When 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.
My 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.
Celebrating fall in the Midwest means getting outside as much as possible before the snow and cold arrive. Picking apples, choosing just the right pumpkin and visiting corn mazes are part of the celebrations.
This year, our social media team decided to create a Corny Corn Maze Survival Tips video to celebrate this great fall tradition. This is kind of out there for us: traditionally, we’re not really funny. But we decided to have some fun and with the help of the fabulous team at Treinen Farms in Lodi, Wis., we created the video with practical tips.
Take a look, and let me know what you think!
It was July when we started working on this video, right in the middle of the devastating drought. Looking ahead to the harvest and reading about the impact it would have on grocery prices, we started thinking about the issue of hunger.
We decided we wanted to do something, and fortunately were able to expand on an existing partnership with the National FFA Organization and support their Rally to Fight Hunger. We could have just given them money, but decided to take this on as a social cause, using our Facebook community to help raise the money and spread the word about the impact hunger has on American families.
The support has been impressive. Our customers and other Facebook fans have left many positive comments thanking us for our support, and to them I say “thank YOU!”
They’ve put the social in this social cause, helping us to spread the word about the FFA’s great work.
Celebrating with a little bit of humor, addressing a serious national issue and watching people rally around a common cause. It’s been a good few weeks.
This month, we introduced this public blog on our website called Dream Protectors, the American Family Insurance blog.
It’s a new place for us to share our American Family stories. In creating this blog, we were motivated by an internal blog we have, where employees and agents share their experiences and inspiration. Why not share the stories about how we take care of customers or ways we are involved in our communities with the world, too?
These posts will be an opportunity for you to get to know us better. From taking care of customers during a big storm (like after the Joplin tornado in 2011) to agents going the extra mile to help a customer cut down a tree, to our focus on sustainability and our support of community agriculture, it all paints a rich picture of who we are as a company, and what we stand for.
If you have any thoughts or ideas about our blog, I’d love to hear from you. Please drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Today is a day for celebration here at American Family … as we mark our 85th birthday! Eighty-five years in business, and you – our customers, agents and employees – made that happen. Thank you.
You might not have known this, but American Family has been part of my family for almost as long as I can remember. I’ve actually celebrated 47 birthdays with American Family, starting back when my dad was an American Family agent in DeForest, Wis. in the '60s. I followed in my dad’s footsteps in 1985 and became an agent for our company, after working a couple years as a claims adjuster. Since then I’ve held a variety of leadership positions and today, I have the honor of serving as the CEO.
A milestone birthday like this gives us a chance to celebrate what we’ve accomplished. And it also gives us pause, to think about what’s ahead – including the opening of DreamBank in Madison, Wis., today. Across all our sites, our employees are giving back to their communities this week as a way to say thanks for your support over the past 85 years. We'll share some pictures in a few days.
As a company, we've seen a lot of changes – especially in the past few years. But one thing that won’t change is our focus on taking care of our customers. I can tell you nothing makes me happier than hearing from a customer thanking our agents or our claims team for taking care of them.
Our birthday celebration gives us a chance to again say thanks – to our agents and employees for the great work they do, and to our customers who've been with us for many of these birthdays. We appreciate the trust you have in us. We know you depend on us to be there when you need us the most – just like family.
About the author: Jack Salzwedel is the chief executive officer of American Family Insurance. You can follow him on Twitter @AmFamJack, where he shares his thoughts on the insurance industry, the economy and his favorite sports teams – in 140 characters or less.