Category Archives: Series

Moving to Seattle

My Healthy Journey: Welcome to Washington

It’s been a little while since I mentioned a move. Since then, I’ve trotted across a few more states. (Am I actually insane? Perhaps.) After about 9 months in Indiana, my boyfriend and I just made the leap to the Seattle area in June. And moving has been taxing, as always.

I’d love to say that we planned perfectly to move across the country with ease and grace. Unfortunately, when military bases are involved, like they are for my boyfriend, there isn’t always time for perfect planning.

 In the span of about 2 weeks, we:

  • Found an apartment
  • Packed our old apartment
  • Rented a truck
  • Drove across the country
  • Unpacked
  • Bought and assembled an apartment’s worth of new IKEA furniture

It was more the whirlwind version of moving.

Seattle
I didn’t take this, but I just drove through it for the first time last week. Gorgeous!

Moving Your Whole Life Across the Country Recommendations

Get Help Finding an Apartment

Because we were moving to a state we’d never even visited, we did some research about areas we’d like to live, and then we hired a company to help find and show us apartments in those areas.

Between not having to rent a car on our visit and saving time before and during, it more than paid for the day of him driving us around to a bunch of apartments. And he picked the place we chose in the end.

I cannot recommend a service like this more when moving blindly. It made our lives so much easier.

We also loved our guide and are planning a double date with him and his girlfriend, so win-win-win.

Seriously Consider Movers

We did not seriously consider movers, and we are still a little sad about that. After loading the truck in Indiana, picking up my remaining belongings at home in Illinois, and driving over 12 hours a day for 3 days, my back was out when we got to Washington, and needless to say, it was a really rough way to unload a truck.

My mother was kind enough to come on this journey with us and help, but the 3 of us unloading our floppy king-size mattress alone was enough to make it worth hiring movers. I wish I had a video to prove to you that you should never accidentally bring this fate down upon yourselves, but alas, I do not, so instead, I like to think it looked a lot like this:

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Combined with the floppiness of this:

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And this small child’s linebacker skills:

Football GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

Seriously, hire movers. We will next time.

Splurge and Take Extra Time Off

I only took off a few days for us to drive across the country, and then I hopped back online on Monday. I really wished I’d taken off the whole week.

Poor Matt assembled almost an entire apartment’s worth of IKEA furniture without much help from me while I was working. And it took a lot longer to have any functioning TVs or food in our fridge because I wasn’t available to help.

You will need more time than you thought you would to unpack and settle in a move across the country compared to a state or even just a few miles away. Trust me.

Plan to Grocery Shop

We didn’t plan time to grocery shop early on, and while our kitchen was the first thing unpacked, we couldn’t really use it for about 5 days. We’re lucky to have a grocery store, Starbucks, Panera, Chipotle, and more across the street, so we didn’t live off just fried food for days. But it was still not fun or good for us. 

When you eat every meal out for 8 days in a row, you’ll understand that it’s expensive and exhausting. Plus, you’ll feel really gross by about day 3. So plan to be able to cook or at least throw together cereal or simple salads early.

Protect Your Skin and Hair

Even though our local water board just sent us a report about how great our water is, and I’d been living with extremely hard water in Indiana, better water might still wreak havoc on you.

I’ve had more breakouts in the last 2 months than I did at any point going through puberty or bouts of extreme all-night cramming in college. My normally happy combination skin has taken a full nose-dive into adult acne territory, and my boyfriend’s wasn’t doing too well at first either.

I know it sounds crazy, but Google it. I’m not the only one. Lots of people who have moved across the country or move regularly, like those in the military, have hit this issue.

There are many factors in a move that can take a toll. From the stress of the move, to different water, to adapting to a city without air conditioning and much more sweating than normal (no really, apartments pretty much never have air conditioning in Seattle), to a change in climate, they can all affect your skin. These changes can also be hard on your hair.

My skin’s finally starting to get used to the new digs, but you can save yourself by being prepared. Digging out my normal skincare routine and regularly sticking to it during 2 weeks of moving and unpacking wasn’t high on my list of priorities, and obviously, it should’ve been.

If you don’t take care of yourself during the move, you will regret it later. Wash your face in the morning and before bed, and be prepared to adapt your old routines. You might need a new lotion or conditioner for suddenly dry skin or hair or to change your old products while your skin and hair adapt.

Work on Patience and Understanding

While you’re moving, it’s extremely high stress, and it opens the door to fighting. My mom and I already have the tendency to bicker, but my boyfriend and I are usually very level-headed.

In a twist of fate, my mom and I did a pretty great job, and the bickering mostly bubbled up with my boyfriend, probably partially because we were trying to make serious life decisions on barely any sleep while being completely physically exhausted, all with the added bonus of an extra witness there to see us duke it out.

