As a working parent, a celebration for ‘Working Parents Day’ (I say with sarcastic air quotes) seems like extra work, because I know I’m the one throwing the party or begging my kids to give me a break. Considering so many of us live a working parent’s life every day (more than 60% of U.S. families have working parents or dual earners), I will admit I appreciate the idea that our children should take 24 hours to reflect on all we have sacrificed for them and celebrate it on a day other than the 2nd Sunday in May or the 3rd Sunday in June. (End sarcastic tone… 😊) 

 

When my husband and I started talking about having kids early in our relationship, I knew being a stay-at-home mom was not going to be something that kept me satisfied. Stay-at-home parents are a special kind of person. I absolutely look up to them and admire them, but I knew I didn’t have it in me to be one of them. 

 

Fast forward to our children being born. Heading back to work after 12-weeks of leave was really difficult but it was something I knew I had to do for my own sanity. When we moved from central Illinois to the Minneapolis metro when our youngest was just 6 months old, the cost of living more than doubled and it felt like every kid in my daughter’s preschool class had a mom who stayed home and could volunteer at every teachers request. I struggled with what the expectation was of our community and if we were going to be able to give our children everything they needed while both my husband and I worked all day. 

 

Today, as our girls head back to middle school, I appreciate the fact that I have a success story to share with them, so they know what they are capable of. That you can go from working at a truck-stop diner right out of high school and finally graduating with your bachelor’s when you are 27 years old, to being the Director of Human Resources at a really great company that appreciates the importance of quality time with your family. I get to show them every day what being a successful businesswoman looks like and to the same effect, their father does too, just with his own story to back it up.  

 

In the end, I feel like Working Parent’s Day (minus the sarcastic air quotes this time) is almost more of a day for me to appreciate myself: that I’ve done everything I’ve done to be a positive example for my children. I must preface that by saying stay-at-home parents likely feel the exact same way, and for goodness sakes, they absolutely should feel that way – what they do is a full-time job as well. What it really comes down to is that I’m happy doing what I do every day and I get to share with my girl’s what happiness at work looks like.  

 

If you are like most of us, you will not find happiness and contentment in your first job, or your second job, or your third job, or even your tenth job but you will find it if you keep following your passion and doing what feels good to you. Just keep doing what you believe in, and all that work will pay off in the end. And then, that’s when you get to throw yourself that party or ask for a break.

Your eyes: 2 things you are probably taking for granted, simply assuming they will always be happy and healthy without having to put much effort into maintaining their health. In reality, taking care of your eyes so you are able to see those beautiful great grandbabies of yours when you are in your 80’s does take a little work, but I promise it is worth the effort!

Below are just a few reasons why you should take advantage of that vision insurance you have been paying for and not utilizing:

  1. Suffering from headaches? Ever thought it might be related to eye strain? It’s certainly worth seeing someone so they can help pinpoint the problem (or eliminate that concern).

  2. Grades suffering at school? According to Optometry Times, ‘one out of every four children have vision problems.’ If you are like me, your kids complained about not seeing the white board for months before you took their concerns seriously and realized maybe they weren’t just begging for attention. Make sure your child sees an eye doctor annually so learning or reading difficulties related to eyesight can be recognized/diagnosed early.

  3. Things looking fuzzy? Your eyes are constantly changing and those glasses you have been wearing since high school (20 years ago) may be back in style, but those lenses are in desperate need of an update! Get your eyes checked so you can determine if an update is needed (they’ll probably even set you up with some new lenses to pop into those funky old frames if you are not willing to let go quite yet).horn rim eyeglasses sittin on top of an exam chart forground sharp and background soft

  4. Stop it early! Having an annual eye exam is a great opportunity to have a professional look at the overall health of your eyes, even when you are not showing any symptoms or concern. Optometrists can detect eye diseases early in hopes of preventing serious damage.

  5. Concerns about other common health issues? Having an optometrist peek at your peepers allows them the chance to check for the onset of many other diseases or diagnosis, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Who knew?

