That Little Boy Arthur David…Now He was A Biscuit Eater!

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This is supposed to be an article that focuses on healthy eating and bread spreads, but first a little perspective.  Going back to my childhood, my family and I, but especially me, ate a lot of bread and any variety of it.  We ate biscuits, rolls, bread pudding, sandwiches, and just bread by itself.  I loved bread then and though I have personal restrictions in place, I love bread now.  I get a warm feeling, probably originating from my stomach, just thinking about it and the many ways I consumed bread.  If I was outside playing, it was easy to run into the house and grab a slice of bread and head back out.  I would pack my jaw with the stuff (Wonder Bread was perfect for this) and like some sort of rodent nurse off of it until it was gone and then I would get another slice.  Then there were the peanut butter and Alaga syrup sandwiches.  Alaga is a cane sugar syrup, and it is darker and thicker than most syrups.  I think it is a little sweeter too.  It, the sandwich, tastes just like those “Maryjane” candies.  Sticky and sweet…yum.  Looking back, if there is one thing that put me on the track of being a diabetic, it was probably my love for bread and whatever I could put on it, which was almost always sweet and at portions that would probably kill me now.

Yes, I was a real bad bread lover.  My brothers and I would have eating contests, like who could eat the most biscuits, rolls, pancakes (it’s not politically correct to say but we totally embraced the “Sambo” approach to eating pancakes) and syrup sandwiches or sopping syrup off of a plate that had margarine added to it.  Boy if only I knew then what I know now.

So now I am a diabetic and my situation has made me more sensitive and smarter about what I consume and when I consume it.  Now I only have 1 to 3 slices of bread a day and some days not even that.  My choice of spread is still peanut butter but a small jar of preserves can last me two months easy.  So what about the stuff we put on our bread, bagel or muffin?  What’s good for you and what’s not so good?  Thanks to the July/August of Diabetes Management magazine, I can tell you.  Knowing more about the nutritional content of bread spreads and the right portion size may help you to prevent becoming a diabetic or help you in other ways, especially in losing weight.  It is okay to use these products in small amounts, but let’s not do what I did as a child.  Did it hurt, maybe not…but it certainly didn’t help either.

All of the bread spreads discussed here contribute calories in the form of fat, sugar, or both—but some are better choices than others.  I hope that you can use this as a guide to help you to enjoy what you are eating while avoiding consuming too much saturated fat, trans fat, and sugar.


Basic Info:

  • Butter must be at least 80% milk fat by weight
  • One tablespoon of butter contains 100 calories, 11 grams of fat (of which 7 grams are saturated fat and about ½ a gram is trans fat), and 30 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol.
  • Whipped butter has fewer calories and less fat than regular butter.  It has air whipped in during processing.
  • One tablespoons of whipped butter contains about 70 calories, 8 grams of fat (5 of them saturated fat) and 20 mg of cholesterol.
  • Light butter spread has even fewer calories and less fat than whipped butter.  Some of the fat is replaced with water or gelatin.
  • One tablespoon of light butter spread has about 60 calories, 7 grams of fat (2 of them saturated), and 7 mg of cholesterol.

American Diabetes Association Recommendation:

  • Calories from fat should make up no more than 20% to 35% of the total calories you consume.
  • In addition, 7% of your total calories come from saturated fat, and that you avoid trans fat whenever possible.
  • A person that consumes 1,500 calories per day, this works out to about 33 to 58 total grams of fat, with no more than 12 grams of saturated fat.
  • The ADA recommends a maximum daily cholesterol intake of 200 mg.

The reason behind these recommendations is that diets high in saturated fat and trans fat are believed to increase your risk of heart disease by raising blood levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol, which promotes atherosclerosis (hardening and clogging of the arteries).  A high intake of dietary cholesterol can also raise blood LDL cholesterol levels.

Consumers who want the taste of butter but less saturated fat may want to try products that blend butter with oil (usually canola, olive, soybean, and/or flaxseed oil).  These products still have around 100 calories per tablespoon but only 4 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon.  Oil-blended butters also come in light varieties, which decrease the calorie content to about 50 calories per tablespoon and the saturated fat to around 2 grams.

Brand Best Buy (serving 1 tbs.)

Challenge Spreadable Butter (Salted/Unsalted Whipped Butter): 70 calories; 7 grams of fat; 70 fat calories; 5 grams of saturated fat; 0 trans fat

Land O’Lakes Spreadable Butter (Salted Whipped Light Butter): 45 calories; 5 grams of fat; 45 fat calories; 3 grams of saturated fat; 0 trans fat


Basic Info:

  • Margarine is made from a single oil or a blend of oils and must contain at least 80% oil.  (The other 20% is mostly water or nonfat milk).
  • Margarine is most commonly made from soybean, corn, safflower, canola, cottonseed, and sunflower oils, and some products also contain olive or flaxseed oils.
  • It is available solid, in sticks; soft, in tubs; even softer, in squeeze bottles; and liquid, in sprays.
  • Regular margarine contains approximately 100 calories and 11 grams of fat, of which 2 grams are saturated, per tablespoon.
  • Because margarine is made primarily from vegetable oil, it is cholesterol freeCholesterol only occurs in foods of animal origin.
  • Most of the fat in margarine is monounsaturated or polyunsaturated.  These “fats” are known as “good” fats because they are good for your heart, your blood cholesterol levels and your overall health.
  • One type of polyunsaturated, Omega-3 fatty acids, may be especially beneficial to your heart by protecting against irregular heartbeats and lowering the risk of heart attacks.  Fish oil, which is high in omega-3 fatty acids, is added to some margarine products.

Does this mean I should switch back to margarine?

American Diabetes Association recommends…

That as a consumer you need to be careful and make sure you read the labeling of any margarine product.  Some margarine products contain trans fat, which is created during food processing when liquid oils are solidified by adding hydrogen.  (Trans fat also occurs naturally in small amounts in animal foods, which why butter contains some trans fat.)  If the words “partially hydrogenated” appear in the ingredients list on a margarine package, the product contains trans fat.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows food manufacturers to list 0 grams of trans fat in the Nutrition Facts panel if the food has less than half a gram per serving.  If you eat more than one serving, though, it can add up.

  • Margarine spreads are lower in fat than regular margarine because more water is added.  Most spreads contain about 70 calories, 7 grams of fat, and 1-2 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon.
  • Light margarine spreads are 50% lower in calories and fat than regular margarine.

All margarines (and most butter spreads) are supplemented with vitamin A, often in the form of beta-carotene.  Some products are fortified with other vitamins and minerals.  Margarines may also contain plant sterols, which lower LDL cholesterol without lowering HDL (high-density lipoprotein, or “good”) cholesterol.

Brand Best Buy (serving 1 tbs.)

