Are Local Elections a Waste of My Time? NPR WVPE 88.1FM Michiana Chronicle

You can Listen to this piece on NPR station 88.1FM as a Michigan Chronicle by clicking here.

Before getting married, I rarely voted in local elections.  I would vote only for presidents and when I voted it was usually straight ticket. I was raised to care about elections, I just didn't.   I got a kick out of my Grandmother Lutes' joke that she was a Democrat and Grandpa Willard was a Republican (or vice versa?) and so when they voted they canceled each other out. I thought, "Why bother?"

I was raised to care about elections, I just didn't.

After getting married, I usually asked John what he thought of political candidates because I knew he was smart and paid attention.  And he cared. I began voting in local elections because I was apparently a grown up and it was the thing to do.  I read apathetically about pending candidates and voted.  I voted.  And I voted.

NOW....after going door to door to get John on the Valparaiso city council ballot, after campaigning beside him, meeting other candidates, going to the forum and actually READING the newspaper articles about the upcoming election:  I care.  I know how foolish a person sounds who says "Ohhh... I don't vote". I want to ask if they have other people make all of their other decisions for them.  I realize that in not being aware and informed, in not caring much for politics, I let other people speak for me and they rarely get it right. 

I now realize my apathy makes my parents and family look ignorant, as if they hadn't coached, prodded and cajoled me to care about my own civic engagement.  After this campaign I realize how hard a candidate can work just to get their name on a piece of paper. And then again how much work and money can go into asking enough people to notice their name, to read that name and to mark the box next to the name. I know how important it is because I have done the work.  I have called voters, asking them to check the box next to my husband's name.  I know what I think of the person who says, "Oh, I don't bother voting in local elections."  

This man I married doesn't want fame;  he is an introvert.  He doesn't care about popularity.  He got a taste of public service in college and grad school  and he liked the deep work, thought and honor of it.  I love this about him even though I did not share his passion when we began.  After our adventure, after voting early with him this past Friday, after all the friends and family and neighbors handing him their money or their time or their encouragement, I share his respect for politics.  I am interested.  I am no longer apathetic.

I talked today about the change in me. I said I thought if people who do not care worked even a tiny bit on any campaign they might see it differently.  Please consider volunteering on a committee or helping a local or national candidate at the local level.  We feel so removed from politics that we think it doesn't matter anyway.  

My husband recently wrote, 
      "There have been a number of people I have spoken to over the last couple of years who express being disenfranchised by the local political process.  They feel their vote and their voice doesn't count.  Indeed in 2007 voter turnout in Porter County for local elections was 32%.  In the last local election in 2011, the voter turnout dropped to 25% in the county.  That kind of voter apathy could signal a type of learned helplessness that people feel when they have no say in our local representative democracy.  In fact, local elections probably have a larger impact on the voting public than any state or national election."  

John inspired me not just by his words but by his actions.  He put his passion into action and put his desire to work and it affected both of us.  Even our four and six year old daughters have stump speeches.  Just this afternoon I considered collecting signatures at the polls Tuesday to get Bernie on the ballot for President.  I decided to take this one election at a time.  

John wanted to run for office to serve his city, his neighbors, and to make a difference in all of our lives. I hope he knows the difference he has made in my life.  See the adventure we have had in pictures and video here.

Please vote wherever you are, for whoever you believe in, day after tomorrow, November 3rd, 2015.  It makes a difference.  You can make the difference.  Your vote counts. My vote counts too.

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No You Won't Have Surgery: Dealing with Your Preschooler's Irrational Fear and Anxiety

 If your child is afraid and anxious about thunderstorms and tornadoes, here is what you DO NOT DO:  Do not tell her if a tornado is coming it can sound like a train engine. This will not be soothing to a preschooler when you live half a block from  busy train tracks.  #momfail  If your preschooler talks about fears and anxiety a bit too much around the four year old mark, you are not alone.  Apparently it is normal.  Not fun, but normal.

Is Your Toddler Going to Get Gallbladder Open Heart Surgery Loose Tooth Pinkeye?   My sweet and thoughtful four year old might.  Or so she fears.  Libby has always been a deep thinker.  I still chuckle over a scene in a movie where the female is scantily clad and making unwanted advances.  The man tries to cover her saying, "You're going to catch cold!"  
An hour later Libby thoughtfully asks, "Was that lady really cold Mama?" She knew there was some kind of funny business going on , she just needed to think it over awhile.

