A holiday story of what brought us to Detroit and what keeps our families growing.

“When I was growing up in Mississippi, family was all we had,” says Mildred C. Hooper, mother of eight children, 10 grandchildren, and four great grandchildren who are all Detroit residents. “Most of us worked together, played together, cooked, and learned about life together. It just made sense that we’d take care of each other. 

“I was married at 16, and when my husband moved us here to Detroit from down South, his twin brother helped him get a job at General Motors, Cadillac. My sister-in-law helped us get settled. We built a life here and our family grew and grew. 

“My kids have gone all over the world, done all kinds of things. I’ve seen many Christmases, weddings, feuds, and new members of the family come and go. My kids ask me if I ever want to go back home to Mississippi. I say ‘No.’ Detroit is my home because it’s where my family resides. From the time I was a youngin’ till I’m dead in my grave, family is all I know, it’s all I’ve ever known, and that’s all right with me.” 

Editor’s Note

As I write this letter, my family is already exhibiting signs of winter colds. In my case, it’s a runny nose, and since I’m writing at the kitchen table, I grab a paper towel instead of a soft tissue. But I take what’s available to me at the time. Similar to family. We don’t have much say in the matter. Some of us are born into families of privilege, while others get by on love alone. Here at Sensi, we’ve carved out our own family—a group of magazine journalists and editors who share the same goal of making the lives of the people we love a bit better. 

Our cover story shares my personal struggle with balancing family and rest. The story doesn’t end wrapped up with a nice pretty bow, but it does acknowledge that life is a journey, and that sleep is just as important as work. As always, “The Scene” is filled with things for families to get out of the house and explore. So many of the products and personalities featured in this issue help us to connect. That’s important, because we can’t do this life thing alone. And in “The End,” the words of 94-year-old Detroiter Mildred C. Hooper put everything into perspective by remembering those who aren’t as fortunate.

This issue is filled with self-care and holiday cheer, because we understand that both are needed, especially in the month of December when many of us find ourselves isolated. The people who put these pages together go out of their way, in the cold, sleet, and snow, to bring a bit of sunshine to the lives of Detroiters. Sensi is proud to be a part of that family. If you’ll have us, we’ll have you. But as in any relationship, you have to participate. Let us know how we can make Sensi Detroit better as we move into 2020. And don’t forget to tell us what you love!

Our staff is a small dedicated group of storytellers who want to represent you, Detroit, because we know that this city is made up of a mesh of diversity from the edge of the water to the tip of 8 Mile Road.

Welcome to the family.

Darralynn Hutson

darralynn.hutson@sensimag.com

Lack of sleep drove one woman to the edge of sanity. Until she found out she was not alone. This is how you can claim back your well-deserved rest.

My eyes flicker open, and a moment later I feel a tiny tingle in my toes. Excitement. Waking after a good, restful sleep is a simple joy. I bounce out of bed, looking forward to the day. Then suddenly, I’m standing, motionless, gazing out the window in wonder. I’m looking forward to my day! I’m looking forward to my day? Detroit, What up Doe? 

I refuse to be contained. I gyrate my hips, Bluetooth speaker on Rihanna’s “work, work, work, work, work” and arms in sync, dancing around my bedroom, wondering whether my 10-year-old will walk in. I don’t care. This is what a woman looks like who finally had a good night’s sleep. But how?

Don’t sleep on sleep

Sleep is something some people take for granted. Like oxygen. Or blood running through our veins. Or the sunrise. But it’s not that way for everyone. When people tell me they’re tired, I resist the temptation to give them my life story. Or, at least, my night-time story of the past decade.

It began when I was expecting Nya, my one and only child. “At-risk pregnancy,” my primary doctor told me repeatedly, “is common with a woman your age and your size.” The discomfort of added stress on expecting with no job, no home, and no baby’s father added pressure. 

