Tag Archives: Long View

Kids and Energy to Burn

Long View: Energy to Burn

I tried to talk my parents into buying me a paddle boat when I was 11. Oh yes, I did.

We used to spend the summer on a little island at the south end of Mobile Bay in Alabama. The first thing my younger brother and I wanted to do when we got there was to go to the concession stand and rent paddle boats. For those of you who are not familiar, they are kind of like riding a bike but on the water, seriously.

The rental was kind of expensive as I remember, but the folks let us ride as many times as we wanted. My idea of buying one to save on the rental just didn’t float with Mom and Dad.

The following year, we discovered the paddle boat concession had been wiped out by a hurricane. We were inconsolable until our Dad presented us with 4 new Frisbees. We got the neighbor kids out on the beach and played for what seemed like hours. When the inevitable boredom set in, we often walked to historic Fort Gaines on the far eastern end of the island. There were lots of walls to climb and ramparts to scramble up. It was like a huge jungle gym. The fort had real cannons too.  Signs discouraged people from climbing on them, but we did it just the same.

After supper, the family often walked to the western end of the island, which was quite a jaunt for our little legs, especially in the sand. By the time we got back to the house, we were ready for a well-deserved night’s sleep.

It took me a while to realize that my parents were geniuses. They knew how to engage their 2 somewhat hyperactive boys and make sure we burned off enough energy to settle down in the evening. Sometimes we volunteered to go to bed early, which gave the folks a much-deserved rest.

When I talk to people who are older and wiser than me, I keep in mind they probably have insights and wisdom far beyond my own. Giving an older friend or family member a chance to share their insights is our chance to learn from someone else’s experience.  My parents might not have been geniuses, but they were most certainly practical and insightful when it came to raising kids.

I recently checked out the cost of a paddle boat, with an awning of course. It was affordable. However, I realized what a wildly impractical purchase it would be, so I bought a Frisbee instead. Lesson learned.

Patrick Harness is a community liaison with a long history of experience in health insurance. He is known for his inability to parallel park, and if you ask him to pick a color, he always chooses orange, (and he paints!)

What Motivates You?

Long View: What Motivates You?

Have you ever had one of those inspirational or enthusiastic moments that make you excited and energetic? You know, like the feeling right after you lose the first 15 pounds and have stuck to your New Year’s resolution and want to just keep going? Or after you aced a diagnostic test you were neervous about and you want to continue down a healthy path?

That’s called motivation, and Mr. Webster could not have defined it any better: “A force or influence that causes someone to do something; the condition of being eager to act or work.” Well, when I found out that Health Alliance was named the title sponsor of the 2018 Illinois Senior Olympics and that we would be working closely with the Senior Services of Central Illinois in Springfield to make it a success, it motivated me to write this article!

The Illinois Senior Olympics, based in Springfield, is the oldest of the State Games in the United States. The first Senior Olympics was in 1977 and hosted 122 athletes that year. Fast forward to 2018, and we are hopeful that this year’s games will host nearly 1,500 male and female athletes 50 years and older. More than 30 events along with team sports are offered. And if that doesn’t motivate you enough, Springfield is the only qualifying site in Illinois for those wishing to participate in the National Senior Games! The mission of the Senior Olympics is to give everyone an opportunity to maintain or develop their overall health and wellness. It challenges the physical as well as the mental you!

The dates run from July to October 2018 in Springfield. This gives you enough time to check with your physician, practice up, and start training! Individual sport categories range from archery to bridge, from swimming or basketball to horseshoes and Wii bowling. Or get a team sport going in basketball, softball or volleyball. Whatever you choose, there is a sport that will be to your liking and to your physical capacity. Sponsorships and volunteer opportunities are available, too. When you combine our senior participants, our sponsors, and our volunteers, it makes for a great time and something fun you can be a part of. You won’t want to miss it!

