All posts by Chad Beyler

What’s Old Becomes New Again

Like most, during the months of April, May and part of June, I wondered what my purpose was anymore. I was doing my part in physical distancing to help slow the spread, and while I was so grateful that I had a job, it looked nothing like normal.

I was learning new things within our organization and working on projects I likely never would have given the circumstances, but it wasn’t what I was use to for the last three and a half years. My husband recently retired from the police department one week after the pandemic began, so mix him leaving his job after 22 years, to being home 24/7 with a one year old and nine year old, learning to homeschool, potty train and trying to work full-time while at home amidst the chaos. It was a LOT all at once to say the least.

So, we decided to do something we always wanted to do, like any normal person would. We bought a very large 2009 38 foot fifth wheel camper to renovate. I mean, we had so much extra time on our hands, right? We have owned a camper for years, but we outgrew it and wanted something bigger to call home when we took trips across the country someday. I make it sound so simple…

When we brought it home, friends of ours who were touring it for the first time asked, “Did you hire a marriage counselor during this process?” We laughed then, but a month into it, I remember thinking I really need to ask for referrals.

I suspected the long days my husband might spend homeschooling and potty training while I was working would be taken out with a sledge hammer on demolition days. That did indeed happen some days, but not as many as I thought. We had the normal bickering of “I had design ideas” and “he knew the nuts and bolts of what structurally couldn’t happen.” We compromised.

We learned so much about each other during this process. We established he would do the majority of the demolition with the help of some family and friends here and there and I would help with paint, layout designs and decorating. Then he would put it all back together. I really think he got the raw end of this deal, but he was happy to do it and make my dreams come true. It was crazy to see the difference from Day One, after demo and the current outcome. It looks almost nothing like what we started with. We took what was old and made it new again.

We did the majority of all this during quarantine and learned so much – not only about ourselves, but about how time standing still can make us find who we are, what we want, and how to compromise during difficult situations and change.

So tell me, did you learn something new already this year? Was it learning to cut or color your own hair, or selflessly making masks for our healthcare heroes and first responders? Did you learn a new instrument, make TikTok videos with your kids, do a new craft or did you simply learn just to survive upon a new normal? Because if so, that’s okay too!

Whatever you’ve learned so far this year or continue to learn, I hope you come out smarter, stronger, ready for a brighter future and feeling new again!

Morgan Gunder is a community and broker liaison for Reid Health Alliance™. Born in the South and raised in the Midwest, she’s a wife and mother with a passion for traveling, learning and technology. Like this article? Feel free to respond to CoveredBridge@HealthAlliance.org. Thanks for reading!

Kondo Method to the Rescue

My eyes have been opened and I’m a full Marie Kondo convert. I had heard about her and her methods before in passing but never really looking into them. I figured they were a gimmick type of approach and I wasn’t really interested in what she or the method had to offer. Fast forward to a time when I was flipping through one of those streaming services trying to find a show to put on, in order to kind of pay attention to it while I was cleaning around the house. I know it might be odd, but I like to have a show on in the background that I kind of pay attention to when I’m cleaning. I have no idea why, but I find it comforting and it helps me move through tasks easier. I stumbled onto her show and thought to myself, “why not?” Not long after the episode started, my cleaning waned and I was watching the episode fully. Fast forward a couple of hours and I had fully binged the whole season on Netflix and I was staring at my dresser. That particular weekend I had decided that I was going to go through my dresser as it was starting to overflow. I figured I was going to have to downsize my leggings collection (insert horrified gasp here) but wanted to give her technique a shot in order to see if I could not only keep all my leggings but make some much needed room for new additions that I might find in the future. Full disclosure here, I didn’t go through the whole decluttering process, like they do in the episodes. I just knew that I wanted to see if the folding would allow for me to keep my beloved leggings collection. With gusto, I dumped out the two drawers and started on it. Low and behold, all of the leggings fit (with room for a few more). Victory! From there, I was hooked on the folding technique. I moved to my shorts drawer (which was complete with fancier leggings) and organized that. That drawer was a hot mess, let me tell you. I didn’t think that I would have gotten them to all fit nicely (and I also used this time to purge the one that I didn’t enjoy anymore, or as Marie says, didn’t spark joy) but they did, and the purging helped, and I was so happy. I then moved to other drawers and got them organized as well. I had to look up some folding methods that weren’t shown in the show but easily found them online. That was about December or January that I did this and they are still organized like this to this day. I eventually took this technique to my closet where I’ve taken out clothes that I don’t enjoy anymore or that I had been holding on for those various reasons we all use (the maybe I’d fit back into them one day clothes, for me). My shoes are now organized as well and I’m feeling much better and far more in control of my environment. I’m thankful for these methods and how they’ve improved my space.

