Thursday, December 1, 2005

Cholesterol: It does a body good

A growing group of folks dare to say that more might just be better
By Vesna Vuynovich Kovach

It’s an integral part of every cell in your body; embedded in each one’s membrane, it quite literally keeps you together. Over a remarkably wide range of temperature, it keeps your cells firm enough that they don’t soften into mush, yet supple enough not to crystallize. It’s also a vital ingredient in cell manufacture and repair.

This same substance is the principal building block of many of your most important hormones, including the sex hormones progesterone, estrogen and testosterone, and several adrenal hormones, too: cortisol, cortisone, aldosterone. You need it to make the glucocorticoids that regulate your blood sugar. You also need it to make the mineralocorticoids that balance minerals and regulate blood pressure.

Pivotal in brain synapse function, this plentiful component of mother’s milk is critical to the development of a baby’s brain and neurological system.

As if this all weren’t enough, this same substance is also essential for your body’s synthesis of Vitamin D. Your liver needs it to create bile salts and acids for effective digestion; its name means “bile solid” in Greek.

What is it, this magical substance so central to all animal life? Here are some clues that probably won’t help. It’s soft, white, waxy and crystalline. You have about five ounces of it in your body, most of which you make yourself. Some comes from the food you eat.

It’s cholesterol.

We hear about cholesterol all the time, everywhere from the evening news to product labels. Many of us plan our diets, if not our entire lifestyles, around it – or anyway, around avoiding it.

But for something we spend so much energy thinking about, how many of us know what it actually is: what it’s made of, where it comes from, what it looks like? And what, if anything, it’s good for?

The information is not so readily available to the casual seeker. Even an Internet search for “cholesterol benefits” will turn up mostly information about ways to get rid of it – or, more precisely, how to have less floating around in your blood (serum cholesterol) – rather than about the various benefits of cholesterol itself.

Cholesterol fits many categories. It’s an alcohol, by virtue of having an OH component. It’s a lipid, which is a family of substances that includes fats and waxes. It’s also a steroid, which is a type of lipid. Cholesterol is the precursor to pregnenolone, used to synthesize all the body’s steroid hormones.

Cholesterol needs to get wherever cells need mending. The logical way to travel is through the circulatory system; that is, by floating along in the bloodstream. But there’s a problem: cholesterol can’t dissolve into your blood, because it’s not easily soluble in water. Our bodies have developed an ingenious workaround. We pack up individual molecules of cholesterol into lipoproteins, little globes made of water-soluble protein on the outside and fat-soluble lipid on the inside – and away they go, like little submarine travelers.

The lipoproteins that carry cholesterol away from the liver toward cells that need repair are less dense than the ones that bring it back to the liver. Hence the familiar terms low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) – the so-called “bad” and “good” cholesterols. Technically, the cholesterol itself is the same; it’s the submarines that are different.

Incidentally, plaque, that infamous cholesterol-laden tissue of arterial walls, is not a residue of cholesterol swimming by, even though it is associated with high blood cholesterol levels. It’s not like a bathtub ring; rather, it’s built into the artery tissue on a deeper level.

All animals produce cholesterol. Plants don’t. That’s why meat, eggs, butter and other animal foods contain cholesterol, while absolutely all vegetable oil is cholesterol free. Same goes for all grains, fruits and veggies.

Even the strictest vegetarian folks have cholesterol – sometimes even at levels deemed too high by current standards. In fact, some research seems to show that our bodies work to maintain a level of cholesterol that’s consistent within each individual, so that if you eat less, your body makes more, and vice versa.

None of the information above is considered controversial. Recently, though, there has been a groundswell of controversy regarding cholesterol’s role in coronary heart disease (CHD).

A growing community of physicians and layfolk worldwide reject what they’ve dubbed the “diet-heart idea”: the view that saturated fat and cholesterol (read: animal food) leads to blocked arteries and heart attack. According to them, the reason cholesterol is present in damaged, lesioned arterial walls is because of its role in cell repair. They hold that cholesterol is part of the solution, not part of the problem.

High levels of blood serum cholesterol don’t cause heart attacks, they say, any more than high numbers of plaster casts cause broken bones. They point to examples that seem to contradict the conventional view, like the Masai tribespeople of Kenya who live almost entirely on meat and milk, yet have ultralow rates of CHD.

As possible culprits for the CHD epidemic, they cite smoking, stress, bacterially caused inflammation, and modern “fabricated” foods – margarine, nonfat cream cheese, boxed breakfast cereal. To the typical health-conscious consumer, theirs seems a topsy-turvy worldview in which just about all the modern dietary improvements turn out to be positively lethal.

The critics of the diet-heart idea admit that not all animals are designed to eat food that contains cholesterol. Lettuce-chomping rabbits, for instance, are virtually unable to metabolize this substance in their diet, even though, like all animals, they produce it internally.

In fact, they use this well-established bit of rabbit biology to bolster their pro-cholesterol view. They say it renders useless the many studies of harmful effects of dietary cholesterol using rabbits as test subjects – that although the results are dramatic, they can’t shed light on how dietary cholesterol affects humans.

One of the voices in the forefront of the diet-heart detractor movement belongs to a general practitioner in Sweden, Uffe Ravnskov, M.D., Ph.D., spokesperson for The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics ( and author of The Cholesterol Myths, which purports to detail how, from a seminal 1950s cross-nations study on, the actual findings of cholesterol research have been grossly misreported in study abstracts and by the press.

Ravnskov goes so far as to maintain that it’s only because rabbits are small, cheap and easy to handle that so much cholesterol (and other human-health-related) research has been done on them – and that the public pays the price in terms of misleading results that lead us – with futility – to adopt diets that are unappetizingly low in fat, to choose modern, high-tech alternatives (like margarine) to foods that have been part of the human diet for millennia, and to consign ourselves to a lifetime of taking expensive, powerful, yet little-understood drugs.

Moving our story closer to home, 2005 saw the birth of a Madison chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation, an international organization dedicated to promoting traditional, natural foods. This is a natural foods movement with a difference.

Far from the conventional pro-vegetarian mindset that characterized the health foods movement throughout the 20th century, the WAPF view focuses sharply on the animal foods of our not-so-distant ancestors – beef, lamb, eggs, milk, butter – with an emphasis on natural, small-farm products, minimally processed and without artificial ingredients.

WAPF proponents like to point out that the rise in heart disease since the 1920s is concurrent with the decline in these foods.

At monthly meetings, local farmers bring their wares – raw-milk cheeses, grass-pastured meats and more. A lively Internet community thrives via a Web site ( and online discussion boards. Topics include tips on home preparation of cream cheese and naturally fermented and cultured foods like yogurt and kefir – using whole milk, of course – and pointers to articles and books featuring obscure – some say suppressed – cholesterol-friendly nutritional and medical information.

If this seems far-out, consider that there are over 300 WAPF chapters in the United States alone. The Madison chapter is Wisconsin’s fifteenth.

Last April some 250 people flocked to the local group’s inaugural event, a talk given by the national organization’s founder and president, Sally Fallon, to hear her message of the dangers of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs (she says they’ve been linked to depression, cancer – and, perhaps ironically, heart disease), hydrogenated and trans fats (the mainstream is catching up to this particular caveat), and modern low-fat dairy products (she says they are thickened with dry milk powder for palatability – a source of “damaged,” or oxidized, cholesterol, which actually is dangerous for your heart.)