Motivated yet? Contact Justin Yuroff at Development@ssoci.org or 217-528-4035, ext. 118. Also check out the website ILSeniorOlympics.weebly.com for more information on dates and registration along with sponsorship and volunteer opportunities. Come join Senior Services of Central Illinois and Health Alliance at this year’s games. Hope to see you there!

Mervet Adams is a community liaison with Health Alliance. She loves her grandson, family, nature, and fashion.

Adventures in Vacationing

Long View: Adventures in Vacationing

Vacation season is upon us. Do you have all the tools you need for a restful and restorative vacation this summer?

I cannot envision a trip anywhere without my cell phone’s Google Maps app. It astounds me to think of some of the family trips I took with my parents and brother before cell phones. Imagine a family of 4, in a 4-seat, single-engine airplane, landing on a grass runway in the middle of lake country in northern Canada. No roads, no buildings, just trees and water. I still remember picking wild blueberries on the runway while we waited for the boat from the fishing village to come pick us up. How on earth did we get there without Google? Brave people, my parents.

In my 20s, my mother and I managed to drive our Volvo sedan across a pedestrian-only canal bridge in Sweden. We didn’t realize that fact until later that night while enjoying a glass of wine on the hotel patio across the street from the bridge. “You know Mom,” I said, “I haven’t seen a single car go over that bridge since we sat down.” It was the 1990s, no Google Maps.

My son Scoobs and I learned not to trust those GPS boxes in rental cars while in Panama. After getting the pleasant Spanish-speaking lady to start talking to us in English, she took us on a series of turns around the airport that had us stuck in a cul-de-sac surrounded by garbage-eating wild dogs. Back out onto the highway, she sent us south toward the Colombian border, rather than north to our resort, and turning left in Central America is apparently not allowed. I pulled up onto the highway median, agreed to the international charges, and Googled our way safely to the Westin.

On that same trip, we were amazed at the accuracy of Google Maps as it guided us into the jungles of Panama and over a wooden bridge made only of 2 very long 2x6s to the drop-off spot where we went kayaking. Why it was so hyper-accurate in the jungles of Panama, yet managed to send me onto a golf course cart path in central Illinois remains a mystery and a testament to that saucy little app’s sense of humor.

Health insurance information is also a vital tool to take with you on vacation. Thanks to the new Your Health Alliance phone app, you don’t even need to bring the actual card with you. Unplanned illnesses and injuries can happen. My 5-year-old little brother got the chicken pox for the second time while in Key West, FL. (Brave parents again.)

Another really nice tool Health Alliance provides to our Medicare family is Assist America. Assist America provides free help finding doctors outside of the United States, prescription refill assistance, and even emergency medical evacuation.

The crew I run with decided last year to take a 5-mile hike through the mountainous jungles of Jamaica’s Cockpit Country. A check of Google shows you how lush and beautiful it is, but it’s a far cry from umbrella drinks and endless beaches. After the 5-mile hike/death march, we went cave exploring under those same mountains, and at times, found ourselves crawling on hands and knees through narrow tunnels and over muddy boulders on our way to an underground lake. You can imagine what a bunch of 50-year-old adventurers looked like at the end of the day. I personally resembled a naked mole rat. Assist America may have been a welcome choice for evacuation back to our resort’s lounge chairs and endless buffet.

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.

Finding Hidden Treasure

Long View: Finding Hidden Treasure

Recently, my husband and I attended a community meeting at one of our local libraries. Across the hall from the meeting, there’s a bookstore. Usually when I visit this library, the bookstore is closed. But this day, it was open, so my husband and I decided to peruse. What we thought would be a brief visit turned into an adventure.

The bookstore had a lot of friendly finds, from used books to magazines, videos, and gifts, all of which had been donated and were available for low prices. It had long rows of shelves hidden behind the walls of the library’s lower level. I felt like I was going through rarely traveled tunnels to find hidden treasures, like Indiana Jones in the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark.

There were books on just about every topic you could imagine. Not only were there printed books, but there were also audio books, large print books, and books in Braille.

The most memorable books my husband and I bought were about finance, agriculture, church hats, and dinosaurs.