Breck Obermeyer Yakima WA – Breck Obermeyer is a Community Liaison with Health Alliance Northwest, serving Yakima County. She is a small town girl from Naches and has a great husband who can fix anything and 3 kids who are her world.

Like this article? Feel free to respond to VantagePoint@HealthAlliance.org. Thanks for reading!

Old MacDonald Had a Farm

One of my favorite childhood nursey rhyme songs is “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.” It was super-duper fun to sing ee-i-ee-i-o! Not to mention singing the sounds of some animals he had on his farm. The cows said moo-moo! The chicks said cluck-cluck! And the pigs said oink-oink!

As an adult I wonder, “What other animals did Mr. MacDonald have on his farm?” And did he grow any vegetables? When I attend farmers markets today, I mostly see fresh produce, fruits and vegetables. I also see some value-added products made with the produce, such as canned jams, canned salsa and zucchini breads. I’ve seen one or two farmer vendors that sold frozen beef, chicken and pork. They were no longer saying moo-moo, cluck-cluck, or oink-oink!

The first week of August is National Farmers Market Week. This year, it will be August 2 – 8. Some communities celebrate National Farmers Market Week with fun events, food, music, craft vendors, resource vendors, specials, contests and activities.

Celebrating National Farmers Market Week is a great opportunity to show the nation how much value markets bring to their communities. Farmers markets make positive impacts on their communities’ health and wealth.

Farmers markets help do several things, including the following:

  • Preserve farmland.
  • Stimulate local economies.
  • Increase access to nutritious foods.
  • Support healthy communities.
  • Promote sustainability.

Health Alliance™ supports the purposes of local farmers markets. A partial list of farmers markets in areas we serve includes:

  • Peoria Riverfront Market – Peoria, IL
  • Galesburg Farmers Market – Galesburg, IL
  • Kankakee Farmers Market – Kankakee, IL
  • Edgebrook Farmers Market – Rockford, IL
  • Macomb Farmers Market – Macomb, IL
  • Champaign Farmers Market – Champaign, IL
  • Old Capitol Farmers Market – Springfield, IL
  • Freight House Farmers Market – Davenport, IA

As you visit your local farmers markets, remember Mr. Old MacDonald and his farm. You may even see a friendly face of a local Health Alliance community liaison.

To find nearby farmers markets, you can search on the National Farmers Market Directory website, NFMD.org.

Sherry Gordon-Harris is a Community Liaison at Health Alliance. She’s a wife and mother of two boys. She enjoys traveling, collecting dolls, and hosting princess parties and pageants. Like this article? Feel free to respond to Longview@HealthAlliance.org. Thanks for reading!

Find Shot Schedules

Not Just for Kids: 5 Vaccinations Adults Need

Most adults have at least a faint recollection of childhood immunizations. However, vaccines aren’t just for kids. Read on to discover five important vaccinations for adults, and listen to our related podcast to learn even more.

Dr. Steven D. O’Marro, an expert on infectious diseases at Springfield Clinic in Springfield, Illinois, explains the importance of vaccines. “All of these vaccines represent preventable illnesses,” he notes. “The major advances in medicine that have occurred, that have resulted in improved life expectancy, all relate to many of these vaccines that have been developed. If you look at the Social Security Act that was passed in the 1930s under Franklin Roosevelt, the average life expectancy was somewhere around 50 to 60 years. With the introduction of vaccines and antibiotics, we have seen life expectancy into the 70s and 80s.”

Here are five vaccines adults should be getting—and when they should get them.

Influenza

The annual flu vaccine is developed by researching which influenza strains are likely to affect the population that year. Dr. O’Marro points out that this seasonal vaccine reduces the risk of dying substantially, relative to people who have not had the shot. If a patient does develop the flu and has been vaccinated, they’re less likely to have severe complications.

Dr. O’Marro explains how this vaccine significantly protects older adults. “Influenza behaves kind of like an ice storm in Springfield. It can knock down weak branches, especially with our older adults who have something called age-related immune deficiency and can’t really protect themselves against influenza.”

Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis

This combination vaccine covers three different diseases. Dr. O’Marro explains each, along with their unpleasant symptoms.

“Tetanus is caused by a bacterium found in the soil and once it enters the body, it releases a toxin. The toxin has extreme toxicity at very low concentrations. It can cause muscle spasms and eventually death if untreated, as a consequence of respiratory insufficiency.”

“Diphtheria is a disease that we don’t see very often anymore, but it is still present in the third world. It is a respiratory disease that causes breathing problems and can cause paralysis, heart failure, and death by its ability to link up and interfere with certain types of cellular metabolism. It’s highly contagious, spread by coughing and sneezing.”

“Pertussis is a vaccine to prevent something called whooping cough, which produces significant coughing spasms and significant illness—even coughing significant enough to break ribs in some people who get this illness.”

