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Shoe Choices

Long View: My Dad’s Shoes

In honor of Father’s Day this month, I wanted to take some time and talk about my dad’s shoes.

My dad (and my grandpa before him) owned the funeral home in the small Illinois town where I grew up. He wore a suit and tie every day, which required a men’s leather wingtip shoe to complete the outfit. My hometown was a blue-collar, working man’s town. Most dads went to work in steel-toe boots and flannel shirts.

I was pretty active in sports, and at my games, you could always pick out my dad from the sea of other fathers in their jeans and flannel. His size-12 wingtips made a certain slapping sound walking across the wooden basketball court that other dads’ shoes didn’t make.

Thinking back, it was a comforting sound. It meant he was a busy guy, but he still had time to make it to my games.

Like most teenagers, I thought my father’s fashion sense was ridiculous. I can’t recall ever seeing him wear a pair of blue jeans and athletic shoes. The man mowed the grass in his wingtips!

The only pair of casual shoes I can recall was a pair of white flat-bottomed canvas basketball shoes that Dad said were sacred. They were his beach shoes, his “go-on-vacation” shoes. He claimed to have owned the same pair since high school. I suppose if you mow the grass in your wingtips, you don’t wear out and stain your white canvas basketball shoes.

My Dad's Shoes

As the years went by, even a well-loved pair of basketball shoes eventually falls apart. One day, they did. Dad walked out into the ocean and came back out without the soles. We buried the shoes on the beach that afternoon. Dad said a few words and shed a slight tear. I kind of did too. Those were the shoes Dad wore when he was playing—playing with us on the beach, in the water, taking time to be with just us kids.

Dad is retired now, and I haven’t seen him in wingtips since. He does have a pair of leather sandals that he’s quite fond of. They are fine by themselves, but when he puts his wool white socks on with shorts, my mother and I both cry foul.

Dad sees no reason for all the commotion. He’s comfortable with who he is and how he looks. As a retired and respected businessman, I guess he’s earned the right to dress whatever way makes him comfortable. He’s a good dad; I’ll cut him some slack. At least he doesn’t mow in wingtips anymore.

As is the case with many fashions throughout the years, canvas flat-bottomed basketball shoes have come back into fashion. The most popular brand is called Chuck Taylor or Chucks, named after a basketball player who started wearing them in 1917.

I recently bought a pair for myself in navy blue. I wear them on the weekends or when I feel like acting like a kid. I bought my dad a pair for his 70th birthday. I haven’t seen him wearing them yet.

I wonder if he thinks my fashion sense is ridiculous. Maybe.

Lora Felger is a community and broker liaison at Health Alliance. She is the mother of 2 terrific boys, a world traveler, and a major Iowa State Cyclones fan.

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Making the Most of a Senior Center

Vantage Point: Not Your Grandmother’s Senior Center

Have you been in a senior center lately? Well, I’m here to tell you, it is in no way like you’d think it would be. Hip, active, and happy people are taking classes, having a laugh at the welcome table, or volunteering behind the desk. Bingo? Sure, they still have bingo, however they have much more than that these days.

Senior centers bring older adults together who want to gather, socialize, and continue to learn. Before working in the Medicare healthcare industry, I’d never ventured into a senior center. Fast forward several years, and it’s where I may spend part of any given day and where I learn the most about our senior population.

Olympia Senior Center is one such center. It is a thriving, bustling, happy place. The welcome table is where you can find me, along with an eclectic group of awesome, interesting, and vivacious older adults who are always ready to welcome a new person to the center or to the community.

I regularly attend the community awareness meetings that take place at the center every Wednesday. Each Wednesday of the month is different. One meeting provides valuable information on various subjects, activities, and projects around the Thurston County area.

Once a month, a community member presents a travelogue about their trip to an adventurous destination. They show a presentation with vivid pictures and give great details about the points of interest from their trip, plus the details of costs, transportation, and accommodations.

This month, the travelogue’s destination was Vietnam, presented by DJ Marks. She is an excellent presenter and kept the group engaged throughout her presentation. While it would not be the first choice for some of us in the group, we all agreed that it was a spectacular look into the culture and history of the country.

On another Wednesday, the group views TED Talks, which are short, powerful videos on various topics. We’ve explored many themes and subjects over the past few months, like money, fear, political divides, and reforming the American justice system. All of these topics have evoked emotional, professional, and spiritual ideas and opinions during discussions.