I’ve had some not-great relationships in the past, which at times made it feel like I had a free pass to be mean if an argument required it. But my current boyfriend is wonderful and one of my oldest friends, and he doesn’t deserve that. As a result, I’ve really had to work on my patience and understanding in the middle of arguments.

One of the best rules I can recommend is don’t fight while you’re exhausted, hungry, or triggered by something else, like work. But when you’re exhausted, hungry, and triggered by moving, which you’re doing all of together, some fights have to bubble up. It’s fate.

Tips to Be More Patient for a Fair Fight 

What you can do is be ready. Try to practice patience with some deep breaths, some gratitude for the other person, and maybe just by embracing the uncomfortableness of what’s going on together.

Then, when you can’t avoid that fight, fight fair:

  • Recognize the other person’s concerns and feelings.
  • Listen, listen, listen.
  • Never mix meanness for the sake of meanness or other issues in your relationship into an argument they don’t belong in.
  • Don’t say things like ultimatums you don’t mean. If what you’re arguing over isn’t a relationship deal breaker, don’t taunt that it is in the heat of the moment.
  • Know your own and each other’s limits. My boyfriend likes to talk things out right away. I like time to cool off so I don’t lash out. We both know that about each other and try to make arguing work for both of us, even when that’s hard to do.
  • Pick your battles carefully and get comfortable with compromise. Instead of arguing over a soap dispenser, wait and find one you agree on because it’s just a soap dispenser. If you don’t really care what color that side table is, but your partner really cares, give them the win. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did after the 800th snap decision you have to make in the middle of IKEA.
  • Always bring it back to a place of love and respect, even while you’re arguing. Never forget that you’re partners in this, even if (when) they’re driving you crazy.
  • Forgive easily. Moving is too stressful to hold every meltdown against the other person, and with a huge move, there will definitely be some meltdowns.

Take Time to Relax

Luckily for us, we got our big move in right before a big vacation to Hawaii, so we had a built-in break about a month after the move.

Hawaii was gorgeous, and having never been that close to the equator before, a great reminder of the value of sunscreen

But you should plan time to explore your new home or get away if you need to, even if it’s only for a date night, a weekend, or a massage.

And don’t beat yourself up over the occasional splurge during this time. If there were ever a time to have some real ice cream or a steak, it’s when you’ve just picked up your whole life and dropped it nearly 5,000 miles away.

And for fun, because, Hawaii…

Appreciate Your New Home

After about a month of craziness, hopefully your new home will be in decent shape. At which point, you need to take a step back and give yourselves a big pat on the back.

This will be the second time I’ve moved across the country blindly, once with nothing but a couple suitcases, and this time with everything I own. It’s scary, and stressful, and so worth it. Don’t forget to appreciate what you’ve built.

I’m finally taking a second to admire my gorgeous apartment in a brand-new building, my wonderful puppies, our gorgeous surroundings, my boyfriend who calmly spent about 10 hours in an IKEA with my mom and I and built like 15 pieces of furniture, and the awesome job that let me move across the country and keep working for them remotely, saving me from a frantic job search at the same time. #Blessed, am I right?

And I live about 25 minutes away from this. Seriously, how can you stay burnt out living anywhere this gorgeous!

Snoqualmie Falls

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Taking Time to Relax

Vantage Point: It’s Time to Relax

Relaxation is the state of being free from tension and anxiety. When I think of relaxation, I imagine myself having no to-do list, sitting back, and watching my son play. Now that I’m raising a family, I understand the importance of taking time to just relax.

On the weekends, I tend to clean my house top to bottom. I get so focused on these tasks that by the time I’m done with my chores, I realize it’s already 5 o’clock on Saturday evening. I get so upset with myself because I spent a whole day cleaning instead of taking a stroll in the park, going on a hike with my family, or just sitting in the backyard and enjoying the nice summer weather.

Then, I rush to get myself together to go do something “fun” before night falls. This defeats the whole purpose of relaxing because I’m so tired by the end of the day, I don’t even get to enjoy the activities with my family.

I now more than ever see why it’s so important to take time to relax. Time and time again, I hear about all of the benefits of relaxation, like lowering blood pressure, increasing blood flow to major muscles, improving sleep quality, and much more. I need to be the best version of me so I can be around and have a good time with my family.

This summer, I am trying something new. I’m giving myself small tasks to do at home every day after work, so when the weekend comes around, my workload isn’t so big. I’m also giving myself a set time frame to clean each Saturday morning. When I’m all done, it’s usually time for my son to take a midday nap, which gives me some dedicated “me time.” When he wakes up, I’m relaxed and ready to have some family fun.

So far, I’m really enjoying my new approach to handling my time. Sometimes, relaxing is much harder than setting up a new plan. There are a lot of reasons you might need a new plan too, like a diagnosis that requires you to try a different approach.

When that happens, our case managers are here to help you make your new plan work in lots of way. They can provide motivation, tools, and lifestyle skills to help minimize your risk of complications and share resources that are available in your community.

