Glass half full

The other day I was visiting with a friend about the importance of feeling optimistic about the future. It is only fitting to think about the future and having a positive mindset as we move into 2020. Being optimistic doesn’t mean to forget about the struggles or issues that you might be experiencing. Still, it is about making sure your mindset is in order.

pouting little girl

We talk a lot about stress during the holidays and try to find ways to reduce or make that stress more manageable. However, we usually talk about it in regards to us – the adults – and sometimes forget that holidays can be difficult for children as well.

woman standing under lights

With the anticipation of the holidays, there can also be that feeling of dread – how are you going to get everything done on an already busy schedule? For many people, the extensive preparations they engage in to pull off those picture-perfect holidays create so much stress, that they can’t even enjoy themselves. The “picture-perfect” part is where much of the stress originates from. Many of us want everything to be “just right” and try to pattern our holiday plans with visions of TV specials, Norman Rockwell prints, and Martha Stewart magazine pictorials in our heads.

upset woman

In 2018, approximately 20.3 million people aged 12 or older had a substance use disorder (SUD).

older man pushing older woman in wheelchair

We all know someone who is providing care for someone else. They may be caring for an older parent, a disabled adult child, or a spouse suffering from a traumatic injury or chronic illness. Even parents raising children are considered caregivers. Caregivers give of themselves without expecting anything in return, and they rarely think of themselves first.

harvest scene

Since most of the farmers in my area are deep into harvest season, I thought it might be a good time to touch on the topic of farm or agricultural stress. Those in the agricultural industry can face unique pressures, many of which are beyond their control. Some of these include:


Fall decorations

I find that most of my decorations are for events and holidays in the months of October, November, and December.  Every year during these months as I drag my decorations out, I inevitably see the same ones that I don’t use, and l leave them in the same box to go back into storage for another year. As I look at them, most have no sentimental value, so why should I keep them to gather dust and take up space when someone else could enjoy them?

kids reading books

Since my son (only child) recently moved to college up north back in August, I have felt like maybe someone has died. Friends, family and acquaintances will ask how my son is liking school, and then they lower their voice, get real close and grab my arm, and ask in a serious tone “and how are YOU doing?” I totally understand that they mean well and worry about me being an empty nester, but I find it very funny.

Scam signs

You may get a call from the “police” saying your grandchild is in jail and needs a certain amount of money to be released. Or a call from “Microsoft” telling you that your computer has a virus and they need remote access to it so they can fix it. Or you are contacted by your “bank” saying there was an issue with your account and they want to help you resolve it, but first, they need your account number. Do any of these sound familiar?

National Grandparents Day is September 9th.

Overwork and over scheduling can take a toll on families and relationships as we find less time together, especially just to hang out.  Taking a break to spend some relaxed time together as a family can be a way to reconnect.  A “family night in” is doing something together at home that everyone in the family can enjoy.  It doesn't have to be a major event, since often simple things are the most fun and relaxing. Try to do one at least once a month if you can.

school car line

As the school year approaches, parents and children experience a rush of emotions. Sadness that the carefree days of summer are ending. Anticipation of seeing friends and learning new things. Curiosity at what new opportunities the new year will bring. Excitement of new schedules, new routines, new friends. And perhaps, joy….that the kids are finally out of the house!

Parental Stress

Children returning to school can be such an exciting, busy time. For some parents, it is relieving to get back into a pattern. For others, it can be an overwhelming and stressful time. Parental stress can be triggered by monetary spending on school supplies and registration, balancing extra curricular activities, and worrying that children will adjust to the learning environment well and get along with others. The list could go on forever, right?

It's happening more and more. You are driving along and the car you are meeting is slowly drifting into your lane only to be jerked back suddenly – and you see that the driver is busy looking down at their phone rather than the road. Distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention away from the primary task of driving and can increase the chance of a motor vehicle crash. I came across this article by the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, and thought it important to share:

Originally printed in March of 2017, but thought it would be worthwhile to release again.

It can be an exciting and emotional time for children and their parents when a child officially begins his school career with kindergarten. However, is that child ready? And, how do parents prepare their child to be ready? The Illinois Early Learning Project has a great tip sheet on this topic that I would like to share:

What are the health requirements for a child to begin school in Illinois?

Used with permission through a partnership with the Illinois Early Learning Project.

Is your child between the ages of 3 and 5? If so, you can do a lot to make getting ready to read a natural part of daily life. Most 3- to 5-year-olds still have a way to go before they are ready to read and write. There's no need to rush this natural growth, but you can help your child build the knowledge, skills, and habits he or she needs to become a reader and a writer later on.

There are many types of dementia, with Alzheimer's Disease (AD) being the most common, accounting for 60-80% of all cases of dementia. Although the biggest risk factor is increasing age, Alzheimer's and other dementias are not a normal process of aging. AD in particular can be difficult to clearly diagnose, and while researchers are discovering more ways like brain imaging and genetic testing to assist with diagnosis, there is still no single test. To date, there is also no cure for AD, but current treatments can lessen the symptoms and improve quality of life.

