My Good Housekeeping story about today’s period-positivity-embracing tweens

Earlier this year, just days shy of my daughter’s 12th birthday, I was changing her bed’s sheets when she said, in an offhand but discreet way, “Just so you know, I started my period. But it’s fine. I’m taking care of it. I’m just letting you know, because you asked me to tell you.”

Putting on my best poker face, I offered a quick hug and kiss and told her to let me know if she had any questions or needed anything — but I secretly marveled at how she’d seemingly taken this transition in stride, when my own first period experience, in the 1980s, had been shrouded in fear, confusion and shame. (You know. The kind that makes a frantic fifth grader wad up half a dozen tissues into her underpants.) 

Then, a few months after my daughter’s low-key pronouncement, two 11-year-old Girl Scouts arrived at our door and asked my husband for a donation to their Bronze Award project. They were assembling first period kits — packed with a variety of pads and tampons, starter Diva Cups (donated by the company, after the girls pled their case via Zoom) and junior-sized period underwear — for every fifth grade girl in the school district. READ THE REST HERE

My Metromode story about Farmington Civic Theater’s 80 years survival

You probably didn’t know, but one of the crown jewels of Farmington’s downtown district, the Civic Theater, quietly turned 80 on September 20th.

That seems like a pretty big milestone to go unnoticed. But because movie theaters in Michigan are still closed due to the pandemic – until October 9, as per the Governor’s recently announced executive order – Farmington’s beloved, city-owned art deco cinema has been limited to selling its chief concession, popcorn, three times a week (Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday from 5:30 to 8 p.m.) and giving out the occasional dog treat.

“It’s nice to see people’s faces again – well, half their faces, anyway,” says Civic Theater manager Scott Freeman. ” … A lot of people tell us they can’t wait for us to reopen. But they’ll come and get popcorn, and some people take it home, while some just walk around town and eat it. That will change as the weather changes, I’m sure.” READ THE REST HERE

My Metromode story about new nonprofit leaders facing the COVID pandemic

There’s almost always a sharp learning curve when you assume the top leadership role at a nonprofit organization.

But when you happen to take the reins shortly before a pandemic stops the world, you inevitably face a kind of double transition into entirely new worlds.

We spoke with two local nonprofit leaders who took the reins just as the pandemic hit. Here are their stories.


Christian Greer left St. Louis to become President and CEO of the Michigan Science Center in July 2019, intrigued by both the innovation happening in Detroit and MSC’s unique facility.

“It had everything I would have wanted – an IMAX theater, great science exhibits, hands-on programs, and it was right next to other museums, right in the heart of the city,” said Greer, who noted that MSC had been without a CEO for a year when he arrived. “The challenge was the organization was in a little bit of chaos, understaffed and underfunded, so there wasn’t a lot to work with. But that can be both attractive and scary – attractive because you know you could go to a place and make a difference. … And if you’re a mission-driven person, that’s how you know you’re exactly where you should be.” READ THE REST HERE

My Michigan Alumnus profile of The Broadway Collective founder Robert Hartwell

While the COVID-19 pandemic has forced most actors into a hiatus, 10-year Broadway veteran Robert Hartwell, ’09, has never been busier. Four years ago, Hartwell — who has appeared in five Broadway shows, including “Hello, Dolly!” and “Motown the Musical” — launched The Broadway Collective. The musical theater, youth education program boasts a 97% success rate for getting students into top musical theater college programs. Although he already offered some online instruction, he shifted all his in-person classes to Zoom and a private Facebook group in March. Since then, the number of students taking part in his program has nearly tripled.

Recently, Hartwell shared with Michigan Alumnus the lessons he learned from his childhood and time at U-M that have helped him on stage and off. READ THE REST HERE

My Metromode story about how Michigan nonprofits staffers are handling pandemic stress

As many nonprofit workers can tell you, when your job is all about helping people in distress – regardless of whether it’s of the physical, mental, or financial variety – you sometimes forget to take care of yourself.

“It’s weird for us,” said Judy Gardner, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Washtenaw County. “As a support organization, we’re not used to thinking about our own mental health. We’re always more focused on the folks we serve.”

Yet the mental health toll on the nonprofit sector’s front line workers in Michigan has been significant.

“I call it the superhero complex,” said Sharonda Simmons, Ozone House’s director of education and outreach in Ann Arbor. “I appreciate all the love and support people have shown for front line workers, and the signs and the applause are nice. But on some level, this also puts them at a distance and takes away from the fact that these are still just human beings … who get exhausted like everyone else.”

Part of Simmons’ concern for her colleagues stems from the fact that they’re “used to doing this work in a more personal capacity,” Simmons said. “Doing it virtually is not the same, and that takes a big toll on morale. We’re used to getting in to work and interacting and engaging with people, and we can’t do that right now.” READ THE REST HERE

My Metromode story about what you can do outdoors in downtown Farmington

Screen Shot 2019-11-07 at 2.03.49 PMWhat was once merely a perk of living in Farmington – that is, an inviting, walkable downtown – has become, during the COVID-19 pandemic, a lifeline for both residents and businesses.

For after quarantining at home for months, most locals are itching to get out of the house while the summer sun shines, and several hungry local businesses have aimed to extend their reach outdoors, since this remains the safest option for everyone.

So what kind of things can you do outside now in downtown Farmington?