So get started finding a plan that works for you, and don’t forget to take some time to relax this summer.

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.
A Healthy A1C Level

Long View: What Does A1C Mean to Me?

Our community liaison team has never met a health fair or expo they didn’t love! Health fairs and expos are great places to learn about the abundance of services available in our communities to support seniors and their families.

With brightly colored, free shopping bags in hand, visitors gather pens, lip balms, and hand sanitizers, along with informational brochures and contact information for everything from beautiful, new living communities to financial planning. I’ve never seen so many butterscotch hard candies in one place since my grandmother’s candy dish in the 1970s.

Many health fairs and expos offer free checkups for various parts of your body and health. Participants aren’t the only ones taking advantage of a little free TLC. So far this summer, I’ve had the kinks rubbed out of my neck, the skin on my face analyzed for sun damage, and my blood pressure checked.

But one of the most interesting tests I’ve done recently came from my friends at Memorial Hospital in Carthage, IL. They measured my A1C level.

“What is A1C?” I asked, with a donut in one hand and a cup of coffee with cream in the other.

A1C is the measurement of the average blood sugar levels for the past 3 months, they told me. “Oh no,” I said. “I can’t get that done today. I’m eating a donut!”

The kind nurses assured me to sit down and relax. No fasting is required. In the blink of an eye, my finger was (painlessly) pricked, and a small amount of my blood slipped into a tiny little tube. The tube took a 5-minute spin in the centrifuge, and bingo, my A1C for the past 3 months is…. I’ll keep you in suspense until the end.

The National Diabetes Education Initiative recommends that diabetics have the A1C measurement taken at least twice a year. Everyone else should measure A1C once every 3 years. The nurses from Carthage recommended that most people should have measurements below 5.7%, since measurements between 5.7 and 6.4% indicate a greater risk for becoming diabetic.

The daily measurement of glucose levels is very important for diabetics who need to keep their levels within healthy ranges. Knowing your 2- to 3-month average can help you determine your overall glucose health, which in turn can help you make healthy choices throughout each day, like about sleeping, playing, working, eating, and more.

And if you don’t have diabetes, knowing if you have a higher than average A1C level can be a valuable piece of information to help you make healthy changes to curb your chances of getting diabetes at some point in your life.

Those who are already diabetic should strive to lower their A1C to at least 7% when possible. This could be a struggle for those who suffer from the disease, but the research points toward a much lower risk of developing diabetic complications like eye, heart, and kidney disease the closer you can get to 7%.

To tell you the truth, waiting for my blood to spin around for those 5 minutes in the centrifuge had me sweating a little. This could be the year my chickens come home to roost. I’ll be having one of those special birthdays next year where everyone wears black. I’m not exactly the healthiest eater. Leggings and stretchy-fabric pants have become my best friends.

This A1C measurement was an important wake-up call for me. The good news is that I measured well below 5.7%.

While I could have spiked the football, declared myself invincible, and grabbed a second donut, I didn’t. I decided to really pay attention to this information and be grateful for my health today, maybe take an extra walk around the block every week. Next year, I’m setting my sights on something in the high 4s.

Pass the kale.

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.

Technology Improving Seniors' Lives

Vantage Point: Technology Helps Seniors Stay Independent

We all want to stay as independent as possible, and that is especially true as we age. Most adults want to age in place, which means aging comfortably in their own home. Luckily, we live in the technology age, and staying independent as we age is totally possible with some cool gadgets!

  • Automatic pill reminders – There are many options to help you take your medications safely and consistently.

    I’ve seen some models that attach to the pill bottle as the lid. The lid reminds you with an alarm that you or a loved one can program, and the lid also keeps track of when the last medications were taken.

    I’ve also seen some models that keep the pills locked until a certain time, and then unlock with an alarm to remind you.

    Another option might be one of the talking clocks that are out there. A loved one can program its recordings to remind you to take your medications.

  • House-cleaning robots – There are house-cleaning robots that can make things like vacuuming and cleaning your floors a lot easier.

    This is a great idea for those that find housework to be exhausting or hard to accomplish because of ability or illness.

  • Safety devices – There are many personal emergency response systems out there for you to choose from. They range from bands that you wear on your wrists that let you signal for help to full-on camera systems that can be installed to let your family monitor you.

    There are also sensors that can be attached to the objects that you use the most. Then, if something seems amiss or out-of-routine for you, your loved ones can be alerted to check in on you.

    Most of these safety systems can be viewed or managed on a smartphone.

  • Just plain cool GPS shoes – There are shoes out now that are able to keep people dealing with Alzheimer’s or dementia, who may have the potential to wander, safe.

    A safe area is set up for the person, and if they go outside of that boundary, an alert is sent to their loved ones.

These gadgets are just a few of the vast options available to help you stay home and live independently longer.

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.

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.