Blue Bonnet (Soft Spread): 40 calories; 4 grams of fat; 40 fat calories; 1 gm. saturated fat; 0 trans fat

Country Crock Spreadable Margarine (Calcium Plus Vitamin D Fortified): 50 calories; 5 grams of fat; 50 fat calories; 1 gram of saturated fat; 0 trans fat

Fleischmann’s Original Spread (Olive Oil): 60 calories; 6 grams of fat; 60 fat calories; 1 gram of saturated fat; 0 trans fat

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter (Calcium & Vitamin D or Light)45 calories; 5 grams of fat; 45 fat calories; 1 gram of saturated fat; 0 trans fat

Parkay Spreadable Margarine (Light): 45 calories; 5 grams of fat; 45 fat calories; 1 gram of saturated fat; 0 trans fat

Smart Balance Spreadable Margarine (Light Omega-3 Buttery Spread): 50 calories; 5 grams of fat; 50 fat calories; 1 gram of saturated fat; 0 trans fat

Cream Cheese

Basic Info:

  • Cream cheese is an unaged cheese made from cow’s milk.  Emulsifiers are used to make cream cheese firm.  The USDA requires regular cream cheese to contain at least 33% fat and no more than 55% water.
  • Cream cheese is high in calories, fat and saturated fat.
  • Two tablespoons of regular cream cheese contain 90 calories, 9 grams of fat (of which 5 grams are saturated fat), 120 milligrams of cholesterol, and 2 grams of carbohydrate.

Spreadable cream cheese varieties include regular, whipped, light, one-third less fat, and fat free.

  • Regular spreadable cream cheese contains 80 calories and 7 grams of fat (of which 4 ½ grams are saturated) per two-tablespoon serving.
  • Whipped, light, and one-third less fat cream cheeses contain about 60-70 calories and 5-6 grams of fat (including 3 grams of saturated fat) per two-tablespoons.
  • Fat-free cream cheese contains 30-40 calories per two-tablespoon serving.
  • Fruit-flavored cream cheeses contain more carbohydrate (from added sugar) than the unflavored cream cheese: about 6 grams in two tablespoons.
  • Flavored varieties, such as Kraft Philadelphia Snack Delights, which contain flavorings such as milk chocolate, dark chocolate, cinnamon, and caramel, can contain as much as 110 calories, 7 grams of fat (of which 4 grams are saturated), and 12 grams of carbohydrate in two tablespoons.

Brand Best Buy (serving 2 tbs.)

Philadelphia Fat Free: 30 calories

Philadelphia Fat Free (Strawberry): 40 calories

Philadelphia 1/3 Less Fat (Strawberry): 70 calories; 4 grams of fat; 40 fat calories; 2 trans fat

Jams, Jelly and Honey

Basic Info:

Jam, jelly, fruit preserves, fruit butter, and honey are high in sugar and therefore high in calories and carbohydrates.

1st the Differences

  1. Jam is made from the pulp and juice of fruits and has a semi-gelled texture.
  2. Apricots, berries, plums and peaches are the most common fruits used to make jam.
  3. Jelly is made from just the juice and is clear and firm.
  4. Preserves are made from whole berries or uniform pieces of larger fruits, such as peaches and pears.
  5. Fruit butters are made from fruit that is cooked until softened, then processed into a smooth consistency.  Peach, apple, pear, plum, and pumpkin are common fruit butter flavors, and spices such as cinnamon or cardamom are sometimes added.

Jams, jellies, preserves, and fruit butters taste sweet due to their fruit content, but many also contain added sweeteners.  Always check for sources of added sugars on the ingredients list.  Common nutritive (calorie-containing) sweeteners found in jam and jellies include corn syrup or high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which is a combination of fructose and dextrose.

Some products are sweetened with concentrated fruit syrup or fruit juice.  However, those products, often labeled “100% fruit.” May be no lower in sugar and carbohydrate than products sweetened with sugar or corn syrup.  Whatever the sweetener source, it’s important to check the Nutrition Facts panel on the label to know the carbohydrate content.

Honey is slightly higher in calories and carbohydrate than most jams and jellies.  It contains 60 calories and 17 grams of carbohydrate per tablespoon.

Some food manufacturers make jams and jellies with a lower sugar and carbohydrate content.  Being a diabetic means that this is what I spend my money on.  Unfortunately most stores do not feature a wide variety of diabetic or sugar-free jams, jellies or preserves.  Depending on their ingredients and calorie counts, these products may be labeled “low calorie,” “no sugar added,” “low sugar,” “light,” “sugar free,” or “reduced sugar.”  In place of sugar or corn syrup, they may be sweetened with fructose, sugar alcohols, low calorie sweeteners such as aspartame or sucralose, or a combination of low-calorie sweeteners and sugar alcohols.

What do you know about sugar alcohols?  I didn’t know much about them until after I became diabetic and I was encouraged to read the nutrition labels on what I was buying/eating.  Sugar alcohols are a group of carbohydrates that have lower calorie counts than sugars and starches—about 2 calories per gram versus 4—because they are incompletely absorbed in the gut.  Sugar alcohols you may see on ingredients lists include lactitol, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, isomalt, and hydrogenated starch hydrolysate.

Sugar alcohols are not considered sugars for labeling purposes but they are listed on the Nutrition Facts panel:  Check for grams of sugar alcohols under total carbohydrate.  Be aware that sugar alcohols have a laxative effect on some people—you may want to limit your intake.

Personally, I was told to avoid the “tol” group altogether.  Sugar free does not mean carbohydrate free and I need to watch my consumption of carbs too.

Brand Best Buy (serving 1 tbs.)

Fifty50 Fruit Spread (Strawberry): 5 calories

Knott’s Berry Farm (Light Preserves, Strawberry): 20 calories

Smucker’s (Low Sugar, Strawberry)25 calories

Smucker’s (Sugar Free, Concord Grape Jam w/Splenda): 10 calories

Smucker’s (Sugar Free, Strawberry Preserves w/Nutrasweet)10 calories

Welch’s (Spread, Natural Strawberry)30 calories

Welch’s (Reduced Sugar Spread, Strawberry Spread, Strawberry)20 calories

Welch’s (Grape Jam or Jelly)50 calories

Peanut Butter and Nut Spreads

PeaNUT…PEANUT BUTTER!  Oh my god this is it…this is my favorite or should I say it’s my favorite right now.  Before I was trying to mind my health, I was good for 3 or 4 peanut butter and strawberry/apricot/peach or cherry preserves sandwiches a day.  My sandwiches were always thick with the preserves oozing out of the right places around the edge of the bread.  The peanut butter was spread evenly across the bread (only white bread) and nowhere on the sandwich were the contents unevenly applied.  My sandwiches where perfect!  Thick!  HEAVY!!  A meal unto itself.  Sadly, I can’t do that anymore L.  My dietician says one slice of bread.  It’s not a sandwich unless it has two.  Who wins this debate?  Most of the time I do (she’s not around to stop me), but I try to exercise a little harder and longer for my indulgence.

But, enough about me, lets talk about peanut butter and nut spreads.  They are both made by grinding nuts into a paste.  They can be “all natural,” meaning they are made just with nuts, or they can contain added oils, sweeteners, and other ingredients.

Peanut butter must contain a minimum of 90% peanuts with no artificial sweeteners or preservatives.  Some brands add a stabilizer to keep the peanut butter fresh and the oil from separating; old-fashioned, or “natural,” peanut butter does not contain stabilizers, so the oil separates and must be stirred back in before using.  Don’t pour off the separated oil, or the peanut butter will become too thick to spread.

Basic Info:

·        Peanut butter is a good source of protein, B vitamins, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron, but it also derives around 70% of its calories from fat.

·        One serving of peanut butter is indicated on food labels as two tablespoons, and one serving contains 16-18 grams of fat, which includes 2-3 grams of saturated fat.

·        Because partially hydrogenated oils are frequently added to achieve a creamy texture, peanut butter may contain added trans fat.  Some, however, contain fully hydrogenated oils, which do not add trans fat.