Testimonials to the healing power of cholesterol-rich foods are rife. Mary Smith, trim and energetic at 54, one of the event’s organizers, says following advice like that found in Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions changed her life. “I was depressed and anxious for years,” says the former vegetarian. “I had terrible cravings all the time.” Now, when symptoms begin to return, Smith cuts out most everything except eggs, meat and, doled out over the course of the day, a full stick of butter. “I spread some on my eggs and some on my meat. If the eggs and meat are gone before I’ve eaten my full portion of butter, I just eat it straight.”

Another chapter founder, Mary Jo Fahey, suffered from chronic fatigue. “I wasn’t getting enough fat,” says the lean, self-employed writer who teaches workshops on making kefir and other naturally cultured foods. “I needed the energy.” Her favorite foods include a local farm’s heavy cream that’s “so thick, it’s like custard – you can practically stand up a spoon in it.”

And Martha Reilly, 50, an optometrist whose professional background includes nearly a decade of medical research, says she lost forty pounds and reversed her diabetic symptoms by switching from a low-fat diet centered on whole grains to one built on what she calls “good fats” – those found in grass-fed beef and raw milk. “Commercial livestock are fed the wrong foods to begin with,” she says. “So their fats aren’t as good.”

Certified Nutritional Consultant Kristina Amelong, 41, struggled with chronic bladder, sinus and yeast infections. “I was very, very sick. I was in pain all the time,” she says. She devoted herself to natural remedies, acupuncture and natural foods for years, but, she says, “It wasn’t until I started a diet with lots of fat that my health turned around.” In addition to her Atwood neighborhood practice, Amelong and her husband, Tim Cordon, boards goats at their farm in Blue Mounds. The goats belong to fellow natural foodies who want raw, non-homogenized milk.

Of course, conventional medicine does not condone these examples. Nor does it consider the diet-heart connection to be an open question. Major organizations ranging from the National Institutes for Health, the USDA, the American Medical Association, the American Heart Association and the Centers for Disease Control all are unequivocal that low-cholesterol diets can help prevent CHD, and that the opposite is risky.

But the cholesterol skeptics are confident they have the facts, and the history of human nutrition, on their side. “If the mainstream is right, then maybe I won’t live as long,” says Smith. “But it tastes good. And I feel good. And it’s better than being depressed.”

Saturday, October 1, 2005

Rub Out TMJ

Therapeutic massage holds out healing hope for sufferers of jaw joint disorders
By Vesna Vuynovich Kovach
In Anew magazine, Autumn 2005

He was graceful, lean but not quite lanky, with high, well-defined cheekbones, a broad, intelligent forehead, and a thoughtful, artistic intensity in his eyes. He pretty well fit the description of all my youthful crushes – like Fred Astaire and Ludwig Wittengstein (yes, the philosopher) – and also of – maybe you could guess it, but I was 30 before a girlfriend pointed it out to me – my father. My heart leapt. My blood rushed. My brain – scandalized – scolded and denied. I shouldn’t be feeling any of this.

It was my ex-boyfriend from L.A., whom I hadn’t seen for nearly a decade, come to visit. It hadn’t occurred to me that, after years of friendly correspondence, I’d be so primally attracted to him on sight, just like when we first met. I suddenly and painfully recalled that he dumped me. And what a fool of myself I’d made over it.

My body fairly vibrated as I accepted his warm hug. I watched as if from a great distance as he cordially shook hands with my husband. I tensed. I didn’t know what to say.

And then my jaw locked shut.

My jaw remained clenched, frustratingly, through the wonderful Chinese dinner we went out for. (Sucking Lo Mein wasn’t too bad, but oh, those big, juicy dumplings!) Long past that short-lived, but intense, jolt of first encounter. All through the perfectly normal and lovely week the three of us enjoyed together. And a few days thence.

This was one of the many episodes of TMJ (temporomandibular joint, or jaw joint) disorder (sometimes abbreviated as TMD) I’ve experienced over the course of my adult life. And I’m not alone. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, one of the National Institutes of Health (, estimates 10.8 million Americans share my pain.

Recently I decided to find out more about TMJ, and explore the possibilities for a healing journey. I discovered some surprises along the way. And I came to the conclusion that the most promising avenue for treatment might be one that most of those millions will, unfortunately, probably never pursue: therapeutic massage.

TMJ problems can be difficult to diagnose, partly because there are so many possible symptoms: pain; impairment of motion; a jaw that’s locked in an open or closed position; clicking, popping and crunchy noises; headaches; eyelid twitching; sleep disturbance; dizziness; a changing bite; flu-like symptoms; bad wear on the teeth; even toothaches. For some, the symptoms are mild and/or infrequent; for unlucky others, persistent and/or excruciating. Episodes are often triggered by stress, as in my case, and are intermittent – and that also makes it hard to judge the effectiveness of therapy.

The cause of “TMJ syndrome,” as this cluster of conditions is often called, is unknown. There are plenty of theories: orthodontic work, malocclusion (bad bite), stress, chewing gum or ice, tooth grinding at night, injuries or trauma to the head or neck, posture, playing woodwind instruments, tooth extractions. But for just about each theory, there’s at least one scientific study that contradicts it.

Treatments include braces to correct jaw position, grinding down the teeth to change the bite, “splints” that can be inserted or else implanted surgically – an irreversible procedure – hot and cold packs, and rather dreary advice to subsist on soft foods for life. None of these are known to work terribly well, according to the NIDCR’s 1996 Management of Temporomandibular Disorders conference assessment statement.

Another wrinkle: 90% of folks seeking treatment are women in their childbearing years, according to the TMJ Association (, a national non-profit advocacy, education and support group based in Milwaukee.

So here’s a condition that (1) is generally reported by women, (2) is associated with stress, (3) has no known cause, and (4) resists treatment. Put all that together and you shouldn’t be surprised that TMJ sufferers are too often told that their condition is merely psychological – all in our pretty little female heads, as it were. For many, the legacy of this invisible pain can be alienation from friends and family who have run out of patience, humiliation by condescending or unsympathetic doctors and dentists, frustration and despair.

Add to this the likelihood that the number of TMJ sufferers is far greater than statistics indicate. There’s reason to believe that many, if not most, do not report their condition to anyone. Or that when they do, it’s shrugged off and not referred for treatment, as happened with me some 23 years ago when I consulted a physician soon after first experiencing jaw locking. More recently, I told my dentist that my bite sometimes changes from day to day. He looked puzzled, then told me that was impossible and changed the subject.

This time, I decide to investigate massage therapy. I speak to Rebecca Massman, LMT, a massage therapist who specializes in site-specific, medically directed, therapeutic bodywork. Massman tells me she encounters plenty of TMJ troubles in her work; about one in eight of her clients report it. “I think it’s way more common than people think,” she says. But only rarely is it the reason for their visits.

Massman works at the UW Health Center for of Integrative Medicine, as well as in private practice. She is an instructor of soft tissue techniques and clinical anatomy at the East-West Healing Arts Institute, a local school for therapeutic massage. (“Soft tissue” refers to all sorts of features softer than bone, even though they may not seem squishy-soft to us layfolk.) The massage modalities she uses include myofascial release (the stretching and pulling of fascia, fibrous bands of connective tissue) and trigger point techniques (areas that, when touched, feel painful at that spot and in other “referred” places as well).

