By Mary Meldrum

YOU CANNOT ATTEND SUNDAY MASS HERE. It is not that kind of church. They have no clergy and don’t hold regular mass. Michael Voris, owner of St. Michael’s Media in Church Militant in Ferndale explained that they are an “apostolate”: Their purpose is to do the work, and conform to the mission, of the Catholic church.

The Church Militant web site is thick with information and articles as well as videos that lay out their perspective on everything from the fall of Adam and Eve to altar girls. They offer livestream prayer, publish books, hold conferences and post videos – lots of videos. Probably 80 percent of their work as an apostolate is dedicated to the web site.

Yet their narrative bears little resemblance to the Catholicism and teachings many of us are familiar with.

The controversial organization was referred to as a “Catholic fringe group” by the Detroit Free Press in a harshly critical 2017 article. And David Garcia of Ferndale’s Affirmations had this to say about Church Militant: “Any time someone is condemning gay lesbian and transgender people to hell, it doesn’t feel very welcoming. He has called the LGBT people ‘sinners,’ he is enjoying rights that he would deny other people. That is not welcoming, that is hypocrisy.”


In a revealing interview with Voris, it was immediately clear that he considers himself an expert on all things Catholic. “We are an organization dedicated to making sure people understand authentic Catholic teaching so they can go to heaven,” Voris clarified.

I asked him what he wants the city of Ferndale – residents, businesses and neighbors – to know about Church Militant and what he would like to say to his neighbors?

“I have been a resident of Ferndale since 2000. I would like them to know that our work is dedicated to every person’s supreme good, and that good is that when they die they spend eternity with God, not in hell. Anything we can do to advance that cause, we are happy to do.”

Voris doesn’t believe there ever should have been any kind of barrier between church and state. “The idea that there is somehow a wall, which has been misinterpreted by the courts, that none of the other parts of our world or culture can flood over into society is a wholly un-Catholic position. To draw an artificial line to separate church and state is not right.”

I asked Voris to explain the reference to persecution of Christians on the Church Militant website. He said, “For example, all of the wedding photographers, bakers, florists who may be Christian being sued because they refuse to service a gay wedding. It goes against their conscience. Another example is Obamacare (The Affordable Care Act) and the contraception mandate. If we had over 50 employees, we would have been forced to provide contraception in the healthcare plan. If you didn’t, you were fined,” Voris offered.

The undertone of Michael’s answer, as well as Church Militant’s teachings, is that there is a hard line as to who is “right” and “wrong” in terms of morality and behavior. There are those who will reach the Kingdom of Heaven and those who will not.

DAVID GARCIA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF AFFIRMATIONS in Ferndale replied, “People have a right to their opinion, but let’s take the religious exemptions: A doctor refuses to treat a baby because they have gay parents, or wedding photographers and bakers refuse for the same reason. When you sign a business license, all of our tax dollars are involved. We all pay for the services. I don’t care what you do in your church, but the moment you enter the public square with a business license, it is different. Much more than doctors, photographers and bakers refusing to treat any in the LGBT community because of their religious beliefs.

“We are talking about more than free speech. The President’s policies are attacking the LGBT community, and there is a rise in hate crimes. You can’t yell fire in a theater and when you tell your congregation that my love is not equal to your love, that I don’t deserve the same basic human love that you have, that speech has ramifications. It enforces an idea that LGBT people are not good enough. Any time you do that to a group of people, violence ensues. Whether you ever said to hit or kick that person, you contributed to the production of the act.”

How does Voris feel about his work being characterized as hateful and potentially speech, and I don’t hate anyone who has a different view. The label of hate comes out quickly. I may be considered a hateful person because I hurt someone’s feelings, but that is different than physically harming anyone.”

