My Sister, My Friend

Most people have certain moments that change their life. Moments that stop them dead in their tracks and make them realize that from there on, nothing will ever be the same. For Jocelyn Hodges, that moment came on a sunny summer afternoon almost three years ago. [katie]
It was a Friday and Hodges had just gotten home from work, and was hanging out with her roommates on Beal St. She was a communications major going into her junior year at MSU. Wrapped up in a blanket, she sat amongst her friends laughing about who was going to make the next beer run. It was July 31, about 3:30 p.m. when she got the phone call from her dad.
\”Jocelyn, there\’s been an accident,\” her father told her. He went on to explain that her younger sister and one of her best friends had been rear-ended on the expressway, throwing her car into oncoming traffic. Kaitlyn Hodges was a sophomore in high school, and had been on her way home from a trip up north with her friends. When her dad told her that Kate had died, she went into shock. \”Should I come down there?\” is all Jocelyn could spit out. \”Yeah, I think you should,\” her dad said, and they both hung up.
Jocelyn had seen Kate a few weeks earlier when the family traveled to the Traverse City Cherry Festival for vacation on the fourth of July. Kate called Jocelyn the day before her accident, but Jocelyn was at work so she couldn\’t talk long. Yet, Jocelyn has no regrets about her last words to her sister. \”I told her I loved her,\” Hodges said. \”So I don\’t know what else I could have said. She knew that she was loved; we always say that, she knew she was important to all of us. It\’s not like I wish I could talk to her just one more time or see her just one more time because I know that wouldn\’t be enough for me. I want her back.\”
Although the death of a close friend or family member can ruin the lives of their loved ones, it can sometimes bring strength and bonding among those suffering from pain and grief.
In April, hundreds from the MSU community gathered to mourn the death of Mary Beth Knox, a beloved student, twin, aunt and sister to the girls of Alpha Chi Omega. Mary was diagnosed with a soft tissue cancer, sarcoma, nearly a year before she passed away.
The Rock on Farm Lane provided a place for over 250 grieving students to share their thoughts and memories of Mary in a candle lit vigil. One of her sorority sisters, Kailey Coleman, read a poem she had written for Mary. Her words not only spoke of pain for their loss, but optimism in the thought that Mary Beth was in a better place.
\”We\’ll try not to mourn for long, because we know where you\’ll be. A place better than here, where you can be free,\” read a teary-eyed Coleman.
\”Mary\’s death was really bittersweet,\” said Adrienne Waun, a member of Alpha Chi Omega and a close friend to Mary Beth. \”I didn\’t want her to be in pain anymore. She was such a trooper. She had to struggle so much just to get through the day. She was so strong; I never thought she wouldn\’t be able to fight it. She was such an amazing person and always held her head up high. She never would let you know how sick she was, she was such a fighter.\”
At the funeral, the priest told stories of the last few days he shared with Mary. Until the end, she was filled with laughter, her fun-loving spirit shining through. When he asked her if she was scared, Mary responded that was not afraid to die, adding the only thing that worried her was how much she would miss her family. Shortly before her death, one of Mary\’s last wishes came true. She became the godmother of her nephew, Ethan, baptizing him in her U of M hospital bed. [mary]
Mary Beth\’s twin sister, Marcy Knox, was one of the people most affected by her death. The sisters\’ connection was undeniable and the relationship they shared was one that most do not get to experience in a lifetime. \”The bond they showed to everyone was really inspirational. When Mary Beth died she wasn\’t alone, she was with Marcy. We still get to see Mary Beth through Marcy. Those two are a tribute to sisterhood,\” Waun said.
April 27 marked the one month anniversary of Mary Beth\’s death. An away message by Marcy still lets everyone know that her sister, or \”Sarcey,\” a nickname they called each other, will never be forgotten. \”Sarcey,\” it reads, \”Every day that goes by we are one day closer to being together again. I love you.\”
The death of a close friend or family member affects everyone in different ways. As for Jocelyn Hodges, after the shock wore off, the death of her sister dramatically changed her life. Her junior year, the year right after Kate\’s death, was the hardest year of her life. \”I tried so hard to act like it didn\’t happen and life was normal, but it was impossible,\” Hodges said. \”I was a mess that entire year. So many people expressed they were worried about me and concerned but I didn\’t see it. I would go days without getting out of bed. I would sleep through exams. If I did make it to class, I would just laugh at it, thinking how unimportant it was. Everyone was worrying about grades and studying and I was just like \’whatever.\’\”
Jocelyn spent that year acting like it never really happened, going through an emotional rollercoaster. After receiving a call from the dean about her academic probation, she was forced to face reality. She finished her year, barely passing her classes, and then took a leave of absence for the first semester of her senior year. She took the time off and started to see a therapist. \”It helped to talk to someone about it besides my friends, an outside source. It made me realize that it actually did happen and it did happen to me,\” Hodges said.
She now looks back on her sister in loving memory, and can talk about her much more freely than she could in the past. \”It\’s affected my life so much,\” she stated. \”Not me as a person but my relationships are a lot different. I look at everything around me differently and how I make my choices in life.\”
\”When it comes to my family,\” she continued, \”I think something like this can either tear a family apart or bring them together. My family bombarded together. For a while a lot of us were scared to talk about her, scared to bring up the emotions. Now if something funny happens where it reminds us of her we will joke and laugh like \’Kate would have loved that.\’\”
Jocelyn keeps a picture of her and Kate on the dashboard of her car and there\’s not a day that goes by without thinking of her late sister.
As for what this experience has taught Jocelyn? \”Life\’s too short. I mean, you never know what\’s going to happen.\”

