Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Another Year

It's been a strange year. Kind of angsty. Uneventful, yet full of big changes. Contradictory. Tired. Unexpected. Disappointing. Alright. Little bright spots here and there.


I'm not sure what I have to say about you, you rather lackluster year, you.

I just had a look at my 2014 goals, which I wrote last January and then didn't look at all year until today. Out of 17 goals, I completed 4. Hmm, might sound dismal but not as bad as I thought. Five others I consider to be partial successes.

It was just a weird year, starting with crazy weather that extended my kids' holiday break by an entire week, and ending with me being sick with a flu that morphed into a long and annoying chest cold.

A friend of mine posted on Facebook earlier today that nobody needs a new year to make a new beginning. We can do that anytime we choose. I agree with her, completely. And yet there is something about making New Year's resolutions, or goals for the year, that is just exciting to me. I told Chris we should make goals together tonight and make a vision board, but he didn't think that sounded like fun. Go figure.

Reviewing my year, via the memory card that has been in my camera for the past 12 months, I notice some highlights:

  • Crazy amounts of snow
  • A Chinese exchange student (our third)
  • A Spring Break trip to Midland, Michigan
  • Lucy's 1st Communion
  • Connor winning the school Spelling Bee and going on to compete at the county Spelling Bee
  • Connor's 5th grade graduation, and endless hours spent working on his class video
  • Lots of field trips
  • Mathilda's preschool graduation
  • Bethany's induction into the National Junior Honor Society
  • Lots of basketball
  • Two trips to Cedar Point
  • Mathilda's dance recital
  • Trip to Rogers City
  • Port Austin vacation
  • My "baby" cousin's graduation from high school 
  • Trip to Cleveland with Chris, including visiting the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, A Christmas Story house, and Cuyahoga Valley National Park
  • Trip to Grand Rapids with my mom
  • Mathilda starting kindergarten and Connor starting middle school (!!!! How, exactly, did we get here??)
  • Birthdays: My 39th, Chris's 40th, Connor's 11th, Mathilda's 5th, Bethany's 13th, and Lucy's 8th
Other things stand out too, like time spent with family and friends, going to the beach, swimming at my father-in-law's, going to the park, and to Belle Isle. Saying a very sad goodbye to our dog of almost 14 years, Cleo. And hello to our newest canine family member, Marla. Committing to send Bethany to China for Spring Break this coming year. Lots of fun blogger perks. Having a seizure for the first time in over 3 years (ugh). Being miserably sick for Christmas, yet loving spoiling my kids and watching them enjoy all their new goodies.

The year has not been a total wash. There is always something to be grateful for, every moment of every day. That never changes. Some days it's harder to remember that and recognize all the blessings, but I know they are there. I've had some really great times in 2014. And a lot of stress and many not so good times. There have been some really big changes - like Chris's new career, and my role of 13 years as stay-at-home mom changing with Mathilda starting full day kindergarten.

I guess I've just been a little off my game in 2014, and if there's one thing I'd really like to change going into 2015 it would be to get back on it.

Tonight I'm going to have a quiet evening at home, like I do most years on New Year's Eve. Connor and I will take Marla for a walk in our pajamas (it's dark out, don't judge). The little girls will try with all their might to stay up until midnight. I will work on my goals for the coming year, because I like to do that. Maybe we'll watch a movie or I'll read or we'll play a game or two.

For our family, 2014 is going out with little fanfare. I'm not sorry to see it go because I'm always excited for what's next. 2015 is going to be a wondrous year, I feel it in my bones. It's up to me to make that happen. I'm ready.
Some highlights of my 2014.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Shop Best Buy for Last Minute Canon Gifts

Disclaimer: The reviewer has been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free.

Christmas is less than a week away, do you still have shopping to do? I confess that I have a few more gifts to buy. Best Buy is your go to place for last minute holiday shopping, and offers many easy gift-giving solutions. If you have a family on your list, I love the idea of a group gift, such as a Canon EOS Rebel T5i, a best selling DLSR camera. Maybe that family is yours. Right now you can save $150 on the Canon EOS Rebel T5i at Best Buy. Visit Best Buy for more information, offer valid 12/7-12/20.

I LOVE my Canon Rebel, because it takes fabulous photographs, even for an amateur like me. I'm still learning about all its functions, but even the auto setting takes better pictures than any other camera I've ever owned.

What makes the Canon EOS Rebel T5i so popular? For starters, it's not as scary as it looks, making advanced photography simple and fun for everyone. The image quality is superb, with a wide array of creativity-enhancing features, including:
  • Hollywood caliber full HD video capability for budding videographers
  • Continuous autofocus while taking HD video (wow! this is awesome!)
  • 18.0-megapixel CMOS sensor and a DIGIC 5 image processor, to ensure ultra clear, vivid images
  • 3" vari-angle touch screen makes it incredibly user-friendly (I love this feature!)
Basically, this camera will make you feel like a pro, even if you're the furthest thing from it. What a gift this would make to a special family in your life, or to yourself and your own family. Document life's special moments that you want to remember forever with the Canon EOS Rebel T5i.

