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Celebrating Family

What does Dad want for Father's Day?

What are you getting Dad for Father's Day?I've never been big on gift-giving for Father's Day. I'm pretty reserved and practical. I don't wear ties much. I appreciate the simple things fatherhood provides - like time and experiences with my family. 

The rest of the world seems to be different. Holidays like Mother's Day and Father's Day skew toward retail, using these special days to get us to buy the latest gadgets, ties or $19.99 flower bouquets that last a few days. 

This year, AskMen.com put together a list of the 10 best gifts for Father's Day. It's a fun and visual look at popular items for today's busy Dad. (I mean, who wouldn't want a new set of golf clubs?).  

But lists like these always ring a bit hollow for me. 

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate giving and receiving gifts - any time of year. But I'm more interested in what those gifts can create. Like No. 10 on AskMen.com's list - grilling tools. I love to grill dinners for my family in the backyard. Would new grilling items help? Sure. But the better part of that gift is how it enhances the time I get to spend with my family.  

This year, my family and I are spending Father's Day together at a Major League Baseball game. I can think of few things more enjoyable on a summer day than going to the ballpark and experiencing the sights and sounds with my kiddos. (My only regret is not getting to spend some Father's Day time with my dad.)

This year, I appreciate the gift of game tickets and having the health and means to get there. But I will remember how my kids reacted to the day's events more. 

What does your dad want for Father's Day? Hopefully, you can spend some time together this year with the Dads in your life.

Leave a comment and win this cooler/grill combination!Editor's note: Leave a comment on this blog post, and tell us your best Father's Day gift idea. For doing so, you'll have a chance to win this grill-cooler combo (see photo to at right). This giveaway closes Monday, June 17, 2013 at 12 p.m. CST.  One entry per email address is permitted. We'll select the winner using random.org and announce him/her the following Tuesday, June 18, as an update to this post.  We'll notifiy the winner via email and ask her/him to provide a mailing address to receive the prize; if the winner does not respond within seven days, the winner forfeits the prize and another winner will be selected.

Posted by Tom Buchheim on Mon, Jun 10 2013 10:34 am

Getting more out of your garden with less work

Josh Feyen offers gardening tips to reduce your work this spirng and summer.Ever since I called myself a “lazy gardener” earlier this spring, I’ve been wondering if the word “lazy” comes from the French “laissez faire,” or “deliberate abstention from direction or interference…” In my case, the less I have to interfere in my garden, the more time I have to prepare and eat the food from it.

Here are two more areas where I significantly decrease work, increase fun and grow more vegetables.

Succession planting
Some vegetables are harvested or die mid-summer. Succession planting can make sure your valuable garden space doesn’t go to waste for the rest of the season.

  • Create a planting scheduled so you don’t forget to get those seeds in on time.
  • Watch the maturity time on seed packets. It’s no fun planting 50-day beets 30 days before the first frost.
  • Plant fast-growing plants near slower growing ones. For example, plant garlic (fast) near peppers (slower) - after your mid-July garlic harvest, the peppers will fill out and take up the empty space.
  • In late July or early August, plant beets, carrots or radishes, all of which will grow before the first frost hits them.
  • In September, plant lettuce.
  • In October, plant garlic for harvest next season.

Water once a week, even when it’s dry:

  • If your garden is well-mulched, plants only need water once a week. Take rain into consideration.
  • When watering, soak the plant for 30 seconds to a minute per plant on a low to medium water flow. The point is to deeply water occasionally rather than shallow water frequently.
  • Stick your fingers under the mulch, if it’s moist, your plants are happy – no need to water that day.
  • Overwatering can drain soil fertility, cause erosion and in many cases, makes for unhappy plants.
  • When watering, avoid wetting leaves or watering in the evening. Damp leaves lead to sunburn during the day, and fungal disease when damp overnight.

Editor's note: If you garden, consider taking the American Family Insurance Pledge to Plant a Row to Fight Hunger. Go to our Facebook page, take the pledge to plant a row of vegetables in your home or community garden. When they're ripe, donate them to your local food bank. For every pledge received, American Family will donate $1 to Feeding America, the nation's leading domestic hunger-relief charity. 

Posted by Josh Feyen on Tue, Jun 04 2013 3:23 pm

Fighting cancer and celebrating life

Angie CampbellImagine being told you have cancer. Just when you think it’s all behind you, imagine being told you have it again.

That’s the story of my 13-year fight with breast cancer.

It started innocently enough. During a routine physical, my doctor found a lump. She was worried and insisted on a mammogram.

The mammogram looked suspicious, so I had a biopsy. The news came back that I had breast cancer. Treatment for me was a mastectomy. Fortunately, my tumor was isolated, so I didn’t need radiation or chemotherapy. I did, however, have reconstructive surgery.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a support group, because I couldn’t identify with people there. Many were mad at their doctors and the medical profession. I wasn’t. My doctor found the lump – she didn’t put it there!  Also, most support group members were married with children. I’m not married and don’t have children, so we couldn’t relate to each other. I wanted those things too, but I felt like “damaged merchandise.” It took me a long time before I could even watch a commercial with a baby in it!

In 2004, I celebrated five years without cancer! I learned the five-year mark means you’re practically home free. It was a bittersweet milestone. A few months before, I lost my brother in a car accident. Now, I didn’t have one of my best friends to celebrate with. Later that year, I was diagnosed with depression.