The dinosaur book is this gigantic oversized book with vibrant, full-color drawings of every kind of known dinosaur. We didn’t see this book in the display window until we passed it on the way out the door. My 2 young boys are so fascinated with dinosaurs that we just had to go back in and buy it.

This newfound treasure was too good to keep to ourselves. My husband read it to my sons’ entire daycare class. It was so worth it to see their eyes light up on their little faces. Oh, the joy of finding hidden treasures!

Since my last visit to the library, I’ve learned there’s a whole week dedicated to libraries. National Library Week is each year in April, generally the second full week. This year, it’s April 8-14. It’s a time to celebrate the contributions of our nation’s libraries and librarians and to promote library use and support.

This is also the perfect time for us to plan another expedition to the library. We may even take the children with us this time to find some treasures of their own.

Sherry Gordon-Harris is a community liaison at Health Alliance. She is a wife and mother of 2 boys and enjoys traveling, collecting dolls, and hosting princess parties and princess pageants.

Busting Stereotypes Across Generations

Long View: What Exactly Is a Whippersnapper?

I once told a youthful and entrepreneurial friend of mine that I was having trouble viewing his website. He responded, “You need to update your browser. A lot of older people use the one you have on your computer.”

I’ve found it best to pause before responding to comments like these. After counting to 5, I responded, “That’s called ageism-prejudice or discrimination against a particular age group.” I refrained from calling him a whippersnapper, although it was on the tip of my tongue. While he seemed to get my point of view, the incident started me thinking.

How often do we all make snap judgments based on stereotypes? More often than we care to admit. I rarely associate youth and wisdom, but that said, I know mature people who have managed to avoid accumulating any wisdom or insight during their lives. I guess we all associate youth with vitality, but we all know teens who are confirmed couch potatoes or spend inordinate amounts of time glued to their smart phones.

Here at Health Alliance, we work with some folks who require more support and information. Others want to cut to the chase and get on with their lives. Impatience doesn’t seem to be a trait associated with any particular age, does it?

It seems to be human nature to hold stereotypes dear, even subconsciously. We all have experiences that color our perceptions, so what’s the problem with making assumptions based on our own biases?

Prejudice stops us from fully experiencing the people in our lives. It’s easy to drop people into simple, broad categories and focus on more important things, like our own busy lives. The loss occurs when we dismiss people without getting to know them as individuals. Having preconceived ideas about any group saves time, but it diminishes our chance to get to really appreciate someone as a fellow human being instead of a representative of their subset.

I’m making a concerted effort to be more sensitive with the words I use, and I am trying to be aware when I make a snap judgment. I know some of you feel you are prejudice-free. Ask yourselves if you are truly non-biased or just kidding yourself.

Actually, I meant to say, ask yourselves if you are being naive and lacking in experience.

Patrick Harness is a community liaison with a long history of experience in health insurance. If you ask him to pick a color, he always chooses orange, and he is known for his inability to parallel park.

Go Red for Heart Health

Long View: You Can’t Beat a Healthy Heart or 6 More Weeks of Winter

Just when you think the holidays are over and the thrill of the new year has finally tapered down, here comes February — Groundhog Day, Super Bowl Sunday, Mardis Gras, Valentine’s Day, and Presidents Day. February is a multi-themed, food-filled month of celebration.

We anticipate the shadow reveal of Punxsutawney Phil, we break out the football-shaped cheese ball to root for our team, we plan our menu of anything and everything on Fat Tuesday, and if that isn’t enough, we love to eat chocolates on the day of love. Then when it’s all over (and after a slight weight gain), we hit the mall for some comfy stretch wear with Presidents Day sale bargains!

But wait, how about doing something this month to celebrate our health and focus on our heart? If we can take advice from a small woodchuck about the weather, we surely can take advice from the American Heart Association about our health!

February is American Heart Month, and part of that is National Wear Red Day. For those of you who know me, my wardrobe pretty much consists of drab colors and neutrals, but this year, I broke out my red floral scarf for a splash of color as a symbol of support!