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

HPV is transferred by sexual contact and is linked to genital cancers. The vaccine is important for young women and men who are in their teens to mid-20s. “It is one of the initial vaccines intended to reduce the risk of cancer,” adds Dr. O’Marro.

Pneumonia

Unlike the other vaccines listed, Dr. O’Marro points out that pneumonia vaccines are administered as a consequence of either immune responses or of coincident illnesses such as congestive heart failure or obstructive lung disease. This vaccine reduces risk of sinus infections and pneumonia-related complications.

Shingles

Not only does herpes zoster, commonly known as chicken pox, leave physical scarring in its wake, but it can also make its mark in the genetic code. When shingles develops, it can damage the nerves, eyes or face. “We now have a vaccine [for shingles] that is much like the current influenza vaccine,” Dr. O’Marro shares. “It causes a reaction to the virus that results in an improved immune response and significantly reduces risk of getting shingles.”

Speak to your physician about these vaccines to determine which you may need.

“If you refuse to take advantage of the advances in infectious disease and a prolonged life expectancy,” Dr. O’Marro cautions, “then you really put yourself into the life expectancy tables of the 1930s, and that’s unfortunate.”

Interested in learning more about immunizations? To listen to the full interview with Dr. O’Marro on our podcast, click here.

Want even more information? Check out these additional resources:

  • Listen to this podcast by our partners at Riverside Healthcare to learn more about the importance of the HPV vaccine.
  • Why is the pneumonia vaccine such a lifesaver? Read this short article on OSF HealthCare’s blog.
  • Learn more about shingles on the Sarah Bush Lincoln Health System blog.
  • Read why it’s important to get the flu vaccine in this blog piece from Memorial Health System.
Dr. Steven D. O’Marro, infectious disease expert at Springfield Clinic

Healthy Summer Melon Recipes

Summertime Boredom

I can’t tell you how nice it is to wake up every morning with rays of sunshine peeking through my window and the sound of birds singing. When I look out the window I see a family of quails living in my bushes. I get such a kick at watching the momma quail run back into the bushes with at least 10 mini quails right behind. I can’t say I envy her; she must really enjoy nap time. As I was researching on what to write about this month, I found out its anti-boredom month, which took me by surprise. When I think of summer, I think of fun and a lot of outdoor fun. Although, after the Fourth of July, it seems things tend to slow down. Since it’s right in the middle of summer, the temperature outside can reach triple digits at some points. If we’re bored, it might not be safe for us to go out in the heat unless it’s early in the morning or later when the sun starts to set.

What are some things we can do to battle boredom halfway through the summer? As a mom of young children, right after breakfast, which is early but children don’t seem to sleep inn, we head outside to let them play and let out all of their energy. The morning is perfect because it’s not as hot and it’s when they have the most energy. While the children get to play, I get to increase my steps by chasing them around. By the time we go back inside, they’re ready for a snack and a nap. We also play board games. These types of games are always fun because everyone in the family can participate. My family recently played Jenga with my four year old and he left me very surprised on how gracious he was to not knock down our tower. We also played Connect Four. Needless to say, my four year old was also good at playing it, but I have a feeling it was all luck. Board games make our brains work while we have a good time, and why not add a little prize for an extra excitement.

It’s always easy to run out of ideas and think we have nothing new to do, but we have so much around us to have a good time. Thanks to today’s technology, it’s so easy to connect with our relatives and friends that aren’t near us. When we are feeling like we have ran out of things to do reach out to them catch up and they might give us new ideas and activities to try.

I tend to stick to my routines, so it can be challenging to think outside the box to keep my children and myself busy. This is a great time to think outside the box. This summer, try out new things, think of ideas where you can have a good time and sneak in some physical activity. In the meantime, you can learn what your family members’ secret talents might be. Some bucket list items for this summer are to hike with both of our kids (wish me luck) and try out rock climbing. What activates will you plan for the summer to avoid boredom?

Jessica Arroyo – Wenatchee WA – Jessica Arroyo is a community liaison for Health Alliance Northwestä, serving Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties in Washington. She was born and raised in the Wenatchee Valley. During her time off, she enjoys spending time with her husband and her two very busy kids. Like this article? Feel free to respond to VantagePoint@HealthAlliance.org. Thanks for reading!

National Parent’s Day

How many of you knew there was a National Parent’s Day each year? Yep, me neither. Insert small feeling of embarrassment when I can remember National Cupcake Day each year. That’s December 15 if you needed a reminder.

Ok, back to my main point. Former President Bill Clinton established National Parent’s Day back in 1994 (36 U.S.C. § 135). It recognizes “uplifting and supporting the role of parents in the rearing of children.”

