Celebrating Life

At 81, American Family worker ready to try retirement

Arleen - retiring at age 81

Many people can’t wait until retirement. They count the days until they can finally ignore their alarm clock and spend their waking hours pursuing personal passions.

It’s the rare individual who sees the traditional retirement years as an opportunity to stay employed, fulfilling their dreams on the job.

Arleen is one of these rare individuals. After 30-plus years of service to the American Family Claims Division, she only recently called it quits. She’s almost 82 years old!

As her supervisor these past few years, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Arleen quite well and saw how work was an extension of her family.

Arleen loved the people with whom she shared her days.  She added richly to their lives, and was quick with a story about her adventures up north or a recap of the latest Packers game.

She never complained about anything.  In fact, a few years back she broke her leg and ankle in a fall.  After taking a few months off to heal, she was back on the job, picking up right where she left off. 

Arleen was also a quick study, never hesitating to learn new technology or take on increasing responsibility.

She’s a wonderful lesson to us all about the importance of staying busy at the things we enjoy, and making a positive impact on those around us.

We wish you a wonderful retirement, Arleen. You’ve earned it many times over.

Posted by Teresa Halvorsen on Fri, Nov 16 2012 2:37 pmTeresa Halvorsen is claim support services manager for American Family Insurance.

Thank the everyday heroes in your life

Freedom in never freeChances are you know a veteran. Maybe you even served in the military yourself.

We can thank them every day for their service, but today, it’s especially important. I know I’m going to thank my friends who’ve served, but especially my dad, who is 89 years old and defended our great country as a Navy pilot in World War II.

This time of year, we all tend to show our appreciation – not only for those who've spent time in uniform – but for the many other important folks who protect us, care for us and, in general, make life better for our families and communities.

American Family is making it easier to show our gratitude. Every day through Dec. 10, as part of our 30 Days of Thanks, our Facebook page will highlight one of the everyday heroes we too often take for granted.

You’ll find interesting information about these important people, so you can thank them personally ... with a simple "like," by posting comments or by sharing our stories with your own friends and family on Facebook.

Imagine what our dreams would look like if we didn't have support from the important people in our lives – like parents, teachers, coaches – you name it?

Let's take time to thank them.

Editor's note: Starting Nov. 11, 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. 

Posted by Tom Buchheim on Sun, Nov 11 2012 8:52 am

Showing Military Men and Women That We Care

American Family card-signing for military personnelRegrets, I've had a few.

One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t keep in touch with a college friend of mine after he joined the Navy. He was whip-smart, engaging, and one of the funniest people I've ever known. I always thought about writing to him while he was in the service. Sadly, I will never, ever have a chance to do so.

That's because he was killed in the terror attack on the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

So I was personally moved when an American Family customer service center manager, Tom Hanson, recently spearheaded a holiday greeting card-signing drive for military personnel. Along with fellow employees and volunteers from the American Red Cross, Tom supervised card-signing stations at American Family offices in Madison, Wis.

merican Family card-signing for military personnelI eagerly joined the employees and agents who dropped by to write their heartfelt wishes and words of support on the greeting cards. As a result, hundreds of American military men and women will get a special surprise in the mail during the approaching holiday season.

Tom's initiative was just one of several grassroots efforts at American Family aimed at celebrating the company's 85th anniversary through community service activities. As Tom puts it, "It makes me feel good that we did this, but I still feel it's a small gesture compared to the large commitment that these folks in the military have made and what they're going through."

It's no accident Tom and his colleagues took the time to show they care about people in the military. After all, he and his Customer Service Center colleagues demonstrate care and compassion every day when they receive claims-related customer calls. They help American Family put customers' lives back together when bad things happen. They are good examples to all of us that caring for others is in our DNA. All we have to do is act on it.

This holiday season, consider taking the time to send cards to men and women in the U.S. military – the American Red Cross "Holiday Mail for Heroes" program makes it easy to do. 

I know I'm planning to sign more cards. It would've made my college friend happy.

Posted by Bill Shepard on Fri, Nov 09 2012 8:35 am

A day for saying thanks

Veterans DayWhen I wake up on a weekend, I decide what I want to do. If it’s hot outside, should I put on my T-shirt and shorts and take my dog for a long walk? Is it a day where I meet with my family for breakfast at a restaurant and we discuss a topic of our own choosing? 

Whatever it is, I can decide.

