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What are your New Year's resolutions?

New Year's ResolutionsEvery year, millions of American’s make New Year’s resolutions. They range from the personal (lose weight, hit the gym or learn to dance) to the professional (start my own business, get a different job or be nicer to co-workers) and often involve family, friends and colleagues.

The problem is, by the end of the first month, many resolutions tend to get broken, or at best, severely bent.

For years I diligently made resolutions like everyone else. Some of them I’ve been able to keep while others fell by the wayside. Fortunately, I’ve been able to keep the resolution about quitting smoking and have been smoke-free for more than three years.

I have to admit, though, I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions. When a resolution gets broken, the person who made it tends to get angry with themselves that they couldn’t make it work. They beat themselves up and get depressed that they broke one of the resolutions they made hoping to make themselves a better person. I’ve even heard people say they are a failure because they couldn’t keep a simple New Year’s resolution.

Who needs that kind of aggravation?

To me, resolutions shouldn’t be something to stress about. Rather, they should be a way to practice a little self-reflection and identify ways we can be a better person, friend, family member or co-worker. I look at them as guidelines, not commandments.

So this year, my resolution for 2014 is to not make resolutions. Instead, I’m going to make “I’d like to” statements. As in, “I’d like to be more helpful to others.”

“I’d like to take on new projects at work.”

“I’d like to lose weight.”

Or, “I’d like to have more date nights with my wife.”

By looking at things as an “I’d like to,” I give myself a little wiggle room. If I have some junk food watching a movie with my wife, I won’t think of myself as a failure and feel guilty about it.

What about you? What would you like to do this year?

In challenging times, American Family Insurance stands tall

An American Family claims adjuster assesses the damage following the Joplin tornado.Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” I believe this is true for American Family Insurance, as well, and was reminded of it at a recent event I attended on behalf of my company. 

Northwest Missouri Children’s Advocacy Center provides free counseling and courtroom preparation for children who have been physically, sexually or emotionally abused. American Family has provided more than $50,000 to this group since 2006, and several American Family employees have served on its board of directors. At the organization’s recent anniversary dinner, the center recognized American Family with an award for Outstanding Commitment to Children in Northwest Missouri.

I sat at a table with the person who oversees all the child advocacies in the state, the local director of the organization, the local prosecutor and the former prosecutor from Joplin, Mo.

Some may consider the 2011 Joplin tornado to be old news now, but to those who were there, the memories are still very fresh. The retired Joplin prosecutor told us he thought American Family’s performance in the aftermath of the tornado was exemplary. He also said that at the time of the tornado, he was not insured with American Family, but after seeing our efforts, he now is.

Another person at the table said she, too, was influenced by how American Family responded to the tornado victims and is also now insured with us.

We really do provide excellent customer service. Getting feedback like this just reinforces that when we do the right thing, everybody wins. Clearly, we hit a home run in Joplin. Hearing what these people had to say about American Family was one of the best experiences I’ve had in my many years with the company.

The ones who really deserve the recognition, though, are the local agents, the property claim field adjusters and the agency sales manager for the area, Julie Hickman. One of our agents even lost his office during the tornado, and yet he was working around the clock to help his customers recover from their losses.

More than 130 American Family employees and adjusters helped out in the wake of the Joplin tornado. These people are the real folks who lived our mission, and their efforts pay off in the form of new, loyal customers – like the ones I met at dinner.

Editor's note: Click here to learn more about how American Family supports our local communities -- like Joplin -- through philanthropy and event sponsorship. 

Helping the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Spread Cheer in the Holidays

Suzette and her familyThis is the time of year we hear a lot about traditions – spending time with family, participating in holiday activities and helping others who may not be as fortunate or who have fallen on hard times.

One tradition my family eagerly participates in is giving to the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Toys for Tots program. We started several years ago when my two children were little. 

Each year, they’d pick out toys or books that they’d want, and then donate them to Toys for Tots. Because my kids were making the decisions what to donate, I knew the toys were something that would be well received.

