Missing the Mark – Our Valentine’s Day Fail

I have a friend who is great a making family traditions for holidays (even those lame Hallmark ones.) April Fool’s Day is even a big deal in her family!  Just ask the friend who ate a chocolate gnash covered cotton ball while visiting. (I’ll admit that one was a pretty good prank) She inspires me to put effort and details to create memories and traditions for my family.

So this year I thought I would try to make Valentine’s Day a little more special.  I missed the mark and that’s ok.  My perfect day had more of the elements of  a drama and endings of a romantic comedy.

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The Manasseh Project Interview with Andy Soper- Why You Should Care About Human Trafficking

I want to introduce you to Andy Soper. Andy and his wife Marcy are the heart and soul behind The Manasseh Project. Conversations with them about their vision for changing the lives of woman have really impacted me.  I am proud to call them friends and they continue to inspire and challenge me to care about people who can be forgotten.

This past fall my boys and I got to volunteer a shift at one of the stations for The Manasseh Project during Art Prize. The three week long event was a family affair and sacrifice for the Soper family.  Their kids were also serving along side their parents helping pass out balloons and water at various stations. I love that they model giving back to the community.

Our station encouraged people walking by to share what relationships in their life have left them feeling vulnerable.

Some of the responses were so heartbreaking. You can learn more about how The Manasseh Project really brought awareness of Human Trafficking to the forefront this year at Art Prize here.

Marcy says she is just Andy’s biggest cheerleader but I can personally tell you that she is so much more than that! I have personally seen that she has risen to action to reach out to girls in need by being a listening ear and also by helping with physical needs the girls have as they rebuild their lives.

I asked Andy to share about The Manasseh Project because I think we all need to be reminded that we can do something to help make someone else’s life better. So here we go!

What caused you to start The Manasseh Project?

I had seen victims of trafficking at Wedgwood Christian Services for most of the time I worked in residential care. More often than not, they were victimized by parents or by a boyfriend. Many were substance abuse kids who were looking to get sober.

For whatever reason, I wasn’t really moved by their stories. They were just clients. I was just a staff member. I didn’t get emotionally involved.

However, when a 13-year-old girl I worked with was lured away from us by an older boy at school and then trafficked by a woman in downtown GR, my callus broke. As a team, we looked for her whenever we could, knowing she was being hurt.

Through the entire ordeal, I noticed a lack of services for her and a lack of education in our area about what happens to children who slip through the cracks of our systems. They’re chum in the water for perpetrators.

We made it our goal to educate professionals, do excellent prevention work with youth, and advocate for victims in our area.

What’s the story behind the name?

Early in our search for funding, I was filling out an application for a local bar that gave out money for start-ups. When I arrived at the ‘name of organization’ section, I was completely at a loss. We hadn’t thought that far ahead. Naming hadn’t come into consciousness yet, but naming is powerful.

I’d been reading through my Dad’s Bible that week. My father passed away when I was a kid and a friend of his had dropped off his Bible along with a number of other items that they’d had for 25 years. Reading through my Dad’s Bible was a way to understand him. What had he underlined? What words had he sketched in the margins? I’d just finished documenting his work in Genesis. He’d underlined the words ‘Manasseh’ and ‘Ephraim.’ These were Joseph’s sons. After abuse, neglect, forced labor and (probable) sexual assault, Joseph looked at his firstborn and named him, Manasseh – ‘God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s house.’

For the children we work with, a future often seems improbable, at best. However, our hope is that, like Joseph, they will ‘forget’, grow through, and thrive in spite of their abuse.

Why should we care about human trafficking?

I confess that I can honestly say it is difficult for us to care about it. The majority of the slavery in the world today is labor trafficking. When we talk with people about sexual exploitation, they can easily shift it away saying, ‘I’ve never bought someone for sex, so it isn’t my problem.’ This may be true. However, we all have products and food directly tied to slavery – chocolate, coffee, electronics, jewelry – that make us comfortable and beautiful. We are inextricably tied to the humanity on the other side of this supply chain.

Booker T. Washington said, ‘You can’t hold a man down without staying down with him.’ As we grow comfortable and apathetic, we miss the reality that we are consuming others and, indeed, consuming ourselves.

Human Trafficking is simply a symptom. It is the tragic culmination of dozens of violent root causes – poverty, sexual abuse, cultural violence, oppression of women, obsessive consumption, etc. When we promote the violence of unjust consumption, we ignore the plight of thousands, ruining us all in the process.