·        Peanut butter spreads were developed as reduced-fat alternatives to peanut butter.  They contain 60% peanuts and provide 12 grams of fat and 2 grams of saturated fat per serving.

Please be aware that when fat is reduced, sugar is often added, which may increase the carbohydrate content.  Since reduced-fat peanut butter is often not significantly lower in calories, and the carbohydrate content may double, there may not be significant health benefits to choosing it over regular peanut butter.


Another nut-based product that is growing in popularity is hazelnut spread.  Hazelnut spread is a mixture of sugar, oil, hazelnuts, chocolate or cocoa, vanilla and milk.

  • The best-known hazelnut spread, Nutella, contains 200 calories, 12 grams of fat (including 4 grams of saturated fat), and 21 grams of carbohydrate in two tablespoons.
  • Nutella is higher in saturated fat than peanut butter because it contains palm oil, which is high in saturated fat, and its high amount of carbohydrate comes from added sugar.
  • The protein content of Nutella is only 2 grams per serving, compared to 7 grams per serving in peanut butter.
  • For a lower-sugar alternative try Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter, which contains 180 calories, 15 grams of fat (of which 3 grams are saturated), and 12 grams of carbohydrate per two-tablespoon serving.

Best Brand Buy (serving 2 tbs.)

Fifty50 (Creamy or Crunchy)190 calories; 16 grams of fat; 140 fat calories; 2 grams of saturated fat

Jif (All varieties*): 190 calories; 15-16 grams of fat; 130-140 fat calories; 2-3 grams of saturated fat

*Jif Reduced Fat Creamy Peanut Butter Spread12 grams of fat; 100 fat calories; 2 grams of saturated fat

Laura Scudder’s All Natural Peanut Butter (Smooth Reduced Fat)190 calories; 12 grams of fat; 110 fat calories; 2 grams of saturated fat

Peter Pan (Creamy Whipped)150 calories; 12 grams of fat; 110 fat calories; 2 grams of saturated fat

Skippy (Natural Super Chunk, Reduced Fat Creamy/Super Chunk)180 calories; 12 grams of fat (Natural Super Chunk 17); 110 fat calories (Natural Super Chunk 150); 2 grams of saturated fat (Natural Super Chunk 3)

Source: Diabetes Self-Management (July/August 2013) – “Bread Spreads” by Lea Ann Holzmeister, RD, CDE

My Garden Life – July 2013


My Garden Life  – July 2013

The Old Farmers Prayer (abridged)


Time just keeps moving on

Many years have come and gone

But I grow older without regret

My hopes are in what may come yet


On the farm I work each day

This is where I wish to stay

I watch the seeds, each season sprout

From the soil as the plants rise out


I study Nature and I learn

To know the earth and feel her turn

I love her dearly and all the seasons

For I have learned her secret reasons


All that will live is in the bosom of earth

She is the loving mother of all birth

But all that lives must pass away

And go back to her someday!

 By Malcolm Beck & Robert Tate


Those of you that are regular readers on this site know what a difficult year 2012 was for me at my home garden and for my associates that worked with me at Nolan Elementary-Middle School (Nolan’s Fierce Gardeners).  Between the vandalism at the school garden that literally forced us to start over [1] and the oppressing heat that definitely affected farm and garden production across the country (record heat waves in the Midwest), 2012 was nearly a devastating year.  But through all that, my friends and I, fellow gardeners and kids survived and conquered our enemies, natural and man-made, to have productive yields at both gardens.[2] .[3] . [4].  So as the year ended I was feeling pretty doggone good!

One of the last things we did with the kids was a garlic-seeding lesson coordinated by what was then the Garden Resource Program.  We all met at a community garden in Hamtramck to do some clean-up work, drink some fresh pressed apple cider and learn how to plant garlic.  I’ve got to tell you…that cider was damn good…it was cold and tart and natural and cold and sweet and cold…it was fabulous.  One small cup was all I dared to consume.  One small cup…the nectar was addicting!  One cup more would have led to a jug and then just hanging out at the cider press.  This stuff was that good.  Of course we couldn’t keep the kids away from it, but we did manage to get them to focus at what was at hand.  It was a fun day and even I learned something because I was out there.

So I got some garlic from my good BUDDY John Adams and planted it on Nov. 4th along the back row of the garden.  Starting from the West/South end heading north I planted: Music (14); Japanese (13); Kilarney Red (27) and Chesnok Red (30).  Also buried pumpkin shells to add material to the soil.  I was ecstatic because I had a lot of momentum at behind me and I was feeling good about 2013’s prospects.

Two reasons I was feeling good were John R. King Academic and Performing Arts Academy[5] and Law Academy.  They both became members in the Project Sweet Tomato program.  They both had so much too work with, greenhouse (!!!), a more than cooperative attitude and importantly, the correct vision.  The teacher/coordinator, the newly retired Ms. Gwen Bouler was excellent to work with and when you see her garden you will know why [6].  Another reason for heightened expectations was the development of a fine relationship with the staff of Nolan Elementary-Middle School.  Nolan is an EAA (Educational Achievement Authority) project school and in this new environment there has been considerable growth and improvement in literally all aspects of the program…from administrative staff to the CEO Ms. Angela Underwood (principal) and her Parent & Community Involvement Specialist, Ms. DeAndrea “DeDe” Rogers to the teachers and most importantly the kids and their grade scores.  Wonderful things are going on over there and I am excited about its future.

There’s another garden-related program in the city that initially I was pretty high on.  The Detroit School Garden Collaborative, when I first heard about it I was ecstatic.  Six-raised bed with all the fixins’ would be given to Detroit Public Schools that applied for them.  There would be new jobs for students (paid-internships) and for adult assistants.  The gardens would grow vegetables that would be used in the school’s cafeterias.  There would be classroom programs, horticultural and agricultural education, nutrition, and community outreach.  Unfortunately they have had some problems getting it off the ground.  It is going to be a work in progress, and for it to succeed it will need help from a lot of organizations.

As the New Year started, when I am typically checking out my gear and determining what I want to grow (my seed catalogs were coming in almost daily), I found myself not counting the days, but procrastinating about what I was going to do and when I was going to do it.  The first thing off of my “bucket list” was germinating seeds indoors.  My excuse was I didn’t want to take on the process of converting my dining into a plant laboratory.  So to be sure, I cleaned up the dining area, got it looking regal and all that, but slowly but surely it got loaded up with seed packets and garden paraphernalia anyway.

Then came the cold weather crops distribution courtesy of my friends and mentors of Keep Growing Detroit (a spin-off from the Garden Resource Program) in April.  I thought I was going to regain my mojo but “po’ pitiful” me couldn’t get any traction.  The weather didn’t exactly help either (at this date a token excuse), but I did get out and plant carrots and for the first time since I began gardening here, I will be a carrot eating fool!!!  Yum, Yum Eat ‘Em Up!  That sound you hear is not thunder…nor a earthquake…neither a sonic boom, no that’s me taking a bite from a carrot pulled fresh from the garden.  I planted several varieties like:

  • Nelson
  • Danvers
  • Royal Chantenay

They are all doing very well, the stems, a parsley-like green…tall and flowing.  But, as exciting as the carrots are, I’m still not quite there.

The month of May kind of shot by for me and before I knew it, warm-weather crop distribution, courtesy of Keep Growing Detroit, was upon me.  I was picking up for my home garden and the Nolan School garden too!  I got there and instead of being excited seeing old friends and making new ones, I meandered from distributor to distributor and gathered my plants and split.  It was no big deal…it didn’t register on me then but upon reflection I should known then that there was a different feeling this year.

