In October 2009, my son Jack, now 11, was admitted to American Family Children’s Hospital and diagnosed with Type 1 insulin dependent diabetes. With Type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin, so insulin shots must be given. There is no cure for Type 1 diabetes, unlike Type 2, which can usually be controlled by diet and exercise.
This was an immediate life change. The endocrinology team worked to stabilize Jack and teach Mom and Dad how to care for him once we returned home. Our new normal would become a routine of checking blood sugars, giving shots and counting carbohydrates. A lot to learn in a two-day hospital stay, but the hospital gave us the tools we needed.
Their attention to detail amazed us. The first night, just a few weeks shy of Halloween, the admitting doctor presented Jack with a sheet of carbohydrate counts for snack-size treats. The nurse on duty spent hours in the room as my husband was on a hiking trip out West and was trying to get a flight home. Late that first night she asked how things were going and I replied, “He’s good, he’s sleeping.” She looked over her glasses and said, “I’m not asking about your son, I’m concerned about Mom.”
During the next several days, as we worked with doctors to regulate Jack’s blood sugars, we learned to test blood sugars and give shots; we met with a dietitian, psychologist, chaplain and nurse educator. Jack, on the other hand, enjoyed playing video games, visiting the play rooms and doing art projects. The hospital is such a kid-friendly environment Jack always says it looks like a school, not a hospital. The teaching tools the hospital provided us were amazing, and the empathy from the doctors and nurses always real.
Jack will be a patient at the hospital until his early 20s. He visits quarterly to make sure things are in check. The doctors and nurses are wonderful. They know Jack and his likes and dislikes. As a parent of a child with a chronic illness, I am reassured to have the children’s hospital right in our backyard to help us manage Jack’s diabetes.
As a family, we have been involved in the hospital since the original capital campaign to build. We are donors and volunteers, and I sit on the Advisory Board. I never dreamed we’d use the hospital, and here we are today, several stays and a dozen or so quarterly checkups later.
As an agent, I have always taken great pride in American Family’s legacy of giving to the children’s hospital. It started years ago with my father, (former CEO) Harvey Pierce, and continues with current leadership. I am proud to share the story of American Family Children’s Hospital with customers, friends and neighbors. It is such a tremendous gift to this community.
I hope you’ll take the opportunity to tour, learn more and consider a gift to the hospital. Like the Pierce Jacobsen family, you never know when you may need American Family Children’s Hospital.
Editor’s Note: Spurred by an initial $10 million flagship gift from American Family Insurance in 2003, American Family Children's Hospital in Madison, Wis., provides specialized care in a healing environment designed especially for pediatric patients and their families.
However, more beds and treatment spaces are needed to care for the growing number of acutely ill babies and children. The "Sick Kids Can't Wait" campaign was launched to raise the funds needed to provide 26 more pediatric critical care beds, new operating room equipment and pediatric treatment spaces for children requiring advanced heart and radiological procedures.
Join American Family Insurance in our support of American Family Children’s Hospital’s “Sick Kids Can’t Wait” campaign.
The last thing I want to do is lecture anyone on wellness, especially a week before Christmas. When I was at my heaviest, the thing I hated the most was having some skinny person tell me that it would be a good idea to lose weight.
Really? I had no idea. So none of that from me.
But I do like to share my observations as I wage this daily battle with diet and exercise. And I’ll start by violating my promise to not state the obvious: This time of year is a real killer if you’re trying to maintain even a somewhat healthy lifestyle.
Treat days, family gatherings, cookie exchanges, parties and everything else conspire against the stoutest of our will powers. It can be maddening. It almost makes you want to go live in a cave at the top of a mountain until it’s all over.
But you don’t have to be Mr. Grinch. Here are some tips that I’ve found helpful to get through the holiday food season:
- Plan ahead. Constant denial is no way to live, so allow yourself the indulgence of a nice holiday meal. Just plan for it. Decide what you’re going to have, and account for it in your food planning and exercise schedule for that week. Cut back a little the days before a party or big meal and make time for extra exercise.
- Control portions. OK. You planned ahead and hit the gym a few extra times. Excellent! But this does not absolve you from helping yourself to a mound of mashed potatoes and gravy the size of a basketball. Remember, you’re enjoying Christmas dinner, not laying-in provisions for a trek across Siberia.
- Avoid delusion. No matter what Aunt Martha says, pie DOES have calories on a holiday. In fact, your average slice of pumpkin pie has about 325 calories. Oh, and a ping-pong-ball-sized dollop of whipped cream adds another 100. Go easy. (But be nice to Aunt Martha, even if her nutritional expertise is extremely suspect.)
- Resist grazing. If your department is having a treat day, decide in advance what you’ll allow yourself and stick to it. And make just one trip to the treat table. Twenty M&Ms are still 20 M&Ms, even if you take them out of the bowl one at a time. And don’t get me started on the evils of cheese puffs!
- Finally, don’t worry. Yes, these are great tips for a healthy December. But I know I’ll violate some, if not all of these rules during the next couple of weeks. You will, too. We’re human. But a few mistakes over the holidays shouldn’t take your eyes off the prize. Don’t worry about it, and just get back up and do your best the next day. My hope in sharing this with you is to at least give you something to think about. As a disclaimer, I’m by no means a nutrition expert, so feel free to take my observations with a grain of salt. (Wait. Should that be a grain of low-sodium salt substitute?)
The daily battle never really gets any easier, at least not for me.
For me, it just feels natural to help with the American Family Insurance United Way campaign. I think it’s important to give back to the community I live and work in, and it always has been.
I come from Delano, a small community west of the Twin Cities. I help with our Fourth of July celebration, pick up trash on the side of the road, and help organize a toy drive with the local church to make sure kids have toys for Christmas. Delano is small enough I can see firsthand the good that comes from my volunteering.