Garcia: “Any time that you treat other people as second-class citizens not worthy of the same rights that you enjoy, you are hurting them. The LGBT Community has faced our share of religious persecution ranging from preachers holding signs of ‘God hates fags’ to others condemning us to hell, and he is no different. If Michael truly understood the beauty and the diversity of human sexuality, we would all be better off and he would too. I don’t allow a 2000-year-old book to define human sexuality for me.”

“We have just as many LGBT churches on our side. Plenty of Christian pro-LGBT and people out there. It’s easier to come out now, but it is not easy. We have a lot of work to do. Voris is nothing new. We have dealt with a long line of homophobic bigots. I feel sorry for him.”


Fr. Paul Chateau of St. James Catholic Church in Ferndale has been the pastor of Our Lady of Fatima in Oak Park for 46 years, and when St. James Catholic Church in Ferndale merged with his congregation, he became the pastor for both churches under the new name of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

At 79 years of age, Fr. Chateau doesn’t mince words when replying to questions about Church Militant.
“I don’t subscribe to most of that,” Fr. Chateau says. “They are agitators. They think the Pope is too progressive. From what I read, they are fanatics. This isn’t the ‘50s. There’s a whole new world now.”

“The Church is evolving in positive ways.” He continues, “The new focus on bringing together the community of God’s people is less vertical and more encompassing.”

He has lived in Oak Park for 46 years, “The people who were married to the past have faded from our operation. Parishioners now have a more open spirit, from my perspective. Come to church sometime,” he urges me. “There is a lot of value. And if ever we needed it in my lifetime, I encourage you to visit it again.”

0 2417

PTSD: HEALING FROM THE INSIDE OUT is Ferndale Friend’s writer Sara Teller’s fifth book. It provides a guide for survivors who have removed themselves from the immediate clutches of trauma, but know they’ll never be the same.

They may have escaped physically, but the mental and emotional side effects linger, keeping them imprisoned by the circumstances they’ve endured. The rug has been ripped out from under their feet and they are left searching for happiness that was lost. They are desperate to regain a sense of self that took second seat to the chaos they braved. There are so many unanswered questions and a profound sense of resentment lingers despite a genuine desire to heal.

Teller is an award-winning author, speaker and advocate for those afflicted with mental health issues. She holds an MBA and is currently pursuing an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Teller is also the owner/operator of Sara E. Teller Industries LLC and has spent nearly 20 years in media with positions in publishing and entertainment.

Teller has worked for newspapers, magazines and book publishers. She is a frequent guest speaker on health and wellness podcasts and was one of six invited speakers at a Careers in Publishing & Authorship event at Michigan State University, where she received an undergraduate degree as part of the honors college and interned at MSU Press.

Teller’s other books include: Narcissistic Abuse: A Survival Guide, Another Bridge To Cross, Cookies and Once Upon a Starry Night.

0 1792

HOPE FOR THE HOLIDAYS: BLUE CHRISTMAS St. Patrick’s in Madison Heights will offer a candlelight Service of Hope on December 11th, 7-8pm, for all who are struggling at this time of year because of concerns such as health issues, financial challenges, unpleasant memories of past Christmas experiences, or the loss of a loved one. Special music, prayers, and an inspiring message of encouragement.

FERNDALE GARDEN CLUB: Presentation on Using Dead Wood in the Garden. Thursday, January 9, 2020, 7 p.m. at Kulick Community Center, 1201 Livernois. Guests are welcome. For more information, call 248-541-6427.

FERNDALE GARDEN CLUB: Presentation on Earth Friendly Permaculture Design to Grow Food for Health and Financial Independence by Rachel and Brian Engel. Thursday, February 13, 2020, 7 p.m. at Kulick Community Center, 1201 Livernois. Guests are welcome. For more information, call 248-541-6427.

SUPER SNOW CONE STORYTIME and Crafts with Cowboy Alex, Listen to Cowboy Alex read snowy stories, joke around with his puppet pals and do silly magic tricks. Plus, kids & their grown-up will make an awesome winter craft project using recycled material. Good for kids 3-8 years. Thurs, December 12th @ 10:00 am – 10:45 am, 5.00 per child, Royal Oak Salter Community Center. 1545 East Lincoln, Royal Oak.