She has been thinking a lot over lately.  She is like a 63 year old hypochondriac.  A neighbors' babysitting charge has pinkeye, Libby fears she may get it and wants to know about it.  She begins washing her hands often.  Not compulsively but...often.  Her older sister is eager for her first loose tooth to show up, so Libby is brought to tears feeling her teeth will fall out.  We met a 6 month old baby girl at Panera yesterday and the mother proudly declared "She had open heart surgery a month ago!"  Guess who fears surgery herself now.

My husband and I got so tired of her reporting every little bump and ding he joked about starting a journal and entering the date and time of each malady she expressed:

8/10/15 10:15am bumped elbow
8/10/15 10:20am worried about earrings infected
8/10/15 11:00am bumped knee on stuffed animal
8/10/15 11:03am worries she has pinkeye
8/10/15 12:45  smells Ebola virus 

As a somewhat impatient mama, my first reaction is to dismiss Libby's irrational fears. In a moment of heroic and unprecedented parental awesomeness, I do not do this.  I validate how she is feeling and try to talk openly about whatever the fearsome topic is that day.  I reassure her without putting too much emphasis on the topic of fear that moment.

We found a great book a few years ago for our other daughter Portia called "Wince the Monster of Worry" and talking about the Worry Bug and Wince By Andi Green Green has given her a tangible reference and way to reduce her worries.   ( I guess we are going to have to dig the stuffed Wince out of the DONATE bag one more time.)

I found this post on BabyCenter with great tips on how to handle anxiety in preschoolers.  It tells me I am doing it right, validating, honestly explaining, and listening to my daughter's thoughts.  I disagree with their suggestion of a "Lovey", however.  Physical dependance on an item could wreak havoc later (I'm looking at you, coffeechocolatredlipstick) For us we rely on a combination of faith and knowledge to help us with our preschooler's fear and anxiety! I've watched too many parents buy sixteen of the same toy and cycle them in and out to create equal wear/smell/appearance so they are not stuck with the one "Lovey" getting lost at a crucial time.  Just my thoughts,but I am certainly not Mother of the Year.  

Libby's father is also a deep thinker and worrier, so I know this might not be the last time she expresses fears that worry her sweet small heart.   We just handle each instance as best we can, with love and wine. (For us, not for her.)

Has your child had any issues with fear and anxiety?  What did you do that worked well?

Sweatshirts are for Slobs and Other Snobbishness on Activewear

Dear Friends, Mamas and Readers,  It has been awhile.  Again.  But as I sit here at 9:08am with a freshly frosted cookie facedown on my NON sweatshirt sweatshirt, I felt the itch to write all about my snobbishness. (After I scrape the frosting up with my finger and do what anyone would do when no one is watching.) 

Allow it as a confession, if you will, and forgive me in advance.  After all, one kid has a fever and tho' she be an early riser, is still raspily snoring.  My 80+year old sweet neighbor Linda sat in the house to save me from being a neglectful parent as I walked my healthy daughter to school.  And along the way I picked up a pal's healthy daughter that he could linger at home with his illin' kiddo.  I'm trapped home from work and so what if I frosted a cookie (or two) and dropped part of it frosting side down.  It's a slobbish kind of day.  I'm EVEN wearing a hat my hair is so bad.  (Although Libby just said she likes my hat.  She likes the way my hair sticks out.  *sigh*)

Every time I wear this outfit, this non sweatpants sweatpants outfit(what do they call them, lounge pants?  Lounge wear?) Are they really Yoga pants or is that now a lie since we do not really do yoga in our yoga themed sweatpants?  Or anything active in our activewear.  Which reminds me of this HILARIOUS video my friend Thais sent to me after we had a version of this conversation.

I do not like sweatshirts.  I never have.  Even in college I wore them rarely.  I felt sloppy and unlovely in them.  Which I think is the point.  I was never into sports or that sporty looks many of my friends pull off and look cute in.  Now that I am a mom, there are lots of opportunities to wear casual comfy clothes but there I am in jeans and a cardigan.  Maybe a necklace.  I've written about Shiny Moms before, and I'm not a shiny I am stuck in between Non-Active Activewear, Sporty and the Shiny Moms.  What am I then?  Possibly snobby?  