I shared my thoughts/feelings with several of my gardening friends and surprisingly was told the same thing.  Almost everybody I know, that is into gardening, considers this year to be an off year as for interest and effort.  They will get what they get but they don’t intend to work too hard to get it.  This behavior probably explains the lack of gardening conversations between my friends and I.  Everybody claims a lack of focus this year too.  They’ve got a lot of major projects going on elsewhere and something’s got to give if they are going to get them done in a reasonable space of time.  Something had to give and for many it was gardening.

I think that for myself, I have spent a considerable amount of time assisting the effort to get the gardens going at Nolan and John R. King.  Both of these school gardens got in before mine.  I was fortunate that some veggies that over-wintered in the garden gave me some of my earliest taste experiences.  I had lettuce and scallions in May and June, plus the garlic I planted last November has been harvested as I write this.  I didn’t really get anything in the ground until June 2nd.  I spent the entire day and the two days that followed (between rain storms) putting every plant I had in and planting seeds also.  So in spite of my laxity of energy and desire I have happily managed to get the following crops in:

  • Greens (All Greens Mix)
  • Arugula
  • Nelson Carrots
  • Napoli Carrots (Fall)
  • Lettuce (Mesclun Mix)
  • Spinach, Space
  • Yankee Bell Pepper
  • Early Jalapeno Pepper
  • Italia Sweet Pepper
  • Big Beef Tomato
  • Brandywine Tomato
  • Cherokee Purple Tomato
  • Black Cherry Tomato
  • Green Zebra Tomato
  • Paste Tomato
  • Marketmore Cucumber
  • Georgia Collard Greens
  • Broccoli
  • Belstar Broccoli (Fall)
  • White/Green Cabbage
  • Red Cabbage
  • Tenderbush Green Beans
  • Goldmine Yellow Wax Beans

For a guy that’s supposed to be experiencing an overwhelming feeling malaise this is no small undertaking.  There are 3-20 ft. rows of each bean type…17 tomato plants, 6 varieties14 pepper plants, 3 varieties24 cucumber plants (trellised)4 of each cabbage…6 collard greens…6 broccoli (plus 6 to be planted).  This year I didn’t plant two of my standards, yellow squash and zucchini, as well as a host of peppers (long/short cayenne, ancho/poblano, hot/sweet banana).  I also skipped on the tomatillos.  I guess the several containers of frozen Salsa Verde in my freezer should serve as a reminder of what I should not grow in the immediate future. 

Maybe I am slightly disaffected because there have not been the usual challenges as per seasons before.  I used to get so much fun looking out my office window, keeping watch on the squirrel population as they devastated my garden.  My BB gun has been in the closet now for two years.  Or the times when 50 to 100 birds, black ones with black beaks and iridescent chests, would land in my yard and walk from one side to the other eating and destroying (breaking) everything in their path.  They got a lot of insects but there was a toll to pay.  They would use the garden as a giant dust bath, just flipping and flapping…sometimes fighting around the garden.  Breaking whatever they could…collateral damage, right?  Of course there were the rabbits…my hip-hop friends that nibbled exclusively on young, tender shoots.  All of this has stopped.  Stopped virtually completely!  And I think I know why…my inflatable snakes.  The inflatable snakes from last year.  I haven’t had to put them out this year because no animal…bird or rodent…has come into my yard.  They stopped coming in last year and with the exception of one rabbit and one squirrel hopping quickly across the yard I have not see any pest/varmint in my garden this year.  Maybe they think that the snakes are still out there somewhere…lol.  I do miss the birds, especially the wide variety I did see, but I don’t miss the rest of them that’s for sure.

I ultimately think that I am slowed more than just a little because of the unpredictability of the weather, here and across the nation.  Last year, we were experiencing extreme heat and violent outbursts of weather.  A combination that was not conducive to high output at any level.  This year, with the somewhat mild winter, we were hit by a spring that was somewhat reminiscent of past springs (not as moderate as last year) and a summer that to me was kind of slow to take off.  Last year we had the heat and this year, so far, we’ve got rain…Rain…RAIN and plenty of it.  We have had more than enough rain.  Last year from June 1 through July 30, I hand watered each and every plant on almost an every other day basis.  Because of the heat, unfortunately I over-watered.  So far, this year, I have physically watered my garden only 3 times.  Imagine that…only 3 times (and one of those times it rained afterward).  Between June 1st and July 21st, 61 days…it has rained 29 times!  That’s almost every other day!  Perhaps, I and many others are feeling like we have no control…no control of the weather (how much rain can be too much rain)…no control over the care of the vegetables…no control of the overall outcomes.  All we can do is plants them…put them in that damn ground and nurture them to health and productivity.

Is this what our forefather’s faced?  The Scott’s brand or Miiracle-Gro didn’t exist!  Technology for them was a well that was not more than 10 steps from the garden.  Man, Woman, child, family and friends against the elements.  You didn’t get fancy or waste a space with something that wasn’t going to come close to expectations or needs.  It was about land management.  You had to seasonally rotate and manage crops so that you could eat all year.  Frigidaire?  What was that?  Kenmore?  Come On!  You better get your crops down into that “root cellar”[7] and let them set for keepin’!  Back then, you gardened/farmed with an ongoing desperation and frustration, so maybe that’s what I am feeling now.  As much as I would like to have it, that magically charged green thumb, it’s not going to happen.  I will have to adjust, think smart and adapt to whatever the elements and the environment give me. It looks like in several ways this year will be as good as last year and better too in specific areas.  My bean production should be up, while I am sure my tomato output will be down.  I will take a good bean yield any day! My cabbages are off to a slow start but the collard greens are doing quite rightly so.  Hot banana peppers are looking good and plentiful, jalapeno peppers are at standard and bell pepper plants are flowering.  I will have a good yield from my cucumbers; the plants right now look vigorous and strong.  I will need 101 different ways to prepare this vegetable if they hold to form. 

2013 photo 1

Cucumbers and plum tomatoes

2013 photo 3

All my little bean soldiers standing in a row!

2013 photo 4

2013 photo 5

A row of carrots planted between two rows of garlic

2013 photo 7

2013 photo 8

2013 photo 9

All of the garden scaffolding…can’t wait till the tomato plants fill them out.

2013 photo 10

These pictures were actually taken about 3 weeks ago and a lot has happened since they were taken.  I’ve got beans on the plants and tomato development and growth is improving.  Fall crops will get in next week.  I have come to like this garden.  It’s different…it’s practical…it’s creative.  Like most experienced gardeners and farmers, I will learn from this year, put it in my toolkit, and get ready for 2014.

World’s Turning…Keep Growing Detroit

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If you are as behind on somethings as I am, then you might not have heard about the changes that have taken place within the Detroit Agriculture program/organization aka The Greening of Detroit.  The 2013 Garden Resource Program is now being coordinated and directed by a new group, Keep Growing Detroit (KGD).  The good thing is that KGD is made up of most of the same people we were working when it was called the Garden Resource Program (GRP).  Yes, Lindsay, Eitan and “Tee” (Tepfirah) are still around but it looks like there are several new faces that are mixed with the old.