FERNDALE GARDEN CLUB: Join our fun, garden-oriented group. We meet the second Thursday of each month, September through May, at 7 pm at the Kulick Community Center. We have entertaining and informative presentations on gardening, the environment, animals and photography. Meet new people with similar interests. Membership is $20.00 per year. To learn more about other membership benefits, call 248-541-6427.

“CLIMATE CHANGE & YOU”: An environmental awareness presentation. Sponsored by The Southeast Michigan Group of the Sierra Club. “Climate Change & You” is a Free powerful Power-Point presentation that adapts to all ages and groups, and defines current environmental issues. Mr. Gerald Hasspacher, jhasspac@gmail.com

HAVE YOU HEARD THE RALPH NADER RADIO HOUR? Great weekly podcast, with over 200 shows, wide range of subjects. Recent episodes include Midterm Postmortem, Solar Power, Fighting Nurses, Ebola, Smart Meters, Be informed, ralphnaderradiohour.com

0 1570

By Maggie Boleyn

HOLIDAYS ARE A GOOD TIME FOR EVERYONE to remember the less fortunate among us. For some people, helping the homeless is a year-round effort.

The Congregation of Everyone (COE) is one such organization. Founded in November of 2013 by Jeff and Mary Hocking, COE is made up of a group of volunteers who serve the homeless population of Metro Detroit.
A seven-member board of directors consisting of Michael Hocking, Tom Costello, Carleen Lunsford, Dan Hearsch, Lesa Ferencz, and the Hockings run the operation.

“October through December is the giving season,” says Jeff, President. “It starts getting colder out, and ‘Help the needy’ chants are coming from all sides. It’s when most charities have most of their private donations come in for the year.”

However, Hocking says that often those good intentions fade away like most New Year resolutions. “Unfortunately, come January 1st, the donations stop and are replaced with responses of ‘I gave during the holidays’,” he said. “Just because the holidays are over or because it seems warm outside, doesn’t magically make the issue of homelessness go away.”

Hocking points out that, “January through May, it’s still freezing in Detroit. April through September, people are still living under tarps under bridges.”

THE COE WEB SITE LISTS EIGHT LOCATIONS around the Metro Detroit area that accept donations for what are referred to as SurvivalPaks. Hocking estimates that COE has been delivering approximately 200 SurvivalPaks every month since November 2013. To keep pace with Michigan’s changing seasons, supplies needed in the SurvivalPaks change as well. Hocking says, “Obviously in winter, compact blankets, knit hats, ski gloves (no knit gloves), scarves and hand warmers are the most important items. In the spring and summer, rain gear, umbrellas, ponchos, bug spray and sun screen are important items for the homeless to have.”

Socks are always in SurvivalPaks. “The need for socks never changes,” says Hocking. “When you can’t find your shoe size or you can’t afford to buy shoes, doubling up on socks and changing your socks becomes the constant.”

These SurvivalPaks come with more than clothing. “We don’t just deliver supplies to the homeless, we make sure to talk to them, shake their hands, make eye contact, make them feel like human beings that are cared for,” Hocking says. The majority of COE’s outreach efforts are outside of Downtown Detroit, Midtown and Corktown.

“We spend much of our time in the neighborhoods that don’t have hip new restaurants and suburban visitors,” Hocking said. “We help those people that most of the people reading this won’t ever see, won’t ever come into contact with.” COE serves the “forgotten areas.” Hocking continues, “These people aren’t standing on street corners or freeway entrance ramps asking for change, they’re hidden in abandoned houses, in alleys or in wooded overgrown fields far from the lights of ‘new’ Detroit.”