Fast forward six years. I noticed a bump below my breast I hadn’t seen before. I saw my doctor who thought it might be fatty tissue. It didn’t go away and became red. My doctor sent me to a surgeon for a second opinion. The surgeon said she’d remove it, but wanted to run some tests. Two MRIs, three biopsies, about six ultrasounds and a PET scan later, I was told that I had breast cancer again. The surgeon said it was already at Stage 3. I know that’s not good, but I wasn’t ready to give up my fight!  

Since then, I’ve been receiving a form of chemo that’s non-toxic. I recently had surgery to remove the tumor and started taking yet another medicine.

I’ve tolerated treatment fairly well. Unless you know me personally or saw my name on a “Race for the Cure” poster, you wouldn’t even know I’m sick. I could be the person sitting next to you, your neighbor or your best friend.

My fight continues. I want researchers to find a cure. I need them to find a cure! Not only for the women currently fighting this dreadful disease, but for those who unfortunately will follow in our footsteps. I want to see my munchkins (my friends’ children) grow up and graduate from high school. I want to be one of the first out on the dance floor at their weddings.

I’m not giving up – I want to celebrate life!

Posted by Angie Campbell on Tue, May 21 2013 6:37 amAngie Campbell is staffing specialist with American Family Insurance.

During teacher appreciation week, tell a teacher you care

Teacher Appreciation Week Monday, May 6, begins “Teacher Appreciation Week.” For all the great things teachers do, it should be a year-round event.

As a parent of two, I deeply appreciate everything my kids’ teachers have done for them. It was their teachers who encouraged their reading and writing. It was their teachers who taught them to play music, solve problems and look for answers.

In many cases, children spend more of their waking time in schools with their teachers than they do with their family. Teachers are role models, coaches, cheerleaders and provide a shoulder to cry on when bad things happen. Their care for students extends beyond school walls. 

I’ve seen teachers who can barely make ends meet in their own homes, quietly take up a collection amongst themselves to pay for emergency food or lodging for a homeless family whose child is in their classroom. Sadly, in recent events, we’ve even seen teachers lay down their lives to try and protect their students.

Teachers are called upon to make schools safe for your kids and mine. They break up fights, try to stop bullying, make everyone feel safe and keep order in the classroom. For all that, they get sworn at, get (credible) death threats from students and blame from parents when their child doesn’t do well.

As a society, we ask a lot from our teachers. We entrust our most valuable resource – our children and their future – to them. We ask them to educate and motivate young minds and give them guidance.  

Yet the hours are long and the pay is low. Many teachers are in the classroom long before the start of the “contract” day and stay long after. Papers, tests and projects don’t grade themselves. It’s done by a teacher and often at home in the evenings and weekends. The stress takes its toll. Statistically, 45 percent of teachers leave the field after only five years.

I’ve heard people say that teachers have it easy with summers off, time off at Christmas and again in spring. The teachers I’ve met spend that time taking classes to renew their teaching license, planning out the next year’s curriculum or working a second job to make ends meet.

Make no mistake about it – teachers love what they do. They do it to make a difference in a child’s life. They do it to see the excitement in a student’s eyes when they “get it.”

Yet for everything our teachers do, they are seldom shown appreciation. This year, show your appreciation. Take a moment to thank the teachers in your life for all they’ve done.

Posted by Eric Wolf on Tue, May 07 2013 11:28 am

Fulfilling a dream and honoring life

Averie presents her Aunt Carol with the autographed book from Ellen DeGeneres. Once in a while, something happens that makes you stop and appreciate life, small pleasures and big hearts.

American Family really is a big family, and our community is part of that family. One of our American Family members, long-time customer Carol Suchomel, is in hospice care for cancer. In February, learning that her four-year journey with brain cancer was coming to an end, she made a bucket list. It included connecting with Ellen DeGeneres, whom Carol has admired for a long time.

Carol’s niece, Averie Churchill, wanted to help make that dream come true for her aunt. She made a video, reaching out to Ellen. It created a buzz on Facebook that caught the attention of some of Carol’s friends who work at American Family.

Could we help connect Carol to Ellen, and could we do it soon?

It happened this week. Ellen DeGeneres sent an autographed copy of her book “Seriously…I’m Kidding” to Carol. It turns out, Carol is not only a huge fan of Ellen, she’s an avid reader. It turns out, not only does Carol have a lot of friends at American Family, her sister Beth Churchill, works here, too.

I don’t know Carol, and I didn’t know Carol and Beth are related until I ran into Beth yesterday morning, thanking people for helping make this happen for her sister. But last night, I cried as I shared this story with my children. The love this family is showing each other, the love Averie is showing her aunt, the love Beth displays in talking about her sister, and Carol’s strength and passion for life and joy, it’s overwhelming. 

Ellen DeGeneres autographed her book for Carol.Knowing American Family was able to make this dream come true and help bring joy to Carol and her family during this difficult phase of their journey … it’s immensely moving to me and makes me so very proud to be part of American Family.

Once in a while, something happens that makes you stop and appreciate life, small pleasures and big hearts.

Posted by Michele Wingate on Fri, May 03 2013 12:13 pm
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