Do you have a Canon Rebel? If so please share your favorite function in the comments!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Being Aware & Keeping Our Kids Safe: Modern Slavery, Human Trafficking, and the U.S. Sex Trade
Photo from The Long Night

A few years ago, I read a disturbing nonfiction book that really brought home to me the fact that slavery is still a flourishing and prevalent worldwide trade. The title of this eye-opening book evades me, but the message stayed with me. What most of us naive Americans think of as something that became virtually extinct in the days of Abraham Lincoln, except maybe (but we don't like to think about it) in some far off dirty and uncivilized corners of the globe that we never plan on visiting, is actually still going on, to this day, in this very country.

Slavery happens everywhere, in many different forms. There are the lower caste people of India, who will be working off the debts of their ancestors for the rest of their lives, while living in extreme poverty and never benefiting from their hard labor. There are Eastern European girls dreaming of a better life, who are promised well-paying nanny positions in another country, only to be forced into a vicious cycle of forced prostitution as soon as they cross the border. And there are the suburban American runaways who crave the excitement of big city life, wind up crossing paths with the wrong person, and the next thing they know their picture is on a child porn site advertising the sale of their bodies.

Of course these are only a few examples. The face of slavery can look like anyone, and can therefore be difficult to recognize. Maybe on your insulated trip downtown for a game or concert you've had the displeasure of driving through a questionable area, and noticed some young people suspiciously walking the streets, and wondered to yourself if they were prostitutes. Maybe you shuddered, thanked God that could never happen to your kids, and muttered under your breath about stupid junkies selling their bodies for drug money. You could be right, but have you ever really stopped to think about how they got to that point?

Some of those kids might have come from backgrounds I can't begin to imagine, filled with real life nightmares of abuse, neglect, abandonment, and substance abuse. They might have been forced out onto the streets by their own parents, whether as a means of escaping unimaginable abuse or even sold in exchange for a fix, or coerced by their drug-addled parents to walk the streets to support their illicit habits. Others might have come from more "normal" homes; just your typical teens, making a few impulsive decisions that turned their lives inside out. They might feel they can never go home because of the choices they've made and the things they've done, or there might be a pimp-puppeteer calling every shot, with no chance of escape.

Most of us pretty much think we can breathe easy at this point, because our kids might be a little sassy or disrespectful now and then, but NO WAY would anything like this ever happen to them! We're good parents! We know what's up! Our kids are SMART, too! They would never be duped by some slick pimp, selling them a line about living the "good" life of prostitution. They would never let anyone boss them around like that, they won't even listen to us when we tell them to pick their dirty towels up off the bathroom floor.

Unfortunately, it's so much more complicated than that. The truth is, young people - girls and boys - are sold into prostitution rings. In the United States. Some are immigrants, but some are Americans. Many are runaways, but some are kidnap victims. Some are walking the streets, relatively obvious in their pursuits, but others are kept locked away somewhere, stuck in a continual haze of johns, pimps, and fellow victims of the sex trafficking industry.

Obviously not all of these unfortunate young men and women are literally sold and physically forced to sell their bodies. It might be easy to think they are simply making a bad choice and can stop anytime they want. However, many have no one to turn to, no one to help them. Some traded abusive parents for brutal pimps, who are standing on the sidelines, ready to break their noses and threaten their lives any time they step out of line. Countless numbers of them have succumbed to drug abuse, and their bodies literally need them to continually provide them with heroin, crack, or other horrors, and they have no other means than selling themselves to make that happen.

I don't want to freak you out, and trust me - as the mother of three beautiful girls, this is the last thing I want to think about. But the painful, terrifying truth is that this can happen to anyone. Anyone's little girl can end up living a sex trafficking nightmare. But I do think the first step in prevention is awareness. Let's talk about this issue and stop pretending it doesn't exist or that this kind of tragedy only happens to "bad" kids from substandard homes.

A couple months ago, I read and reviewed a novel, Dark Hope by Monica McGurk, which delves into the issue of human trafficking, specifically in the U.S., and in particular, Atlanta. I was glad to see this often overlooked issue get some attention, and I highly recommend the book, both as an intriguing YA work of fiction and as a glimpse into an important issue.

Just today I watched a documentary, The Long Night, directed by Tim Matsui, that takes a long, hard look at sex trafficking in the Seattle area. You can watch it online at I can't promise you it's fun to watch, but it is compelling and well worth seeing. At just over an hour in length, it won't take up much of your time, but you definitely will not forget it anytime soon.

Warning: the film contains some profanity, real drug use, prostitution, and very disturbing real life situations. I would not recommend pressing play while any young children are around, but I do think it would be a good idea to show your teen or older tween. It's difficult subject matter, but sometimes we have to have the hard conversations. We as parents owe it to our kids to make them aware that these kinds of things are happening in the world, and not just in far off places that they don't need to worry about. We need to help educate them so they can learn to protect themselves.