Size-specific clothing like coats, shirts, pants or shoes are never included in the SurvivalPaks, Hocking says. “We’re in situations where we grab a few SurvivalPaks from our van, walk into an abandoned, pitch-black, five-story building and look for the homeless. When we find them, we can’t size them up and run back down to the van and have them try on clothes until we find items that fit them.”

THE HOCKINGS FOUNDED COE TO FOSTER A SENSE of community. “My wife and I are non-religious but were looking for a way to find a sense of community and a means to help others,” Hocking said. “When we couldn’t find something that we were comfortable with, we decided to start our own organization.”

“We are 100-percent privately funded,” Hocking concludes. “COE is a true volunteer-only owned and operated charity. The COE owns no property and has no employees collecting a salary.”

To make a donation, or for more information, visit www.COE1.org.

0 1749

By Sara E. Teller

My dad, brother, and sister all worked at the video store,” recalled Khamarko’s daughter, Candace Samona of Southfield. “When the dollar store opened, my dad, mom, and I all worked there.”

Everyone was fond of the well-known business owner, who, in 2010, at just 64-years-old, was tragically taken away in an instant when he was shot and killed in an armed robbery.

A press release from the Ferndale Police Department reads in part, “On November 26, 2010 at approximately 9:00 P.M. Ferndale police responded to the Dollar Club Plus at 2750 Hilton Road, Ferndale, Michigan. A witness called 911 to report the owner of the store, Karim Khamarko, 64, of Southfield, Michigan, was laying on the floor of the business bleeding and having trouble breathing…Officers discovered Khamarko had been shot several times and was gravely injured…Ferndale Fire/Rescue transported Khamarko to William Beaumont Hospital-Royal Oak where he died.”


Just like that, the kind-hearted father and grandfather of three, was gone.

“My dad was the best person,” Samona said fondly. “He was a loving dad, married to my mom for 34 years and, at the time he passed, had three grandchildren. He now has six.”

Every night, before he closed the store, Samona said Khamarko would call his grandkids and ask them what kind of balloon they wanted him to bring home. She called him “the best grandpa.”

KHAMARKO WORKED JUST AS HARD AS HE DID AT HIS BUSINESS when he was home, too, ensuring he always kept his family happy.

“My mom and dad were best friends,” Samona said. “I got married five years ago and feel so lucky to have had an example of what a marriage should be.” It is a shame, she added, that her parents’ bond was severed so suddenly.

The case has remained an open investigation for nearly a decade, a police press release stating, “Detectives followed up on many tips and leads throughout the initial phase of the investigation but unfortunately, none of them led to the identification or arrest of a suspect. Since 2010, this case has remained open and detectives have periodically re-examined the case file in hopes of discovering new information that would bring the killer of Karim Khamarko to justice.”

Then, in late October 2019, Ferndale officers, following a tip, apprehended a 48-year-old male from Romulus, and immediately asked for an arrest warrant for murder from the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office. Old wounds resurfaced for Khamarko’s loved ones.

Yet, soon after, the case stalled again. On Friday, November 1, according to the report, officers “were notified by the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office that the case we submitted to them concerning the murder of Ferndale business owner Karim Khamarko did not contain sufficient evidence for them to issue an arrest warrant at this time.” Without the prosecutor’s blessing, the man was released.

POLICE CHIEF VINCE PALAZZOLO, ON BEHALF OF THE DEPARTMENT, offered hope, “We appreciate the careful consideration of our Prosecutor’s office as they spent hours examining the evidence our detectives brought them. We are ever mindful of the interplay of checks-and-balances designed into our criminal justice system that seeks to ensure the fair application of due process for those accused of crimes.” The case remains an “open and active investigation.”

“It’s hard to explain,” Samona said of how the family is holding up. “Because the pain is there all the time. It never goes away.” Regarding the new development, she said they had “mixed emotions” adding, “We would like to thank the residents of Ferndale and the police department for being so supportive over the years.”