If you are grieving with the loss of a loved one and need someone to talk to please visit To hear more about Mary Beth Knox\’s story or to donate to the Mary Beth Scholarship Foundation, please visit her care page at

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Skin Deep

[lipstick]Formaldehyde. Methylene Chloride. Titanium Dioxide. They sound scary, and guess what? They aren\’t just found in household cleaning products – they are potential carcinogens sometimes used in everyday personal care items such as deodorant, lotions and cosmetics.
Most consumers assume the government is making sure the ingredients in these products are safe, but surprisingly, this isn\’t always the case. The Environmental Working Group, a non-profit research organization, reports that the average person applies approximately 126 chemicals from these products on a daily basis. Whether it is from shaving cream or mascara, these chemicals can be toxic. They seep through the outer layers of the skin and into the body, ultimately causing health risks.
According to the EWG, the government approves about seven new chemicals every single day, 80 percent of them approved in less than three weeks and without any testing. In the world of cosmetics, there’s not much protection. A published statement from the Food and Drug Administration in 1995 read “a cosmetic manufacturer may use almost any raw material as a cosmetic ingredient and market the product without an approval from the FDA.”
Sabrina McCormick, an environmental science and policy assistant professor, said this is nothing new. “Many people think that the Food and Drug Administration protects us from possibly harmful ingredients in personal care products and cosmetics, but in fact, the FDA does not have that mandate,\” she said. \”They are not forced to regulate these ingredients. Who is forced to regulate them is a board called the Cosmetics Industry Review Board, which is a board constituted by representatives from the industry. So essentially, these products that we are putting on our face and on our body every day are being regulated only by the industry that is already producing it. There is a serious conflict of interest there.”
Not only does the FDA approve a large amount of chemicals on a regular basis, the Cosmetics Industry Review Board does the same when it comes to the passing of new products. According to McCormick, 94 percent of products that come through for review are indeed passed, leaving the rare case for denial at only six percent. The combination of the extremely easy acceptance of chemicals and products in our country is a combination that could be deadly.
Women’s Resource Center administrative assistant Evette Chavez swears by all-natural make up, which can highly cut down on the amount of chemicals in a single usage. She’s aware of the toxins most major cosmetic companies use in their products. “There are a lot of formaldehydes that will burn the lungs and can burn the skin,\” she said. \”You can have a build up of it in your body. It goes through your skin, through your pores. Lipstick has lead in it and what do we do? We put it on, lick it off.” Chavez is an independent marketing executive for a company that offers a variety of natural items, including cosmetics, bath and body and househould cleaning products.
[eyes]According to the website, each square inch of skin is home to an estimated 10 hairs, 15 oil glands, 72 feet of nerve fiber, 100 sweat glands, and over three feet of blood vessels, which makes the skin very absorbent. When it comes to personal care and makeup products with carcinogens, this absorption can be a health hazard. For example, parabens are chemical preservatives that have been found to mimic estrogen and alter the body’s hormonal balance. Another class of compounds commonly found in products is phthalates, which have been linked to breast cancer.
So why doesn’t anyone know about the danger they are putting themselves in on a daily basis? “I think just because it is part of our society,\” Chavez said. \”We see something on a TV commercial and think ‘oh, I got to get that, that’d be cool, I want to use that.’ We don’t know because we’ve never been educated on it.\”