Massman is trained in TMJ massage. But having the opportunity to use it is another story. “Clients will usually come for something else, and the TMJ is secondary to other issues,” she says, but as “everything’s connected, everything’s related in the body,” these could be addressed holistically together with the TMJ. “It’s not well known that massage can help,” she says. “They don’t think we can treat it, or what to do. I let them know we can work on it, and they can get relief. They listen. I do a little jaw work to let them know. But then the numbers go way down, like one out of 50 says, yeah, go ahead, let’s do it.”

Why not? One reason is insurance. It’s rare to find coverage for TMJ massage – even though more invasive approaches that are far more expensive, like surgery, are readily covered. What’s more, Massman says TMJ is just one of many conditions that could be treated successfully with massage, but that few people get because of insurance. She lists Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, frozen shoulder and Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, which causes numbness, pain and pins-and-needles sensations along the arm.

Massman says that a full course of TMJ therapy can take anywhere from one to 10 hour-long sessions, “depending on the individual, what’s involved, how long it’s been an issue. Years, or months? The longer it’s been around, the more time and work it will take.” In south central Wisconsin, massage typically costs $60 to $70 per hour.

Another reason could be that physicians traditionally have referred TMJ cases to dentists and orthodontists, who are not usually experienced in soft tissue work in the same way that massage therapists are. These specialists do not ordinarily make referrals to massage therapists.

Another factor that keeps people from diving into TMJ massage treatment: pain. “It’s an ongoing series of treatments, and it can be really painful,” says Massman. “Probably the most painful area of the body to work on.”

I get a demo session from Massman, and I can attest to the pain – but also to the effectiveness. The experience transforms how I think and feel about my TMJ issues.

Massman begins by palpating my subocciptals, the muscles down at the back of my skull. As she presses on the trigger points that she finds there, I feel sensations shoot through my cranium and then subside as the muscle fibers relax. A classic trigger point response.

Next, she squeezes along the length of the sternocleidomastoid (SCM), the long, ropy muscle on the side of the neck that connects chest to collarbone to jaw. Not much pain there, in my case. “I would do the scalenes in further sessions,” she explains, with an explanatory nudge at the raft of muscles that run underneath and crosswise to the SCM. “You have a lot of work to be done there.” Ouch. Sounds right.

Finally Massman moves to the three key muscles of the TMJ assembly. She finds some tension and knotting in the medial pterygoid (poke upwards under your jaw toward the back and you’ll find it) and lateral pterygoid (under the cheekbone). But it’s in the masseter (reach inside your mouth for a tough, fin-like ridge) that she finds scores of trigger points. She methodically applies steady, firm pressure to individual spots. “It feels like a wad of tissue,” she explains, “Thick and hard. Then I can feel it release.” What I feel is exquisite pain during that release, as if she is pushing harder (she isn’t), and then nothing, as if she’s let go (when she hasn’t). Also classic trigger point behavior.

There are plenty more points to be resolved, she assures me, but they will have to wait for future sessions. “They’re deeper. It’s like peeling the layers of an onion,” she says. And it would be a mistake (besides unbearable) to attempt it all in one day: “Your jaw would probably seize up, go into shock.”

Massman explains that the patterns of tensions she has found are unique to me, and have developed over years in response to numerous factors and life events, probably including clenching when stressed, poor postural habits and the trauma to my jaw of wearing braces and then getting them removed. (That doesn’t mean that braces are bad – just that getting massage in conjunction with them is probably a good idea.)

Over the next several days, I feel increased mobility. My jaw feels markedly more open and relaxed – and it’s quieter during chewing. The familiar crunchy feeling is gone. Perhaps most important, my point of view is greatly expanded.

I’ve begun to appreciate the truly marvelous, complex system of muscles and other tissues that keep my jaw in place, allow movement for talking, provide force for chewing. I’ve learned that tensions and knots in some of these muscles have pulled my jaw out of kilter in a highly individualized way.

In other words, there’s a lot of stuff there, and all those parts work really hard, all day, every day. No wonder things go awry fairly frequently. Or that different bits go wacky in different ways for different people. In fact, the very term “TMJ syndrome” begins to sound silly to me. Would we say there is a “knee syndrome” because many people are susceptible to various injuries to that complex and heavily used part of the anatomy?

I’ve discovered that my TMJ tensions are responsible for more of my symptoms than I had dreamed. I’ve learned how far-reaching and variable TMJ effects can be, and how common. I am convinced that therapeutic bodywork, given time and in the hands of a properly trained practitioner, can resolve most, if not all, of these effects in my own case, and that the potential is great to help others, as well. I have a long way to go on my TMJ healing journey. But for the first time, I believe my path is clear.

To learn more about the TMJ and related areas, and for massage you can do yourself, check out The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief, Second Edition, by David G., Md. Simons (New Harbinger Publications, 2004).

Rebecca Massman, LMT, can be reached at 608-222-7473.

Jan Wheaton: All That's Jazz

This reluctant diva is a shy violet offstage
By Vesna Vuynovich Kovach
in ANEW Magazine [Brava Magazine as of 2006]
October 2001
Cover story

Jan Wheaton’s cat is hiding behind the curtain.

All afternoon he’s been out of sight behind the curtain by the sliding glass door leading to the backyard. When I ask about him, Wheaton rises lightly from her forest-green, leather armchair – at the start of my visit, she had melted into it luxuriantly, resting her bare feet on a matching Ottoman – and calls for the cat, a golden-eyed Persian Himalayan.

“Fuji!” Wheaton pads across the room and pulls aside the drape. Fuji lies along the carpet, absolutely unruffled by the reveal. But I am ruffled. Transfixed. It’s not just the ethereal cloud of blizzard-white fur, or the energized tranquility of his eyes. Such explosive glamour, so modestly sequestered – it’s startling.

In a way, Fuji is an apt mirror for Wheaton, a prominent local jazz song stylist who is quick to describe herself as “very reserved.” A bacteriologist by training – she entered the sciences hoping “not to be bothered with people ... so I could be in my little lab room with my lab coat and Petrie dish” – Wheaton is nothing short of a diva, in the truest and best sense of the word. Modest and retiring offstage or not, no lesser label would be sufficient for her star combination of beguiling onstage charisma, vocal talent, inventive approach and musical mastery.

She might spend her days at home – and preferably alone – listening to jazz tunes on her stereo, or on the links practicing her golf swing (she got a hole-in-one at Glenway a while back), but nights and weekends she’s out on the town, drawing cheers from enthusiastic audiences who’ve come to hear the sweet tones of her uniquely high-octane, velvety renditions.

“There are in fact two of me living in this body,” she offers bluntly, but with a wink. “One is this educated university administrator. The other is this bitch who like to hang out in bars.”

On the Madison music scene for 40 years, it seems that only recently Wheaton has been getting the level of recognition she’s earned. Her first CD, Love’s 3 Faces, released in 2001, went into multiple pressings. At the 2002 Isthmus Jazz Festival, she was chosen Jazz Personality of the Year. This year, at the second annual Madison Area Music Awards (the MAMAs), she was named Best Female Vocalist, a distinction that covers all genres. And this year Wheaton became the second-ever recipient of the MAMA’s Michael St. John Lifetime Achievement Award.

Rick Tvedt, executive director of the MAMAs, says that among the award organizers, support of the choice of Wheaton for the lifetime award was “pretty much unanimous right off the bat.” The Lifetime Achievement Award is “for individuals who have dedicated large portions of their lives to music, who have committed themselves to the music community here, and who have stayed local,” he explains.

The timing was right on, he says, because of the way Wheaton’s career has exploded in recent years, including a second CD release this fall, Expressions of Love.