The thing about Parent’s Day is that it looks so different for each person. I know for myself, my stepdad was one of the biggest impacts of my life. He was my dad, not my stepdad. He raised me and my siblings from the age of 1 ½. He taught me what unconditional love is. He loved three children who were not his own by blood. He taught us that respect is earned and that hard work is one of the few things we can control. He also taught me the most valuable lesson of all – that each person struggles with their own problems and the ability to wake up each day, and to be better than the day before is our own choice. I also learned that people will create an opinion about you without ever actually knowing you and it’s not your job to convince them differently.

Do you see the pattern of what he taught me? Responsibility of our actions. I had the ability to own my own actions and despite my upbringing being far from perfect, I had the ability to change my outcome despite my circumstances.

My dad wasn’t perfect and unfortunately we lost him at the young age of 52, but his impact will last me and his grandkids for generations to come. His birthday is in a few days and I have the amazing blessing that my second daughter was born on his birthday. We celebrate both each year.

Sometimes parents also come in the form of an aunt, uncle, grandparent, family friend or a friend’s parent. The ability to be a constant in the upbringing in someone’s life is what sets defining characteristics and moments. To make a personal investment to impact someone far beyond words is what creates bonds that last a lifetime.

On July 26 this year, be sure to celebrate Parent’s Day. However you choose to spend it, just take some extra time with your kids or parents or call, video chat or send a card in the mail. Whatever that looks like for you, it’s worth celebrating! Not just on a holiday or birthday.

Morgan Gunder is a community and broker liaison for Reid Health Allianceä. Born in the South and raised in the Midwest, she’s a wife and mother with a passion for traveling, learning and technology. Like this article? Feel free to respond to Morgan.Gunder@healthalliance.org. Thanks for reading!

Beyond Fitness Fads – Practical and Realistic Exercise Tips

Attention men: how many of you have fallen for the latest fitness fad? Perhaps you’ve spent money on trending workout regimens or pricey exercise equipment shown on popular infomercials. You push yourself hard – perhaps too hard – for a week or two, and then quit your workouts as life intervenes.

Exercise is one of the most important ways to stay healthy. But we must be practical and realistic when it comes to our physical activity. Age might prevent us from working out as vigorously as we once did. Illnesses, injuries and chronic conditions might limit the exercises we can do. For example, instead of a few reps with heavy weights, do more reps with lighter weights.

How can we stay active, but also be safe, practical and realistic in our approach? Read on for some helpful tips.

The Basics

  • The more hours you sit each day, the higher your risk of metabolic problems.

  • Even moderate exercise has health benefits. You don’t need that high-intensity workout celebrities and professional athletes have on their blogs. Instead aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity five days a week – and stick to it.

  • Do strength training exercises for all major muscle groups at least two times a week. Aim to do a single set of each exercise, using a weight or resistance level heavy enough to tire your muscles after about 12 to 15 repetitions.

  • Short on long chunks of time? Even brief bouts of activity offer benefits. For instance, if you can’t fit in one 30-minute walk during the day, try a few five-minute walks instead. Any activity is better than none at all. What’s most important is making regular physical activity part of your lifestyle.

  • Try brisk walks, light aerobics or even yard work. Do something you enjoy. Perhaps even take your significant other dancing – it’s not only fun, but exercise too.

  • Always check with your doctor before starting any new physical routine. Read here about how your doctor can create an exercise plan catered to your specific interests and lifestyle.

As You Age

  • Exercise might become more difficult as you age. Talk to your doctor or one of our health coaches for tips on less-strenuous physical activity.

  • Some exercises might lead to injury. Avoid heavy lifting and running on treadmills.

  • Stay fit with walks, age-appropriate exercise classes and household and outdoor chores. Play with grandkids. Check out the videos on our Facebook page for fun exercise and fitness demos.

Consider Your Conditions

  • If you have diabetes, make sure to check your blood sugar before exercising. You might need an extra snack if it’s too low. Make sure to take a break right away if you start feeling dizzy.

  • Arthritis? Don’t do exercises that place too much stress on your joints. Consider swimming and water aerobics.

  • Osteoporosis? Don’t risk broken bones. Exercises should be low impact. Consider long walks with friends or family.

Save Money

  • If you’re thinking about joining a gym or fitness center as they re-open, we offer our members cost-saving discounts:

    • For our members on commercial plans, the Active&Fit Direct™ program additionally offers membership at 10,000+ fitness centers nationwide for only $25 a month (plus a $25 enrollment fee and applicable taxes).

    • Medicare Advantage member? Go to any gym or fitness center of your choice and get paid back up to $360 a year with our fitness benefit, Be Fit.

  • Check out Memorial Health System’s blog piece about exercising on a budget.

Motivation

  • Need the motivation to exercise? Read why it helps to have a workout partner.

  • Looking for inspiration? Read these success stories from Memorial Weight Loss and Wellness Center about men – and women – who used exercise and diet to become healthier.

It’s never too late to begin exercising. Read how one retiree began to focus on fitness, in this article from Virginia Mason Health System. You too can start your commitment to better health right now.