If you are a FlexTrades employee, you have access to affordable vision insurance! Be sure to take advantage of your eye exams annually and get those green/brown/blue/hazel beauties the attention they so desperately deserve.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month – a time to really stop and check in with yourself, with the people you love, and with the people you surround yourself with. 

We hear about mental health in the news each and every day. 

  • The negative: shootings, suicides, and bullying. 
  • The positive: simple acts of kindness and an understanding and appreciation that you don’t know what other people are going through, so grant them the grace you wish for yourself. 

This list from a New York school district’s website shares ways you can reduce the stigma against mental health  

  1. Treat people equally. 
  2. Acknowledge that words have power – be careful how you speak to people. 
  3. Don’t use mental health terms lightly. 
  4. See the person, not the illness. 
  5. Be a positive mental health role model. 
  6. Get the facts right. 
  7. Educate yourself about mental health. 
  8. Don’t be afraid to seek help. 
  9. Don’t be afraid to talk about it. 
  10. Show care and compassion to those who are suffering with mental illness. 

While we may not be young students in a classroom (the audience this list was intended for), we will always have the capacity for learning, just as long as we’re willing to acknowledge there’s room for growth. 

If you are looking to educate yourself on mental health or get involved in mental health advocacy, here are a couple great resources for you: 

Female friend or family sitting and hold hands during cheer up to mental depress man, Psychologist provides mental aid to patient. PTSD Mental health conceptIf you’re looking for help and don’t know where to turn, you can call NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, at 800-950-NAMI or text ‘NAMI’ to 741741. 

If you are considering suicide or know someone who is, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by simply dialing 988 and your call will be directed straight to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also check out their website at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/. 

If nothing else, while we give mental health the time it absolutely deserves, please know that you are loved, that you HAVE made a positive difference in someone’s life, and that you absolutely have the power to make a positive impact on even more people. Every story has its own purpose – it’s never too late to discover yours. 

A favorite unofficial holiday in my home each year is ‘May the 4th Be with You’ day, as we’re big Star Wars fans! In honor of this special day, I hope you don your favorite Star Wars gear, whether that be a simple t-shirt, some Leia buns, or a giant Jar Jar Binks head! 

Recreation of a scene from Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope aboard the Death Star with Grand Moff Tarkin, Princess Leia and Darth Vader using Hasbro Black Series action figures with Leia's Buns

For fun, a few Star Wars quotes that seem relevant in our everyday working lives at PMG as you celebrate: 

  • “The greatest teacher, failure is.” – Yoda 
  • “You’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi 
  • “Remember, concentrate on the moment. Feel – don’t think. Use your instincts.” – Qui-Gon Jinn 
  • “Compassion, which I would define as unconditional love, is essential to a Jedi’s life. So, you might say that we are encouraged to love.” – Anakin Skywalker 

We’d love to see your love for the resistance (or the dark side for that matter)! Share a picture of you and/or your family in Star Wars gear on our Facebook page in honor of ‘May the 4th Be with You’ day.  

And on that note, May the Force be with you! 

April is a lot of things to a lot of people: 

  • It’s my daughter’s birth month, something she’ll bring up any day throughout the month to make sure we’re ready for it when the big day comes. 
  • It’s Autism Acceptance Month, an opportunity to share stories and increase understanding and acceptance of children and adults with autism.  
  • It’s the Month of the Military Child, “a child who early on learns that to survive means to adapt, that the door that closes one chapter of their life opens up to a new and exciting adventure full of new friends and new experiences” (www.littletroopers.net). Little-Troopers-Donate-Life-Month
  • It conjures up childhood phrases like ‘April showers bring May flowers’ and ‘in like a lion, out like a lamb’. 

No matter what way you look at it, April brings hope and encouragement to each of us that the sun will eventually shine on our gloomy days, that good things are around the corner, (and that I’ve got a birthday party to plan so I better get on that). It’s also fitting that April is National Donate Life Month. 

My connection to organ donation started back in 1997, when I FINALLY got my drivers licenses and checked yes when asked if I was an organ donor. I don’t remember there being a lot of thought put into my yes or having a great understanding of what that meant, but it felt like the right thing to do, so I did it. 

