Pursue Your Dreams

The Great American Road Trip is Alive and Well!

Dreaming of the RoadIt’s the subject of movies and TV shows. Songs and books are written about it, and families look forward to it.

“It” is the great American road trip! We’re happy to report that road tripping is alive and well and still making memories to last a lifetime.

During the summer, American Family Insurance began putting together Dreaming of The Road, an e-book planning guide about road tripping. We included games to play, road songs, suggestions for getting your car ready, ideas on keeping young children entertained and tips on safe traveling.

The best part though, came from our customers. We asked people to take their own “road trip” down memory lane and share with us their favorite road trip stories. Our plan was to include as many as we could in the book. Frankly, we were overwhelmed by the responses. It seems everyone, no matter how old they are or where they live, has a great story to tell gleaned from miles of rolling down the highway.

We received tons of entries. There were stories of love lost, re-found and re-kindled; crossing things off of a bucket list; and final memories of a now-departed loved one.

We received stories that restore your faith in people; about building strong family bonds; and how a new sense of inner strength was discovered. Some of the entries we received were touching to the point of tears. Others brought a smile and laughter. A big thank you to everyone who shared their stories!

The e-book is now complete! Download a free copy of Dreaming of The Road hereIt’s designed to be read on desktops, tablets and smartphones. Or, you can print a copy and throw it in your glove compartment to help plan your next road trip. Who knows what new memories you’ll make when the open road calls?

We hope you enjoy reading Dreaming of The Road as much as we enjoyed putting it together. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a trip to plan!


Posted by Eric Wolf on Thu, Sep 26 2013 7:35 pm

Life Insurance Protects Tomorrow’s Needs For Today’s Children

Vicki Wagener My daughter, Kailey, was just six years old and learning to ride a bike without training wheels when her father passed away.

He had a high-risk job as a federal law-enforcement agent involving a lot of overseas travel. While life-threatening danger was always part of his job, he died unexpectedly of heart disease. He was only 46.

His death was a complete surprise. He worked out regularly, ate healthy, and had annual physicals. He had never been diagnosed with any heart conditions and never showed any signs of heart issues.

Unfortunately, he didn’t believe in life insurance.

Every time I brought up the subject, he didn't want to talk about it. Although we divorced the year before his death, part of the agreement was that he purchase life insurance for Kailey’s financial support in case of his death. Knowing his beliefs, I didn’t force the issue.

When he passed away, Kailey received some funds from his life insurance and 401(k) through work. These have been invested and will help pay tuition when she goes to college. Fortunately, we don’t have to use this money for day-to-day expenses.

As an insurance agent, this has shown me personally how important it is to consider rising college costs when families calculate their future financial needs with respect to providing financial security to their family.

I’m even more passionate when I think about the future and not just the present. According to the College Board and a May 13, 2013 New York Times article, tuition and fees at state colleges increased 72 percent – 29 percent for nonprofit colleges – from 2001 to 2011. If something should ever happen to a parent who plans on sending their children to college, a well thought out life insurance plan can help their family realize that dream.

No life insurance policy can replace the loss of a loved one. It can however, replace their earning power to ease future financial challenges.

For the sake of your family’s future plans and dreams, talk about life insurance today. Eight years ago, I learned the hard way that tomorrow may be too late. 

Posted by Vicki Wagener on Fri, Sep 20 2013 2:14 pm

Feeding hopes and dreams around the family dinner table

The Wingate familyThe family dinner table is where I learned to dream.

Often, when friends came over they expressed surprise that we sat down as a family for dinner.  It didn’t happen at their houses, and they really liked being part of the ritual at our house. Years later, they bring it up at reunions or around town when they see my parents. My mom even got a note on Mother’s Day from a friend of my sister’s, saying how much she’d appreciated being welcome in our family during those times.

The trait I most admire in my parents is that they encouraged each of their four children to identify our own dreams. And it started at our family dinners. My siblings and I talked about school, sports, theater and our friends. Whatever we said we wanted to do, my parents built us up with positive comments, making us feel like we really could do anything we set out to do.

That encouragement has continued all our lives.

At the Easter dinner table, when I was 28, I announced I was quitting a really good job to return to graduate school full-time, and my parents’ support and encouragement gave me confidence that I was on a good path.