“I’m really happy to see Jan getting some of the attention she so rightfully deserves,” says Tvedt. “She’s very humble and very vibrant. I get a really good buzz when I talk to her.”

Madison’s Mayor Dave Cieslewicz is also a fan. “Jan Wheaton has long been a jazz pioneer in Madison. She is one of the people who opened Madison’s eyes to the jazz scene,” he says. “I asked her to perform at my inauguration party, and she was incredibly well-received.” Cieslewicz even appointed Wheaton to the city’s Alcohol License and Review Commission (the ALRC) because, he says, “she is so well-respected, both within and beyond the local music scene. I felt she would bring a musician’s sensibility to the ALRC’s discussions, and that’s exactly what she’s done.”

Small-Town Roots
Born in 1943 in Cherryvale, Kansas, a predominantly white, “tiny little town of 4,500 people” near the borders to Oklahoma and Missouri, Wheaton grew up on her family’s cattle ranch. She remembers well the discrimination of those days. In the early 1950s, when the town planned a new municipal swimming pool for whites only, Wheaton’s family successfully “raised a bunch of hell,” she remembers. “They were using our tax money.” Besides, she says, “school was integrated. There weren’t enough of us to segregate.”

Getting out of Kansas was top priority, so the young Wheaton followed her parents’ advice to get a college education, studying science at the University of Kansas at Lawrence. Wheaton's mother was a church pianist and organist who taught her daughter to play the piano; her father "thought he could sing," she says, rolling her eyes heavenward. Growing up, Wheaton had sung for her classmates at assemblies and traveled the tri-state region in her church choir. But music as a profession? "They just about killed me when I told them," says Wheaton, with a laugh. Although "they were always pushing me to sing, every time someone came to visit," Wheaton's parents didn't anticipate that their daughter would make music a career. And neither did she.

When she first left for college, Wheaton felt relieved: “OK, I never want to sing another note.” But in her first week away at college, fate got the better of her. Out one night at a local club, Wheaton asked a jazz trio if she could sing a few numbers, just for fun. “They were playing all those sappy love songs Mom and Dad were always singing,” she recalls. So why sing them? "I knew them." And Wheaton has been singing those songs ever since.

After earning an M.S. in bacteriology, Wheaton embarked on a university career that was to span 35 years. She began at the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene, then soon went on to the UW-Madison Department of Bacteriology for the next 13 years. From there she moved to the UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, where she worked as a teaching specialist and the coordinator for minority and disadvantaged students. For 10 years, she served as an assistant dean for the college before becoming Associate Athletic Director for Student Services. Through much of the 1990s and until retiring from the UW in 2001, Wheaton was Assistant Dean of Students at the Student Affairs Office and the director of the Campus Information and Visitor Center at the Red Gym.

Nights and weekends, she sang.

“Music is my life. It’s what allowed me to stay at the University for 35 years and not go berserk,” she says. “So did changing jobs over the years. I don’t think there’s any job that you just absolutely love every day. Or if there is, I wasn’t in it.”

Wheaton has never married or had children. “I figured out a long time ago, this music takes a lot of time. A career takes a lot of time. And families take a lot of time. So I picked the two I wanted,” she says.

Breaking In
“I kind of muscled my way in,” says Wheaton of breaking into the early 1960s’ Madison music scene. “Subtlety is my mantra. If somebody I liked was playing, I would show up and ask to sing.” For years, she wasn’t taken seriously, she felt. “It’s hard, really, being a girl singer. The other musicians – the men – didn’t consider me a fellow musician. They’d just put me on near the beginning for diversity.

“That's how I was used. The audience would get restless, start talking, waiting for the real act.” She had a different opinion of her role on the music stage. “This is my instrument," she says, and points to her throat. "I don't blow a horn or bang on a drum."

And she began getting phone calls. People who’d heard her sing wanted her to play as a featured artist at parties, cocktail hours, festivals and other functions. No longer the token girl singer, Wheaton now holds the reins, sizing up the budget and scope of the gig and hiring musicians to form a backing combo to fit the venue.

The Third Act
Since retiring, Wheaton has had more time to spend on her musical development. “It’s still the same old music that I’m exploring, but I haven’t done some of these songs in this way,” she explains. “I take more chances. I’m testing my range.”

Pianist Matan Rubinstein, a Ph.D. candidate in music composition at the UW, has Wheaton’s regular accompanist for the past few years. “She’s wonderful to work with. Very tough and strong,” he says. “She’s brilliantly musical. She has some of the most interesting phrasing I’ve ever heard in my life in jazz. Ella Fitzgerald or Sara Vaughn – she’s up there with them. She’s a real musician.”

For her part, Wheaton says, “I feel comfortable scatting with Matan. Other musicians don't always trust that you can do it." ("Scatting," or improvisational singing using nonsense syllables, is the jazz singer's version of an instrumental solo.) "If I do get out there and can't get back, he'll help me back. He gives me that space. What's happened is, I listen differently now."

Their chemistry on Expressions of Love is dynamite. Venerable standards receive novel approaches. On the shimmering first cut, “It’s Almost Like Being In Love,” Wheaton springs effortlessly against Rubinstein’s nimble piano into a breathtaking scat solo. “It’s about being excited. ‘What a day’! ‘What a rare mood’! But people don’t sing it that way,” says Wheaton. To demonstrate, she mimics a more pedestrian interpretation, and I can practically hear a metronome clanging: "What a da-ay-ay this has been...what a ra-a-are mood I’m in..."

“Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man” is similarly refreshing: it’s carefree, defiant, sparkling – not the usual anguished victim’s confessional. And her voice has somehow become more youthful over the past five years.

“Some of these songs, they tell you how to sing them,” she says, explaining how she arrives at her innovative, fully realized interpretations. “Like in ‘Don’t Explain’: ‘Skip that lipstick. Don’t explain...Right or wrong don’t matter...’ ” she says, quoting from the Billie Holiday tearjerker. “That’s pathetic!” I consider myself a strong woman, and here I am singing these weepy songs." I ask how she does it, and how does she pull it off with such conviction? "I'm an actress," she states, plainly.

Another factor, one she would be too modest to claim herself, is what Rubinstein calls her “extraordinary musicianship.” He elaborates, “Her sense of rhythm is really unique. Her sense of harmony is interesting. We really never do the same song in the same way when we play – we take the jazz approach. There are moments when we have the same thoughts, and take the plunge into the same direction, take the same risk. It’s a great treat.”

So what’s next for Jan Wheaton? “I want to play as much golf as I can. It’s the challenge,” she says. “I used to think it was silly, hitting a little white ball. But I cannot let this game beat me.” And, of course, there’s the musical goal of “continuing to live this life of music for as long as I’m able.”

Favorite musical artist: Nancy Wilson.

Why: “Her phrasing. You have no doubt what she’s singing about. The way she ‘works’ her notes.”

Favorite song to sing: “None. I like everything I do. I prefer sultry love songs.”

On expanding her repertoire: “Somebody asks, do you know this song? I look it up and listen to it. If I like it, I add it.”

Formal music training: “My mother taught me piano. I played clarinet in the marching band. I can read music and play a song, but not in a room where anyone else can hear me.”

Community involvement: Board of directors, Dane County Rape Crisis Center; member, Madison CitiARTS Commission, Madison’s Affirmative Action Commission, Madison’s Alcohol Licensing and Review Commission.

On Madison: “This is as big a city as I need. I love to visit big cities, but they’re just too much. This is home. Even if I had been ‘discovered,’ this is where I would be.”