Why the change?  I really can’t say.  It is hard to ignore how political urban gardening has become so maybe this was brought about because there was a need to have one group focus solely on the political issues while the second focused exclusively on gardening.  I would have to say that out of the gate the KGD is doing a fine job.  There are a few things that are not the same but those I believe are cosmetic issues and it won’t be too long before they find their stride again, internally and externally.

I don’t make it habit to do financial appeals on my site but in this case I will make an exception.  If you are looking for a worthy non-profit to donate to, become a member of the Keep Growing Detroit organization.  You do not have to live in Detroit to be involved in their efforts to support urban gardening.  All it takes is a $10 donation.  If you would like to give more I am sure that they would accept it.  They are a great group of dedicated people that work real hard to improve the resources and lives of Detroiter’s, young and old.

The Garden Resource Program coordinated by Keep Growing Detroit, supports over 1,400 gardens and farms across our community and is made possible through the collaboration of hundreds of community-based organizations and residents.  And, though, you may support some of their collaborators and support organizations, there is nothing wrong with contributing directly to this group.  All it takes is a phone call to (313) 757-2635 or email to:  Your donation may make it possible for them to continue their seed/crop distribution program, field trips, horticultural/agriculture education series, Grown in Detroit, while they continue to provide garden-related resources and materials to their members throughout the city.

Keep Growing Detroit is one of the few programs where you can actually see your dollars of support hard at work.  It is hard to drive anywhere in Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park and find a garden (school, community or family) that has not benefited from having an association with the program.  They have my support…can you give them yours?

Please send your checks to…

Keep Growing Detroit 76 E. Forest Ave.  Detroit, MI 48201

Keep up the good work, folks!


A Photo Tribute of my son, Brad Custer

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Due to the tremendous response to my post, “Literary Find:  A Heart Torn, A Soul Mended: A Bereaved Parent’s Search for Harmony,” I asked the book’s author Ms. Tricia Wolfe what could we do as a follow-up to the interview.  With the anniversary of her son’s death nearing, we both thought it would be a great idea to do a photostory tribute to Brad.  It is very obvious that she loved her son very much!


A Photo Tribute of my son, Brad Custer

Born: February 4, 1974

Died: March 23, 2003



Baby Brad!

Baby Brad!

I heard his first heartbeat…held him and looked into his eyes…I relive the wonder and special meaning of that day every year!

With Grandma Johanna, brother and mom in Grandma's backyard.

With Grandma Johanna, brother and mom in Grandma’s backyard.

Grandma Johanna hosted an annual corn roast Labor Day each year at her home.  We all thrived on those family gatherings.

Again with Grandma Johanna, brother and mom, at the RenCen

Again with Grandma Johanna, brother and mom, at the RenCen (Detroit)

She always glowed when surrounded by her grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Jammin' with giant Tinker Toys in our basement playroom, four years old.

Jammin’ with giant Tinker Toys in our basement playroom, four years old.

He had a way of bringing special moments to our days… a delightful child, full of joy and wonder.

Standing at the foot of the Rockies with me and his brother, age 3.

Standing at the foot of the Rockies with me and his brother, age 3.

“Go Rest High On that Mountain” Son, your work on earth is done.”

A close up of us three.

A close up of us three.

 A proud momma with her two sons. 

Vacation photo at a working pilgrim farm in New England.

Vacation shot at a working pilgrim farm in Massachusetts with mom and brother.

Brad added a touch of fun and wonder to every family vacation we took.

Brad was sort of a St. Francis type of guy as he loved animals and had many pets. Here he is holding our albino runaway dog, "Duchess".

Brad was sort of a St. Francis type of guy as he loved animals and had many pets. Here he is holding our albino runaway dog, “Duchess”.

His was a quiet love, strong, yet gentle…he communicated straight from the heart

A handsome pre-teen in middle school.

A handsome pre-teen in middle school.

Through every stage and through every age he was beloved by all who knew him.

Sophomore at Northville High School

Sophomore at Northville High School

As Brad moved out of boyhood into manhood, his sense of wonder and joy grew into an aura of self-discovery and a concern and compassion for others.

Dressed up and happy, ready for the Senior Prom!

Dressed up and happy, ready for the Senior Prom!

Brad was the kinda guy who could connect with anyone, anywhere: dressed up or in jeans, his personality touched many. 


Proud to be the "Best Man" at his brother's wedding (1997).

Proud to be the “Best Man” at his brother’s wedding (1997).

A special boy who became a special man!


Brad and brother Scott

Brad and brother Scott

They were the greatest gifts to each other!

One of the last photos of Brad, watching a California sunset (2000).

One of the last photos of Brad, watching a California sunset (2000).

As he grew into manhood, he filled my heart with pride…So many mountains he climbed!

Memories of Yesterday…Fill a mom’s heart…With love always

The Other Side of the Plate — The Meat!

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Labeling for products that meet the USDA-NOP s...

Labeling for products that meet the USDA-NOP standards (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Regular readers of this blog have experienced my thoughts, as well as others, on food (primarily vegetables) and nutrition.  So, today, after hearing about so many stories about “mystery meat” or “pink slime”, I thought I would help the meat industry by pointing out that all meat ain’t all bad!  Just like everything else we consume we have to continually be on the watch as for how our food is handled and prepared.

Because I am not so smart that I am an expert on everything I went online to WebMD and found a great article that was packed with a few things I needed to know.  You know how it is, you are at the supermarket in the meat department and you’ve got several choices to buy for your dinner.  The label on the chicken breast package says “Natural”, so do you think that it never had plastic surgery?  What does “Certified Organic” mean in the beef section?  Is it the same certification that is used in the produce department?  So, thanks again to WebMD we will all be able to make the smart choices when buying meet.

Grass-Fed and –Finished (beef, lamb, bison)

Grass-fed animals eat nothing but their mother’s milk, fresh grass and cut hay for their entire lives versus animals raised conventionally, which graze until they reach a certain weight, then are sent to feedlots, where they are “finished” on grain diets until they reach market size.

Health BenefitsSome research suggests that grass-fed meats are richer in omega-3 fats and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than those raised on grains.

Eco-benefits:  Grass-fed-meat farms voluntarily certified by the American Grassfed Association ( do not use antibiotics (which can end up in water systems) or grains (which require land to grow them and fuel to transport)

Is it regulated?  A definition of “grass-fed” proposed by the USDA is still in a comment period.  Many, including the AGA, consider the USDA’s proposed definition too lax as it allows for hormone and antibiotic use and some grain feeding.

Keep in mind:  “Partially grain-fed” means cattle are grain-finished.  Not all grass-fed beef is organic.

Certified Organic (beef, pork, lamb, bison, poultry)

Organic standards prohibit all use of antibiotics and hormones.  (Hormone use in poultry and pork production—even conventional—has been banned since 1959.)  All food is vegetarian and certified organic—including pastureland—which means that it is not treated with pesticides or herbicides and cannot be genetically modified.  Animals have access to pastureland, sunlight and enough land for exercise, and grazing is done in a manner that does not degrade the land through erosion or contamination.  Animal cloning is forbidden.

Health benefits:  Since USDA-certified organic labeling requires that animals be traced from birth to slaughter (including feed sources and medications), problems related to animal diseases and human food borne illness can easily be traced to the source.

Eco-benefits:  Organic Standards ban the use of antibiotics and growth hormones, which leach into groundwater and ultimately end up in public water supplies.

Is it regulated?  The USDA regulates the Certified Organic standard and independent agencies that conduct farm inspections.