My connection to organ donation grew deeper when my sister started dating my eventual brother-in-law back in the early 2000’s. Ben had received a bi-lateral lung transplant in his early teens. He was a character. A storyteller. A firecracker in a tiny package. Ben was someone who understood that each day was a gift, and he wasn’t going to waste the extra days he had been given. 

Skip ahead a decade and a half or so, and my father-in-law was placed on the donor list when he was in desperate need of a healthy liver and kidneys. I vividly remember the day we got the call that a donor had been found.  

  • It was a day of hope: for more years with his grandchildren, seeing them graduate from high school, seeing them walk down the aisle, and maybe even bouncing their children up and down on his knee someday (hip replacements and all).  
  • It was a day of thankfulness: that we were being given a second chance.  
  • And it was a day of incredible pain and sorrow: as we thought about the donor, and what their family must be going through. The worst day of their lives. Their final good-byes. Their dreams, dashed in an instant. 

Because of an infection, my father-in-law did not receive the gift of life that day, but the next person on the donor list did and they got to experience those same hopes and thanks along with those same pains and sorrows.  

A few things worth knowing from my favorite organ donation website, the Iowa Donor Network (https://www.iowadonornetwork.org/understanding-donation/current-statistics): 

  • Every 9 minutes a new person is added to the national organ transplant waiting list. 
  • An average of 17 people die each day while waiting. 
  • On average, 112 transplants take place every day in the U.S. 
  • In 2021, the lives of nearly 41,000 Americans were saved by organ donation. 
  • One donor can save up to 8 lives through organ donation and save and heal 50-300 lives through tissue donation. 

LifeSource, a nonprofit dedicated to saving lives through organ, eye, and tissue donation in the Upper Midwest, recently asked followers on their Facebook page to describe organ donation in one word. The responses to this simple question sum it up for me: 

  • Selfless
  • Miraculous
  • Comforting
  • Love
  • Legacy
  • Hope
  • A wish [come true]
  • Life (quite literally)
  • Hero
  • Everything

If you’d like to be someone’s hero, you can sign up to be an organ, tissue, and eye donor by going to https://www.donatelife.net/register/. Donate Life America Logo

You can be somebody’s love, their hope, their wish come true, their life, their hero, their everything! 

Think back to when you were a nine-year-old. What did you like to do for fun? I remember riding my bike around our neighborhood, riding up and down ramps and near electrical boxes, pretending I was working at a bank. I remember playing tag with my sisters as the sun went down, calling out our favorite TV show before someone could yell ‘you’re it’. I remember swinging on our swing set, or even better yet, going to the park to swing on the big swings, and swinging so high the alligators couldn’t bite my toes. 

So often today, when our children are looking for something to do, they turn straight to technology and miss out on the opportunity to let their imagination run free.  

In honor of National Encourage a Young Writer Day on April 10th, I challenge you to challenge your children, your grandchildren, your nieces and nephews, even your neighbor kids to unplug and get creative! Here are a few tips from waterford.org that may help you help them get their creative juices flowing: 

  1. Start a journal. This gives young writers a place to record their daily writing and create essays, poems, and stories. 
  2. Encourage writing exercises. Writing prompts and a little direction can help a child use their imagination to write a story. 
  3. Integrate reading activities. The more a child reads, the easier it is to develop writing skills. 
  4. Mix up the writing style. Give children different writing styles to help them see an idea or story from a new perspective. 

Young boy learning to become a writer at his deskIf that doesn’t help with inspiration, you can always just do what I did this week in preparation for writing this article. I reached out to PMG parents, as well as my own sisters, and asked them to ask their kids to be published authors for me. Let these kids help inspire your children as well – it doesn’t have to be hard to write, that’s the beauty of writing! 