Thursday, September 1, 2005

I drive by night

Behind the wheel with a taxi-driving mama
By Vesna Vuynovich Kovach
Anew Magazine

It’s 4 a.m. Saturday morning. I let myself into the quiet house where my husband and baby slumber. I pull a folded stack of cash from my pocket, count out half and leave it in the center of the kitchen table. He drives, too. And we always split the tips.

I crawl into bed. Images of the past 13 hours flicker and fade as I sink into a sleep that I know will be deep and will only last a few hours.

I started work yesterday afternoon by selecting a car key in the dispatch office and heading to the lot to prep my taxicab for the shift ahead. Tire pressure, wiper fluid, headlamps, signal lights, empty trunk, clean interior – check. I flicked on the dispatch radio, logged onto the onboard data terminal and headed downtown, alert to the radio.

The dispatcher called out a string of intersections representing ride origins. I listened, thinking of a frequent call that comes out of a nearby high school around this time of day, a partially disabled student who rides home clear across town: a nice girl, prompt, and good booking on the meter. No tip – they just don’t happen with calls on social services accounts – but a plum ride, nonetheless.

What’s more, there’s a bartender in her neighborhood who often takes a cab to work right around the time she gets home. A good tipper, like most barkeeps and waitstaffers – gives a twenty for a $15 ride. The two calls together make a lucky combo, though they weren’t mine today.

During the four hours before my first baby break I shuttled a gang of Dutch bicycle executives from hotel to mall, an urban-landscape planner from office to car repair shop, seniors to fish fries, and, Lord help us, a guy from a tavern to the state Capitol Square. The early drunks – those are the surreal ones.

“Name anything you want to hear a poem about!”

“The moon,” I suggested.

“That’s good! Ahem. Placidly, vociferously, without surreptition… The empathetical vacuity awaits the… the… Wait. OK. Moon. OK. Here it is. The seashore magic of the… the… What was the poem about?”

The poem never was completed. He tipped $10 to make up for it.

I hit the road again around 8 p.m., after nursing and playing with the baby. Haven’t had to pump since quitting that office job. Nice. My husband’s homemade stew fueled the hours ahead.

Lots of rides back from fish fries. Then, a tavern call to the ER. Uh-oh. Bar fight? No – bicycle wreck, and the fellow needed stitches. He had walked to the closest establishment with a phone; it happened to be a bar. Whew.

After that, the radio was silent. I cruised to the airport and queued up behind a dozen other taxis. The 45-minute wait was excruciating. We don’t get hourly pay. Only a share of the meter, and tips.

Three uniformed flight attendants and a pilot piled into the cab ahead of me. Again, whew. Flight crews never, never tip. Once I even dared say it – “They say flight crews don’t tip, ha, ha!” – just to see what would happen. “Ha, ha!” laughed the pilot. “My passengers don’t tip me, either!”

My ride: a friendly Australian couple to a pricey downtown hotel. They were taking a months-long trip around the States, instead of their usual annual months-long European vacation, they said. The man handed me a twenty saying, grandly, “Just give me two back.” A $1.25 tip.

I should have known, but I’m always floored. Fancy vacation = crummy tip. Other bad-tip predictors: old mansions, new construction, verbal promises of a wonderful tip, praise for being “the best cab driver ever” and – mysteriously – somber, whispering couples.

After the second baby break, midnight. Empty streets. Many stop lights set to blinking. Perfect for shuttling bar-hoppers from one watering hole to the next. For taking folks to that next party. For gliding back downtown fast after delivering folks home.

Bar time was most exciting, with plentiful rides. But also riskiest. I screened carefully for possible troublemakers – and pukers. “Hi, what’s your name?” I would ask, reading body language and checking against my data terminal. “Where ya headed?” Wrong answers: “Just unlock the *!#&#! door!” “Hey! A girl! Let’s party!” and “Uhhhhhh....”

Best were the jolly, comfortably tipsy, groups of friends. The ones who told each other “I love you,” and “Take care, sweetie,” at ride’s end. And the ones who said, “Let’s give the cabby some more tip.”

Their faces and voices fading lightly from my mind, I drifted to sleep, looking forward to the next shift.

Home in the Highlands

Highlights of the Symphony Designers Showhouse 2005 By Vesna Vuynovich Kovach In ANEW Magazine September 2005 Suppose over a dozen of the area’s most talented interior designers offered to make your home unimaginably fabulous for free: they’ll descend upon your house, bestowing their full range of creativity and skills, repainting and decorating everything from mud room to master bath and in between, and you’ll get the option to buy, or not, whatever furnishings and objets d’art they place. Ooh, la la, right? But now suppose this means you and your brood can’t live there for the several weeks or months it’ll take the design teams to do their thing. And that thousands of people will come streaming through your abode for a 10-day period, just a-partyin’ and a-gawkin’. Would you take the bait? This summer one pair of Madison homeowners did just that. Ellyn and Dan Mohs entrusted the decor of their just-purchased house in the West side’s Highlands neighborhood to the capable hands of the 13 design studios participating in the 14th Symphony Designers Showhouse presented by the Madison Symphony Orchestra League. And this month you’ll have the chance to feast your eyes on one of the most glorious remodels around during the open-house hours and the cavalcade of special events the MSOL has conjured up, with complete house tours accompanied by refreshments, live music, fine cooking demonstrations, craft beer tastings and more. (See sidebar.) MSOL volunteers orchestrate a Showhouse every other year, in addition to their many other educational and social projects. The 1,500 to 2,000 visitors who visit each Showhouse typically bring in about $20,000 in donations for the MSO.

How does a home become a Showhouse? “Someone in the league usually hears of a special house being built or renovated with interesting features that would attract an audience,” explains Jean Peterson, the MSOL volunteer who is chairing the publicity for the event. “And then hopefully the owners are willing to participate.” Each design team gets one room to do up. The goal is to show off their talents, present the cutting edge of interior design, and give showgoers inspiration and ideas for their own home projects. Ideally, they also strive to create an environment where the Showhouse owners will feel comfortable and at home for years to come. That means coordinating their plans with each other, so that all the rooms work together as an integrated whole. It also means working with the homeowners to understand what they want, to establish a direction for the overarching style, look and feel of the place. 

Ellyn Mohs describes the experience of working at the hub of so many skilled professionals and craftspeople: “Really busy. Pretty crazy, with so many deadlines and decisions.” Ellyn previously worked for a condominium company at Bishop’s Bay as a liaison between builders and home buyers, “but I’ve never done anything on this scale,” she says. Ellyn and Dan, an executive in his family’s business, Placon Thermoformed Products (an international resource for plastic containers headquartered in Madison) knew they would need some updates to the 1940 house before moving in. Working with Architectural Network, Inc. and Thomas Zimmer Builders to optimize the structure for their 21st century family, which includes two children aged six and seven – and one big dog – the Mohs soon saw their plans snowball into a major renovation. After the MSOL approached them with the Showhouse idea, the project escalated in scope to include design and decoration on top of the architectural changes, rewiring and new plumbing already in the queue. Now there was a deadline, too: the September 8 Showhouse Preview Party. The Highlands house for many years housed the family of George Icke, one of Madison's foremost builders during the 20th century. Mr. Icke died in 2003 at the age of 92. “Our main vision was, we wanted to maintain the integrity of the property,” says Ellyn Mohs. “We wanted to maintain the 1940s look, but make it more in line with us. How we live.” 