By Sara Teller

JAI REDDY WANTED TO CREATE A COMMUNITY WHERE CHILDREN OF ALL ABILITIES, including his 12-year-old autistic son Arjun, felt comfortable learning and engaging. A community that provided support beyond traditional therapy options and allowed students to utilize whatever methods might best benefit them.

This led to the concept for LifeLab Kids in 2017 and, over the past two years, Reddy has worked tirelessly to develop the nonprofit, recruit experts in several differing therapy fields and remodel a 1950s church at 3178 Hilton Rd. into a state-of-the-art learning facility, which opened in February 2019.

“Basically, this place provides kids with a multitude of options that nurture their interests outside of the regular clinical therapy that’s available and quite popular out there,” Reddy says. “It’s not that everything we are doing is non-existent, it’s that you have to go out and find them in different places with a lot of driving around.”

THE FOCUS AREAS OF LIFELAB KIDS ARE RECREATIONAL, speech, music, art, occupational and technology therapies and life skills. Each of these specialties has its own dedicated space within the building. Mathew Bessette, MA, MT-BC, music therapist at LifeLab Kids, walks through each of the areas – starting with the music therapy room.

“Using music, I can find motivation within the student to work on things that are hard. It’s more motivating because of the activity you are doing and the reward of what you are producing,” he says. “Having a lot of instruments in that room gives us all kinds of different tools.”

There is a full gym used for recreational therapy and “building play and leisure skills” and an occupational therapy room for working on fine motor functions and sensory matters. The art therapy room contains three pottery wheels, a kiln and an entire plexiglass wall for finger painting.

“We have a giant space dedicated to art therapy. Bridgette Crockett (Counselor) is our art therapist, as well,” Bessette says. “She works a lot in emotion expression and uses art as her medium.”

THE MAJORITY OF THE DOWNSTAIRS SPACE AT LIFELAB KIDS is dedicated to life skills and technology and was designed to emulate an apartment.

“We have kids that need work on activities of daily living skills,” Bessette says. “If they need to stepwise learn how to do laundry, we have laundry machines. Or if they need to learn how to cook, there is a full kitchen and a dishwasher.”

Technology has been incorporated into the living room space and has a separate room dedicated to augmented and virtual reality (VR).

The expertise and collaboration of the therapists were one of the most important aspects of opening LifeLab Kids. There are nine therapists on staff now and that makes things happen at LifeLab Kids. Reddy is also conscious of the number of students they can take on, not wanting to exceed more than 60-70 students for the year of 2020.

Reddy says the next year will be focused on stabilizing programs and beginning their outdoor facilities. Their next open house will be December 13th and will feature holiday and Christmas sensory-friendly activities. All are welcome to check out the space and meet the team.

Families interested in touring or enrolling in LifeLab Kids can reach out by phone at 248-629-4600 or email contactus@lifelabkids.org.

By Sherry Wells
Photos by David McNair

I FIRST MET DEAN BACH, AKA “DINO” OF DINO’S LOUNGE, when he personally delivered food he was donating to the Relay for Life Survivors & Caregivers Tent as part of his efforts to give back to the community. As a bar owner, I expected he’d still be in bed after working into the wee hours. I was a member of the Ferndale Rotary Club at the time, which sponsored the tent. Dino also provided food for a Rotary fundraising dinner, personally bringing it too.

As did Michael Hennes, owner of Howe’s Bayou. Mike rushed in, wearing a long, starched-white apron that covered him from neck to almost ankles. He was there to see whether more of his entree was needed.

BOTH BACH AND HENNES HAVE BEEN INVOLVED WITH FERNDALE’S DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY for over ten years, with Bach becoming chair in 2015. Hennes has also served on city committees and task forces.

For the last several years, Hennes has not only donated the entire dinner for the Peace Action annual Peace Builders Award banquet, he and his partner, Patricia Barker, have been personally serving it as well.
Hennes also merits a nod for keeping some of Ferndale’s familiar streetpersons busy and fed, with odd jobs to earn a meal.

