Eating Healthy

Posted by: LuAnnin Nebraska-isms

NebraskaismsI agree with newspaper columnist Doug Larson: “Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.”

Typing that sentence while eating a salad for lunch, I find Larson’s quote appropriate. Trust me, raw spinach and chopped romaine, topped with a dab of fat-free ranch dressing, neither smells nor tastes anything like bacon. Or chocolate. Or anything smothered in cheese, for that matter.

Daily, we view a barrage of advertisements boasting the latest food crazes, promoting healthy living and weight loss, quick fixes to gain control of our ever-expanding waistlines.

Did we ever have control?

The International Food Council reports that Gen Y’ers are eating far more healthy than their parents ever did. The study purports that these millennials prefer a more flexitarian diet, believe chickpeas and peanut butter pack a protein punch and encounter more unique and unfamiliar veggies and fruits than mom and dad introduced. They prefer healthy grab ’n go options, so they can dine and dash to their next job interview or spin class.

News flash: the young’uns aren’t the only ones to corner the market on healthy eats.

At our house, meatless Monday is a tradition, much to Scott’s chagrin. Ask him how he feels about quinoa enchilada casserole. We snack on chickpeas, or it’s blended counterpart, hummus, regularly. Peanut butter is a pantry staple and isn’t just for delicious cookies with chocolate stars stuck in the center. And, I’ve exposed the grandchildren to star fruit, pomegranate, Brussel sprouts, kale and acai berries.

The four-year-old grandson asks for baby carrots at breakfast. Win-win situation. Okay, the three-year-old demands cherry cheesecake or cinnamon toast cereal some mornings, but he’s still a work in progress.

Sure, we splurge and dig into comfort foods, like homemade, thick crust, supreme pizza, my famous cheesecake with a gooey layer of caramel apples nestled inside or baked potato soup oozing with cheddary goodness.

And yes, we eat bacon. Real bacon.

We just don’t eat that way every day, and I’m guessing most of you don’t, either.

That’s why the IFC’s report intrigues me. Are they eating healthier foods or has the list of healthy options expanded?

The study reports that millennials have a stronger appreciation of global cuisine, especially Asian foods, than older generations and more often, the younger generation turns to Italian and Mexican cuisine for comfort.

Duh. Who doesn’t want a never-ending pasta bowl when the going gets tough?

Entrenched in a mindset that appears overly obsessed with airbrushed images, the latest fad diets and the need to be wafer-thin, isn’t it a little ironic that the battle of the bulge seems to be winning? That facade of perfection creates false reality, seldom attainable, totally subjective.

I’ll rely on food to provide sustenance and common ground, a form of sharing and identity generating more than a list of nutrients.

And I’ll keep in mind that all good things, like creme brûlée or a slab of lasagna, are okay in moderation.

And so is bacon.

Self-Employed Success

Posted by: LuAnnin Nebraska-isms

Nebraskaisms“Dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you’re willing to pay the price.”

Smart man, Vince Lombardi. Hard work sets us on course, and if we persevere, success – however we define the term individually – results.

That quote makes a lot of sense, especially for those who work hard by taking a dream and building it into something that pays off and pays the bills, too. Yes, I’m referring to individuals who fall into the ranks of the self-employed.

Based on a 2014 study conducted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Rural Poll, an ever-increasing number of Nebraskans are self-employed. The poll indicated that in rural households with at least one individual working, at least 43 percent earned some income via self-employment and about 29 percent of self-employed households earn the majority of their income that way.

If you live near one of the state’s smallest communities, defined as a community with less than 500 persons, the chances of being self-employed increase to 58 percent, compared to 31 percent of households living in close proximity to communities with populations of 10,000 or more.

Of those who are self-employed, 18 percent telecommute, or work online from home.

For the most part, self-employed Nebraskans are happy with their work situation. If offered a job by an employer, 41 percent responded to the poll that they would turn it down.

Being your own boss isn’t a cake walk. Trust me. I began my own freelancing business over 15 years ago, selling articles and creative writing, to supplement my teaching income. By 2003, my business had built a small, but steady, clientele, and I found my own rhythm, juggling school and writing. Then, when I married the farmer, I relied on writing income and expanded my business and brand.