The changes to the exterior alone are nothing short of dramatic. A two-car garage has been attached to the side of the house. Space has been added to the second story, and the house now sports a second major peak. The original, modest entrance way has been walled up and a set of double doors under a portico now welcomes visitors into a soaring double-storied foyer. But in keeping with the Mohs’ goal, the transition between old and new appears seamless, both literally and figuratively. The new cream-colored brick magically matches the old, and the additions enhance the quiet elegance of the 65-year-old design. Inside, the house has been tricked out with the latest luxuries: three surround-sound systems – one on every floor (University Audio) – Sub-Zero refrigerators, a fully-equipped exercise room with a full-wall mirror, flat-screen plasma televisions in the living room and the master bedroom. In a creative twist, the laundry room is upstairs, handy to the bedrooms. Solid Brazilian walnut laid down in a range of deep, glowing hues provides flooring throughout much of the first story. But the interior renovation is far more radical than that; it was taken down to the very studs and completely re-envisioned. 

“People were surprised we didn’t just tear it down and build a new house,” says Mohs. “But we didn’t want to do that. We just couldn’t resist this property, though we knew it needed a lot of work. We just wanted to update it to our lifestyle.” Gone now are the small closets and bathrooms, the maze-like hallways of an earlier era. Blunt separation by walls on every side and narrow access through closeable doors are essentially a thing of the past for the common areas. Sandra Belozercovsky of Design Forward LLC worked on the lighting and other visual elements of the new kitchen, a roomy space with plenty of access to the living room, dining room and backyard. Design Forward also worked on other rooms throughout the house. She explains the appeal of what’s known as an open floor plan for today’s families. “You use the whole house at once, or at least, it feels that way. You can see into the other areas. You no longer have so many formal, separate rooms, like a formal living room, a formal sitting room.” Use is more casual, and more inclusive of the whole family, too. “When I was a kid, there would be whole rooms that were off limits for kids,” remembers Mohs. “We don’t want that.” For starters, consider the kitchen. “The kitchen is where people hang out these days,” says Mohs. But in the original kitchen, a small room near the front of the house, that wasn’t possible. “It was a tiny kitchen,” she says of the space that’s been transformed into her personal study (Zanders Interiors). Grass-textured wallpaper and a rust-red office chair give it a lively, contemporary feel today , but its sequestered location – perfect for a private space – makes it hard to imagine as a kitchen choice nowadays. 

Paul Dybdahl of Dybdahl’s Classic Kitchens and Cabinets talks about how the new kitchen was designed expressly with the Mohs in mind. “Ellyn wanted to take more advantage of the backyard,” he says of the move to the back, near the door to the screened-in back porch. “My favorite room in the house,“ she says. A mini-fridge for beverages is installed under a counter near the back door but out of the main workflow area of the kitchen. “During family play time, kids can run in and grab juice without disrupting anything, without even approaching the main refrigerator. That’s good for energy use," Dybdahl adds. For Dan, who “likes to do a lot of chopping, vegetable prep, that sort of thing,” the kitchen island is the main work area, and it’s topped with mesquite wood from Texas. “The whole island is a cutting board,” says Dybdahl, who first saw this use for mesquite at a recent trade show. “Nobody’s heard of it yet. It’s a very, very, hard, very dense wood. Ellyn wanted a work table they could chop on.” But Dybdahl needed to coordinate with the cherrywood cabinets he was installing. He recalls his thought process: “Well, we can look at maple and have it stained darker. Or there’s teak, but as that ages, it goes to gray. Then I got an idea in the corner of my mind, how about that mesquite?” This surface will naturally age to a “deep reddish brown, almost rosewood-like,” he explains, “very similar to the cherrywood.” Deep sage walls and celadon tile, in the minty hue of classical Asian porcelain, play against the cherrywood for a warm, substantial feeling in the kitchen, evoking the natural color scheme of the woods outdoors.

The creamy-colored tumbled limestone flooring, carved into a rectangular brick pattern, resonates with the house’s exterior and provides a magnificently durable, easily cleaned surface that only improves with age. Its comfortably worn look makes for a sturdy, Old World atmosphere. Handy features built into the island include a vegetable and rice steamer and a slot for waste. In general, the layout facilitates Ellyn and Dan cooking side by side, as they like to do, and feels connected to the kids’ play space. “If you interview your customer properly, you know how to lay out your kitchen,” says Dybdahl, who says he has enjoyed working on his first Showhouse. “It’s going to be a wonderful home.” he says.

The living room is done in neutral tones for “a Zen quality, very relaxing,” according to designer Phil Levy (Phillip Levy Fine Furniture & Interior Design, Inc.), and the style is “quite contemporary.” A plasma TV above the fireplace sports a contemporary arts screen saver. Ample windows look into the yard, and the relaxed, spacious feeling is enhanced by the way the room opens to the kitchen. This is Levy’s seventh Showhouse. “It’s really a treat,” he says. “This house is great fun. It’s fun to work with all the other designers – an opportunity to get to know them and work with them. Even though we get one room apiece, the whole house has to coordinate.” This room was added several years ago as a four-seasons space, but only during this renovation was it fully integrated into the house for complete insulated comfort. “It was the logical place for a living room,” says Ellyn. “Everyone who came here said, ‘Wow, what a nice room!’ But functionally, it was freezing cold. Now it doesn’t have that add-on feel anymore.”

The second story was extended above the living room, creating the master bedroom suite, another major departure from the former floor plan. Alan Boehmer (Alan Boehmer Interior Design) collaborated with lighting specialists Design Forward on the master bedroom suite, a stunning array of rooms accessed through a doorway off the top of the stairs. The bedroom itself is around a bend and up steps within the suite. A bracing ice blue continues above the walls and partly up a nave-like pitched ceiling, between a white gridwork of molding. The blue bedclothes adorn the dark walnut bed. Boehmer describes the look as “American. Not English, Italian or French. Clean lines. Fresh colors. Not at all cluttered.” Tilework in the master bath, a spacious walk-in closet for Dan and a cozy, windowed dressing room for Ellyn complete the suite.

Perhaps the most drama is to be found in Dan’s office (Decker-Cole Interiors) on the first floor, a traditionally styled gentleman’s study cased lavishly in cherrywood complete with a sunbathed reading nook. Walls of indigo are set off by cherry panels. A wood-mantled fireplace and handsome furniture and accents in upholstered in wines, deep blues and golds come together for the manliest variety of staid Victorian opulence. These are just some of the splendid features that have come together in this venerable house, happily remade into a home once again through the artisanry and craftsmanship of talented professionals working together.

Fortunately, we all have the opportunity to enjoy their creations through part of September during the Showhouse hours – and to raise money for the artistic talents of the Madison Symphony Orchestra at the same time. What could be a better housewarming?

Symphony Designer Showhouse 
The Showhouse will be open for tours Sept. 9–18, 2005 Monday–Saturday 10 a.m.–4 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m.–5 p.m. Wednesday, Sept 14 it will be open till 7 p.m. Call (608) 257-3734 x232 for tickets. Admission is $15 per person or $10 for groups of 10 or more. A $100 Patron Ticket includes raffle ticket for a Wolf Barbecue Grill and almost all special events. See for details on the many special events planned, including the Showhouse Preview Party Thursday, Sept. 8, 5–7 p.m. ($30 admission), featuring wine, hors d’oeuvres and music from the Michael BB Trio. Mention ANEW magazine to get an extension past the official Sept. 1 reservation deadline!