I learned that Hennes visits New Orleans once or twice a year to stay current on the cuisine. Any excuse will do!

Dino’s introduced me to grilled corn on the cob. Yum! The grill master that day was Dino himself. I told him how much I admired his community involvement.

“Well, my CPA keeps telling me I overdo it,” he shrugged.

Yet he hasn’t seemed to have cut back. Wounded Warriors has been high on his list, informing the public himself about the need. Dino has provided space for non-profit events in his second local spot, the M-Brew, including in the lower video arcade room. Both have provided cosponsorships and gift certificates for fundraisers.

MY THIRD FAVORITE FERNDALE BAR OWNER IS JEFF KING OF THE IMPERIAL and Public House. I frequently walk by the back of his Public House and noticed that recorded music playing in their patio could only be heard when I was within five feet at most of its perimeters. I walked in to tell him or a manager how much I appreciated that. “He gave us strict orders to keep the music level down so it can be heard only in the patio,” his bookkeeper told me. Rex, his manager at the Imperial, said music is to be “Enjoyed, not overheard” by customers and neighbors.

Jeff recently chose the Disabled American Veterans to benefit from one of his many “ten percent of the day’s proceeds” events. Although local organizations are his priority, his annual Cinco de Mayo Skateboard Auction has aided hurricane relief for Mexico and Puerto Rico.

His next idea is Twelve Days of Christmas, starting December 12, with each of 12 beers – at Public House, or 12 cocktails – at The Imperial, representing a different charity and $1 a drink going to that charity.

These three members of our community set the bar and keep raising it for good business blended with community involvement.

0 1994

By Sara Teller

THE FERNDALE HIGH SCHOOL GOLDEN EAGLE MARCHING BAND has been a participant and state finalist in the Michigan Competing Bands Association (MCBA) for over three decades.

“A competitive marching band at this level means that they create and perform a show much akin to a theater production throughout the summer and fall,” explained Elon Jamison, Ferndale Schools’ Director of Bands. “A competitive band is distinguished from a ‘half-time band’ that primarily performs at home football games, though they may do a competition or two.”

This year, Ferndale schools had Sean Forbes, a deaf rapper from Detroit, show the band how to properly sign his song, ‘Watch These Hands’ during its show entitled ‘The Sounds of Silence.’ The performance consisted of four movements that led to a second-place finish at the annual MCBA State Finals.

JAMISON SUMMARIZED THE SEQUENCE. “The first movement explored the ‘silence’ created in Beethoven’s head caused by severe tinnitus as he composed and performed in the latter half of his life,” he said. “The second part used several different lullabies to put the band to ‘sleep’ – another form of silence. “The third movement was all based around Forbes’ song, ‘Watch These Hands,’ and served the concept in two ways. The first was to attempt to make the marching band accessible to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.

The second way was to give our hearing audience the silence that occurs when marching bands are rehearsing but not playing. The last part of our show was a treatment of the Simon and Garfunkel classic, ‘The Sound of Silence.’” Jamison added that “it takes a village” to make sure band members have time to rehearse and compete. Many parents volunteer in a variety of capacities including serving lunch at weekend rehearsals and laundering the band’s uniforms. They also volunteer to be part of the pit and prop crews.

“Another big job,” Jamison said, “is being a camp chaperone, which means traveling to Interlochen for a week in August, and living with a dozen teenagers, keeping them physically and emotionally healthy and well-rested, so they can rehearse nine hours a day to learn that year’s show.”

MUCH LIKE OUR BAND, FERNDALE’S WINTER GUARD is also a force to be reckoned with, and it’s back after a “decade hiatus,” according to instructor Jennifer Batsios. The team is comprised of more than 24 Ferndale students, grades 8-12, and competes in the Michigan Color Guard Circuit (MCGC).