I experienced anxiety, depression, and a feeling of unworthiness every day of my pregnancy. But at night, I would easily drop off to sleep, exhausted from my thoughts. But then suddenly and completely, I’d wake up assuming it was morning. It wasn’t. It was 12:30 a.m. 

I wasn’t uncomfortable. Didn’t need to pee. I was simply wide-awake and alert, my brain playing vivid images of my life in front of me as a mother. I had to produce more, be more, have more money, make life better for her. Ping! 3 a.m. 5:30 a.m. 6 a.m.

It was a pattern that continued after Nya was born—and for 10 more years. Only now I was getting up through the night to investigate, watch, clean, and fuss over her; it was all part of the sleeplessness cocktail. There was no going back to sleep for several hours or, more often, the rest of the night. It was a vicious maddening cycle.

“With wellness, we always look at it from a dual point of view, nutrition and activity, but that’s wrong,” says Safwan Badr, MD, endowed professor of medicine and chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at Wayne State University’s School of Medicine. “We need to look at wellness as a three-legged stool of nutrition, activity, and sleep.” 

Spending his days seeing patients, teaching, researching, and serving the community, Badr has much love for Detroit. In 2013, Badr was appointed the president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Back then he understood the importance of sleep, so he focused his work on the future of sleep medicine.

“Poor sleep contributes to obesity, heart disease, airway disease, and depression and is a leading cause of car accidents and subsequent deaths,” he says. “We must start to prioritize sleep. Turn off the streaming videos, turn off the cell phone notifications, and sleep.” 

Statistics haven’t been collected specifically on sleep deprivation in Detroit, but medical scientists believe that if you find obesity, it’s likely that insufficient sleep will follow, according to Badr.

Michigan has higher rates of obesity and more inactive adults than the national average. It also has higher poverty rates, which have long been tied to poor health, according to a 2018 study by the United Health Foundation. 

“Most of the patients I see say they’re too busy to sleep,” says Badr. “The fact is that the clinical work that’s being done is suggesting that with high rates of obesity, it’s likely that sleep problems will occur. Chronic disease in Detroit is one of the nation’s highest so there are a lot of patients getting an insufficient amount of sleep.”

That’s me. It was all starting to make sense. The heavier I was, the less sleep I was getting. The more active my work and personal life, the more my mind raced, preventing me from sound sleep. The more accessible I was to my family, friends, and social circles, the more I was preventing myself from getting sleep.

First things first. Prioritize sleep. 

“Women over 50 have a more difficult time getting their rest, which makes it even more important to prioritize sleep. Good sleep helps improve concentration, memory, immunity—all things that become more important with age,” says Erin Berman, brand strategist at Resident Mattress. “When women are within the years of menopause, they might be experiencing shifts in their normal sleeping habits due to physiological changes. However, as people reach middle age, aches and pains can make sleeping difficult, so creating the best sleep environment possible can make a big impact.”

For me it started with the right mattress. “You want to look for a mattress that will support you. Not all mattresses are created equal,” says Berman. “The beauty of a hybrid mattress is that it combines the best latex and traditional coils. The coils help evenly distribute weight and reduce motion transfer for undisturbed rest, while the latex gives just a touch of bounce.” 

Once I was equipped with my hybrid mattress, I set out for a good night’s sleep, which meant that, gasp, I had to shut down my devices. All of them, even the notification cameras that alert me when there’s motion at my front and back doors. It was easy to cut off my phone but hard to shut off the lights that glowed in my smart house. Yet I prioritized this thing that eluded me night after night. I took a hot soapy bath and then wrapped myself in a soft comforter in a nest of warm pillows. 

I lay down to sleep. Not to save the world. Not to win another award. Not to start another business. But to sleep with as much passion and vigor as I could muster. 

And to my surprise, sleep came. 

They say they’re not alcoholics, and they’re certainly not anonymous. What is sober curious—and can sobriety really be fluid?

I drink badly, and I have a lot of fun doing it (when I remember). That’s a lethal combination, and when you throw in my unfortunate discovery of White Claw—I can drink as many as I want and never feel full!—I flamed out with alcohol last winter. 