I asked Sara Rucker-Thiessen, who coordinates these Wednesday meetings, what makes this center different from people’s expectations of a senior center. She said, “We go way beyond leisure activities and incorporate continuing academic learning and discussion of current social issues, along with the fun activities like dances and bingo.”

Other centers around Thurston County incorporate many of the same activities as the Olympia Senior Center; however, what’s great about Olympia is how it’s tailored its center to fit the countless members who show up every day to stay active, be motivated, and get inspired.

I have learned many things from these well-versed and well-lived individuals. One of them being, don’t think you know what’s going on in the senior center until you go in and find out for yourself.

Joy Stanford is a community liaison with Health Alliance, serving Thurston County. She’s been involved with Medicare for 20+ years and truly enjoys it. She enjoys gospel, R&B, and country music, and she owns over 100 pairs of shoes.

Your Bond as a Mother

Vantage Point: Mother Knows Best

“Mother knows best” is a phrase I heard all the time growing up. As a young child, I thought of Mom as the person you would run to after getting hurt to get hugs and kisses. Mom was the one who gave me good night kisses and woke me up with a gentle touch on my forehead.

I never thought how all of these actions benefited me in the future. Of course, being a kid means you are always correct, and Mom has no idea what she is talking about.

As a child, I would start jumping back and forth on furniture, and I would hear my mother say, “Stop jumping. You are going to get hurt.” As a teenager, I would arrive home past my curfew to my mom awake with a worried look on her face. She proceeded to tell me how one day I would understand, when I had my own kids, and I’d have the same worried feeling when I didn’t know where they were.

That day has arrived. I now have a child of my own, and I understand where my mother was coming from 100%. The motherly instinct has kicked in, and I want to keep my child safe all the time. I want to know what my child is doing all the time. I want my child to think of me when he gets hurts. I want to kiss my child good night and wake him up with a gentle touch.

Actions I thought nothing of, I now know were life lessons only a mother can instill in her children. Now, when my child won’t listen to me, I will sound just like my mother: “You’re going to get hurt,” and “One day, you will understand how I feel.”

May is the month when everyone recognizes their mother. We go out and buy her flowers, get the perfect card, take her out for lunch, and pamper her for the day. But why wait for a certain day to pamper our mothers? We have 365 days to let them know how much we appreciate all of the advice and guidance we received and still do receive.

Nowadays, Mom and I love to sit down and laugh at the silly things I did as a kid, as well as the trouble she got into as kid. After all of that, my mom still sits back and says, “Mother knows best.”

Jessica Arroyo, born and raised in Wenatchee Valley, is a Medicare community liaison for Health Alliance, serving Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan counties in Washington. During her time off, she enjoys spending time with her husband and infant son.

Mother Knows Best

Long View: Mother Knows Best

Picture it, jumping back and forth on furniture, hearing a mother say, “Stop jumping. You are going to get hurt.” Or hearing a mother say, “Finish your vegetables, and drink your milk.”

Or as a teenager, arriving home past curfew, while Mom waits awake with a worried look on her face. And then she says, “One day you will understand, when you have your own kids. You will feel worried when you don’t know where they are.”

Now that I am a mother, I know exactly what she meant.

“Mother knows best,” is a phrase I think we all heard while growing up. And isn’t that the truth at any age?

Mothers are often who we turn to for big and small things going on in our lives; they’re the ones we celebrate with and mourn with. They share stories of the past to help us learn more about the future. And when I go to my mom’s, or when I would visit my grandmother, I don’t know what it is, but I can sleep there better than anywhere else. I guess it is because it’s where I feel safe and loved for all that I am, no matter what. That’s my experience at least.

My mom has become one of my best friends in my adult life, someone who will always advocate for me, lift me up, and be there in happiness and tears. And I do the same for her.

Now, I have an 18-year-old daughter, and we have developed a similar relationship. Just like they say, time sure does fly, but motherhood has been one of the most rewarding parts of my life. I always want my daughter to feel safe, loved, and supported. I hope pain is limited in her life, but I always want her to know I will be there for her, no matter what the age, if she needs me.