Today I am wearing a Vera Wang yoga pants and zip up kind of sweatshirt outfit, but it feels elegant and flattering and OH MY WORD IT IS COMFY.  I bought it so I would have something post surgery...and I like it and keep wearing it.  And no I do not look like that in it. And I almost do not feel like a slob. I want like six of these outfits.   

I'm a motherless daughter.  Help me out here sweet friends and coach me.  Why on Earth do I feel so icky in a sweatshirt?  Why does everyone wear activewear everywhere?  Why do I have the energy to worry about this instead of doing one million other things that would make better use of my time?  What are your sweatshirt and yoga pants thoughts?

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Four Year Old Trash Talk

     Hello Darlings!  I am BACK.  I have missed you and I sure as shootin' hope you missed me. Since I went back to work in December as Director of Connections for my church I have barely posted.  To get words out there I have become an OVER-POSTER on Facebook and that needs to stop.  I have even posted pictures of my meals and my vacation as I am still on it.  No!  In order to put Facebook out of it's misery, I will be posting weekly again.

     What shall we talk about?

  My Pastor told me I should blog this little tidbit, and I will start here:

     Our Target's sidewalk is DIRTY!  Gross litter everywhere all the time.  Why, I probably wouldn't even go inside Target so often if it wasn't just to avoid the icky candy wrappers and cigarette butts on the sidewalk outside.  *Harrumph*


     Portia and Libby and I were walking down this particular sidewalk from the Pet Supplies Plus to Target for Back to School Shopping when I remarked out loud "Gosh someone should clean this sidewalk trash up."  You. will. not. believe. what. happened. next.

     Libby who is four years old said "Why don't we do it?"  *swoon*  I love her heart.  I guess  I have taught her well and it is true we often fill a bag with litter as we walk....but NO.  Not today it is hot and we are pretty and we have shopping to do.

Libby began to pick up litter.  I  said "No, just leave it."

Then she killed my heart.

Libby...again four years old says, "But I want to honor God by cleaning this up."  

Y'all.  I. Mean.

I went straight to the car to drop my bags and to get an empty bag for trash.  When God speaks out of my children's mouth you bet I listen.  We sweated and stooped and we picked up the half block of sidewalk trash.  I was embarrassed, proud and humbled.  When we went to throw our bag of litter in the trash can it was full.  

While my girls were using the Target Store bathroom I asked for a Store Manager.  I commented on the litter outside and he hastily apologized and went to have someone go out to clean it up.  I explained that no, we had already done that, but couldn't fit our trash bag into their trash can...which might be part of how all the litter gets on the sidewalk.  He was floored, then I explained it was my four year old's fault and what she had said.  

The gentleman handed me a few cash coupons and I later gave them to the girls, telling them to thank him directly for it.  I am not sure who learned the most here, but I am so grateful for my four year old's trash talk.

And lest you think I am bragging...I get almost EVERYTHING else wrong in the parental department.  This was a precious exception.  

What have your kids wowed you with lately?  Have you learned any lessons from the mouths of babes? Please share in the comments!

The Perfect Mom's Back to (Pre)School List

This post was originally posted at Mumbling Mommy!

Back to school?  Oh yeah, as a mom I should be thinking about school.  My sweetest, rottenest child is three and will be attending preschool formally this Fall.  She has gone to a month to month  preschool here and there, but this time we pay tuition and register and visited and will have a bucket tote.  There will be a schedule and everything.  Maybe I should start putting the dates into my Cozi Calendar? Hmm.  

With the Back to School Syndrome heading into full swing and having no understanding or experience with it, I have compiled this handy list for all of you to use.  I will be checking up on you and using red ink.

The Perfectionist Mom's Back to (pre)School List
1) Buy a lot of brand name new clothes for children.
2) Buy a lot of designer new clothes for you. (gotta look awesome at drop off)
3) Buy school supplies in custom colors for each child.  Themes are great.
4) Spend three hundred dollars on labels.  Cute. Labels.  (No, sharpies aren't good enough.)
5) Teach children a third language and ballet and a new sport to impress teacher.

The Regular Mom's Back to (pre)School List
1) Buy new and thrifted clothes to round out wardrobe for children. 
2) Wash and maybe get crazy and iron clothes for you for drop off.
3) Buy some crayons and paper and anything else on the supplies list.
4) Sharpies are good enough.
5) Hope your kid remembers their alphabet and numbers in front of the class.