“The team placed first in its competitive class in 2018 and rose to a higher competitive class for the 2019 season,” Batsios said. “For the 2020 season, the Ferndale Winter Guard will compete not only in MCGC in the next competitive class level, Scholastic A, but will be returning to the national circuit, Winter Guard International (WGI), where it will compete with more than 130 teams from around the country.”
Ferndale’s Winter Guard begins rehearsing in November and competing in January. “The team will compete throughout Metro Detroit in preparation for state championships at Saginaw Valley State University at the end of March,” Batsios explained.

“Following state championships, the team will head to Dayton, Ohio to compete in Winter Guard International World Championships in April.” WGI is an extensive organization. There are more than 33,000 participants at the regional level and more than 16,000 participants at the Sport of the Arts World Championships.

Batsios is incredibly proud of the guard, saying, “The students continue to amaze me with their dedication and level of performance!”

For information about Ferndale’s band, contact Elon Jamison, elon.jamison@ferndaleschools.org.

For information on the color guard, contact Jennifer Batsios, theferndalecolorguard@gmail.com.

0 1954

By Kevin Alan Lamb

Most people go their entire lives without winning an election or giving birth to a child. New Councilwoman and founder of the Ferndale Rat Patrol Laura Mikulski experienced both these milestones within 48 hours.

Although her daughter Lillian wasn’t due for another three weeks, Mikulski, then-candidate for Ferndale City Council, and husband Ben Wojdyla entered Royal Oak Beaumont Hospital at 6 A.M. on the day before the recent Ferndale elections. Mikulski came in first of four candidates with 44 per cent of the vote.

“Her name is Lillian. I campaigned knowing that I wanted to raise my daughter in Ferndale, and feeling an obligation to further contribute to the trajectory of the city. I wasn’t expecting her to come so soon, however – she was due at the end of November – and we got word that I would need to be induced early just before the election,” said Mikulski.

Lillian must have been eager to greet her mother on the night she won the election, because a routine doctor’s visit the previous Friday revealed some changes and the need to induce labor was determined. Despite complications resulting in surgery, Lillian Rose Wojdyla was born at 4:39 P.M., healthy.

Who are some people who helped inspire you, and give you the motivation you need to successfully run for city council on behalf of Ferndale residents?

I credit Alissa Sullivan (Hazel Park City Council), Roslyn Grafstein (Madison Heights City Council), Alan H. Kideckel (former Berkley City Council), and the 500+ residents I helped via Ferndale Rat Patrol for giving me motivation to run for council. I especially credit Eric Geiner, Dave Cottrill, Cyndi Russ, Suzanne Janik, Patrick Welsh and Anne Galligan as my core campaign team for pushing me and motivating me when things got tough, and my husband for helping me at every possible chance. I’d also like to thank Dean Bach for being a sounding board, and Chris Best for encouraging me early on.

What are the most significant, and practical improvements you hope to see now that you have been elected?

The simplest and most practical improvement I’d like to implement is improved communication with residents. By performing a small amount of outreach before council and commission meetings, we can increase resident engagement and dialogue with community leaders. This is part of why I ran on a “resident first, politician second” platform: I’ve heard for years from residents that they feel like they find out about decisions and actions at the last minute, after everything has already been decided and implemented. We
currently have the tools to make residents aware of meetings, and it should be relatively easy to implement an outreach strategy. Further, I strongly feel that holding regular community outreach sessions outside of council meetings is essential, as this gives people the opportunity to voice their concerns without the pressure and anxiety of publicly speaking at a council or commission meeting.

Thank you for talking about the train. I feel like I’m on crazy pills every time our city gets shut down during 5:30 P.M rush-hour for a cargo train to unload. Does this happen in other places? Is there any hope of amendments to their unloading schedule or are we just screwed?