She graduates from high school this month, and that will be an emotional day. When she turned 18 in February this year, she said, “Well, it is my last birthday.” I didn’t quite understand why she was phrasing it that way.

In her mind, it was the reality of becoming an adult, and she felt like that was the last time someone would focus on her special day because she was an “adult” now. Not sure why as adults we think we are less important to focus on, but I will celebrate her and my mother anytime.

May is the month when people recognize and celebrate their mother. Everyone does things a little differently. Maybe they go out and buy flowers, get the perfect card, go out for lunch, and pamper them for the day. Mothers deserve celebrating, and maybe you have something special planned too.

Outside of this special, dedicated time in May, it is also important to appreciate and spend time with them throughout the year to let them know how much we appreciate all of the advice and guidance we receive and to continue to learn more of those “mother knows best” moments!

Terra Mullins leads the community outreach team at Health Alliance. She is a wife, a mother, and has two really cute Mal-Shi pups! She loves nature and learning new things.

Reduce Traveling Stress

My Healthy Journey – Traveling Stress

The end of April and beginning of May might be the craziest month-long stretch I’ve ever planned for myself. I will be battling traveling stress each week with almost no downtime in between.

First, I spent a weekend with loved ones around Indy, going to the zoo and shopping. Then, my mom, sister-in-law, and I went on a big weekend trip to New York City to see a Broadway show. The next weekend, I’m headed to Chicago to visit some old friends. The 2 weekends after that, I’m driving home for events, and then the weekend after that, I’m off to Seattle.

No matter what, traveling is stressful, so to get through it, I’m trying to plan ahead, stay on top of things, make the healthiest decisions I can on the go, and enjoy the moments of fun that are the whole point of traveling in the first place.

Planning Ahead to Avoid Traveling Stress

While tickets and such have been booked ahead of time, the planning never ends there.

Clean Before

First, I spring-cleaned my apartment like crazy so that it could survive the coming month without looking like a wasteland.

Spring Cleaning List

I pulled tons of great tips to make this list from the helpful resources we shared in our Spring Cleaning for National Cleaning Week post, like using rubber gloves to wipe dog hair off my furniture, freshening up my garbage disposal, and more.

Organize, Organize, Organize

I’ve been making a list of all the things I need to do before each trip, so I don’t do something silly and forgetful, like making myself late by forgetting to put gas in my car before driving to the airport.

And this list doesn’t just include the things I need to pack but also the things I need to do around the house and the errands I need to run first.

NYC To Do List

This helps me stay on track and not forget all the little things that have to be pulled together at the last minute.

Pack Early

I try to pack as much as I can ahead. The key to-do’s I can mark off in advance:

  • Buy or organize travel liquids if I’m flying.
  • Check the weather forecast.
  • Plan versatile outfits, like things that can mix and match and fit the weather and planned activities, including shoes because I get blisters easily.
  • Organize or switch to a purse better for travel.
  • Never forget essentials, like headphones, a book, sunscreen, bandaids, gas in the car, and meds.
  • Pack snacks.
  • Plan driving times and routes.
  • Charge devices.

Packing Ahead

Then, at the last minute, I can just add in the things I’m still using, like my makeup bag, toothbrush, and phone charger, and avoid all that last-minute packing stress.

Planning for Work

Another important key to planning ahead is making sure work is ready for me to be completely unavailable.

Usually that just means talking to my co-workers in advance and making sure anything that takes place on the weekends, like social media for the next week, is done early.

One of the easiest ways to ruin your vacation is to have to drop everything for work, so make sure you’ve talked to your co-workers and set boundaries for when you’ll be available.

Then, stick to those boundaries because vacations are an important part of avoiding burnout. If you’re only going to check email once a day, stick to that and do it at a time when it won’t ruin your day.

Staying on Top of Things to Avoid Traveling Stress

No matter how much planning you do, it can all fall apart while you’re there if you focused on the wrong thing.

Planning Activities

I like to make plans for each day with loose free time around them. You never want to have to be too many places in one day, so one meal with reservations and one event or activity that requires tickets in advance per day is probably plenty. You can munch or discover something new when you’re actually hungry the rest of the time, which can help you avoid overeating on a trip. And you’ll have more time to focus on something you love instead of rushing off to your next activity.

I also like to have extra time planned in so that if I’m exhausted, I can take a nap, shower after a hot outdoor activity, or simply enjoy downtime by watching a movie or grabbing an appetizer with my loved ones.