Well, on Saturdays, you could visit the town’s award-winning Farmington Farmers Market. And if you’re taking a stroll around town during August, you may get to see some public art in-progress, since local artists Mary Lou Stropoli and Mac Harthun have each designed a mural (for Sunflour Bakehaus and The Vines Flower and Garden shop, respectively) that will be going up soon.

But you can also, at any time, claim a seat on a local restaurant’s patio. Sidecar Slider Bar owner Scot Pelc, for one, is likely to greet you with a big smile – behind a mask, from a safe distance. READ THE REST HERE

My Ann Arbor Observer review of painter Sarah Adlerstein’s online exhibit, ‘Not for Sale: My Private Collection’

Screen Shot 2020-08-04 at 9.35.14 PMFew things are more seductive than hearing a stranger’s secrets, and looking at something beautiful that you can never possess.

Both temptations play a role in Sara Adlerstein’s new online art exhibit, “Not for Sale: My Private Collection.” A response to WSG Gallery’s recent (May 26th) brick-and-mortar closure, it showcases an often-stunning array of the abstract painter’s most personally meaningful pieces, with comments that explain their context and inspiration.

The result is a bracingly intimate experience. Arranged chronologically and spanning nearly forty years, “Not For Sale” begins with Adlerstein’s early life as a scientist in Chile. Studying aquatic ecology in college (she’s now a research scientist at U-M’s School for Environment and Sustainability), Adlerstein spent hours staring at microalgae through a microscope lens. These “silent worlds” gave shape to her artistic vision. READ THE REST HERE

My Metromode story about Michigan nonprofits adapting to the new normal

Screen Shot 2020-08-04 at 9.53.16 PMAt the start of Michigan’s COVID-19 shutdown in March, a lot of work came to an abrupt stop.

But organizations that support the state’s nonprofit sector actually got busier – albeit from home.

“For us, our work increased,” said Kelley Kuhn, Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer for the Michigan Nonprofit Association. “We had to look at ways to help organizations navigate through this time of uncertainty, and help them stay informed about new opportunities.”

That pivot included regular, check-in phone calls, policy updates, and a four-part, expert-led webinar about Paycheck Protection Program loans.

“We’re trying to make sure nonprofits know what these programs are, since many of them offer capital that nonprofits haven’t traditionally had access to,” said Kuhn.

That’s not to say these shifts came easily, given the collaborative nature of nonprofit support organizations. READ THE REST HERE


My Scary Mommy essay about how Facebook made my high school reunion more fun and meaningful

fullsizeoutput_14f3In recent years, Facebook has become the go-to scapegoat – or, as I like to call it, “blame piñata” – for nearly all society’s social ills. Our tribalism, our short attention spans, our loneliness.

Occasionally, though, an experience demonstrates how social media can be an honest-to-God blessing, and lay the groundwork for a surprisingly meaningful experience.

Months ago, for instance, I got a Facebook invitation for an unofficial, informal 30th high school reunion – at a bar in my hometown, the night before Thanksgiving – I simultaneously thought “Nope!” and mentally checked my availability.

I mean, my family wasn’t traveling anywhere for the holiday, I currently live only about a half hour away from my Michigan hometown, and that square on my calendar happened to be blank.

But I’d also, in high school, been a pretty forgettable band nerd in a class of more than 400 people, many of whom had chosen to move back and raise their kids in that same town. So I had the sense that a lot of the reunion’s attendees would be the people who saw each other regularly, anyway, and had sustained close friendships with each other over the decades.

I, on the other hand, had re-connected with just a modest handful of high school acquaintances via social media, mostly after attending the one “official” reunion we’ve had since graduation (the 20th, in 2009).

This was partly a function of how not-present I’d been in high school. So consumed was I at the time with boyfriends, grades, and getting into a good college that precious little from my adolescence has endured.

So what could I possibly hope for from attending this slapdash reunion? Wouldn’t it simply reinforce the neurotic sense of invisibility that is my middle-child default setting? READ THE REST HERE

My Metromode story about how Farmington is carefully reopening its downtown

Screen Shot 2019-06-15 at 8.34.51 PMThe process of slowly, safely re-opening up businesses in downtown Farmington has mirrored the gradual arrival of spring.

We’ve had to be patient, but we’ve also reveled in each small sign of change.

Like when Silver Dairy, Farmington’s iconic, seasonal ice cream stand, announced that it would open for drive-through service only, beginning on the first of May, two lanes of cars circled the building for much of opening day.

And when the Farmington Farmers Market (FFM) re-opened on May 16th – as originally scheduled, but with fewer-than-usual vendors and a number of restrictions in place (i.e., only one person per party allowed; social distancing and face masks required; no touching the produce; no personal shopping bags; etc.) – more than 500 attendees cautiously ventured to Sundquist Pavilion.

“Opening the market after its been in cold storage for six months is daunting on its own, even without having to overhaul your model on the basis of a pandemic,” says FFM manager Walt Gajewski, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 near the start of the quarantine. “We studied state guidelines, CDC guidelines, Michigan Department of Agriculture guidelines, Farmers Market Association guidelines – all of that. We scoured the internet for best practices for online pre-ordering and curbside pick-up methods and social distancing, both customer to vendor and customer to customer, and how to mark the space.” READ THE REST HERE