Roses are red 
Violets are blue 
Dogs go bark 
Cows say moo. 
~ Ainsley, 8 

Roses are red 
Violets are blue 
Blossoms are sweet 
And so are you. 
~ Ainsley, 8  
 

I love you mom.
I will always keep you company.
I’m happy I have you.
~ Sawyer, 8
  

Where I’m From 

I am from many places 
From coast to coast 
I am the leaf in the wind 
I am from the piece of the dandelion that you blew on  

I’m from the bowl of honeycomb 
and the blanket that gets dragged
From Benjamin & Evelyn 
I’m from the top of the mountain and I’m only halfway up 

Under my bed are the memories from the past 
They are the things I want to remember for the rest of my days 
And the things I want to forget about, but not before I can learn from them 

 I am from those moments. 
~ Landon, 16 

PMG works with manufacturers of all types in a wide variety of industries, including food manufacturers. Our clients make anything from breakfast foods to dessert, dry, refrigerated, or frozen. Today, we can walk into a grocery store (or if you prefer, order grocery pick up or grocery delivery) for virtually anything we want. Of course, it wasn’t always that way. Those refrigerated goods and frozen items you see used to be kept cold by being stored in holes in the ground, in ice houses stocked with ice collected from frozen lakes or stored in underground cellars. However, foods froze slowly in these contraptions causing ice crystals to form which melted when food defrosted, causing watery foods, and negatively affecting texture and flavor. Today, we have the convenience of the refrigerator and freezer to keep our food cold. The question remains, how did we overcome the watery, poor texture, low flavor frozen foods? That’s all thanks to Clarence Birdseye.Clarence Birdseye the father of Frozen Foods

The Father of Frozen Foods

Clarence Birdseye worked as a fur trader in Canada. During his time in Canada, he realized that the fish he caught (and those were caught by local Inuit as well), froze almost immediately once they were pulled out of the water. And, after storing the fish in its frozen state for months then thawing the fish to eat, Clarence discovered the fish were just as delicious as they would have been fresh. As a result, Clarence theorized that freezing food quickly (or flash freezing), rather than slow freezing, was the trick to retaining food taste and texture in the freezing technique. Here began Clarence’s mission to test his theory, which he was able to prove true in two ways.  

The first method Clarence developed for quick freezing food used a calcium chloride solution. In this method, food was first packaged and then held between two metal belts that were cooled by the calcium chloride solution to a temperature between -40°F and -45°F.  

With this discovery, Clarence took it a step further. He invented an entire system to package vegetables, fish, and meat into waxed-cardboard cartons which were then flash frozen. He even started his own frozen-fish company in New York City, called Birdseye Seafood. Clarence used his first method to freeze and package fish and obtained a patent for the method. To freeze his fish, Clarence placed fish filets into containers which were then submerged into a refrigerating tank containing the calcium chloride brine. This created a block of ice containing frozen filets. Once removed from the tank and the container, the fish was then wrapped in wax paper and stored in an insulated shipping container. Fun fact: Clarence also patented his insulated shipping container (a refrigerated boxcar) and used that technology to develop display cases for frozen goods (like those you see in the grocery store). Clarency declaring bankruptcy

Unfortunately, Birdseye Seafood went bankrupt. Fortunately, Clarence was undaunted. With capital brought in from Wall Street investors as well as the sale of his (and his wife’s) life insurance policies, Clarence started over, with a new company in Gloucester, Massachusetts, this time with the name General Seafood Corporation. It’s here that Clarence flash froze fish filets with a new method. This second method became a commercially viable option for not only General Seafood Corporation but also other food manufacturing companies worldwide. 

The Comeback

The second method Clarence developed used ammonia instead of the calcium chloride solution. In this method, Clarence placed the packaged food between two metal (and hollow) plates that were chilled to temperatures between -25°F – 40°F through ammonia evaporation. In this method, fruits and vegetables froze to 0°F in about 30 minutes while a package of meat froze to the same temperature in 75-90 minutes.  