It didn’t happen overnight. I spent half my day researching clients and formulating pitches to fit their needs. The other part of the work day was spent writing, researching and writing more. It took time to network and meet potential clients.

Even when I returned to the classroom on a part-time basis, the income generated from writing outweighed my teacher salary.

Sure, there were those who thought I stayed at home in my pajamas all day and sat in front of a computer, glued to Facebook or aimlessly surfing the web.

Okay, I’ll admit it. The day I interviewed author Claire Cook, I was still wearing pajamas … and occasionally, I’d click the surprise me button on Google and see what inspiration I could find.

Nine times out of ten, though, I was like other self-employed Nebraskans, creating a living by dedicating time and effort, hoping for success and fulfillment.

Like 43 percent of fellow Nebraskans, I found all of that, and more.

Thomas Edison wrote, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

Sometimes, opportunity is dressed in pajamas.

NebraskaismsI have this uncanny ability – my best friend calls it a gift; I call it a curse – to remember things. You know, the little details, the unexplained minutiae of a moment or hour or event. Pick a day; usually, I can supply a laundry list of details about the happenings, right down to the music that was playing in the background.

Yes, music. The soul of the universe. What Plato considered a moral law that “gives wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”

Music. What singer/songwriter Billy Joel considers a healing property, “an explosive expression of humanity” that creates a bond, no matter what culture.

Music. What Jimi Hendrix considered truthful, saying that “If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music.”

It’s time to make a change, then, since music programs are under attack at several school districts across the state. As school boards and administrators consider ways to trim costs, music courses appear to be one of the first programs under scrutiny, facing deep cuts or elimination.

One of the reasons I find correlations between music and an event: I had a rockin’ elementary music teacher who not only taught us popular music, but she explained the backstory of the song and artist. Mrs. Norman created a bridge between real-world experiences and “Top 40” of the time. We students probably knew more about Jim Croce, BTO and Led Zeppelin than elementary kids in the late 60s and early 70s should have, but her enthusiasm spilled over and we sang with gusto, our squeaky voices echoing down the hallway.

It sure beat junior high music where we learned music from a yellow paperback book and took a weekly quiz. The difference now was the dip into music history, Beethoven and Bach to the Glenn Miller Orchestra. Ah, I see what you did there, Mr. Bailey. You took a different route, but you instilled an appreciation for musical style and broadened your students’ music base.

By high school, band class meant reporting to school before the 8 a.m. bell rang, retrieving my French horn from it’s blue-velvet case and lining up on the street behind the school. We marched up and down that street, practicing turns and corners and walking while playing. Indirectly, Mr. Reinsch taught teamwork and pride, both lessons worth learning.

Selecting where cuts need to be made is not an easy task for a school board. In a time where districts are under pressure to meet ever-expanding state standards, the squeeze on fringe classes considered as extras is in full force. How will the value of a well-rounded education be affected if music is removed, then art, then physical education, then…

Where do you draw the line?

It’s unfortunate since music gives many students a place to fit in, a chance to excel in the arts, a boost to academic performance; bonds with humanity that should not be broken.

The Problem With P

Posted by: LuAnnin Nebraska-isms

NebraskaismsIn one of my favorite speech scripts that my students performed, “First Night” by Jack Neary, a 30-something woman comically confronts the man she fell in love with … when they both were in the eighth grade. In an aside, he informs the audience, “Meredith had ‘P’. It was the one thing I was ever sure of.”

P. Potential.

I always thought it was funny because during the 20 years they were apart, lead man Danny’s original intent of the letter ‘P’ morphed into that other ‘P’ word that many of us use all too often.

P. Perfection.

Maybe it’s a byproduct of oldest child syndrome. Perhaps it’s the way my mind is built. In some aspects, that second ‘p’ word – perfection – is losing its luster.

It’s. About. Time.

Think about it. As a child, you’re taught to color in the lines, paying detail to color choices so the perfect picture is the end product. As a teenager, you’re held to a standard of perfection (and intelligence) when you take a college entrance exam, aiming for the perfect score of 36. As an adult, you’re searching for the perfect outfit (or substitute item of choice) or pushed to find the perfect mate.