Preventing Swimming Disasters

Many children love to cool off on a hot summer day in a swimming pool. Did you know that swimming is the fourth most popular sports activity in the United States? Swimming is an ideal way for children and adults to stay physically active, and just two and a half hours of swimming per week can decrease the risk of chronic illness. When we are enjoying our time in the pool or beach we aren't really thinking about all the risk involved.

We know that if we have a partner, that relationship is probably one of the most important ones. Then why is this relationship one of the most vulnerable ones to work-life stress? It is all too easy to take out frustrations on the person we love the most. How can we avoid this? Well, the answer is "It takes work" and an investment. Just like the title of this blog, we have to be intentional with having harmony in our life; it just doesn't happen. Keeping a relationship fresh and alive takes time, energy, and constant thought.

Preschool children grow and learn at an amazing pace. They can't wait to feel busy, successful, grown-up, and independent. They begin practicing self-help skills at age two during the "me do it myself" stage. Even though this is annoying to adults at times, it paves the way for their development of essential skills for school success.

What are Self-Help Skills?

Self-Help skills are those skills that help a child gain control over his/her body over time. They include:

Winter Fitness

Now that winter is upon us, it is quite comforting to sit down with a movie, hot chocolate, and your family for some quality time together. Although it is important to do some enjoyable and relaxing activities, it is important to try to incorporate some plans that include physical movement for overall fitness. Even though you may have to be creative in your planning as you schedule around the changing weather, keeping active can give you a boost of energy that will help your body.

Screen Time and Young Children

A big thank you to the Illinois Early Learning Project located at the University of Illinois for their partnership, support and permission to share this information on our blog!

"Screen time" refers to time spent using a device (e.g., television, game console, tablet, computer, smart phone). Increasingly, children are spending more time using a screen for learning and entertainment. Adults also are using screens both at work and home. Some children and adults find it difficult to "turn off" their devices.

It's close to the end of the school year for my household and we are already gearing up for all the summer activities. For most parents and children, there is a shift in routine. It becomes a challenge whether you are figuring out how to balance the hustle of taking your child to sports camps, band camps, additional educational classes, livestock shows, and/or games. There are benefits for the change in routine but, taking a break from school doesn't mean to forget about challenging your brain. Encouraging reading is a great way to keep your child on track with academics.

Mark Twain said "Never put off til tomorrow, what you can do the day after tomorrow." As I've been helping my son during his senior year of High School, I have really become aware of what a procrastinator he is – just like me! Most everyone procrastinates sometime. There are different ways to people procrastinate. Some people will delay a task in order to gather more information for completion of the task. In this case, it is not really considered procrastination because you are actively working toward completion of the task.

Many people celebrate Independence Day with family cookouts and fireworks. Fireworks are beautiful and often seen as entertainment, we need to remember that they are explosives and have a lot of potential for harm.

Sparklers are a popular firework choice for children. These fireworks can reach about 1,200 – 2,000 degrees and can cause severe burns. Just because they are legal does not make them safe for use.

The complexity of the human brain is nothing short of amazing. The changes which occur in a baby's brain are significant from the time of conception to three years of age. As a caregiver of a baby, it is your goal to support healthy brain development. Here are a few suggestions to help:

Tobacco has been found to be the greatest preventable cause of illness and premature death in the U.S. There is a laundry list of dangers and health issues that are directly linked to tobacco, and at least 70 of the 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke are known to cause cancer. Smokeless tobacco has been found to have at least 30 chemicals known to cause cancer and is not a safe alternative. You also put those around you at risk of second-hand smoke and in danger of some of those same health consequences.

Decision making While I was attending a dual credit meeting for my daughter, I was thinking about all the decisions that high school juniors and seniors are making. High school students are planning and thinking about their future; if they want to attend a trade school, work at a local business, start their own business, attend a junior college, or enter a four-year university. So, the classes they are required or choosing to take has an impact on their future.

Since Older American's Month is coming up in May, wouldn't it be great to get our younger generations involved with our older generations in fun and meaningful ways? When children, teens and younger adults spend time with older adults, there are many benefits to everyone involved. Older adults can be great role models for children, while also passing on family stories, historical information and teaching the rituals and traditions of earlier times.

Last month I attended the Healthy Brain Aging Risk and Prevention Conference sponsored by Southern Illinois University (SIU) Medicine and their Neuroscience Institute. Conferences and workshops like this one is a great way to get the latest information so I can pass it on to you!! One of the featured speakers Dr. Mehul Trivedi, assistant professor of the Department of Psychiatry at the SIU School of Medicine shared with us that the risk factors for Alzheimer's Disease (AD) that we have no control over are increasing age, family history, and genetics.

We traditionally celebrate Older Americans Month each May. When Older Americans Month was established in 1963, only 17 million living Americans had reached their 65th birthday. By 2017, around 47 million had reached that milestone.

I have always been an outdoorsy nature person. When I was a kid, I spent most of my time outside – my parents had the hardest time getting me to come back inside at the end of the day. My love of nature continues, and I will share my passion for it with anyone who will listen! I am always dragging my family to state parks, zoos, and botanical gardens. But times are changing drastically, with the popularization of technology, along with urbanization, and people spend way less time outdoors and around nature.