In 1929, Clarence sold this business (General Seafood Company) as well as his fast-freezing method to Postum Co. What was the total sale amount? $22 million, with $20 million of it going toward the patents alone. Today, that sale would be worth over $358 million. As a result of the purchase, Postum Cereal Company changed its name to General Foods Corporation and appointed Clarence the president of their new division, the Birds Eye Frosted Foods division. With this new role, Clarence and General Foods Corp. started new lines of “frosted foods” to include spinach, cherries, meat, and frozen peas. Today, Birds Eye foods has a wide range of products including plain frozen vegetables, vegetables that are seasoned and sauced, vegetable-based foods (like cauliflower wings) as well as full skillet meals.  Frozen vegetables on a colored background top view

And to think, this all started by one man, born in Brooklyn, NY in 1886 who started his first business at just 10 years’ old by shipping 12 muskrats that he had trapped on Long Island to an English lord seeking wild game for his estate., making $9 dollars. Over the years, Clarence would use his entrepreneurial spirit in a variety of ways, including paying tuition at Amherst College (as a biology major) by selling collected frogs to the Bronx Zoo for snake food or trapping and providing rats to a genetics professor for studying. When this didn’t work out, Clarence decided he would try the fur trading business. It seemed like a good venture considering his deep interest in plants and animals. So, off he went to Labrador, Newfoundland to trap, buy, and sell fur pelt. Later, he would find himself working as a naturalist for the US government, with a post in the Arctic. It’s here, where Clarence Birdseye (1886-1956) developed his theory for fast freezing fish, which took him to places he’d never imagined and doing some pretty remarkable things. With all these accomplishments still, Clarence didn’t boast or brag. He’s quoted to say: “I do not consider myself a remarkable person. I am just a guy with a very large bump of curiosity and a gambling instinct.” 

Looking for more information about food manufacturing and processing? Check out PMG’s blog for my How It’s Made articles about mystery flavored suckers, cheese, plant-based burgers, and even Spam. 

What makes you happy? For me, it’s such a simple question to answer. It’s the funny faces my children make. My nightly snuggles with our dog. A shared meal with my husband (preferably one I didn’t have to cook). Knowing that I’m raising my children with the very best intent. Ice cream. Cheese. And more ice cream. 

When I asked my children the same question, it was clear it was an easy question for them too: friends, rollerblading, volleyball, getting good grades (so mom & dad don’t get mad), and fettucine alfredo.A plate of Fettucine all'Alfredo pasta in a butter cream and parmesan sauce garnished with a sprig of basil and sprinkled with grated cheese Day of Happiness  

When I stop and think about this crazy world we live in and what might make someone happy across the globe, I’m quickly humbled knowing my privilege affords me happiness that so many others struggle to find, especially with the challenges people are facing today, far beyond their own control. 

www.dayofhappniess.net say: “When we choose to take action to help others, they benefit, we benefit, and we set an example of kindness that can ripple out into the world too.” So what kind of actions can you take in honor of the International Day of Happiness:  

  • Surround yourself with positive thinkers, positive news, and people and/or things that lift you up. Be that positive thinker for someone else too. 
  • Get outside and enjoy the fresh air. While you’re there, smile when someone walks by you, even if their headphones are in and your dog is going crazy. The introvert in me cringes at this idea, but it’s okay to step out of your comfort zone for a quick smile. 
  • Intentionally do something nice for someone. Buy a stranger their coffee while you wait in line at the coffee shop, throw a love note into your child’s lunch box, tip your pizza delivery person a little extra, take your gloves and give them to the homeless person on the street just waiting for the sun to shine.  

The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, who proclaimed March 20th as the International Day of Happiness almost ten years ago, says “the pursuit of happiness is a fundament human goal.” So let’s start working to achieve that goal. Success may not happen overnight, but every little step we take makes a difference. Going out of your way to make someone happy has the potential to trigger them to go out of their way to make someone happy, thus creating that ripple effect that keeps on going and going and going… 

During a time in our world where the weight of current events weighs heavy on our hearts and minds, I want to turn for a moment to honor and pay tribute to the toy soldier. Those little green men are modeled after the true hero’s that defend our freedom and lay their lives on the line everyday. 