On February 1, just as everyone else was celebrating the end of Dry January and just ahead of the Summer of the Claw, I swore off the seltzer. I figured I’d give myself one month (note: the year’s shortest) to reset. It wasn’t an easy 28 days, but when March 1 rolled around, I felt better than I’d felt in years. The chronic inflammation I had attributed to everything from gluten sensitivity to genetics was clearing. I saw the light, and there was no going back. 

I thought sobriety would be lonely, that every Saturday night would be Netflix. I forgot the Brett Kavanaugh generation isn’t in charge of culture anymore (thank God). 

Millennials and Gen Xers aren’t interested in swilling beer until they black out like we did in the ’80s. Sober is sexy—or, as hipsobriety.com sees it, “sobriety is the new black.” 

On Instagram, there are influencers such as @stylishlysober, @thesoberglow, and the darker @fucking_sober and hashtags like
#soberliving, #soberAF, and #sobercurious. Millie Gooch, who posts as @sobergirlsociety, encourages her nearly 60,000 followers with inspirational messages like “Mocks not cocks” and “Sobriety: a surefire way to improve your wellbeing and your Uber rating.” 

Just like that, I’m a cool kid—with a huge range of new options on Saturday night (and beyond). I’m exploring elixirs made with raw cacao, maca, and horny goat weed at Tonic Herban Lounge just a few blocks from my home in downtown Boulder (I can walk home after imbibing, and it amuses me that I don’t need to). I can do yoga and shake it before dawn at a Daybreaker dance party (daybreaker.com) in Denver, one of 27 cities where the alcohol-free early morning rave pops up and invites people to “sweat, dance, and connect with ourselves in community.”    

I’m surely not alone in this realization that life is better without booze. Worldwide, alcohol consumption fell by 1.6 percent last year. Led by young people, heavy-hitting countries like Russia, Canada, Japan, and the UK are seeing drinking rates as well as tolerance toward intoxication decline. An international survey found that about a third of people wanted to reduce their alcohol intake because of everything from sexual regret and embarrassment to physical health. A 2018 survey found that nearly 40 percent of global consumers want to drink less for health reasons.

In the US, CNBC reports, 52 percent of adults are trying to lower their alcohol intake, and underage drinking has steadily declined in the last 10 years. But only 21 percent of US adults in a CivicScience poll said they had any interest in drinking less or not at all, and most of those were 21- to 34-year-old, vegan-leaning flexitarians who practice yoga and consume cannabis daily. Women, especially those in their 30s and 40s, are drinking more than ever.

Booze still rules for most Americans, and “increased stress and demoralization” is actually pushing more women, minorities, and poor people to the bottle, according to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry. The national Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that 17 million adults in the US are alcohol dependent, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says one in six binge drink—defined as drinking four or more drinks over two hours or until blood alcohol reaches 0.08—nearly once a week. For this White Claw guzzler, that definition is, well, sobering. I called that happy hour.

Giving up alcohol isn’t a hashtag for a lot of people. It’s not even a choice. As Sean Paul Mahoney writes on The Fix, a website about addiction and recovery, “I didn’t get sober to be cool. I just got sober to stop dying.”

A Little Bit Addicted?

“Sober curious” became a thing after HarperCollins released Ruby Warrington’s Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol in 2018. Warrington also has a podcast, runs Club SÖda NYC (featuring sober events like Kundalini Disco), and stages events (“Sober Curious: Choosing Sobriety for Focus, Presence, and Deep Connection” is February 14–16, 2020, at Massachusetts’ renowned wellness retreat center Kripalu). Her take is that a lot of Americans might not have a “problem” with alcohol but see it as getting in the way of their healthy lifestyles. “We eat well. We exercise. We meditate,” the press release for Sober Curious states. “So, why do we…still drink?”

Warrington wants to know why the only people who don’t drink are the ones who can’t and asks, “What if I am just…a little bit addicted?” 