What is currently being done to stop trafficking domestically and internationally?

Hundreds of NGOs work daily to heal victims, prosecute traffickers, and prevent future abuses. Several European countries have excellent laws pertaining to prosecuting human trafficking. New shelters spring up each day, each one devoted to providing a healing environment, practical skill, education, and peace.

Action is being taken in the US as well. While we fall short legislatively (including our most recent legislation), we’ve seen a dramatic rise in our level of awareness and action. However, there remains a sticking notion that this isn’t happening in our communities, so we raise money for overseas organizations and neglect kids in our neighborhoods. While I support the efforts for overseas aid, the reality that trafficked domestic children have far fewer opportunities for help than foreign-born victims.

Currently, many states are looking to place Safe Harbor Acts in their legal cannon. Safe Harbor protects children under 18 from being charged with prostitution, gives civil recourse for victims to recoup money from their traffickers, and can lead to having criminal charges removed from their records. New York, Ohio, Illinois, Florida and a handful of other states already have this legislation in place. Michigan is currently drafting their bill. I cannot encourage you enough to reach out to your state senators and representatives encouraging them to protect children.

What can we do?

No answer we can give will be practical. In fact, they are largely impractical. Solving this issue involves deconstructing our myths about consumption and sexuality. First, from a cultural perspective on sexual exploitation, we have to begin to answer for the media and cultural attitudes that oppress and objectify women. Advertisements make sport of women, turning them into consumable products. Products are de-contextualized. Their value lies, not in the product inherently, but in the purchasers use. If women are simply objects to be taken in, then their value lies in their consumer, not in the woman herself.

Tearing down these cultural structures is difficult. More specifically, they are difficult to root out in our own minds. Men can be hardwired to consume and women can be programmed to vie for the opportunity to be consumed. We need to look no further than an Axe Body Spray commercial for evidence.

This issue speaks to the demand for degrading commercial sex, but it also speaks to prevention work. 90% of trafficking work is preventative effort. Professionals and volunteers alike do this work in K-12 schools around the country. Educating students about personal value, pouring positivity into their minds and actions, and correcting unhealthy cultural attitudes. However, as is the case in so many districts, bodies are sparse. To end human trafficking and/or exploitation of any kind in your neighborhood, mentor a child. Be the positive adult who can recognize signs of distress or success in a child’s life. Know their ticks, their affect, their peccadillos. Cries for help are often silent, but written in the actions and facial expressions of a hurting child.

From a labor trafficking perspective, our lot is equally difficult. We’ve got to become responsible for our buying habits. Begin to explore the supply chains of the products you buy using tools from free2work.org. When you discover that your favorite foods or products come from companies who disregard human life, stop buying. Or, if you absolutely love the product, love the company by letting them know how much you enjoy their products, but can’t support them because of their standards regarding slave or unfair child labor. Change happens when we love each other enough to confront unhealthy or abusive actions or attitudes.

It is easy to say, ‘If slavery pops up in everything, then I can’t change things. It is inevitable that I’ll buy something with abusive connections.’ I would encourage you to understand that ‘inevitability’ is the language of the empire. Empires exist to promote their own growth and sustainability at any cost. Injustice is not inevitable, it is permitted. Rooting it out is difficult and disruptive, but necessary.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a revolutionary pastor during World War II, said,

‘We are not simply to bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.’ Pity for victims does nothing. More victims will grow to replace the one’s we’ve patched up. But if we disrupt and destroy what crushes – oppression, poverty, substance abuse, rampant and abusive power, war, and apathy – then we prevent the necessity of bloody bandages.


Thanks again to Andy for sharing with us today.


The Manasseh Project offers several services to the community. They educate first responders, youth, faith based/ social organizations, provide victim advocacy and has recently opened the first Michigan safe house for victims.


***Andy guest speaks about education and awareness of human trafficking all of the country. You can contact him at manasseh@wedgwood.org


You can learn more about volunteering and supporting The Manasseh Project from their website.

Yo Gabba Gabba! Live! Get the Sillies Out Tour! 4 Ticket Giveaway

Yo Gabba Gabba is coming to a city near you very soon.


What’s Yo Gabba Gabba you ask?

“Yo Gabba Gabba! is an award-winning, live-action television series and live stage show whose unconventional formula has created a triple stacked fan base, making it one of the most popular entertainment properties among preschoolers, parents and indie music lovers alike. The television show, now in its fourth season, airs several times a day on Nick Jr.”

In other words Yo Gabba Gabba is a show that kids and adults LOVE.