We tell ourselves and others that practice makes perfect. When two items are paired, like chocolate and peanut butter, we consider it a perfect match. The other day, a perfect stranger told me they appreciate the personal touch I add to the articles I write. At Christmas, I wanted the food and gifts and family time to be picture perfect. As I watch my parents grow old together, I think they’re the perfect couple. Brad Paisley sings about a woman being a perfect storm.

It’s perfectly clear that by now, you see how much emphasis many of us put on the ‘P’ word. It’s also probable I would not have put much thought into the word, but the other day, a grandson incident gave me pause.

The four-year-old was coloring a picture at preschool shortly before class dismissed. Long story short, he wasn’t finished coloring and this upset him more than it should have. Later, I asked him about the incident. His response: The picture wasn’t perfect since he hadn’t finished.

What does a four-year-old know about perfection? Plenty, it seems.

That whole scene, coupled with a few recent incidents, have made me re-evaluate what it means to be perfect.

It doesn’t exist. Maybe it’s a glitzy ideal developed by marketing gurus who need to come up with the perfect campaign. Think about it. Place a size 0 model on TV and she’s considered the perfect size, but show a curvaceous woman with love handles in the same ad/movie/show and she’s reduced/ridiculed/put down.

That’s the problem with ‘P.’ It’s an elusive dream, an unattainable finish line,we create for ourselves, and when we don’t reach it, a sense of failure sets in.

Instead, maybe it’s smarter to find perfection in simply living and experiencing what’s given, what’s here and real.

Supporting Avery’s Army

Posted by: LuAnnin Nebraska-isms

NebraskaismsIf you missed the post-game press conference following the Nebraska-Illinois mens’ basketball game Sunday evening, you missed one of the best parts.

Seven-year-old Avery Harriman, son of NU assistant basketball coach Chris Harriman, joined Shavon Shields and other Huskers to dish about the ‘W’ over the Illini.

The video went viral and featured a reporter questioning Avery about his favorite play of the game.

“Um, my favorite play of the game was players doing great. They did super awesome on the game tonight. I was so proud of them.”

Shields thanked the youngster for his words, following up with his favorite part, “When I was shooting frees at the end of the game and could hear Avery saying, ‘C’mon, Shavon.’”

“I was cheering for you.”


Also, a miracle of sorts, considering Avery’s journey since last August, when his story, and more importantly, his battle fighting Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia spread across news outlets and social media, after his dad posted a video.

The clip, which has over 477,000 views on YouTube, showed Avery’s response to being told he could go home, following a month of intensive chemotherapy treatments.

He screamed. He jumped for joy on the hospital bed. He kissed his mother and hugged his nurse.

Then, he returned home for a few days. Returned to normalcy, or as normal a routine as possible, before returning to the hospital for a bone marrow biopsy.

Avery’s fight against leukemia began in 2009, amidst March Madness, during the Final Four. He was only two years old at the time. He went into remission until the fall of 2012, when he relapsed. A bone marrow transplant took place.

Another 18 months of cancer-free living.

Then, another relapse. More hospitals. Additional treatments. Prayer after prayer sent soaring above.

Fast forward to September 25, 2014, when a donor from sunny California made a second stem cell donation, and to September 26, when Avery received the cell transplant, the import of life drifting through the 7-year-old body until regrowth sprouted.

Since then, the family has shared the ups and downs of Avery’s battle via social media. Avery’s Army, on Facebook, features a detailed glimpse into Avery’s medical journey, including doctor visits and treatments. It’s an intimate rendering of his continuing struggle to fight leukemia.

On January 9, after a string of biopsies, the Harriman family received the final biopsy result: No evidence of leukemia. An answer to parents’ prayers. A time to rejoice and scream and jump for joy, even on the bed.

It doesn’t surprise me that Husker Nation has adopted the coach’s son, taken up the cause and pushed for research in hopes of a cure. It doesn’t surprise me that a 7-year-old captured our collective heart and portrayed a personal battle in public, increasing awareness and empathy.

And, it doesn’t surprise me that this warrior bravely roughhoused a Goliath, of sorts, and reigned victorious.

That part is, well, super awesome.