The American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute encourage all of us to take action against this killer disease. Studies show that 80% of cardiac and stroke events may be preventable with education and action.

Find time to talk to your family and get everyone on board with heart health. Encourage healthy eating habits by making healthier versions of your favorite food. Choose foods and recipes low in sodium and with no added sugar or trans fats. When you shop, buy colorful fruits and vegetables, which are all powerhouses when it comes to nutrition, and stay away from dairy and meat products that are high in fat.

Fiber is important in your diet, and you can find fiber not only in fruits and vegetables, but also in beans, nuts, and whole grain. Take the time to read the nutrition labels on items, and check out the sodium content. (A general rule is, if anything has more than 250 mg of sodium, you may want to search for something with less.)

Physical activity can also help you stay heart healthy. It’s not only what you put into your body, it’s also what you put out. Exercise helps to improve heart health, and it can even help reverse certain heart disease risk factors. Our heart becomes stronger from exercise, which helps it pump more blood through the body and work at maximum level without strain.

Aerobic activities at least 3 to 4 times a week are the best. Choose walking, swimming, or biking, and allow for a good 5 minutes of stretching beforehand to warm up your muscles and a cool down period after you’re through. And of course, always check with your doctor before starting any new physical routine.

So this February, maybe forego indulging in lavish holiday food choices (remember that New Year’s resolution?) and celebrate in a new way. Go out and buy something red to wear to celebrate heart health AND 6 more weeks of winter, or will it be an early spring? Better check with Punxsutawney Phil before you go!

Mervet Adams is a community liaison with Health Alliance. She loves her grandson, family, nature, and fashion.

What's in a Nickname like Sticks?

Long View: What’s in a Name?

Have you ever had a nickname? My oldest son, now 23 years old, goes by Sticks. Over the course of his life, I’ve given him at least a dozen different nicknames. This particular child needed a lot of nicknames because he was a kid who was constantly evolving, first in his own mind, but eventually for the entire world to see.

When he was about 16, he announced that he had taught himself to play the drums, which was a surprise to me since we did not own any drums. What we did own were 2 abused trumpets, gathering dust from lack of practice and the sudden desire to quit band and join the football team.

One night while on a vacation cruise, he played the drums like a rock star as part of a talent show band he had assembled with the other kids on board the ship. Stickle-Fritz was born in that moment. Now, I simply call him Sticks, and he is still a drummer for several different church worship teams. This nickname stuck.

Scoobs is my 19-year-old son, and he’s only had the one nickname (in shortened or altered versions) since the day he came home from the hospital. Scooby-Doo popped into my head as I lay him in his crib for the very first time because he was the most adorably pudgy little Gerber baby. He looked nothing like the animated goofy Great Dane, but a mother’s nickname doesn’t have to make sense to anyone but her.

It became Scooby-Snack when he was just so cute, I could eat him up. Scoob-inator when he played football and rugby. Today, he’s just Scoobs. (Sticks is rolling his eyes right now because his baby brother “is just so spoiled!”)

My freshman year in high school, a close friend of mine nicknamed me Lorelai-Poop. The name stuck. Over the course of 4 years of high school, it was truncated down to just the last 4 letters. You can imagine the “joy” it gives me to hear my high school nickname shouted out at the mall 31 years later. I’ve been trying to scrape this one off my shoe for decades. (Thank you Brad Hosford.)

The nicknames we give ourselves in our heads can stick too: Lousy-Dancer Larry, Bad-Golfer Gus, Can’t-Cook Carol. Give yourself a new nickname for the new year. Let’s take a page from Mr. Sticks and decide to become something even before we actually are. The way we talk to ourselves has a tremendous effect on the eventual “self” that we become.

Be kind to yourself in 2018. Challenge yourself in 2018. Soon you may find yourself becoming Likes-to-Boogie Larry, Getting-Better-Golfer Gus, Maybe-She-Can-Cook Carol. Sticks, Scoobs, and Poop will be pulling for you.

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.