Keep in mind:  Organic doesn’t necessarily mean grass-fed, however certified organic livestock generally graze on open-range land three to six months longer than conventionally raised livestock to reach market size.

Certified Humane (beef, pork, lamb, poultry)

This label guarantees that animals have freedom to move and prohibits crates and tie-downs in stalls, as well as, artificial means to induce growth, such as continuous barn lights for broiler chickens.

Eco-benefits:  Certified Humane prohibits the use of antibiotics and growth hormones, two factors in groundwater pollution.

Is it regulated?  Yes.  Certified Humane standards are endorsed by several animal-rights organizations, including the ASPCA and the Humane Society.  Producers are audited by third-party groups.

Keep in mind:  This label does not mean animals are certified organic.

Natural (beef, pork, lamb, poultry)

No additives or preservatives were introduced after the meat or poultry was processed.  (Certain sodium-based broths can be added to poultry and pork and be labeled “natural.”)  This term does not ensure organic feed.  The term “natural” is often confused with “naturally raised,” a term proposed by the USDA that would mean the animals were not given antibiotics and/or growth hormones.

Health benefits:  natural meats have no nitrites or nitrates, preservatives that have been linked in some children and women to various types of cancer.

Eco-benefits:  “Natural” has no substantial environmental benefit.

Is it regulated?  It is a term defined by the USDA but not regulated

Keep in mind:  “Natural” alone says nothing about how an animal was raised.

Most consumers—including myself—don’t have as many options when buying produce or meat.  Urban supermarkets focus strictly on what is selling or what the community buys as a whole.  The shelves are not loaded with esoteric items like pine nuts or artichokes and as for the meats; your best hope is that it is fresh and safe.  But as the urban culture changes and their tastes expand, it can’t be too far off that we will find ourselves having to make the choices that are presented here.  So continue to read the labels so that you will make wise choices on what you are eating and feeding your family…Bon Appetit!

Black History Month: “The Deuce” Oscar Hammerstein II


Richard Rodgers, Irving Berlin, Oscar Hammerst...

Oscar Hammerstein II ( Wikipedia)

(July 12, 1895 – August 23, 1960)

Believe it or not today’s article is about a non-black man.  A man that I sincerely believe understood the mindset and the tragic conditions of black men and women in the past and the current times until his death in 1960. It wasn’t until a recent show about his life on PBS that led me to this conclusion.  In a minute, I will tell you why I came to this belief, but before I go any further, I should tell you the name of whom I am talking about…Oscar Hammerstein II.

Oscar Hammerstein II was the product of the entertainment industry.  His grandfather, who he was named after, was a respected vaudevillian that owned the Village Theatre in New York City.  His father managed the theatre and according to sources, was opposed to his son’s desire to participate in the arts.  It was not until he died that young Oscar participated in his first play, a college variety show called On Your Way.  Ultimately, Oscar had a very celebrated career, winning awards eight Tony Awards and two Academy Awards for Best Original Song.  Many of his songs have become standard repertoire for singers and jazz musicians through the years.  He co-wrote 850 songs.  Hammerstein was the lyricist and playwright in his musical partnerships; his collaborators wrote the music.  He collaborated with composers Jerome Kern, Vincent Youmans, Rudolf Frinl, Richard A. Whiting and Sigmund Romberg; but his most famous collaboration by far, was with Richard Rodgers(A list of some of his most noteworthy work/songs can be found below.)

So what did he do that makes him worthy of my modest black history acknowledgement? Two of his works, to me, strengthen my position.  The first is Showboat, a musical that I initially saw as a film, first in black and white that featured the great Paul Robeson as “Joe” and a second time a 1951 production that was filmed in color and in “Cinemascope” that featured William Warfield also as “Joe”.   The casting of Ava Gardner in the latter film was really an insult, I’ve never had much respect for her as an actor and in this case, she was definitely miscast.  The second work that I think makes him a noteworthy individual was his production of “Carmen Jones”, an adaptation of Georges Bizet’s opera Carmen, that had an all-black cast that initially was a Broadway musical in 1943 and a film in 1954.  The film starred Dorothy Dandridge and Harry BelafonteOtto Preminger, whom Dandridge had an affair with for nearly 4 years, also directed it.  A third musical, South Pacific also dealt with racial issues.

Hammerstein was one of the more tough-minded and socially conscious American musical theater artists and it definitely shows as he delved deeply into the black culture in these two pieces of work.  He did not run from the racial prejudices of his time.  Showboat’s bold underlying plot was about miscegenation…interracial relationships and marriages. At the time, many states, if not most in the U.S., had laws preventing it.  He didn’t mince words either…his plays, especially this one, used the words of the day.  Negroes were “Nigga’s” and “boys” and “mammies”.  In today’s politically correct times, the use of those words, even in the context of the times, are intolerable to some.

True story:  I saw the revival production of Showboat twice, the first time in Toronto (more about that experience will come later) and the second time at the Masonic Temple in Detroit.  For the Detroit performance, I took a black friend who was so incensed and offended by the words and terms that were used in the play, we had to leave and we were only 20 minutes into the performance.  Every time a white performer used the “N-word” she winced.  She ultimately chastised me for bringing her to the performance, dinner was cancelled and any romantic notion that I might have had as far as she was concerned was over…stick a fork in…it was done (forevvvvver)!  She couldn’t understand why I wasn’t offended too.  At $100 per ticket it would have taken a lot to have offended me and anyway I wasn’t responsible for the words, it wasn’t like I could change them.  To be truthful, why would I?  The play was a story about the south in the 1800’s, the time of showboats, and racial epithets were used all of the time.  If it happened in “polite” society, would you…could you expect it to be any different on the docks.  It represented the reality of those times, not that you had to like it…and I tend to think that he wanted you to hate it, because he didn’t like it either.  Some say that when you look at the overall body of his work, Oscar was a softy, a sentimentalist.  I move that he had to be that to grace his characters with the dignity and genuine humility that they portrayed.  I can guarantee that the actors that performed his words…sang/spoke the lines he wrote, were just as proud to be his vessels, as the, many of us were that heard them.

Another true story…January 1994, I went to Toronto, with a very special lady I was seeing at the time, to see the first run of Showboat at The North York Performing Arts Centre.  This was the first time I saw it.  The second time was the ill-fated occasion at the Masonic Temple.  With regards to the performance, the setting…the staging was far better than what I subsequently saw back home in Detroit, plus it had our hometown star, Lonette McKee.  The stage was HUGE! It made good use of the technology of the times…lighting, set design, for a while it was the best set I had ever seen (I loved Les Mis too) and the most dynamic.  Anyway, my girlfriend and I had great seats.  We were first row, just slightly off center…it was such an unexpected surprise that we sat so close.  When I got home I sent a card to thank my travel agent.

So, anyway, the lights go down and the show begins with a couple of songs.  Finally, they get to Old Man River.  The character “Joe”, played marvelously by Michel Bell, comes on stage looking right at me, smiles, and goes into the song.  It was fabulous!!!  The next song was Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man, a group performance that included Joe, Lonette MeKee’s character “Julie” and Joe’s wife “Queenie”, who was played by Gretha Boston.  One by one whenever a black performer came on stage they looked at me, smiled and sung each song as if they were performing for me.  I got chills from Gretha’s “Mis’ry’s Comin’ Aroun”.  It wasn’t my birthday and I must admit that I felt a little self-conscious.  I wondered if anybody else had noticed or was I just dreaming.  At the end of the show, m’lady asked how did it feel to have a private performance of the musical.  I confessed that I loved it immensely, surprised that she noticed it too, and was very happy that I hadn’t imagined it all.  When we stood to leave we turned to see that I was the only black person in the audience.  They were performing for me (and of course, my girl as she was sitting next to me)!  How COOL was that?