My Back to (pre)School List 
1) Buy more beer and wine. Lots more; think of all the free time I'll have!
2) Remember to wear clothes for drop off.
3) Collect crayons and scrap paper from recycling bin until I find that elusive supplies list.
4) Who needs labels?  Things come, things go.  I hate the princess sippy cups anyhoo.
5) Pray to God your kid doesn't cuss on the first day.  Or that they will at least use the word in context and quietly.

Good Luck in  your back to school adventures.  Is there anything I am forgetting?  I sure could use some help. 

KFC Red Velvet Cake Commercial with BIKES!

Right.  So I haven't blogged in four months a looooong while.  This is not an ideal come back, but this priceless bike friendly commercial from KFC made me happy and spoke to so many parts of my life I just went with it.  I found it on my Spotify today as I switched from "I'm Sexy and I Know It" station to "Singing in the Car" because my six year old daughter joined me at the computer and I guess that is just what parents do.  And my hubby told me to. 

The commercial scrolled and when I saw a bike going through a drive through...which I have totally done a few times. I clicked on it and smiled.  Here 'tis.

I like KFC against my better judgement.  I do not eat there more than once or twice a year....but I kinda want it for dinner tonight!  Or the Red Velvet Cake at least.

I think life by bike is better.  

We had my friend and awesome Bike Activist with Bicycle Indiana Joshua Sutton speak at Valpo FUMC Modern Moms last week for Earth Day...he shared lots of tips on how to bike more often, even with children.  We even got into the Newspaper!

Spring is here, I'll attempt to post more often, and I'd love to hear your bike stories and pictures.

Enjoy your day!

Beware of : Customer Service WANTED

You may remember my old blog, "Help Wanted, Help Found" where I chronicled good and bad customer service experiences.  The posts were from my own adventures and also from submissions.  I tried to be constructive for the most part and used my customer service trainer history to *ahem* educate the folks in question.  
I thought you all might enjoy this snappy reply (color and font change mine) from  when I asked why we had to share a driver's license to open an account.  I found it odd that one employee had to share their personal information...or else.  
I'm underwhelmed by their reply, uncomfortable with their desire for personal ID (doesn't everyone else have other validation options?) and just wondered what others thought.
So...what do you guys think of this?

Kevin ( via 

10:07 AM (6 hours ago)
to me
##- Please type your reply above this line -##
Your request (#201539) has been solved. To reopen this request, reply to this email or click the link below:

Kevin ( 
Feb 13, 11:07 
Thanks for using We require a legible, valid, government issued photo ID, so that we can verify you are who you says you are, and also so that we can confirm that you are authorized to make postings for the organization that you have registered. If you are not comfortable providing this information, you do not have to utilize our service. Thanks. Support Team
(814) 867-2100

Heather Novak
Feb 13, 10:16 
Our church is trying to register for but as we register a driver’s license is required. Why is this? None of us want to put our personal information our like that for our church to be able to post. 
Thank you for answering. 
Heather Novak 

Plant Therapy Can Save You Money: Where I Buy Essential Oils

I've used essential oils for ten years.  I learned about them from my best friend Jenny who would drop peppermint essential oil in the shower or give a back rub with it for her sick kids.  Then I met Val Lang of "A Natural Hi" in Niles, Michigan at the seasonal French Farmers Market.  I bought a small kit of eight oils from her and started playing with them, mostly in a tea light burner or topically.  A coworker Leah used essential oils all the time too so I borrowed books from her and she gifted me my first oil burner/diffuser.

As the years progressed I found my favorite essential oil 'bibles' and  continued to add oils to my collection.  I'd buy them anywhere.  Aura Cacia, NOW, whatever I found.   Lately I see lots of people are discovering the health benefits of essential oils and I am thrilled.  This is thanks to the largely marketed doTERRA and Young Living essential oil companies.  But I do not buy essential oils from them.  No way.

I've bought oils for years.  They work.  It is a pleasure to use essential oils no matter the reason.  And they are AFFORDABLE.  But you cannot build a gagillion dollar business when something is instead lmajor essential oil companies are trying to make essential oils DESIRABLE and SPECIAL and charge more for them.  (Since people are already used to paying too much for things, lets keep that going.)

*ahem*  I am derailed.