Call me old school, but a little bit addicted sounds a lot like a little bit pregnant. I worry that people who shouldn’t will take the advice of John Costa, who writes on twentytwowords.com that being sober curious is like being bi-curious—you don’t always hook up with people of the same sex, and you don’t have to cut out drinking forever. “Be sober half the time,” he writes, “and sauced the other half.” He’s joking, but those are dangerous words for me. That’s the life I was living: sober by day + tanked by night = balance.

Like all disorders (and pretty much everything in our culture), alcohol use runs on a spectrum. I was at the end that spent hours upon hours researching whether drinking while on this antibiotic would really make me projectile vomit and scoffed at friends as they struggled through Dry January, Dry July, Sober September, and Sober October. I wasn’t interested in giving up drinking for any reason or any amount of time, until I had to give it up for life.

Warrington, who sees reducing alcohol intake as another step in the wellness revolution, is at the other end of the spectrum—and she is aware of the difference between recovering from alcohol addiction and feeling better during yoga. I hope all of her followers are, too, because the last thing most drinkers need is a loophole.  

I want to believe the trend Warrington is leading toward spirits-free activities and thoughtfulness about alcohol’s role in our culture—where every ritual, celebration, loss, entertainment, and even sporting event is cause for a drink—is not a trend but a movement. That we’ll look back at “mommyjuice” like we shake our heads at “mother’s little helper” pills from the ’60s and ’70s. The infrastructure to support sobriety is being built, and public opinion is turning. After centuries of going hard, America is getting woke, not wasted.

Cheers to that. 

Luxury has gone to pot.

 At the end of October, the Wall Street Journal ran an article titled “Cannabis Open Houses Are Putting the High in High-End Real Estate.” The trend piece by author Katherine Clarke revealed the emerging discovery being used by developers and real-estate agents to move luxe properties in communities where recreational cannabis is not just legal but widely accepted. 

It’s not unlike Los Angeles, where the rising industry is being hailed as an untapped source for buyers of high-priced homes. Throwing cannabis-related events—everything from elaborate seven-course pairing dinners with vapes in lieu of vino to live trimming classes—at multimillion-dollar properties on the market is garnering attention, building social buzz, and attracting buyers with money earned in, around, or on cannabis.

Not everyone sees the genius behind the trend, however. Clarke spoke to one agent in New York, where recreational cannabis is still a pipe dream and old tropes live on about munchie-motivated stoners. “When I think about cannabis, I don’t think about buying an expensive house,” says Warburg Realty’s Jason Haber. “It’s not a call for action as much as a call for Doritos.”

Someone should tell him friends don’t let friends make tired stoner jokes anymore. Especially ones implying cannabis consumers indulge their munchies with mindless consumption of unhealthy snacks when the reality is cannabis appeals to what The Economist dubs the “health-conscious inebriate,” citing a poll that 72 percent of American consumers thought cannabis was safer than alcohol. A 2018 The New Yorker headline declared cannabis to be a wellness industry in California where, in fact, a cannabinoid cousin of THC and CBD is starting to garner a whole lot of buzz. Instead of stimulating appetites, THCV may suppress those hunger pangs. When 2021 is declared the year of THCV, you can say you heard it here first. 

Consumption and consumerism

Cannabis has moved so far beyond the clichés of yore. Tie-dye tees, bell-bottom cords, dancing bear patches, plastic bongs, Ziploc baggies: these tired trends are so out of style, some have already circled back and left again. (Looking at you, tie-dye.) The stoner kids of yesterday are the cannabis entrepreneurs, enthusiasts, and connoisseurs of today. And as they’ve aged, their tastes in cannabis aged with them, like the fine wine they can now afford. Cannabis consumers have money to burn. 

And since we live in a capitalist society (an unjust one where people remain locked up for nonviolent drug charges in states that earn taxes off now-legal cannabis sales—that’s a whole layered story for a different day), money makes things happen. And what’s happening now is the emergence of a cannabis experience elevated to a higher level.