The conversations and inspiration that take place around the table have measurable value to children. Children who regularly eat dinner with their families do better in school and are less likely to use tobacco or alcohol.

That hit home for me recently. I unexpectedly worked much later than usual one night, arriving home around 7 p.m. My husband was gone for the evening, and I thought our teenagers would have had dinner already. They hadn’t. They’d waited for me so we could eat dinner together – that’s how much they value our time together at the dinner table.

I was completely in awe of how important this nightly ritual is to them.

At American Family, we’re focused on building a community of dreamers. Building the next generation of dreamers starts at the family dinner table. That’s the reason behind Back to the Family Dinner Table, which kicks off this week.

Through Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter, we’ll be sharing family favorite recipes – and the stories behind them. We’ll also give your family tips for getting organized and suggestions for involving everyone in meal planning and cooking.

We’re partnering with cooking blogger Isabel Laessig, whose mission on her website, familyfoodie.com, is to bring back Sunday supper around the family table in every home. Isabel and her network of bloggers will partner with American Family and share ideas for easy and fun, family-friendly meals – including hosting a Google Plus Hangout and Twitter chats this fall.

American Family wants your recipes, too. Go to our entry form and enter your favorite family recipe – and you’ll be eligible to win prizes to help bring your recipes to life. We’re also gathering everything (recipes, tips and more) into an electronic cookbook, which we’ll share with our customers and everyone who shares a recipe.

Of course, when we talk about “family” dinners, we know a person’s family is really their network of support, no matter what form that takes. We’ll celebrate that with additional blog posts here on Dream Protectors, recognizing “family” goes well beyond the traditional idea of parents and kids.

I hope you’ll join us by trying new recipes, sharing your stories, and focusing on bringing your family back to the dinner table.

Back to the Family Dinner TableEditor’s note: Share your favorite family recipes on our entry form, which you can find on the American Family Insurance Facebook page. We’ll include some select recipes and stories in our upcoming Back to the Table e-book. 

Posted by Michele Wingate on Mon, Sep 09 2013 9:19 am

The Benefits of Not Giving Up

SOPHIE'S SQUASH When I was small, I hung out in my library’s children’s section, reading picture book after picture book. Then, I’d go to the card catalog – remember that? – and flip to where my name would be if I had written a book.

As I grew older, I branched out and read all kinds of books. But, I kept reading picture books, hoping I’d write one someday.

I wrote my first picture book draft in college. My family liked it. But, I didn’t know what to do next. I sent it to one publisher, chosen at random, got a rejection and didn’t try again.

So, I wrote in other ways. As a newspaper reporter. A magazine editor. A public relations employee. And, I was always reading to myself or my daughters.

As my 40th birthday neared, I was happy. I had a family I loved. A job I enjoyed. Good health. But, I finally acknowledged the truth. If I didn’t try – really try – to publish a book, I would regret it.

I also realized something obvious. To publish a book, I had to write one first.

So, I got busy. I stopped watching TV and wrote every night when my kids were asleep. I read more books, focusing on how they were structured and what made them work. I spent weekends reading everything my favorite authors had ever written.

I joined critique groups to get feedback and attended conferences where my work was evaluated. And, finally, I learned to properly submit work to publishers.

When I thought I knew enough and was good enough, I sent stories for consideration. I quickly found I wasn’t ready. Even though I’d been paid to write for much of my adult life, I got form rejection after form rejection.

I didn’t give up.

I kept writing and reading and learning. Almost every moment I wasn’t working or parenting or sleeping, I was trying to be a better children’s writer.

I began seeing hopeful signs. Notes written by real editors scrawled on a form rejection. “Cute, but not for us.” “I’d be happy to see more of your work.”

But, still, always a “no.”

I didn’t give up.

I revised existing stories. I wrote new ones. I listened to published authors speak and took copious notes. I improved my stories and sent them to more publishers.

And, got more rejections – 126 in all.

Then, one day, my phone rang. The caller ID said, “Random House.” The voice on the other end said, “Pat? This is Anne Schwartz from Schwartz & Wade.”

It was the moment I’d imagined. Anne wanted to publish my picture book, SOPHIE’S SQUASH.