Ever wonder how that lipstick actually can stay on all day or why that certain shampoo makes your hair so shiny? In many cases, one can thank risky toxins like coal tar or petroleum. It might not seem like a big deal if a tiny bit of these ingredients is used, but the EWG says to beware – these chemicals are not used minimally. Rather, they are normally the main base ingredient for a product.
McCormick said that even when watching for certain ingredients to avoid, it can be tough. “Accurate ingredient lists are not even mandated by the FDA,” said McCormick. “So the ingredient list you are seeing on your lotion bottle or your shampoo bottle is not necessarily all the ingredients that are in it.”
One thing that is extremely helpful is Skin Deep, an organization that is a branch of the EWG. Skin Deep offers all the information a buyer needs to know when looking for safe products. Their website,, holds a database with over 14,000 household products, the chemicals inside of them and their level of concern.
For example, the site scores the popular nail polish brand, OPI, as hazardous. According to the site, using this polish can lead to reproductive problems, immune system disorders, along with irritations to the eyes, skin, and lungs. Skin Deep has found that 99.9 percent of products on the market contain at least one chemical or ingredient that has not even been tested for use whatsoever.
McCormick insists this is the time for consumers to step up in order to ensure their health and safety. “We are exposed to so many chemicals in our environment on a daily basis,” McCormick said. “We have chemicals in our water, chemicals in our makeup, chemicals in our food, chemicals in the carpet that we stand on, in the paint inside our room, in the electronic products we’re using in our computer. We’re surrounded by chemicals everyday so we simply have no choice but to be exposed to them so when we have a choice we need to reduce our exposure as much as possible.”
Although they usually contain some types of chemicals, natural products can be healthy alternatives. Natural make-up lines such as BareEscentuals, Origins, and EccoBella are free of preservatives, chemicals and dyes. They can be found at cosmetic stores such as Sephora, the company\’s website, or can be carried at health food stores.
Not everyone agrees that the all-natural route is the way to go. Many believe that regular brands are completely safe. Accounting junior Alison Hull has never found any problems with the products she uses. “I never worry about the ingredients because I trust what the professionals say; the products are tested completely. For example, I know that Clinique was formed by dermatologists,” Hull said. “Also, most companies have trained their employees so extensively about their products that you can almost be guaranteed that they know exactly what they are talking about. They would discontinue a product if they ever found it harmful. I don\’t think it would be on the market.”
[lips]Clinique is one of the nation\’s leading cosmetic companies and has recently proven to show more interest in the safety of their products. Under Estee Lauder Companies, this past January, Clinique teamed up with Cornell Medical College and formed a new testing facility located on campus. A statement from Clinique stated ‘The Wellness Center’ “was created to advance the understanding of skin from cosmetic, clinical and scientific points of view.”
McCormick said the important thing is to stay educated on the topic. This means taking the few extra steps to know exactly what is in the products that are being used on a frequent basis and minimize exposure whenever possible. The EWG reports products that are fragrance free are generally safer; they also suggest using milder soaps and fewer powders.
Unless you like the sound of a formaldehyde facial, when it comes to your skin, less really is more.

