Lessons from Croup and Captain Hook

Four-year-old Jackson sounded like a seal barking as he called from his bedroom one wintery Sunday afternoon. I’d put him down for a nap an hour earlier and hoped sleep would curtail his cough. He was frightened and struggling to breathe. A call to our doctor: “hang up and dial 911.” The ambulance arrived in no time, and medics whisked Continue reading

Three Steps to Spark Story Sharing in Lifestyle Counseling

Early in my career as a dietitian, I answered a panicky phone call from a participant in my weight loss program. Pat (not her real name) said, “Jean, I have a problem and really need to talk to you.” She had been a “perfect” participant: never missed class, her food diaries and exercise log showed stellar compliance, and her weight loss Continue reading

A “Super Senior” Decision Led to Her Dream Job

Something about my daughter’s text, “When are you getting home?” alarmed me as I was getting off the plane on a beautiful summer evening in late August 2013. I suppressed my “mother instinct” to worry as I drove home and joined my husband on our patio. About 20 minutes later, Abby came out and asked if we could both talk. Continue reading

Manny Opens Our Eyes to the Reality of Child Hunger

It was 1984 and school breakfast programs were just starting in Iowa. As a new dietitian with the Midwest Dairy Council, I was sent out to experience a school breakfast program in Muscatine, Iowa. Taking my assignment seriously, I showed up at 7:00 a.m., dressed in my best business suit. When I walked into the kitchen to greet the staff, Continue reading

Life on a North Dakota Ranch Shows Us How Farmers Care

On a cold, snowy night in late March on the North Dakota plains, I was 4 years old, and knew this was a special time of the year on the ranch. As my mom tucked me into bed, I asked, “Where’s Daddy?” Gently settling my covers, she answered, “He’s outside checking on the cattle to make sure they are safe Continue reading

Change is Not a Light Switch: The Grief in New Year’s Resolutions

Bernie joined the Cardiac Rehab program where I interned in grad school. He was angry and resistant to the lifestyle changes we promoted. I remember him standing in the back of my nutrition class, making jokes and snide remarks under his breath – he was distracting and made me feel uncomfortable. He sent his wife to represent him at his Continue reading

Family Meal Conundrum: Four Chairs for Five People

Amy, the 17-year-old daughter of someone I know, spent this summer as a nanny for three amazing kids, age five to eleven. She learned to juggle a lot of comings and goings and stay on top of a hectic schedule of events. But in between tennis and golf camps, soccer practice, swim team, and play dates, they hung out, filling Continue reading

Sunday Night Dinner: Rituals That Build a Family Narrative

“I can’t wait until I go to college so I don’t have to sit through Sunday Night Dinner,” our 18-year-old daughter whined — creating tension and drama — as we gathered for our ritual meal around the dining room table, set with linens and lit with candles. Six months later on her first weekend home from college, she said, “Josh Continue reading

When Opportunity is Disguised as Loss

A year ago today, I was laid off from General Mills in a major corporate restructuring. My first reaction was relief – to be free from a job that no longer energized me – and excitement – for the chance to pursue a dream I’d been imagining. Arriving home that first night, I tossed aside my severance packet, sat on Continue reading

The School Fitness Debate: Carrot, Stick, or Neither?

Fitness Carrot or Stick Debate

“Automatic out, Storlie’s up!” my classmates would chant when I’d get up to bat.  As a young girl in the 60s, I was a skinny, klutzy kid no one wanted on their team. Humiliated and defeated, I’d swing my three strikes and, maybe, get walked. I grew up hating PE and sports. As a nutrition major in college, I was Continue reading