 “The sillies are crazy little creatures that live inside of us and need to be shaken out! DJ Lance Rock and everyone’s favorite cast of colorful characters are calling all fans to get ready to jump, shake and shimmy them out at the new live tour Yo Gabba Gabba! LIVE!: Get the Sillies Out!


“Yo Gabba Gabba! LIVE! is a state-of-the-art production and an interactive experience that offers audiences of all ages the opportunity to witness their favorite characters come to life when DJ Lance Rock and fans say the magic words, “Yo Gabba Gabba!”.

“Hip-hop legend Biz Markie will join the cast on stage for Yo Gabba Gabba! LIVE!: Get the Sillies Out! with Biz’s Beat of the Day. The show will also feature Super Music Friends and Dancey Dance guest performances.”

“Yo Gabba Gabba! infuses retro-style and beat-driven music to teach simple life lessons. The series and the live show stars DJ Lance Rock (Lance Robertson) and a cast of colorful characters, including: Brobee, the little green one, Foofa, the pink flower bubble, Muno, the red Cyclops, Toodee, the blue cat-dragon and Plex, the yellow robot.”

*Yo Gabba Gabba has given me a 4 pack of tickets to giveaway for an upcoming show.

**Choose one of the following locations and tour dates

To enter -Pick a city and comment with the location of your choice

Thursday, January 10th-(Aronoff Center) Cincinnati, OH

Saturday,  January 12th (Fox Theater) Detroit, MI

Sunday, January 13th (Louisville Palace) Louisville, KY

a Rafflecopter giveaway

LIVE!: Get the Sillies Out!. The Yo Gabba Gabba! LIVE!: Get The Sillies Out! will visit more than 50 cities across the U.S. in 2013.  Yo Gabba Gabba! LIVE!

Check out the website and get your tickets for a fun family adventure.


For a complete list of tour dates, cities and show times, visit www.yogabbagabbalive.com  

*Children under 1 do not require a ticket to sit on a parent’s lap.



Favorite Entries at Art Prize


I made a quick trip to Grand Rapids to take in the sites of Art Prize. I enjoyed the event so much while living in Grand Rapids for the last 2 years, that I had to come back and see what the artist would come up with this year. The boys and I joined the Grkids.com team on the Art Prize trolley that made strategic stops all over the downtown .

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Hitsville, USA – A visit to the Motown Museum in Detroit, Michigan


Hitsville USA Motown Museum in Detroit,Michigan

If you visit Detroit, you need to add Hitsville, USA otherwise known as the Motown Museum, to your itinerary.  This is the birthplace of the sound of Motown that launched musical legends.  You would almost miss it if you didn’t know to look for it.

Hitsville, USA - A visit to the Motown Museum in Detroit, Michigan

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The Heidelberg Project in Detroit

The Heidelberg Project in Detroit Michigan

We stumbled upon the Heidelberg Project while on a recent trip to Detroit, MI. I have the Roadtrip America app on my phone which tells you where unique tourist attractions are located all over the United States. Just type in a city and viola! You get an assortment of random places to see and experience. Upon reading the description, Heidelberg instantly became an intriguing place to visit. Pretty much if the description has anything to do with art…I want to see it.

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Gourmet Eats for Cheap

A few months ago, I met some new friends for lunch at a culinary school. After the experience, I wondered what took me so long to eat lunch at a cooking school.

Your dining experience is the student’s classroom.






















The students are learning the skills to work in a high end restaurant and you are the guinea pig….one that gets to sample amazing culinary creations for a fraction of the cost.

Lunches range from $7- $12 a person.

The servers wore uniforms that would be seen in a high end restaurant and the tables were topped with white linen table cloths and napkins.

Each of us ordered something different to try for lunch.












I’m not sure what all the names of the ingredients were or the fancy names of the entrees.






















This is the perfect combo for someone who doesn’t enjoy cooking but does enjoy trying new food experiences.
















The food was really good and gave me the opportunity to eat something that I would never attempt to make at home.






















We ordered several desserts and passed those around the table too.












I would definitely recommend trying and sharing different menu options.













Our restaurant also came with a nice view of the city downtown.



















If you live in Grand Rapids, I encourage you to check out Heritage Restaurant or Art and Bev’s.

There are culinary schools all over the country.  Chances are that you have one in a city near you.

Next time you go out to eat with friends or are looking for an inexpensive date, why not switch it up and check out a culinary school restaurant.












