Tag Archives: Long View

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.

Hot Cocoa and Winter Health Risks

Long View: Cold Hands, Hot Cocoa

I always remember December from my childhood, when the weather got subzero, and the wind was playfully whipping snowflakes around. School was out for the holidays, and my sister and I always loved to play outdoors, despite the frigid temperatures.

We would come downstairs with our garb, and Mom would get us all bundled up to brave the weather. Snowsuits, scarves, hats, gloves, and boots were standard outerwear those days. My mom would secure the scarf so that it would stay put, and the hat would cover my ears and my forehead. When she was through, I could barely see and hardly move.

I remember stiffly walking out the door, hoping that with more movement, I would loosen up enough to enjoy some of the winter wonderland we called our yard. Hot cocoa would be waiting for us when we came in, and it was like magic what that cup of warmth could do!

Today, I run out of the house without a coat, hat, gloves, or scarf, thinking, I’m just going to the car, then running in to work. My days of bundling up are over. This is what happens when you go from 6 years old to 60. But honestly, what am I thinking?

Winter health risks should be a concern for our aging population. (Hey, that’s me too!) The most obvious risk is the weather itself. Midwestern winters can consist of ice and snow. Driving is a challenge. Walking is even more of a challenge. Slips on ice are a major risk, so it’s important to wear the right shoes or boots with good traction if you have to go out.  

Hypothermia is also a common winter weather health risk. Hypothermia means your body temperature has fallen below 95 degrees, and once it gets to that point for a prolonged period of time, you can’t produce enough energy to stay warm.

Symptoms include shivering, cold pale skin, lack of coordination, slowed reactions and breathing, and mental confusion. It’s good to pay attention to how cold it is where you are, whether it’s indoors or outdoors. Also, make sure you’re eating enough to keep up a healthy weight. Body fat helps you stay warm.

Frostbite is another health risk during the winter months. Frostbite means your skin has been over-exposed to cold temperatures, and it usually affects the nose, ears, cheeks, fingers, and toes. It can be severe and cause permanent damage to the skin, and even progress to the bone.

Frostbite can affect anyone who is exposed to below freezing temperatures, in particular, those who aren’t wearing the right clothing. It’s important to wear layers, preferably 2 to 3 layers of loose-fitting clothing, as well as a coat, hat, gloves, and a scarf. Covering up your nose and mouth will also protect your lungs from the cold air.

As for drinking a cup of hot cocoa, well, that is a winter weather health benefit! According to a study at Cornell University, hot cocoa has almost twice as many antioxidants as red wine, and 2 to 3 times more than green tea! This winter, enjoy the magic of the season by keeping yourself safe and warm.

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

How to Honor Veterans

Long View: Honor and Comfort a Veteran

My mother is a quilter. If anyone reading this knows a quilter or happens to be one yourself, you know that this is more a way of life than a hobby. 

Every important occasion in our family merits a quilt. Getting married? Quilt. Having a baby? Quilt. When you fly and look down on Midwestern corn and bean fields, what do you see? Mom sees potential quilt patterns.

Lately, barns have her very excited, because farmers (and the quilters in their lives) have started hanging pretty quilt patterns from their haylofts. When my youngest son was about 2, he would announce any cows, goats, or chickens he saw on a country drive. Now, I can count on my mom yelling out a barn quilt with the same childlike excitement. Mom would quilt for world peace if the United Nations asked her.

November is an important month in our country, because it’s the month we celebrate Veterans Day. How do you recognize Veterans Day? Of course, my mom would say, “I’ve got a quilt for that!”

The Quilts of Valor Foundation is an organization that seeks out and honors veterans by making and giving them handmade quilts. Their foundation’s motto is “Quilting to Honor and Comfort.” I like that. Here is a group of people with a passion for sewing something with their own 2 hands to make someone else feel better. To date, Quilts of Valor has given away over 165,000 quilts.

Let’s go back to the question, how do you recognize Veterans Day? Or better yet, do you recognize veterans? We live in a time in our nation’s history when veterans can look very different from one another.

Our nation’s veterans are handsome 90-year-old WWII veterans, hardworking and stoic Korean War veterans, proud but quiet Vietnam veterans, or even 25-year-old grandsons and granddaughters . 

The men and women who served our country have done so in my name, in your name. How can you recognize them today? How can you tell them that you see them and understand what they mean to our country? 

We can’t all make quilts. But we can buy cups of coffee. We can shake hands, or if appropriate, give a hug. We can all say thank you.   

Here are some organizations that reach out to veterans. See if you can find one in your community, and offer whatever special skill you might have to their cause. If you bake, bake. If you woodwork, woodwork.

Share yourself with a veteran so they know you care. It’s the very least any of us can do to honor and comfort the heroes around us.

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.