As a kid growing up during the Gulf War, in a family full of girls, we didn’t talk about war until it was all over the news. We never played out battle scenes in our back yard, with makeshift explosions or casualties of toy soldiers in elaborately created bunkers. Though, according to www.toysoldierco.com, ‘toy soldiers have been collected since the time of the Pharaohs.’ You can find photos of notable men like Winston Churchill and H.G. Wells playing with these little soldiers in their homes or on their lawns. Toy soldiers were essential to little boys growing up in the boomer age, until anti-war sentiment began in the late 60’s and consumers turned their noses up at the little green men. By the late 80’s though, those boomers were reminiscent of their cherished childhood toys and started collecting them as a hobby, bringing the toy soldier out of obscurity. Thanks to Disney Pixar’s ‘Toy Story’ in 1995, toy soldiers were back on the battle fields and ready to fight! World War 2 Reenactment (d-day). Creative Decoration With Toy So

Inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame in 2014, these little green men have changed significantly over time. Originally cast out of metal, we are more familiar with the plastic toys we know and love today. According to an article in Plastics Today (www.plasticstoday.com) from September 2019, it was announced by one manufacturer that ‘it would integrate the ranks of the little green army men with women combatants starting in the fall of 2020. It’s a fitting new milestone for this decade-old iconic toy’ and dare I say, long overdue! 

Every holiday season, I shop at my favorite little boutique and stop at a booth decorated with stars and stripes, giving me an opportunity to write a note to a United States soldier. After my note is written and dropped into the mailbox, I grab a little green man from a bucket and am asked to keep it close at hand as a reminder of the sacrifices our true heroes have made.  Toy soldiers stand in a row. Composition of many toy soldiers. Military themed footage.

Today, as so many of us just wish and hope for peace and understanding throughout the world, I stare at my little green soldier, giving thanks for the strength, the persistence, the devotion, and the selflessness of a soldier. I hope you’ll consider doing the same, maybe even carrying around a toy soldier in your pocket so that every time your hand grabs it inadvertently or swipes it as you reach for your phone, you will take a moment to think of our brothers and sisters on the battle lines, fighting a battle far beyond our recognition. 

International Lefthanders Day – Friday, August 13th

When I’m writing a piece for our blog, I often need to research to get a good understanding of the history behind the topic I’m writing about. For International Lefthanders Day (celebrated each year on August 13th), you get me and only me – no research required.

The Lefthanded vs Righthanded Debacle

I’ve been lefthanded since, well… since I wrapped my little fingers around the first object I grasped. Being the only lefthanded person in a family full of righthanded people, I can only imagine how my parents struggled to teach me things the lefthanded way:

  • I bat righthanded and throw a ball righthanded.
  • I never had to use a lefthanded scissors because I cut righthanded.
  • If I’m shooting a gun or doing archery, my right-eye dominance is strong (although it doesn’t seem to improve my shot).

But I’m lefthanded strong when it comes to writing, bowling, guitar playing, and sticking food in my mouth.

When my oldest daughter was born, I cannot begin to tell you how excited I was when she picked up her first cereal puff with her chubby little left hand. I’d been alone in my lefthanded-ness for so long, it felt empowering to have birthed another lefty into this wonderful world dominated by righthanded people.

The Struggles Are Real

Even as I crawl my way into my fifth decade on this earth, it surprises me sometimes how hard it can be to be lefthanded; I’ve been working with this for a long time, you’d think I’d have it figured out by now!

Just this past weekend, when my youngest daughter decided it was finally time for me to learn how to French braid, it dawned on me during the how-to videos that I braid hair lefthanded, and the how-to videos are all made by righthanded people. Who knew?

The struggle is real folks, but I don’t expect your sympathy.

I love the challenge that us lefties have to work though. The smudge on our hand as we’re learning to write. The stadium seating in our college lecture halls with the foldout desks made for righthanded people. Even notebooks with the spiral on the left side of the notebook – it’s a real pain in the butt but I wouldn’t change a thing. I love that I’m a bit unique, one of less than 12% of the world’s population, and being lefthanded allows me an opportunity to bond with other lefthanded people over the simplest of things.

In celebration of me and my fellow lefthanders on our international day of recognition, may we raise a toast with our left hand and cheer to another incredible day of being special just the way we are.