Cops are getting a bad rap these days, but a group of Seattle police officers featured in The Long Night has taken it upon themselves to help some of these kids instead of simply perpetuating their desperate lifestyles with one arrest after another. Fathers of daughters of their own, these honorable men began to really notice and pay attention to the young prostitutes they were picking up night after night. They started asking questions and learning the heartbreaking stories behind the atrocious acts of self loathing they were witnessing. Furthermore, they decided to take action; to create a place where these girls could go for a chance to be safe, cared for, and clean.

When the officer discusses his epiphany, that these girls he was constantly arresting did not actually want to be living a life of prostitution, it is a very poignant moment in the film. One man waking up and stepping out of a well-worn rut worn by habit can make a change.

Because I'm reading The Teenage Brain, by Frances E. Jensen, M.D. and Amy Ellis Nutt, I'm beginning to learn the importance of repetition when it comes to life or death issues our teens need to know about. They simply don't have the frontal lobe brain development of an adult yet, which helps with things like impulse control and resisting risky behaviors. For this reason they need frequent reminders and lots of real world examples to convince them and to help them really understand and appreciate the dangers associated with risky behaviors (such as drug and alcohol use or running away from home). The Long Night is a perfect tool that is up to the task.

I encourage you to watch The Long Night and share it with your friends and family, then come back to share your thoughts. If you'd like more information or to learn how you can get involved, go the Leaving the Life website. Furthermore, if you're active in social media, please consider the following:
  • Like The Long Night on Facebook
  • Like Leaving the Life on Facebook
  • Follow @TLNmovie on Twitter
  • Follow director Tim Matsui on Pinterest for a lot of related articles 
  • Share posts, retweet and engage in conversations - in other words, get the conversation going

Friday, December 5, 2014

Kenny Chesney The Big Revival Tour at Detroit Ford Field - Tickets On Sale TODAY!
Kenny Chesney coming to Detroit in 2015

Is there a country music fan on your Christmas shopping list? Kenny Chesney is coming back to Detroit's Ford Field on August 22, 2015, with special guests Eric Church, Brantley Gilbert, and Chase Rice! Tickets went on sale TODAY - just in time for Christmas shopping! Don't forget that YOU deserve a Christmas gift too - maybe this is the perfect gift to give YOURSELF!
August 22, 2015 - Kenny Chesney at Ford Field

Head over to to get your tickets today! Tickets start at just $37.50! What better way to start the new year than to be able to already have something this awesome to add to you 2015 calendar? I love having fun events to look forward to, even months down the road.
Kenny Chesney The Big Revival Tour 2015

P.S. And...I have more great news! Check back soon, because MichiGal is going to be giving away 2 tickets to the August 22 Kenny Chesney Concert at Ford Field in Detroit! It's just a little Merry Christmas from me to you!

Ho! Ho! Ho!

ReZoopie Cookbook from The Detroit Zoo & Door to Door Organics + GIVEAWAY!
ReZoopie Eat Like an Animal Cookbook

Do you sometimes struggle to convince your kids that eating healthy is the best choice? I know I do, and I can use all the help I can get. Lecturing them about the benefits of eating all their veggies only goes so far. But my kids are huge animal lovers, so maybe they would like to "eat like an animal", specifically, like their favorite animals at the Detroit Zoo.

The Detroit Zoo has partnered with Door to Door Organics to create ReZoopie, a fun kid-friendly cookbook. ReZoopie features animals from the Detroit Zoo, and recipes made with ingredients from Door to Door Organics. The cookbook is designed to incorporate fresh fruits and veggies into your kids' diets - just like their favorite animals. It's full of cute illustrations and real photos of Detroit Zoo animals, as well as photographs of each recipe. The recipes are simple and appealing, like the Porcupine Pick-Ups, made with squash, broccoli and carrots - and they look delicious!

Here's the scoop:

  • Visit Door to Door Organics and get $10 off your order using code DETROITZOO **new customers only**
  • Get the ReZoopie cookbook for FREE  HERE. This is a pdf digital copy, which you can download onto your computer or print. (Have a Kindle? Once you download the book and have the file saved on your computer, send an email to your Kindle email address with the book's file as an attachment. Voila! Easy access on your e-reader).
  • Enter to Win a fabulous prize package, using the form below!
What can you win? Both of these great prizes!

A $100 gift card for Door to Door Organics 


4 tickets to Wild Lights at the Detroit Zoo (happening on weekend evenings, 5:30-9 p.m., from now until December 31: Dec. 5-7, 11-14, 18-23, and 26-31)

Good luck! And be sure to tell everyone what you think of the recipes - leave a comment with your favorite recipe!

Disclaimer: MichiGal is receiving goods and/or services in exchange for this post.

Detroit Zoo Wild Nights + Door to Door Organics