If you were paying attention to the pop-culture cues over the decades, you would have seen the high-end highs coming. When cannabis prohibition began its slow-and-steady march to its forthcoming end, it emerged from the black market with an established following of consumers—loyal cannabis consumers with no brand loyalty, because cannabis brands didn’t exist. Dealers did, growers did, activists, advocates, and believers, too. But the concept of cannabis brands was all brand-new. 

With strict laws surrounding where the substance can be marketed, sold, advertised, distributed, and more, establishing customer loyalty in this industry is more difficult than it would seem on the surface. What differentiates one edible brand from another, one vape pen from the next is complicated to discern for those who aren’t well versed in the modern verbiage or its meaning. (Full-spectrum distillate, live resin, 2:1 ratios, oh my!)

This is where marketing and branding comes into play. And with marketing and branding comes the emergence of new market segments, including the ultra-luxury category. It is from within that category that future trends are likely to emerge. That’s how trends play out, as Miranda Priestly (played by Meryl Streep) explained to her new assistant in one iconic scene of The Devil Wears Prada. (If you haven’t seen it in a while, a quick refresher: “The color of the shirt you are wearing right now was determined years ago by high-end designers preparing their collections for fashion week runways.”) 

Trickle-down trends are a hierarchical process whereby individuals with high status establish fashion trends, only to be imitated by lower-status individuals wearing cheaper versions of the same styles.

“It’s always been a thing,” says Karyn Wagner, CEO of Paradigm Cannabis Group, a women-owned extraction company specializing in pre-rolls and extracts made from small-batch sun-grown flower. “There’s always been those products that are better than others. But now, with adult use, we have to be more brand-conscious. With that, how do you distinguish yourself from someone else? Why is this better? What makes it better?”

Some like it haute

With any luxury good, consumers want the assurance of quality and efficacy, Wagner says. But you can never underestimate the prestige that comes with a high price tag. “The moneyed class always loves expensive items,” she says. “This normalizes it in their world. It brings in folks who didn’t normally have the desire. It made it OK in their class. Expensive breeds expensive things. You wouldn’t have expensive cannabis if you didn’t have people who wanted to buy expensive cannabis.”

Jenny Le Coq, president of Le Coq & Associates, a marketing and communications firm in San Francisco that represents Kikoko cannabis-infused botanical mints, points out that most people typically don’t seek out a cheap bottle of wine, but look for something fine, trustworthy, and familiar. They want to know the winery, its reputation, who recommends the vintage. “People are looking at wines today with a more discerning eye—how their grapes are grown, for example,” Le Coq says. “People are looking at cannabis in the same way: with a discerning eye.” 

“Discerning” can add up to big money, for sure. Anecdotal stories abound in national media outlets, suggesting couples in Colorado will drop several bills on “cannagars” and other high-end party favors to celebrate weddings and anniversaries. At The High End, Barneys New York’s luxury cannabis lifestyle shop in Beverly Hills, shoppers can splurge on a $1,475 sterling silver bud grinder or a $950 water pipe. New York fashion brand Alice + Olivia partnered with luxury cannabis brand Kush Queen to debut a CBD wellness line earlier this year—bath bomb, body lotion, bubble bath with lavender. Alice + Olivia packaging features CEO Stacey Bendet’s signature “StaceFace” motif, with big sunglasses and a bold red lip. A timeless statement-making style that trendsetters of every era make their own while trendy types try to emulate the overall aesthetic. That’s just the way things work.

To be fair, luxury doesn’t have to mean $$$$. What it must indicate, however, is quality. “Luxury is an assigned label. It is typically assigned by marketers,” Le Coq says. “So, what do you want cannabis to be? As a consumer, how do you perceive luxury? The concept is really defined differently by every person. We want people to experience something that is luxurious. Not only the packaging is beautiful, the taste is beautiful, the place you are put into mentally is a nice, beautiful place.” 

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