The revival of Hammerstein and Kern’s adaptation of the Edna Farber book was a tremendous success.  Like Mark Twain’s work I hope that his or Ms. Farber’s efforts survive the politically correct censors that walk the streets today.  PC cannot or should not be retrofitted on classic works…of literature, art or performance.  Oscar Hammerstein was not just one of a kind.  There are many like him…that have a sensibility about the characters and situations that they write about. He reminds me of Mark Twain, another fantastic storyteller.  I hope there will be no attempt to “sanitize” his words, as they were trying at one time to Twain’s work.

Oscar Hammerstein II was and remains a transformative figure in the history of Broadway and musical history.  His honest use of dialect and language makes for some “powerful” playmaking and his legacy shall live on forever!

Play List


  • Ol’ Man River
  • Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man
  • Make Believe
  • Mis’ry’s Comin’ Aroun’


  • Oklahoma
  • People Will Say We’re Falling In Love
  • Oh, What A Beautiful Morning
  • The Surrey With The Fringe On Top


  • You’ll Never Walk Alone
  • If I Loved You
  • June Is Bustin’ Out All Over

South Pacific

  • Some Enchanted Evening
  • Bali Hai
  • You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught
  • I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair

King & I

  • Getting To Know You
  • Shall We Dance
  • Something Wonderful!
  • Whistle A Happy Tune

Sound of Music

  • Sound of Music
  • Climb Every Mountain
  • Do-Re-Mi
  • Edelweiss

Lady In Red

  • The Last Time I Saw Paris

State Fair

  • It Might As Well Be Spring

Source: Wikipedia

Literary Find: “A Heart Torn, A Soul Mended: A Bereaved Parent’s Search for Harmony”


a heart torn cover 1

“A Heart Torn, A Soul Mended: A Bereaved Parent’s Search for Harmony is the title of a book written by a woman, Tricia Wolfe, whose life has been transformed by tragedy.  She was, before she wrote the book, a vivacious woman, a healthy, happy working mother of three boys (young men)…who was happily married to a successful lawyer. Tragically, one of her sons was killed in an incident with the Holly, Michigan police.  All young adults deal with problems, but Tricia’s son Brad, faced many exceptional obstacles.  He had been described, in what I thought was brutally honest way, as being bi-polar with psychotic tendencies.



This book is not a treatise as to how one should deal with a child with mental health problems.  I like to think of it as a primer that may help people, family and friends who are suffering from a tragic loss, like the Newtown, Connecticut disaster that took so many lives.  How do people handle the devastation?  How do they console the grieving family(s)?  Too many times, we are at a loss…we don’t know what to say and we don’t know when or how to say what is needed to be said.  Too many times we say nothing or do nothing because we initially don’t know what the immediate family is going through.  I think that this book tries to help.  Brad’s unexpected death at the hands of the Holly police, made the lives of all that knew and loved him, more complicated. Writing the book was one-way Tricia worked through the trauma of her son’s death and the impact his death had on her life.  Our author has been there and as she worked through her loss, she gathered some wisdom along the way that she is now prepared to share with us.

Writing “A Heart Torn, A Soul Mended: A Bereaved Parent’s Search for Harmony,” was one-way Tricia worked through the trauma of her son’s death and the impact his death had on her life. The book is available in paperback and eBook through or can be purchased from her website:  I would like to thank her for taking the time to talk with me.

Tricia  Wolfe

Tricia Wolfe

First, I would like to extend my condolences to you and your family over the death of your son, Brad.

TW:     Thank you, Arthur. I always appreciate when my son’s death is acknowledged: when his death is affirmed, so too is his life. Us bereaved parents like to know our children did indeed live at one time.

Brad at play!

Brad at play!

Your web page describes you as a happily married mother of three who had a successful career as a physical therapist.  How can you be described today?

TW:     Today I am a part time physical therapist who works in home health care; I am a divorced mom parenting my son Scott, who is a senior in high school.  In the book, I tell some of Scott’s story, as he is my adopted son as well as my great nephew.

I am also an energetic woman who is passionate about dance and I am an author who is seeking a way to cast my message into the world.

How much of this would you attribute to the loss of your son, Brad?

TW:     All of it!

It is not unusual that a traumatic loss will cause a person to take a second or third look at their life and subsequent lead them to make changes.  Is that how you feel?

What about your faith?  Still a practicing Catholic?

TW:     I definitely believe that a traumatic loss triggers individuals to reexamine life itself, which can lead to change. Most certainly, Brad’s death has been the catalyst for extreme changes in my own life.

Ahhh, my faith?  In the book, I describe my journey through various faiths, as I have been a very dedicated and practicing Methodist, charismatic Christian, Presbyterian and Catholic.

I have always possessed a strong awareness and connection to my spiritual energy, no matter what denomination I’ve been a part of.  Today my faith can best be described as new age, not a faith that can be found in buildings or in dogmas.  I believe that God exists in all of us, that we are all in, of and through God. And yes, even the Holly, police and gunman Adam Lanza, the shooter in Newton, Connecticut, are of God. Tragically, however, we humans often block off our connection to God. The results of blocking this connection to God may be a minor blip in our day… or may end in horrific deaths.

Having visited your web page, it is painfully obvious how much you loved your son…all of your sons.  Was it difficult to raise Brad, especially because of his being Bi-polar?  Were there any specific challenges?

TW:     From the moment Brad was born until he sustained the knife injury, which nearly severed his hand that I describe in the book, he was the most pleasant, congenial, fun and easiest of my sons to raise.

After that injury, he became withdrawn, less social, less connected.

Again, as I describe in the book, his bipolar did not manifest until he was a senior in high school.  From that point on, three lives became a roller coaster ride: his dad’s, mine and Brad’s lives were challenged daily. We were constantly searching and helping Brad to find balance and harmony.

Young Brad

Young Brad

What was the first sign of his being bi-polar?  When did drugs (marijuana) enter his life, was it during the time he became withdrawn?

TW:     I think the bipolar first became evident when he was a teenager, a junior in high school, when his dad and I referred him to the first psychologist.  Marijuana first entered his life the summer he was recovering from his hand injury, when he was in middle school.  His brother, who is four years older, was using and told me that Brad said, “Hey, I want to try some of that stuff.”

How did you and your family, particularly your husband, handle this period?

TW:     In as non-judgmental way as possible, I describe our reactions during that time in my book.  In retrospect, I would say I always had this nagging feeling that something was wrong, but was constantly being told things were fine.  Brad’s Dad tended to deny and dismiss the issues.  Once his dad was on board, though, his energies and efforts to help our son were tenacious and effective.

I have a friend, who is ADD and he says that marijuana helps to slow the world down for him and he can handle things better.  Do you think that your son may have been self-medicating by smoking?

TW:     Absolutely.  I refer to this in my book.  Many individuals with mental illnesses gravitate to “street drugs” to quiet the turmoil in their head.  Your friend has stated his dilemma well.  

 I know that most of this is in your book and it is deeply personal, but please tell my readers what were the circumstances that killed your son?