Monday, August 1, 2005

Jody Glynn Patrick: “Truly Grateful Every Day”

The 2005 ATHENA® Award recipient’s lifetime of helping others, despite struggles of her own
By Vesna Vuynovich Kovach
In ANEW Magazine, August 2005
Cover story

Kids, don’t try this at home.

Jody Glynn Patrick had made up her mind to wallpaper an ivy-patterned trim along the top of the upstairs hallway in her far southeast Madison home. The problem: one of the walls was also part of the two-story stairwell leading to the kitchen level and on down to the den. There was no way to get to the top of that wall. Not even with a ladder. It was just too high, the steps too narrow, the den floor off at too sharp an angle.

So Patrick created a way.

“I stood on the outside of the banister of the top of the stairs, with one foot on the edge outside the railing and one foot propped against the opposite wall.” Having trouble visualizing the feat? That’s because it’s impossible – for anyone but Jody Glynn Patrick, that is. “That’s where I wanted that trim,” she says. “I wasn’t giving up.”

And that last statement pretty well sums up her approach to the many challenges she’s faced in life. Especially when home and family is involved, Patrick makes happen whatever needs to happen. And she does it with individual flair.

It fits her as the intrepid interior decorator of her home, which she has painted in confident shades of sage, navy and cobalt, where two-toned rooms abound, and which is filled with unusual, highly personalized elements like photo mosaics from family albums on antique trunks and posters – and even directly on walls.

It describes her approach to her full-time job as the publisher and vice president of In Business, the Madison-based magazine owned by Magna Publications that she’s helmed since 1997. “I have a passion for two things at In Business magazine,” says Patrick. “Quality product and ethical treatment of employees and clients alike.” She’s succeeded with both. Not only is In Business a profitable and highly regarded publication, but it’s also the 2005 recipient of the Wisconsin Psychological Association’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in the small business category.

It explains how, after growing up in a household estranged from grandparents and kept from knowing the identity of her father until well into adulthood, she could become a self-taught genealogist, establishing a rock-solid family tree of 2,000 names, including notables like Noah Webster (“The first cousin to my great-great-great-great grandfather,” she says, matter-of-factly rattling off a precise sequence of “greats”) and Orville and Wilbur Wright. She’s parlaying the knowledge she’s acquired through the search into a series of middle-schooler’s history textbooks to be titled I Am an American, in which her ancestors’ stories will be told in first-person vignettes. “Everything will have a moral dilemma,” she says. “Being an American is a very complex thing. I have relatives who owned slaves. I have Quaker relatives who were active in the anti-slavery movement. Ancestors who were sucked in by the gold rush, who died on the pioneer trail.” Why cast the stories as children’s books? “I’ve learned about a whole different nation than I read about in school,” Patrick says. “I want to preserve that nation for my grandchildren. And if I would do it for them, why would I not write this for all children?”

And it explains how, faced with a diagnosis of late-stage breast cancer in 2000, Patrick not only survived, but also co-wrote a book about the experience with her husband, Kevin. During: A couple’s intimate experience with breast cancer (Veda Communications Co., 2004) was’s Book of the Month for June 2004. A board member of the International Breast Cancer Research Foundation has called the book “required reading for the entire medical community, and a must-read for someone...with breast cancer.” In addition to their full-time jobs, Jody and Kevin now keep up an extensive speaking schedule, appearing two to three times a month before audiences of hospital administrators, nurses and other health professionals. Their goal, she says, through the company they’ve founded, Glynn Patricks and Associates, LLC, is “to change how hospitals deal with cancer.” Reading the wrenching details of During shows the urgent need for such change.

This spring Patrick, 52, an Illinois native, received the 2005 ATHENA® Award, presented by The Business Forum, the Madison-area host organization for the ATHENA International Foundation. Each year the award goes to a woman in the Madison area who has achieved success in her profession or life’s work, who gives back to the community and who opens doors of opportunity for women. And the honor is well-deserved.

"She's wonderfully talented. She's an innovative thinker. She's got a pulse on the business community, too. She thinks of ways to help people in the community," says Chris Ashe, who coordinated the 2005 ATHENA Award process, facilitating the judging panel's selection of Patrick from a pool of 14 deserving nominees. "She's also been through a great deal. I admire that anybody that's got that much going on can go on performing and helping others, not even focusing on herself."

Dan Bullock, chief finance officer for Wood Communications Group, has worked with Patrick on several projects for the Far Eastside Business Association, where both sit on the board of directors. "She's just a joy-to-work-with-and-joy-to-know person. She's amazing, simply put," he says. "She's very smart, and super reliable. Almost everything she touches becomes fun. She's really got a great sense of humor. But the most fun thing was – even though I was just in the audience – I was lucky enough to attend the ATHENA awards this year. I think she was truly surprised."

Over the course of a 30-year career in writing and publishing, Patrick’s stories and columns have won several awards, including the 1992 National Newspaper Award for Best Columnist in the U.S. Her article about her encounter with her biological father – she used a false identity to lure him into conversation after he refused contact from his long-abandoned daughter – was published in the inspirational magazine Guideposts. She’s written prize-winning short stories, and two yet-to-be published police drama novels.

Her professional background is diverse: in the early 1980s, Patrick owned and operated Bub’s Pub Restaurant and Night Club Lounge in Denver, Ill. for three years. Before that, she was the marketing manager for DeeZee chemical company in Philadelphia, where she volunteered for the Eagles Fly for Leukemia Program as a consultant for the football team.

But social service has always been at the fore for Patrick, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate in counseling psychology from Western Illinois University. That might be because a service organization played such an important role in her early life. Patrick remembers that when she was five, her waitress mother, destitute and behind on the mortgage on their $2,000 house, gave her and her younger brother paper bags and told them to start packing. A man was knocking at the door, and her mother was sure it was the sheriff, come to take the children away, kick them all out of the house, or both.

But the man was the pastor from the local Salvation Army, come to help.

“He put us kids, in the late 1950s, in the home of a black family. Bessie Lou Lambert, who lived in a tarpaper shack with her six boys, said, ‘We have room for more.’ We stayed there for six months, until my mother could earn enough to pay the mortgage. If we’d been entered into the foster care system, she wouldn’t have been able to get us back,” Patrick says. “I really believe in the work of the Salvation Army as a main artery for getting help out in this country. It holds a very special place in my heart.” Today, Patrick is on the Salvation Army board.

In 2002, Patrick worked with the Salvation Army to send over 3,000 pounds of donated goods to troops in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan in the name of her daughter, Brook Glynn, who was serving overseas in the US Air Force. “For five months on Wednesdays and Saturdays, we packed boxes at the Salvation Army,” she remembers. “We supplied a base that had 40,000 people moving through it. We sent lip balm, sunglasses, soaps. One thousand containers of emu meat – it was packaged like Slim Jims. Every box had a letter that said, ‘These goods were donated by the people of Dane County who care about you and pray for you and by Airman Brook R. Glynn.’”

Patrick’s social service career began in the 1970s, when she was the director of Western Illinois University’s Crisis Hotline. The training manual she wrote for phone counselors was used at WIU and at other universities with crisis hotline programs.

Later, she managed the Ronald McDonald House in Chicago, working with children with cancer. Her article about her experiences being on duty 24/7 while living there with her children and then-husband won a Women’s Day magazine competition.

In 1991 Patrick was dealt a horrifyingly ironic blow. Since 1989, she had worked as a crisis counselor with the Cudahy Police Department, south of Milwaukee. Her duties included notifying people of the deaths of loved ones. As part of her work she wrote the manual Coping: A death in the family, which she describes as “a step-by-step guide for when somebody dies, here’s what’s going to happen.” But one day, the shattering phone call was for her: 16-year-old Daniel, her eldest child, was dead. “It was just a fluke accident on a sunny afternoon,” she recalls. “The tire caught on loose gravel and entered into an embankment.”