From there, things took off. I got a literary agent. She helped me sell three more books in fairly short order. SOPHIE came out to positive reviews and more acclaim than I ever could have imagined.

Now, I have a family I love, a job I enjoy and something I’ve wanted since I was small – a picture book with my name on it.

Card catalogs have gone away, it’s true. But, seeing SOPHIE’S SQUASH listed online is equally satisfying.

And, who knows? Maybe somewhere, someday, a child will read my book and think, “Hey! I could write one of these.”

Dream Big Series at DreamBank - MadisonEditor’s note: Meet Pat and hear her story at an exclusive DreamBank – Madison event Thursday, Oct. 10, from 6:30-7:30 p.m.  RSVP early to receive a free copy of her book, Sophie’s Squash, and secure your seat for this inspiring evening at American Family's DreamBank in downtown Madison, Wis.

Posted by Pat Zietlow Miller on Fri, Sep 06 2013 10:38 am

Envision a plan to make your dreams a reality

David Francheck at graduationI procrastinated on this blog for a long time. I guess I didn’t have a plan. Yet, the importance of a plan is what I’m going to share.

On May 15, 2010, I graduated from Concordia University, in Mequon, Wis. I was selected as one of two students to speak in front of a packed fieldhouse that included my family and friends.

I had been working toward my bachelor of arts in business management with a minor in human resources. Although the university offered programs and classes online, I preferred the traditional instructor-led courses. So I carried an attaché case with a heavy book, three or four weekly paper assignments and occasionally a laptop to take notes as I attended a four-hour class after a long day at work.

I learned. Yes, from the classes, but I also learned about myself. Specifically, about setting goals and having a plan.

Before graduation, a co-worker asked how I could work full time, go to college in an accelerated program and still have the ability to function. At the time, I really didn’t have the answer. However, the following is a summary of the speech from the commencement ceremony, which provides the answer.

The presentation focused on an acronym: PLAN. PLAN is applicable to all aspects of life, business, work, home and community activities.

P – Purpose: Consider what you find interesting. Or the energies that motivate you. A company’s mission is a purpose. Consider your personal mission, such as preparing for a marathon, remodeling a home, or volunteering at civic and non-profit organizations. Some other common activities that would benefit from PLAN include: A rollout of a new program or project, educational courses, an exercise program; or simply organizing a cluttered room in your home. Your purpose is what you want to accomplish.

Purpose is using your personal talents to benefit others. Your purpose requires you to experiment to determine where your talents can be of the most value. Consider that you don’t craft a piece of wood or knit a blanket without experiment. It’s only after you experiment will you find your purpose.

As you experiment, you will struggle. You should also begin to be in the next letter of PLAN.

L – Learn: As you struggle while you experiment, you should learn about yourself. And you should learn for fun. Wouldn’t you like to read a book and not have a test afterward? (That comment brought some nice laughter from the audience.)

Learning means more than taking a class or being on a project team. Learning is talking to others, determining the best approach and then understanding you may need to change or clarify your direction.

Once you know your purpose and you learn about yourself, you’re ready for the next letter.

A – Action: Action is the connection between your purpose and your learned knowledge. Action requires you take those energies that motivate you and transfer them to activities and others. In this stage, you’re adapting to new ideas, such as the change in direction. If you didn’t see results from walking 10 minutes a day, the change may be to 20 minutes of walking.

Taking action can have challenges, but action should be fun. If you enjoy baseball, coach a Little League team. If you enjoy horseback riding or four-wheeling, volunteer to help those less fortunate to experience those activities. Action involves connecting with other people.

It’s hard work to find your purpose, learn about yourself and take action, but once you do, you’re ready for the final piece of PLAN.

N – Note: This is probably the most important part. It’s also the most relaxing. As the word implies, take note of your goals and analyze them. What works? What could be better?

This is a time to reflect. Strive for a sense of calm. It may be the celebration of a successful project, reaching an educational milestone, or the peace of knowing you attained your ideal health. When you take note you put the purpose, the learning and the action into perspective.

If you take Note of the Actions you have taken, you might Learn your Purpose.

That’s a PLAN!

How do you plan in your life?

Posted by David Franchek on Fri, Aug 23 2013 9:57 amDavid Franchek is a claim scanning manager with American Family Insurance.
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