Get Your Bearings

Another key can be knowing your location and how to get around. I’ve lived in New York and Chicago, so I know my way around the neighborhoods and how the subways work, and pulling up a location on my phone is more than enough for me to find my way in either place.

However, I’ve never been to Seattle, so looking at maps and familiarizing myself with what’s where will be a much more important part of planning that trip so I don’t end up lost when I get there.

Identify what you need to focus on in preparation for each trip for a smooth journey to avoid hiccups in the moment.

Start the Day Off Right

Each morning of your trip, it’s a good idea to review your plans with everyone. Not only will it put you all on the same page, but it will help you remember which important tickets, confirmation numbers, or reservation details you need to bring along that day for your planned activities.

Making Healthy Choices to Avoid Traveling Stress

Traveling stress skyrockets for me when I feel guilty about it, so I’m trying to make healthy choices wherever I go.

A few weeks ago, I bought a Ringly ring. Ringly is a fitness tracker that syncs to your phone but looks like jewelry. I’d been wanting a tracker for a while, and the design of these adorable pieces made me finally get on board.

You charge it in a ring box and manage it from an app on your phone, and no one would ever know from looking at it that it’s a tracker.

Ringly Box Ringly Ring

Because of this new tracker, I can see how much walking I’m doing each weekend. The weekend in Indy, I walked 9.2 miles. And in NYC, we planned in time to walk the High Line and the bottom half of Central Park. We ended up walking 25.5 miles total!

I also try to choose healthier food choices most of the time without sacrificing the experience.

Enjoying the Moment to Avoid Traveling Stress

Finally, the stress-busting key for me is enjoying the fun parts of traveling. Those moments have to outweigh the stress, or it’s not worth it!

In NYC, we:

  • Ate at Bobby Flay’s Gato
  • Saw the new show Amélie
  • Spent a day at Chelsea Market
  • Walked the High Line
  • Had a ball at Waitress, including the perfect-serving-size, tiny Key Lime and Marshmallow Pies at intermission (And they raised $20,000 dollars in a little auction at the end of the show for charity!)
  • Indulged in the special Easter brunch menu at Tom Colicchio’s Craft
  • Explored Central Park

With more crazy weekends ahead of me, I hope my planning helps me stay sane!

Tips for Your Travels

If you need more tips to make it through your next trip and traveling stress, these can help:

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Surviving the Sandwich Generation

Vantage Point: The Importance of Support While in the Sandwich Generation

My husband and I are starting to talk about future property purchases, which has led to many conversations about what we would want in a house or property. I want land. He wants something that he doesn’t have to fix up. Our conversations have swung from a giant, ridiculous wish list to then coming back to reality about what’s on that wish list.

One theme that I’ve been consistent with in all of our talks is that I want a place to take care of my parents when they get older in the future. This is so true for my mother, as her family has often lived into their 90s.

This notion of caring for them on my property has been solidified even further with how unsure Medicare is, how expensive the healthcare system is, and the fact that I want them to have the best care while staying close to family. I figure I can achieve this by buying a property that’s big enough to parcel out a place for my parents.

I haven’t really thought of all the logistics, but the plan is stuck in my mind, and it’s framing what kind of property and home I want. This type of thinking has also led to conversations with my father about what he thinks they would like and need, if and when the time comes for them to sell their home and live with us.

When this happens, if not a little before, I’ll officially be smack dab in the classification of the sandwich generation, the people who are responsible for not only caring for their own kids, but also for their aging parents. According to the CDC, as of 2008, there were 34 million unpaid family caregivers in the United States. I’m sure that figure is much higher now.

I saw my mother do this with her mother, so I’m not afraid of the season when it comes; I just want to be prepared. Being prepared means thinking now about what will make life easier for all of us in the future.

It’s also about knowing and looking out for the pitfalls. I’ve heard from many others that this season of life can be so rewarding while you’re in it, but it can also be very taxing, so it’s important to be extra vigilant in taking care of yourself. In order to keep loving others, we have to keep loving ourselves.

This means that sometimes you need a break! This break could be a spa day, a long walk, a furious cardio kickboxing session, or just talking to others who are in similar situations. It takes a village, right?!

