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Celebrating Family

Saying thanks by paying it forward

Lisa Simmons and her nephew, Adam.I have been an American Family employee for 25 years, and it’s always been a great place to work. One reason is all the wonderful co-workers and friends who surround me every day.

Another is knowing how much American Family cares and gives back to our communities, including the support of the American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison, Wis.

I am originally from Madison, and my family still lives there. The summer of 2008, my 10-year-old nephew, Adam, was in the American Family Children’s Hospital, and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The next two years he was a regular at the hospital for treatments and checkups and we know he received the best care possible. He also felt loved by every doctor and nurse who had contact with him.

Adam’s greatest wish was to meet former Green Bay Packer Brett Favre. In January 2010, Adam had his dream come true through Make-A-Wish – Wisconsin. This is a memory our entire family will cherish forever.

Sadly, Adam passed away six months later, on Aug. 15, 2010. His doctor even spoke at his funeral on behalf of all the staff at the hospital who had come to know and love him.

My daughter was very close to Adam and is always looking for ways to honor and remember him. Last year she decided we should start a team and walk in Adam’s memory for Make-A-Wish – Arizona and “pay it forward” for all the support Adam received in Wisconsin from the American Family Children’s Hospital and those who take such good care of the patients and families who come there. We were able to raise $2,700 as a team and help make other children’s wishes come true.

This year will be our second year as Team “Amazing Adam.” The walk is scheduled for Sunday, March 10, 2013. We are hoping to exceed last year's amount. If you’d like to learn more about our team, here’s our team page.

It’s important to “pay it forward” because we believe every sick child’s wish should come true.​

Posted by LisaSimmons on Fri, Mar 08 2013 2:33 pmLisa Simmons is a field administrative assistant at American Family Insurance's Phoenix office.

Escape to a movie theater near you

Movie theater seatingI recently took my family to see the movie “Lincoln.” It’s an amazing film about our 16th president, which has been nominated or already won several awards. You get an incredible glimpse into one of the most important and tragic times in our country’s history. 

More importantly, the film – and the trip we took to our local theater – allowed for a welcome escape from the everyday activities of work, school, sports, church and more.

Films are themselves a very American experience, and so is the modern-day movie theatre visit. Even the very process by which we watch movies – the darkened room, the stadium seating, the oversized tub of popcorn, the giant screen – provides something we don’t normally experience in our day-to-day lives. (I’d love to eat movie-theatre popcorn every day, but my arteries wouldn’t.)

At the movies, we can live vicariously through characters of yesterday, today and tomorrow; real people or those completely ridiculous and fictional. They show us what it was like to live years or generations ago, or give us ideas for living our lives today.

I’m partial to films based on historic events, like “Lincoln”. But even if you’re a fan of romantic comedies, action flicks or science fiction films, there’s an escape from reality we can all appreciate. For a couple hours, we can put away the smart phone, get off the freeway and away from the office, and see life through the people portrayed in a good movie.

What films have provided you with a good escape lately? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

Editor’s note: American Family Insurance powers the 2013 Kids Dream Winter Film Series, which is now showing at participating Marcus Theatres in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wisconsin. You can get free tickets to these family-friendly films (which run Saturday and Sunday mornings through March 17, 2013) from participating American Family Insurance agents. Otherwise, the films are just $2 per person. Visit our website for more information and to find an agent near you. 

Posted by Tom Buchheim on Tue, Feb 05 2013 8:18 pm

Reduce the stress

Reduce the holiday stress in your lifeAlarm goes off at 7 a.m. Then after a couple of snoozes it’s time to get up, get my son dressed, make his breakfast, get his teeth brushed and toys picked out to take to school. Then out the door by 8 a.m.

After taking him to school, I do some laundry, get dinner prepared for my two guys and myself for the evening, tidy up and clean house, get ready for work, then head to the office by 1:30 p.m. I’m greeted by about 40 e-mails and three voice mails from the day before.

Work ends at 12:05 a.m. I drive home, finish laundry, try to wind down to go to bed, just to get up and start all over again!

Sure, you might call that a stressful day. But, I’m not alone. It got me to thinking, what if more of us shared the ways we all manage stress? Maybe we can help one another.

Here are some simple, yet effective things I try to do to better balance stress in my life.

  1. Manage time efficiently. Reorganize simple household tasks to save time, such as running errands in batches, or doing a load of laundry every day instead of leaving it all for our day(s) off. Create a weekly family calendar and write out the weeks activities ahead of time. So, if on Wednesday we see that John has a basketball game out of town and it’s a late night that we could plan on something simple for dinner or possibly make it leftovers night.
  2. Create support teams. Find trusted friends and family who can help with child care or household chores when we work late or travel for work.
  3. A healthier outlook. Eat foods high in antioxidants like blueberries or whole grain cereals to help regulate our moods. Exercise: Walk on breaks, take the stairs, park further away from building entrances. Schedule time to do something you enjoy like reading, writing, etc.
  4. Personalize your work space. Decorate it with family pictures and personal belongings so you feel more at home. This has been shown to increase productivity.
  5. Sign up for workplace programs. Participating in these events with co-workers can promote workplace unity, making the office a little less stressful.
  6. Take mental health days. Use personal time or vacation and take a day for yourself.
  7. Search for the positives. Learn to appreciate what you have instead of what you don’t.

Eliminating stress makes our lives less complicated and also improves our moods, making us easier people to be around. This will benefit our friends, family, and co-workers.

Editor’s note: How do you manage stress – especially during the holidays? Share your ideas with our community by leaving a comment. 

Posted by Keri Allen on Fri, Dec 14 2012 5:33 amKerri is a Billing Care Representative 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

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.
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