At first, they didn’t always understand why I asked them to pick out something they would like just to turn around and give it away, and, to someone they didn’t even know. However, as my children grew, this became an opportunity to talk about the importance of appreciating what we have and helping those less fortunate. 

It’s now something they eagerly look forward to.

This year, in addition to our annual donation, my children joined me as volunteers at American Family’s Toys for Tots collection at the Employee Holiday Breakfast. We greeted families as they entered the breakfast and thanked them for their donations. It was a heartwarming experience to see the generosity of so many people.

Toys for TotsThe toys donated at American Family will join others in the area for distribution throughout Dane County. 

Tracing its roots back to 1947 when the wife of a Marine Corps Reservist wanted to donate a doll to a needy child, the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve has been providing toys to children who might otherwise go without. 

Since its beginning, the Toys for Tots Program has distributed more than 469 million toys to over 216 million less fortunate children.

Bring the holidays home with Favorite Family Recipes: American Family’s new e-cookbook

Favorite family recipes cookbookJust in time for the holidays, we’re excited to introduce Favorite Family Recipes: The American Family Insurance Back to the Family Dinner Table Cookbook!

From savory suppers to decadent desserts, Favorite Family Recipes combines recipes from customers, employees and bloggers from across the U.S.* to encourage families to rediscover the joy of family mealtime.

Discover new recipe ideas, time-saving tips and delicious reminders that dreams are made around the family table. Download the free e-cookbook here!

Download the epub version. Download the mobi version here. Download the PDF version here.


If you’re unsure what file to download, use this handy reference:

  • Laptop or desktop computer — Get either the ePub or PDF.
  • iPhone, iPod touch or iPad — Grab the ePub or PDF and read it in iBooks or the reader of your choice.
  • Kindle — Get the Mobi file and load it onto your Kindle.
  • Android — Read the ePub on your favorite reader
  • Nook — The ePub and PDF formats work well on this reader.
  • Sony Reader — ePubs work well on your Sony Reader.
  • Windows Phone — Read the ePub, Mobi, or PDF on the ebook reader of your choice.

* With hundreds of fantastic submissions, we simply could not include them all in the cookbook – but were truly inspired by your heartwarming recipes, stories and shared passion for bringing families back to the table.

Make the holidays safe for pets and children

Keep Kids and Pets Safe During the HolidaysOne of my most vivid childhood memories of the holidays was the year I knocked over the tree. I didn’t mean to, it just happened. I was maybe four or five years old and went after a toy that had rolled behind the tree. Not knowing any better, I went after it and in the course of my diligent toy retrieval efforts, managed to knock the tree down.

Unfortunately, I broke several ornaments that had a lot of sentimental meaning to my parents, spilled the water in the tree stand and broke a few light bulbs as well. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but it scared the heck out of me.

Fast forward several years to when I had children of my own. Not wanting history to repeat itself, I always made sure our tree was secure. In addition to being solidly in the stand, I also used clear fishing line to secure the tree to the handles on the windows behind it. I also kept a close watch on my kids whenever they got to close.

In the years since, I’ve picked up a few other tips to help my family safely enjoy the holidays and not be afraid that someone will get sick or hurt. Some of these also apply to families with dogs or cats.

I’m sure there are things you do around your home to keep children and pets safe. Here are a few of the tips I’ve picked up that may help this holiday season.

  • Avoid decorations that look like food and could tempt little ones (or pets) to try to eahc.
  • Limit rich, fatty holiday foods which can easily lead to an upset stomach.
  • Holiday plants like holly, mistletoe, lilies and poinsettias are poisonous.
  • Keep lit candles away from little hands and wagging tails.
  • Keep hot pots and pans on back burners to prevent them from being accidentally knocked over and causing a burn.
  • Make sure toys are age and ability appropriate and don’t contain small parts that could be a choking hazard.

If you haven’t seen it, there’s also a great article in this month’s @dvisor with additional holiday safety tips for children and pets.  

From my home to yours, I wish you all a happy, healthy, joyous – and safe – holiday season!

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