To learn more about healthy, natural alternatives, contact Evette Chavez at

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Exercise Overload

[top]Your parents probably told you to drink lots of milk, eat fruits and vegetables and to get plenty of exercise. Well, they also told you the tooth fairy was real.
What many people (including your parents) might not know is that it is actually possible to work out too much, making you more likely to catch illnesses or become injured. To make matters more complicated, those that may actually be exercising too much usually don’t even realize they are doing so.
Steve Pertersen, an employee at Powerhouse Gym in East Lansing, knows from experience what it’s like to over-train muscles. “I used to be the guy that would do a lot of volume training – which is a lot of sets or reps every time I’m working out on certain body parts,” said Perterson. “I would do that five of six days a week and that just does not cut it for a normal human being. You need time to rest. I would say it’s pretty hard not to over-train when you’re doing intense weight lifting more than four days a week.”
Exercise is supposed to leave you feeling energized and motivated. According to Pertersen, over-training left him feeling tired and worn out. According to, other symptoms can include reoccurring aches and pains, changes in mood, loss of appetite, troubled sleep, decline in performance and depression. After too much exercise takes a toll on the body, it is much easier to catch flus and colds due to a decreased immunity system.
In order to avoid over-exercising, active bodies should be given time to relax. Everyone should have at least one day of rest from workouts during the week. Many people forget to factor in other types of exercise – like walking to class or running up a flight of stairs – they have already done throughout the day before even going to the gym.
For Perterson, eating an extra amount of the right foods can counterbalance the effects of heavy workouts. “I notice when I’m on a higher calorie diet – when I’m eating tons of food all the time – the recovery is a lot better between workouts,” said Perterson. “I can work out a lot harder and recover a lot faster when I’m getting in enough calories. When I’m not eating properly [and] not eating enough food quantity, especially in proper proportions at certain times of the day, I’m not gonna recover properly and the soreness I get the day after a workout is longer lasting and more intense.”
Although it might seem difficult to count the protein, carbs and fat content from a meal at the caf or a fast food chain, eating a balanced diet will most likely alter waistlines and change how the body reacts to workouts. Kinesiology professor Karin Pfeiffer said drinking enough water and fluids throughout the day is one of the most important things to remember. [water]“You can have problems because over time, you dehydrate yourself,” Pfeiffer said. “If you don’t adequately re-hydrate, then you end up with issues like not having enough energy to keep going and [difficulty carrying] out some of your other functions because you’re using that energy for your exercise and then you’re kind of out of energy.”
Some of the most common injuries in athletes come from over-training certain areas of their bodies. They are referred to as “over-use injuries” and lead to strains in muscles, joints and the cartilage surrounding the bones. Ways to avoid this would be making sure to warm up and stretch before every workout. Stretching will prepare muscles to be trained and then relax when the workout is over.
Many people probably have trouble grappling the concept that overexercising can be harmful. The idea even conflicts with major themes in the history of human nature, according to Pfeiffer. “In a way it’s almost difficult to over-exercise. You can really do a lot of exercising in one day and be completely fine,” said Pfeiffer. “If we are talking over-exercise in a population like this, it’s going to be an extreme amount you’re gonna have to do, because we are capable of doing a lot. If you stop and think about the fact that part of how we were built is to be either hunter-gatherer kind of society or forage around and walk around all day long, [then] we were built to be active for quite a bit of the time. ”
For social work junior Erin Wiltse, overexercising is not a concern. Instead, she worries about getting enough exercise. She believes that over-exercising only happens in extreme cases. “If you’re talking about the people that are in [the gym] everyday for like four hours, yeah, it’s possible to work out too much,” said Wiltse.
When looking at types of exercise and the effect it has on the body, it is easy to see a big difference between cardio and weight training. Cardio mainly affects the heart while weight-training concentrates on the muscles; both exercise methods will lead to positive effects if done correctly. Marty Linclau-Miller, a personal trainer at Go Workout in Lansing, always makes sure to give his body time off from weight training but will run and do cardio as much as his schedule allows. According to Linclau-Miller, as long as someone is getting the proper nutrition, too much cardio can not hurt the body in the same way that weight lifting can.
When looking to lose a few pounds or change those not-so-favorite parts body parts, the initial thoughts of many students would be to work out more. However, after a certain point in time, the body will stop responding to exercise in the intended way.
Pre-medical freshman Diane Western sees this often while she exercises at IM West five days a week. “I know people that come and [exercise] for an hour on the Elliptical [trainer] and they go the same speed the whole time, and that’s all they do and they don’t eat before they come,” said Western. “After you go a certain amount of time…it doesn’t do any good anymore. It’s not so much working out too much, it’s just the way that you do it.”
[stretch2]These effects can be explained by the SAID principle, standing for Specific Adaptations to Implied Demands. “Basically, [SAID means] if you demand something to your body, it is going to reply by becoming stronger in that area,” said Linclau-Miller. “So if you always do push-ups, you’re going to become very good at push-ups; it’s going to become very easy and you’re going to stop seeing results.”
So in order to work out in a way that is likely to make a difference, it’s necessary to switch up the routines. To get the most out of exercising, without over-doing it, make sure to change the movement of each body part during the course of a routine. “Now you can change the type of push-up you do in order to keep your body guessing,” Linclau-Miller said. “The whole point of exercise is to keep your body guessing, so you should always be changing your routine every two to four weeks, depending on what your goals are and what you want to do.”
For those that are just beginners when it comes to working out, it’s easy to do too much too soon. It’s important to start slow and gradually do more and more as the body adapts to the new changes. Exercise not only makes changes to the body physically but also psychologically, which is why it is easy to fall into the trap of compulsive exercise.
“The Surgeon General recommends 30 minutes [exercise] every day, if you can. That’s the healthiest way to go about it, but if you’re just starting off I would say two to three days a week about 20 to 40 minutes with 70 to 80 percent of that time working out at your highest intensity,” said Linclau-Miller.
Keep exercise a positive part of life, as it should be, and keep a balance between workouts and recovery. If you’ve been hitting the gym hard all week, give yourself a day off.
Oh, and eat your vegetables.

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