I’ve compiled a list of some support groups for those who are in this situation. Some support groups are local, and some are virtual, but they are all there as resources for support. And if you want something more local that fits what you’re going through, you can always start your own support group. There are tons of advice and tips online on how to make a new group successful. I think the best advice I saw when researching this article was to keep it simple and to feel accomplished even if only 1 or 2 people show up.

Local Support Groups

Memorial Hospital’s support groups

Alzheimer’s Association Caregiver Support Groups

Granger – For Spanish-Speaking Caregivers – Starting Soon
Estela Ochoa
Call 206-529-3877 before attending for location, time, and further details.

Yakima – For Caregivers
Location: St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church
4105 Richey Rd.
Yakima, WA 98908
Meeting Time: 2nd Thursday of the month, 1 to 2:30 p.m.
Contact Elaine Krump at 509-969-3615 before attending.

Yakima – For Spanish-Speaking Families
Call Manuel at 509-833-3334 before attending for location, time, and further details.

Online Support Groups

Caring.com has a broad list of caregiving groups for you to choose from. Access to these groups requires a free member account.

AgingCare.com has some groups for you to choose from, and you don’t have to become a member to access these groups.

Caregiving.com has online caregiving support groups, daily caregiving chats, and blogs written by family caregivers.

 

Breck Obermeyer is a community liaison with Health Alliance Northwest, serving Yakima County. She is a homegrown girl from Naches and has a great husband who can fix anything and 2 kids who are her world. When not attending community events or providing Medicare education throughout the Valley, she can be found indulging in her hobbies of homesteading, pioneer cooking, and learning new survival techniques. She also has a strong love for all things Halloween.

Aging with Your Pets

Long View: Aging With Our Pets

My grandparents had a Chihuahua that lived to be 20 years old. Suzy had her own knitted sweaters to wear when she went outside. Every night, Grandma cooked and cut up liver in tiny, bite-sized pieces for Suzy’s dinner.

I’m not sure what the life expectancy and living arrangements for most dogs were in the 1950s and 1960s, but I would wager that Suzy’s life was particularly plush for that era. When I came along in 1968, my parents gave me the middle name of Sue. I often wondered if this was a happy coincidence or a tribute to that beloved Chihuahua.

Today, I have a yellow Labrador retriever puppy named Harvey. Grandpa’s name was Harvey. Touché.

Americans love their pets. Take a stroll through your local big-box pet supplies chain, and the number of things a person can buy for their animals will amaze you. Strollers, raincoats, probiotics, gluten-free and vegan dog food, and even memory foam mattresses. Within just a few miles of my house, Harvey can go to a doggy day camp, swim at an indoor pool just for pooches, and later have his hair and nails done at the pet spa.

Your pet pampers you in different ways. Owning a pet lowers stress, reduces blood pressure, and raises mental sharpness. A study from the University of Missouri-Columbia showed that petting a dog for 15 minutes releases the feel-good hormones serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin, while also lowering the stress hormone cortisol.

Pets can open up a lonely world and get you out of bed in the morning. Walking a dog (or a cat, if you are particularly brave and the cat is extremely cooperative) is good exercise. Those of us with an empty nest find a new sense of purpose. And nurturing a beloved animal gives us unconditional love in return.

An older person with a pet companion can be a heartwarming love match. I reached out to Stacey Teager, from the Quad City Animal Welfare Center, for some advice for those who are looking to add a pet to their home in later years.

  • Make sure your pet gets regular checkups and immunizations. Have your animal spayed or neutered.
  • Never give your pet “people” medications. Always consult a veterinarian before medicating your pet.
  • Have a plan in place with your family or close friends for caring for your pet should you become sick and need to be hospitalized or stay in a nursing facility.
  • Match your pet with your physical capabilities. My 50-pound Labrador retriever puppy can drag my mother down the sidewalk. This is dangerous for both her and the dog. A quieter, smaller animal is a better choice for her to walk around the neighborhood.
  • Despite my grandmother’s loving intentions, don’t feed your pet table scraps or human food. Animals can get overweight and unhealthy with just a few added ounces. If you like to bake, there are lots of recipes for animal treats that use ingredients found in your pantry.

Lora Felger is a community and broker liaison at Health Alliance. She is the mother of 2 terrific boys, a world traveler, and a major Iowa State Cyclones fan.