If you know of a great culinary school restaurant- comment here and let me know what city it’s in.

Amish Paradise- Great Amish Breakfast in West Michigan

Our family shared an experience that took us back to a simpler time. We traveled about an hour north for an old fashioned Amish breakfast. We found out about it through word of mouth. There is no website or phone number to call. You just show up. At first the directions I was given were by roads and landmarks. I was relieved when I received a gps address. That’s the only way we would have found it.

Amish crossing sign

After several dirt roads and an obvious change in residents we finally found the house.
At first we didn’t know where to go or if this was really where you could get breakfast.
We were told to go through the door.
Amish Paradise- Great Amish Breakfast in West Michigan
We immediately saw the room with tables set up.
Amish Paradise- Great Amish Breakfast in West Michigan
Basically you just sit down and they will bring you want you want to eat.
You have the typical breakfast food options. We choice the best of both worlds with the “Sarah Special.”  It gave you a sample of everything.
Amish breakfast
It was also served with my favorite breakfast food, bisquits and gravy.
Amish Paradise- Great Amish Breakfast in West Michigan
This southern girl was not disappointed. The homemade bisquits and gravy were amazing. In fact everything was so good. All of the kids were happy.
Amish Paradise- Great Amish Breakfast in West Michigan
The food is all cooked on a wood burning stove.
Amish kitchen
It was such a great experience for our family and friends to have with a subculture we don’t encountered very often.
The meals are by donation to help with the cost. We like to give a little more because this is helps them do what they do….and it’s one less meal I had to cook. We also purchased some cinnamon rolls on the way out.
They also sell homemade rugs and a few other items.
Amish rugs
There is a cheese factory down the road that we stopped at on the way back.
Amish cheese Farm Country Cheese House
They don’t make cheese on the weekends but you can still stop by and try samples before you buy.
Amish cheese
I highly recommend taking some time to appreciate the Amish way of the life.
Amish house
If you live in the Grand Rapids area and want to visit, click on this image and print this card when you go.












You can visit the Farm Country Cheese House site for more details of their daily operations.

Please comment if you have found an Amish place that you enjoy visiting near where you live.


Good Form Running Clinic

1good form running clinic.jpg

I’ve only been running few years and lately I’ve been trying to work on my form.  I had never really thought about running the wrong way and how it can put it’s toll on my body.  I had been feeling some pain in my knees and that’s when I remembered a free Good Form Running clinic offered at Gazelle Sports.  My husband and I decided to take advantage of the clinic to improve our runs.

We started our clinic by watching a funny short clip of how not to run and listened to our instructors share how the Good Form Running method had improved their runs and lessoned their injuries.  We also watched a clip of Olympic runners and learned how this technique has reduced injuries for runners at the highest level.

Next, we stepped outside and ran around the building for some instruction in the parking lot.  We were then filmed single file as we ran a very short distance in the parking lot.

First, we were filmed with shoes and then without.  You can feel a big difference when you take off your shoes.  You are also pretty conscience of making sure you don’t step on anything.

Good Form Running Clinic


After being filmed we the class focused on the 4 points of good form running.


Good Form Running Clinic


Good Form Running Clinic


Good Form Running Clinic


Good Form Running Clinic


Good Form Running Clinic


Good Form Running Clinic


Good Form Running Clinic


Good Form Running Clinic


We then practiced running while trying to implement what we just learned into our technique.


Good Form Running Clinic


After a few more short runs we transitioned back inside to view the film with us running.


Good Form Running Clinic


This is what makes the class so valuable.  This is where you see the difference in how you think you run and the way you ACTUALLY run.  The instructors gave each one of us individual feedback on how we can improve our form.  I tend to be a heel striker (hitting my heels first), which causes me to overextend my knee, and that’s why my knees were beginning to hurt from the impact.  As a visual learner, the hands on way you learn in this class makes a big impact.


Good Form Running Clinic


We watched our barefoot footage next and wrapped the class with questions and answers.  I would highly recommend trying a Good Form Running class no matter how long you have been running.  The footage and feedback are so valuable.



If you want to check out a free Good Form Running class and live in Grand Rapids go to one of  three Gazelle Sports locations.


To find a location near you check out Good Form Running.















Fly Fishing Adventure


Fly fishing adventure Cover 2

One of the perks of having friends with diverse interest is when you get to share one of their dream adventures. I recently joined my friend on an 8 hour guided fly fishing trip. This experience was WAY out of my comfort zone. My friend and I both operate from different sides of appreciating nature.

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