All the time I give is worth it when I’m able to see children smiling from ear to ear because Santa brought them the toy they’ve been waiting for, or when I see the relief in the eyes of a parent whose son or daughter just received a college scholarship I was able to help fund. That’s why I give back whenever and wherever I can in my community.
The United Way of Delano, Minn., donated more than $40,000 last year to more than 27 local charities in and around the area. It helps the food pantry provide meals to hundreds of families who don’t have enough to eat in these tough economic times, and provides funds for local organizations.
Supporting the United Way means helping those who need a hand. The United Way campaigns are a big event at American Family for most locations. I’m proud to work for a company that devotes time, money and resources to help create a better life for everyone. To me this is living our mission to be the most trusted and valued service-driven insurance company.
If you have the opportunity to give back to your own community either through the United Way or some other way, I’d urge you to go for it.
Doing good just feels good, and who couldn’t use that?
Alarm goes off at 7 a.m. Then after a couple of snoozes it’s time to get up, get my son dressed, make his breakfast, get his teeth brushed and toys picked out to take to school. Then out the door by 8 a.m.
After taking him to school, I do some laundry, get dinner prepared for my two guys and myself for the evening, tidy up and clean house, get ready for work, then head to the office by 1:30 p.m. I’m greeted by about 40 e-mails and three voice mails from the day before.
Work ends at 12:05 a.m. I drive home, finish laundry, try to wind down to go to bed, just to get up and start all over again!
Sure, you might call that a stressful day. But, I’m not alone. It got me to thinking, what if more of us shared the ways we all manage stress? Maybe we can help one another.
Here are some simple, yet effective things I try to do to better balance stress in my life.
- Manage time efficiently. Reorganize simple household tasks to save time, such as running errands in batches, or doing a load of laundry every day instead of leaving it all for our day(s) off. Create a weekly family calendar and write out the weeks activities ahead of time. So, if on Wednesday we see that John has a basketball game out of town and it’s a late night that we could plan on something simple for dinner or possibly make it leftovers night.
- Create support teams. Find trusted friends and family who can help with child care or household chores when we work late or travel for work.
- A healthier outlook. Eat foods high in antioxidants like blueberries or whole grain cereals to help regulate our moods. Exercise: Walk on breaks, take the stairs, park further away from building entrances. Schedule time to do something you enjoy like reading, writing, etc.
- Personalize your work space. Decorate it with family pictures and personal belongings so you feel more at home. This has been shown to increase productivity.
- Sign up for workplace programs. Participating in these events with co-workers can promote workplace unity, making the office a little less stressful.
- Take mental health days. Use personal time or vacation and take a day for yourself.
- Search for the positives. Learn to appreciate what you have instead of what you don’t.
Eliminating stress makes our lives less complicated and also improves our moods, making us easier people to be around. This will benefit our friends, family, and co-workers.
Editor’s note: How do you manage stress – especially during the holidays? Share your ideas with our community by leaving a comment.
Seventy-one years ago, our country plunged into war when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. This “day which will live in infamy” also created the “Greatest Generation” that included millions of Americans, including my father.
Just a teenager when World War II began, Dad followed many of his friends into service. He trained as a Navy pilot and flew bombing missions in the Philippines. Dad returned home to the family farm in South Dakota, going into business with his brother and eventually to college and seminary on the G.I. Bill.
Growing up, Dad didn’t tell us kids many war stories, a humbleness common among his generation. Later in life, he’d put stories on paper, so we could learn from his experience, and preserve them for our kids.
According to some accounts, this “Greatest Generation” loses 900 vets a day. It’s why programs like Honor Flight are so important. They provide our heroes a chance to revisit stories and share them with generations who have followed. And it gives the communities where these vets live one more opportunity to say thanks for their service so many years ago.
In October, I was fortunate to accompany my Dad, now 89, on the Badger Honor Flight, as his guardian. On a crisp, blue-sky day, we flew with nearly 80 vets from Madison, Wis., to our nation’s capital. Some of the most poignant moments of this jam-packed journey occurred between these heroes and the complete strangers they met along the way.
There were the local boy scouts, who held doors and pushed wheelchairs as veterans arrived at the Dane County Regional Airport – all before sunrise.
There were firefighters – heroes themselves – who greeted us at both airports with handshakes, smiles and a runway water-cannon salute.
There were volunteers – hundreds of them it seemed – who pulled off an epic task of managing dozens of octogenarians and their guardians, from first contact through flight day. They make Honor Flight what it is today – a successful, well-respected program.
And then there was the young father and his daughter, who took time to hold up a homemade sign and extend a hand of thanks, as we made our way through Reagan National Airport toward our tour buses.
The gesture brought us to tears.
Clad in my blue guardian jacket and Dad in his red hero jacket, we toured the World War II, Korean and Vietnam War memorials, with stops at the Lincoln, Marine Corps and Air Force memorials. We watched the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It all happened so fast, but every stop had special meaning – for veterans and guardians.
The return home was equally emotional. It included an in-flight “mail call,” with a special delivery of cards and letters from friends, family and strangers. Dad was delighted, and I was humbled by the opportunity to be by his side the entire day.
It hasn’t all sunk in – the importance and meaningfulness of the entire day. Someday it will.
In the meantime, I share my thanks to all veterans – past and present – for their service. Showing our appreciation is the least we can do, especially for the “Greatest Generation,” whose numbers are dwindling. Our time with these heroes is limited, so enjoy and appreciate every moment. I know I will.
Editor's note: From Nov. 11 through Dec. 10, join American Family Insurance as we devote 30 Days of Thanks to the everyday heroes in our lives. Who would be on your 30 Days of Thanks list? Visit our Facebook page today and all throughout our 30 Days of Thanks to share your gratitude.