OK.  So I am used to paying around $8 for a bottle  of  essential oil.  A few more bucks for rarer or harder to distill oils and a lot more for the rarest... Frankincense, Myrrh, they were gifts for a king for a reason.  I want higher quality essential oils now, but I just cannot fall for paying three times what I am accustomed to paying.  I try.  It would be easier, no.

A friend who used to buy doTERRA turned me onto Plant Therapy.  She said they were great quality essential oils at 1/3 the price of her other brand.  I thought at first it was a company I could share and sell through, but it isn't.  You just buy from them and that is it.  Which really is ok.  I started with a Germ Destroyer blend for the kids and a Digest Aid blend for me.  The thing I learned from the essential oil classes I attended is I do want higher quality oil than I may have used before, but I also need a strong value for my dollar.  I think I have found that with Plant Therapy.

I offered to do a review for Plant Therapy and they sent me Nighty Night Kidsafe Blend free for my kids.  The girls have been getting up a lot at night and going down at night rough.  Lots of fussing and up and down and a general lack of fun for us parents.  We have been using Nighty Night  most nights for a few weeks now.  It was the first Essential Oil I couldn't just drop on their pillow or is a bright blue color I have never seen before in essential oils...I am guessing that is the Blue Tansy?   It is pretty but I do worry it would stain.

The directions suggest you dilute it, so I rub it into olive oil and massage the kids briefly with it.  They LOVE the Nighty Night essential oil and they ask for it if I forget.  Even my husband and the girl's Grandpa have had to learn about it so they can give it to the girls when I am not doing bedtime.  I think it has helped limit the going to bed drama immensely, but it hasn't helped the little one sleep through the night any better because she has been sick with a cough.  I think in general we have noticed a benefit from using Nighty Night.  For a bit under ten dollars, it is a tool I will use regularly to avoid bedtime battles.

Using the kid safe line from Plant Therapy, 
I don't have to guess what to use or 
what is safest for my little kids. 

Although essential oils aren't a miracle cure for us, I think they help my kids feel better and may spare us some ugly bouts of illness.  (This is funny to type because just now we are in the middle of our worst bout of cold and flu, but it is not our normal. )  I keep adding oils to my Plant Therapy wish list so I know what I am running out of and plan to buy next.  I bought my friend a Christmas present from them too.  I think Plant Therapy offers strong essential oils at reasonable prices and in may cases you can select the organic version of an oil if you prefer that.  I also like their KIDSAFE line.  One thing I learned this past year is that a lot of oils I have used on my kids aren't great for them, even if I have felt they worked well.  Using the kid safe line from Plant Therapy, I don't have to guess what to use or what is safest for my little kids.  I also like the options of a diluted roller ball or straight up essential oil blend that they offer.

I don't get any kickbacks from Plant Therapy if you click a link or buy through this post, but I sure would appreciate it if you would drop my name when you order essential oils or essential oil blends from Plant Therapy.  And let me know what you think about essential oils and your experience with them.

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Super Bowl Ads Trend Lower Than Heather Novak: Back to your regularly scheduled blogging

Man!  Give me a job and GOODBYE BLOGGING!  Lookit how fast that happened.  Ok.

Apparently Christmas Happened.

And then New Year's.  And now it is almost Valentines' day and I am back!  Blog posts have been percolating in my brain all week and I am finally giving in.  The kids may want my attention and have been going to further lengths to get it, but...

First I have a mostly written Plant Therapy essential oil review I'm about  a month overdue in posting.   

Then I got an advance copy (BLOGGER PERK!) of  the FABULOUS FOOD BABE Vani Hari's "The Food Babe Way" book to review.  

And maybe my eldest is a real bonafide GIRL SCOUT and was SELLING GIRL SCOUT COOKIES!  It is my HEAVEN on EARTH to have my own personal supply of cookies.  #parentingbenefits 

Then maybe my kids sat in the kitchen sink to peel shrimp 


I painted my canvas Chuck Taylors and let's just say:  

Even a working mom's gotta blog!

I thought about my blog even as I was not blogging, wondered how serious I could be now that I am working,  considered putting it on hiatus and I just couldn't.  I love you all reading. Your comments are GOLD to me.  And of course I love the writing. 

BESIDES. Somebody's gotta bring a special kind of crazy into the world with F words: Fragile Faith, Frenzied Family, Fairly Healthy Food, Failed Fashion and Feisty Friendships.