TW:     The tragedy of Brad’s death is a story that has been told in many other unnecessary deaths. The genre is victims of police abuse. The time and place and specifics of the innocents are different, but the theme of unnecessary police force, of arrogant policemen and women who are rarely held accountable for their misdeeds, remains the same.


Rodney King was an African-American construction worker who became nationally known after being beaten with excessive force by Los Angeles police officers on March 3, 1991. Wikipedia


Detroit police officers shot and killed a deaf and mute man whom they say was “menacing” them with a garden rake. Relatives and neighbors who witnessed the shooting of 39-year-old Errol Shaw Sr. said police ignored their shouts that the man could not hear or speak and their pleas not to shoot him. The fatal shooting is the latest for the Detroit Police Department, which leads the US in police killings. 31 August 2000


Brad was the victim of police negligence in Holly, MI on March 23, 2003.  The cause of death was positional asphyxiation which means the policeman threw him prone onto the ground and kneed him so he could cuff him.  My son was unable to breathe.  I have no idea at what point he was obviously choking, but apparently the police officers there chose to ignore his obvious signs of respiratory distress.

Three months later, a 16 year old was shot execution style in his own home by zealous officials of the Oakland County Sheriff’s department, the same authoritative body who planned to investigate the killing of my son.  Sort of like sending the fox to guard the hen house, don’t you think?

HIGHLAND TWP. – The shots rang out, one after another, so fast, so angry on June 22, 2003.  Only a few minutes before, two Oakland County Sheriff’s Office deputies had been chatting, pausing to ask the 16-year-old boy downstairs, listening to rap CDs, to come to the stairs.
He did and was shot at 18 times – struck by 10 bullets. One of the deputies even reloaded his weapon.
No one disputes these facts. But why the two deputies shot and killed 16-year-old Christopher Drypen remains a mystery, buried with the boy and locked in the hearts of the men who pulled the triggers.
Oakland County Press


A 7-year-old Detroit girl sleeping on a couch was shot and killed early Sunday, May 16, 2010 after a Detroit police officer’s weapon went off while he was searching for a homicide suspect, police said.  Assistant Police Chief Ralph Godbee said that Aiyana Jones was hit in the neck by a bullet and died at a hospital.   “This is any parent’s worst nightmare.  It also is any police officer’s worst nightmare,” Godbee said.  The officer involved is on paid leave pending the investigation, Godbee said.

On Sunday morning, she was asleep on the couch in her family’s home when Detroit police, searching for a homicide suspect, burst in and an officer’s gun went off, fatally striking the girl in the neck, family members said.  Her father, 25-year-old Charles Jones, told The Detroit News he had gone to bed early Sunday after covering his daughter with her favorite blanket when he heard a flash grenade followed by a gunshot. When he rushed into the living room, he said, police forced him to lie on the ground, with his face in his daughter’s blood.

“I’ll never be the same. That’s my only daughter,” Jones told WXYZ-TV.


And at what point did you decide to write a book about it?

TW:     My “writing career” began with sending email letters to Brad after he died.  I’d cry out my heart to him in these emails and then hit “Send.” I had this absolute knowing that he read my messages, that he could read what was on my heart.  And that knowing feeling that I was still connected to my son was like a breath of fresh air from my grief.

The decision to actually write a book came about as I emerged from my self -imposed cocoon after Brad’s death. Thanks to the friendship of a Steven minister, I began attending book clubs and thought, “I need to write a book so people will open up and talk about the untellable: what it feels like to be a mom whose child has died.”

Trish walking along the shore...

Trish walking along the shore…

Do you still miss your son?  In what way?

TW:     Yes. Until our spirits reunite in the next life, I will always miss him. There is a hole in my heart.  Does an amputee always miss a leg that has been severed from their body? This is the way I miss my son.

Brad at sunset

Brad at sunset

I have watched the video interviews on your site that you have posted,; have most of the readers you have found, reacted along the same lines as the people shown in the videos?

TW:     Well, the first video is of a man who did not know me when Brad was alive and yes, I would say that people who read the book “cold” have told me they cannot put it down.  They want to savor each chapter and many have asked me if I’ve written any other books or plan to write more.

The second video is of a beautiful young woman with cerebral palsy, whom I treated as a child.  Her reaction is similar to others who knew me when I was a “happily married mom”.  She had no idea how much pain I was experiencing, and wished she could have been there to support me.

Happier times...

Happier times…

Were you looking for or expecting that reaction?

TW:     No … and no.  I wrote the book because I believe we are a world devoid of compassion. We are a world that does not know what to do when a friend or family member is experiencing grief. I sought a reaction of pain, which would hopefully trigger empathy and a sense of compassion in the hearts of the non-bereaved.

Mostly, I hope for a reaction of deep sadness coupled with a sense of hope and humor.

How does that make you feel?

TW:     Intrigued and affirmed by readers who want to read more. Glad if I have been an inspiration.  And touched by readers who knew me before Brad died and tell me they wish they could have done more for me.

This is a difficult question, but did it impact your marriage or were changes underfoot anyway?

TW:     My book did not impact my marriage or the subsequent divorce.  Brad’s dad has still not read the book, nor did he read any of it while I was writing it during the marriage.  Brad’s death gave me the courage to divorce his dad.

Why do you think he hasn’t read the book?

TW:     I think it is too painful for him.

So, understanding the fact that everybody had to deal with the loss in their own, personal way, was the book therapeutic for them also?

TW:     No, my book was not therapeutic for my family…

Your bio says that you were raised in Ohio, that you went to the University of Michigan and subsequently you taught at Oakland University.  Did your scholastic and professional experiences have anything to do with your living in Michigan now?

TW:     As I talk about in my book, Ford Motor Company brought me and my spouse, who was employed by Ford, to Michigan.

Where are you mentally and spiritually now?

TW:     Mentally I like to think I’m as alert as I always have been.  Both the aging process and Brad’s death cause me to pause more, to think before I speak. 

Spiritually, I’m in a very different place than I used to be. As I write about it in “A Heart Torn”, I’m spiritual now, but not religious.

Sounds like a good place.  Any new goals?

TW:     I am like most folks; when the new year arrives, I set new goals.  This year for the first time, I attended a “Burning Bowl” ceremony on New Year’s Eve.  What I came to appreciate in this ceremony is it is equally important to throw out the old, to get rid of useless baggage that is weighing us down.  I discovered that some wounds and relationships and journeys from the past, needed to be burned in that bowl, freeing me up to more fully engage in my goals.  One goal is that of promoting the message in my book: I would like anyone who knows a friend or family member whose child died, or has mental illness, to read my book. Oftentimes, friends and family feel powerless, even fearful, of knowing what to do or say to the bereaved parent.  For example, now that the media dust has settled somewhat after the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting in Connecticut, those parents may be emerging from the initial phase of shock and numbness in their grief journey.  As a result, the sharpness of their pain is more acute now.  It is my hope that the non-bereaved folks who care about the parents whose children died, will become knowledgeable about grief, will become aware that their support and compassion are even more important now, and in the days ahead, than ever before. 

Great! I hope that you achieve all that you set out to do and more!

TW:     Thank you, Arthur.  I so appreciate your diligence and persistence in enabling me to step forward with this interview and with helping me to bring my message out of the closet and into the eyes and ears of the public.



As mentioned, “A Heart Torn, A Soul Mended: A Bereaved Parent’s Search for Harmony” can be found on or at  It costs $9.98 plus shipping and handling.

a heart torn (853x1280) (2) cover


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