These are only two of many freedoms perhaps we take for granted. Living in America, we do have the opportunity to follow our dreams. We owe a great deal of thanks to those who have and currently devote their lives to serving our country and protecting the freedoms we enjoy.

My father served in the Air Force. Growing up on a farm, he was no stranger to hard work. Serving in the Armed Forces only enhanced the values he possesses. While in the service, he worked on planes and was in pilot training when his father sustained significant injuries at home. He was released from his call of duty so he could return home to run the family farm. When asked what his favorite part of serving was, he said it was the friends he made. It’s been 60 years since his discharge, and he still maintains friendships with some of them.

My goddaughter has served in the Marines for 10 years, now as a staff sergeant. She has endured two tours of duty in Iraq. She was near the front line and witnessed firsthand the ultimate sacrifice our young people were willing to make to defend America.

Her husband, Ramón, is a sergeant in a Special Forces unit in the Marines. He has done two tours of duty in Iraq and is now in Afghanistan. He is not allowed to discuss the missions he’s completed. We know that he is a very brave man and gives 100 percent every day so we all can continue to live in freedom at home.

I recently participated in a management course where we talked about being in the present. When Stephanie and Ramón are together, not only do they live in the present moment, they appreciate every second they’ve been given to spend together.

Stephanie and Ramon have a young son nicknamed Rai.

There have been times that Stephanie and Ramon have been assigned several thousand miles away from their beloved son. They forge ahead with the duties and give our country their absolute best. They are both positive, caring, devoted people. Rai stays with his grandparents during the times his parents’ duties take them away from him.

On Veterans Day, we need to remember it’s much more than a day where the mail doesn’t come and the banks are closed. We need to take a moment to say “thank you” to our service men and women, for giving up a portion of their lives so we can live in freedom.

Not long ago, I met a young woman on a plane. She was going home to stay with her parents for a year as she had just said goodbye to her husband, who was on a 10-month tour of duty to Iraq. She said she needed to convince herself every day her husband would be fine and would come home to her.

Many military families experience this same thing, some multiple times.

Martina McBride summed it up when she sang:

“Let freedom ring down through the ages from a hill called Calvary.
Let freedom ring wherever hearts know pain.
Let freedom echo through the lonely streets where prisons have no key.
You can be free and you can sing let freedom ring.”

Editor's note: Starting Nov. 11, 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. 

Posted by Sandra Lodholz on Wed, Nov 07 2012 8:30 amSandra Lodholz is a worker's compensation claims unit manager at American Family Insurance's Wausau, Wis., office.

Drawing isn't just child's play

Rachel's dream is to be a teacher and help kids learnMy wife and I can’t really draw. Our talents are elsewhere – mine with written words, hers with music. We enjoyed drawing at a young age, but our abilities didn’t keep up with our age.  

So when our kids learned to draw, we sought help, buying these great books on how to draw. We practiced as a family for hours, hoping to give our kids a life-long skill they would appreciate more than we had. So far, it’s working. They both enjoy drawing and often use their free time honing their craft.

Drawing helps kids visualize more complex ideas. It’s why today’s school work often includes an artistic aspect.

My sixth-grade son recently drew pictures to represent several abstract terms, like technology and science. It was a way for him to better understand – visually and artistically – ideas that don’t often have an obvious image associated with them.

It got me thinking about how as adults, we don’t do enough drawing and visualization in our day-to-day lives. I think if we did, it would make a positive difference in solving complex problems. 

Take dreams, for example. For many, it’s something hard to grasp visually. It’s also very personal, so talking about dreams makes some of uncomfortable.

Would drawing pictures help? I think so.

Give it a try sometime. Get your family or close friends involved. You’d be surprised at how – even if (like me) you’re not a talented artist – you’ll learn more about your hopes and dreams by drawing them.  

If you need some inspiration, check out the American Family Insurance Draw Your Dreams contest. We’ve invited kids (13 and under) to share their dreams with us – in a visual way. Like Rachel’s dream of being a teacher and helping kids learn, which I’ve included with my blog post. These pictures will take you back to those grade school days when drawing played such an important part of learning.

Maybe it’s time my wife and I did our homework – and got out those how-to-draw books.

Editor's note: The American Family Insurance Draw Your Dreams contest runs through Oct. 28, 2012. Help your kids enter by visiting www.amfam.com/draw_your_dream. Entries must be postmarked by Oct. 28.  

Posted by Tom Buchheim on Mon, Oct 22 2012 10:03 am
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