Patrick left the workforce, writing novels at home, to spend time with her three surviving children. In 1994 she found her way to Colorado – near her mother, Joyce – and back into social service, working as a supervisor of county caseworkers investigating child abuse. There she helped shape Colorado state law regarding child victims of abuse.

Soon, though, Patrick returned to Wisconsin and the publishing field. After nearly two years as a writer, administrator and interim publisher for a group of community newspapers in the greater Milwaukee area, she landed her present position as publisher of In Business magazine.

"She's been a terrific manager and a terrific asset to our company," says Bill Haight, the president of Magna Publications, the Madison-based firm that owns In Business. "She's very bright and very fast-moving. Her background in social psychology serves her well. She relates to people well, and always has other people's reactions in mind when she makes a decision. She's just a positive person. She doesn't have time for negatives."

In the late 1990s, everything finally seemed to be going right. A blind date led to a whirlwind romance and marriage to Kevin Patrick, a sales coach for the Fitchburg-based Apex Performance Systems. So electric was their attraction that they became engaged the night they met. “We had an amazing dinner,” remembers Kevin. “Then she said to me, hey, would you like to see my office? I could tell from everything on her desk and walls, this is the person that I've been looking for all my life. I could see what was important to her, her family, her job. She's an open book. I dropped down on my knee and proposed. I had to seal the deal. We kissed, and I felt incredibly relieved that the hard part of the courtship was over. I found my soul mate.”

“We had one perfect year where everything was going well,” remembers Jody. “Then came the diagnosis of cancer, and everything fell apart.” Incredibly, her mother was diagnosed with cancer on the same day. Joyce would not survive.

“I kept my job. Kevin took care of all the cooking, laundry, PTA meetings, taught my teenaged son, Philip, to drive.” Patrick kept her friends informed of her condition and state of mind through weekly e-mails, which make up a good part of During. In retrospect, Kevin says, he's glad they married so fast, because the self-sufficient Jody “might not have wanted me to marry her and take care of her.”

Magna's Bill Haight was close to the Patricks while they were living through the cancer experiences they chronicle in During. "The book is very revealing," he says. "I didn't know all of those things, all the difficulty she was going through. I have such a high confidence in her that I just took it for granted that she would be able to continue working, though not full-time. Because she could pretty much do everything she decided to. It was tough to relive it when the book came out."

In another twist, just as Jody and her mother were diagnosed with cancer, Jody’s daughter, Summer, became pregnant. “Nine months later, I finished chemo and radiation and was put on a shield drug,” says Patrick. “My grandson, Patrick, was born. My mother, in a coma, was told about the birth. A tear went down her cheek, and she closed her eyes and died.”

Reflecting on the road she’s traveled so far, Patrick says, “I’m truly grateful every day. I know it sounds trite. As a little girl I never thought I could have any of this – a wonderful job, home, family. I was supposed to be married to a pig farmer and pulling potatoes out of the ground. We don’t live a rich lifestyle, but we live a comfortable lifestyle. We can go driving and not worry about the price of gas. I don’t wear designer clothes and expensive jewelry, but deep in my soul to my toes, I don’t care.”

She muses about the dramatic events of recent years: “If you believe in predestined journeys, did my mother go through that journey with me, or was I picked to go through the journey with her?” The question can never be answered. But one thing is for certain: whatever is in store next for Jody Glynn Patrick, she will continue to pursue life with integrity, passion and commitment.

Thursday, June 2, 2005

Two-Meats Loaf with Savory Red Sauce

By Vesna Vuynovich Kovach
Column: Steal This Recipe
Unpublished (Until I can find someone to go for the Steal This Recipe concept)

How long is a sprig of thyme, and how much to use if you only have dried? How much salt is in a pinch? Where, exactly, is the liquid supposed to come up to relative to the line on your thick glass measuring cup, and what angle should you be looking at it from? Who cares?

This column is not about following instructions slavishly, running back and forth from your kitchen counter to the magazine page to check to see if you’re “doing it right.” It’s about enjoyment. What? You don’t have all of the listed foodstuffs on hand? Substitute something else! Ingredient X makes you gag? Leave it out! You, yes you, can create unique family favorites that bear the stamp of your own creativity and individual personality. Get in your kitchen and get cooking. Take notes, if you’re inclined to repeat – or fine-tune – your performance. Steal this recipe and make it your own!

Here’s a succulent dish I served up for dinner two nights ago, alongside Smashed Yukon Gold Potatoes. (Wash potatoes. Boil. Add butter, milk, salt, pepper. Smash. Serve. Steal this recipe.) The pork makes for a loaf with a spring, almost, to it, compared to the tender sensibility of the All-American supper standard. Flavor-wise, a hearty, complex outcome. Plays out like a happy marriage of sausage and meat loaf.

The leftovers have been just awesome: the next night, my husband, Don, broke up a hunk, sans the Italianate sauce, into some generously juicy remains of Chinese takeout Beef with Broccoli and tossed it together in a cast-iron pan. Brocco-tastic! (Extra tip: three years ago we threw out our nukulator. Reheating became more scrumptious, instantly. And no more ugly, uncleanable, burn scars etched into our tuppies.)

Try it out and see how you like it. If you come up with a variation that’s really good, let me know!

Two-Meats Loaf with Savory Red Sauce

1 pound ground chuck
1 pound ground pork
2 eggs
About a cup of bread crumbs
About a cup of milk
1 teaspoon salt
Several grindings black pepper
Diced onion
Fresh marjoram
Fresh tarragon

Mix everything together and bake it at 350° F. Heavens, don’t measure anything if you can possibly avoid it. Cover with savory red sauce (below), or add the sauce at the table. If you use the kind of pan you would bake lasagna in, it’ll be ready in 50 minutes. If you use two loaf pans, it’ll be ready in an hour and a half.

Got some bread going stale in the fridge? A brick of cold rice from the other night? A couple of corn muffins no one’s ever going to eat? By all means, crumble those in rather than the bread crumbs. Whatever you use, I recommend you soak this element in the milk for at least 15 minutes, to give the starch granules a chance to absorb the liquid and yield a more tender result.

Why those herbs in particular? I had some partial packs of them in the freezer that I was tired of looking at. (You do keep your fresh herbs in the freezer so they don’t get wilty, slimy and, ultimately, wasted, don’t you? Yes?) Please, use any seasonings you like, fresh or otherwise. Knock yourself out.

Savory Red Sauce

Option 1:
Dice an onion, a green pepper, and a clove of garlic. Sweat (like sauté, only less hot) over medium-low heat. Empty a 24-ounce can of whole tomatoes into a bowl and crush them between your fingers, and add to the pan. Add 1 teaspoon sugar, a dash of balsamic vinegar, and ½ teaspoon salt, black olives (break ’em twixt your fingers) and perhaps some paprika and cayenne. Simmer and season until you like it. What, you only have diced tomatoes in the pantry? Or stewed? Or pre-seasoned? Use them, and God bless. No green pepper on hand? OK, forget it. For extra fantasticness, rummage in your fridge for some leftover cooked veggies, and add those. (Confession: mine included half a chopped-up chicken dog. Mmmm, extra yummy bits.)

Option 2:
Open a jar of your favorite pasta sauce. Heat. Use. Bon appetit.