued an invitation to anyone in the community to walk with them. “Yes,” said Kellogg, “we encourage guest walkers year round –anytime!”
I, too, like the emphasis on walking and mental health that Genesis House espouses. I like the Mirriam-Webster meaning of Genesis: “The origin, or coming into being of something.” When it comes to our health, we can have a “genesis” any time. We can always start over. We can begin again.
While the annual May Walkathon provides a community  focus on the clubhouse to raise awareness for mental health, every day for club members revolves around walking and a personal wellness focus.  Walking, with its many  benefits,  puts this activity at the top of any healthful living list. It’s a tool we always have with us.
One way to begin again, for a positive lifestyle choice, is to walk – putting one step in front of the other. As the Genesis House club members discover, pure movement helps us to begin again.
Links about walking and about Genesis House
Genesis Journal May/June 2009 Lee Kellogg explains the clubhouse emphasis on walking and overall health Find out the back story of Genesis House and current events.
Genesis House Journal The May –June issue 2011 includes a form on the last page for donations to the 2011 Walkathon.
Walking: It’s a Good Thing at Genesis House September 2010   Livingston Talk blog by Susan Parcheta