This happens in several other cities, such as Kalamazoo, Woodhaven, and Plymouth. Kalamazoo is planning to install a driver warning system of flashing lights, as well as detour signs to direct drivers around the blocked points. My hope is that we could have an advanced warning system like that, although that wouldn’t fix the problem for pedestrians and those riding bikes. My hope is that CN will honor their commitment to work with the community, as they promised back in 2015 when they discussed how the new yard would reduce train blockages. Beyond that, unfortunately federal law trumps local area time limits, meaning we’re unable to impose time limitations on the train crossings even though there is a statute on the books in Michigan imposing a five-minute time limit for stopped trains.

If you could have any musician, living or dead, perform a song for you and your child, who would it be, what song would they sing, and why?

Either Nina Simone, “Here Comes the Sun” or Bob Dylan’s, “The Times They Are A Changin’.” When she’s older we’ll get into the punk classics.

HOLIDAY TIME! THAT TIME OF YEAR when we are all supposed to be happy! Set everything aside and forget your troubles. A time to experience all those warm fuzzy feelings that we only feel at this time of year. But why not all year? Why do we wait for this time of year to forget differences, express love, and be generous? Think how much better we would feel if we tried to have these feelings all year.

I am not talking about happiness. Happiness is more of a long-time feeling that is incredibly elusive, and the more one chases it, the more elusive it becomes. I am talking about those little snippets of joy that slip up on us occasionally and, if we are aware, are like a gift. Mentally, or emotionally they are like a happy little nudge from the universe which is saying, “just a little something with your name on it.”

We don’t think these moments happen often, but, the truth is that they are happening all the time and we are not aware of it. In other words, the universe is frequently nudging us with gifts, and we are ignoring them. How sad that we don’t get to have these feelings when they are right there waiting for us to notice. We don’t even have to reach. We only need to open our minds and notice.

Everyone has read articles where self-help gurus are telling us to write everyday things that made us happy the day before. We have all tried it for about a week, and run out of different stuff to write, or get bored because we are not journal-keepers. And the whole idea gets trashed.

And yet the universe just keeps sending gifts.

I am a journal-keeper. Maybe once a week or every few days. I tried the “moments of joy” list and dropped it due to running out of big new things which gave me a moment of joy.

Then one week I was troubled, and looking for anything to distract my mind while I walked my dog, Heidi. I became mesmerized by the patterns the shadows of the leafless trees made on the sidewalk. For lack of anything else, I listed this the next day. A few days later, I noticed the way Virginia’s eyes lit up just before she made a really good wisecrack. I wrote that too.

By that time, I was watching for these happy snippets from the universe. And, I think the universe was happy, because it sent me even more stuff to ponder on: The sound of Greg Pawlica laughing, Dan Martin calling with another stupid pun joke, getting hugs from people. After a while, I noticed that everything was fodder for my joy list.

I didn’t worry about repetition because some things are meant to be enjoyed over and over. I feel so peaceful at my painting table before daylight almost every morning. I love snuggling Heidi. Riding on the short bus with my seniors. There are so many things that bring me a little nudge of joy.

That was when I realized that making the list, even mentally, wasn’t necessarily the goal. Learning to open my mind and seeing the opportunities was the goal. By needing something to put on that damn list the next day, I was training myself to look and accept. I appreciate so much more around me now, and am constantly learning. Plus, I am so grateful to be given these gifts.

A word of caution. I know you will be excited and want to share, but, not everyone is tuned in, and will not appreciate what you are experiencing.

I learned this the hard way during the Chamber of Commerce Gala. A bunch of us were sitting off to the side laughing and talking. I sat back and looked at everyone, realizing how I loved each person there, and thoroughly enjoying their company at that moment.

So, I set my drink down and in loud clear tones verbalized this to all my companions. The immediate reaction was Dan Martin cutting my drinks off, followed by Joyce moving a little further away from me. So, a little discretion is advised.

Have fun, and remember to notice what makes you joyful.

Jeannie Davis 248 541 5888
Jeannie remains Number One on our own list of joys here at FF!