Taking art to new heights

It is hard for me to remember a time that I didn’t love art.

In fact, I have been pencil sketching since I was a kid. Ironically enough, I used to draw pictures of airplanes. Little did I know that after college graduation, I would become a pilot—a profession that would take my sketching skills to new heights.

I flew for Pan American Airways. Traveling internationally for a living, I never left home without my sketchpad. It was my companion during layovers. Together, we ventured to some of the most stunning cities around the world. Sketching primarily with charcoal pencils, I captured the beauty of churches in Frankfort, the Opera House in Vienna, Ireland landscapes and street scenes in Warsaw, Africa and Tokyo.

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Connecting with birth parents – five easy tips

Tim and I have been incredibly blessed to have a positive relationship with our son’s birth family.

In fact, the absolute best piece of advice we received in resource family training was to be friendly with birth parents. In some cases, this is probably incredibly tough to do. But in our case, a little bit has gone a long way.

I think it’s easy to see birth parents as the enemy in the foster care system. But regardless of whatever mistakes parents have made, they almost always still love their kids. It is tough to try to connect with them, but all outcomes of success include benefit for the child, so it’s worth it!

Here are a few simple ideas to break the ice and extend an olive branch to birth parents:

Making learning really a part of “really” living

When you’ve spent most of your life learning to make a living, how do you make the transition to learning for the simple sake of learning?

For many people older than 50, that’s a familiar situation.

As a result of the learning we’ve done so far, we have been able to provide for our families. But, after a certain age at which we no longer have to worry as much about making a living, or our nest is empty, we may face the question: What do we do now?

Healthy ways to deal with conflict

The Christmas holiday is certainly known as a time of peace and fellowship. Yet family issues do arise on occasion and even simple conversations in a world that suddenly seems more conflictive can turn to anger. Here are some helpful tips to make sure your holidays remain true to their tradition.

One apparent constant in the news lately is conflict. Countless stories tell of personal and group confrontations that have arisen over the recent national elections. We have even seen information about how families have been split over their views—or how social media have driven a wedge among friends.

There is certainly nothing wrong with political or other debate and a healthy sharing of opinion keeps democracies fresh, but are there healthy ways to deal with and manage confrontation, in a variety of situations including work or family life?

Facing the holidays as an Alzheimer’s caregiver: Tips from those who have done it

The holidays, with all their hustle and bustle, can add additional stress and strain for caregivers, particularly people caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or a similar memory-related illness.

I hope the following tips and ideas will help keep your holidays merry and bright.

Simplify the season
Make this the season to simplify. Instead of the usual six-course family dinner, maybe you can do a potluck or a simple brunch. One caregiver—who always had her holidays cards in the mail on Thanksgiving Day—decided instead to send an email to her family and friends wishing them a happy holiday.

She explained she would not be sending out cards because her focus this holiday was on caring for her parents—and herself. Good for her!

Learning that rewards often outweigh risks…

As a career banker, I’ve spent the last 25 years looking for ways to manage and minimize risk. So you can imagine that when my husband and I were looking for the best options for us to become parents, the very last thing I wanted to hear about was something called “Legal-Risk Placement.”

After all, it has the word risk right in the name and, as a manager, I like to be in control. So instead, I set about finding the “safest” and easiest way for us to become parents. That approach led us through a three-year process to adopt a little girl from China. Not only did we lose much of our savings in the pursuit, we also lost the most precious thing of all—time.

That year, 2008, was a difficult year. We learned it was unlikely the China adoption program would move forward and both of the companies for which my husband and I worked were in crisis, eventually being sold. And that same year, five of my cousins had babies. It was a wonderful gift to have these beautiful children in my life … and yet also painful.

Preventing holiday weight gain

Halloween is behind us, yes, but it’s still with us, too, and in a bad way: The treats of trick-or-treating can easily be the start of holiday seasons full of unhealthy eating.

That’s because those overflowing trick-or-treat bags are soon followed by turkey and stuffing and pies and Christmas cookies—well, you get the picture.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, significant weight gains occur right after major holidays and can take up to five months or more to reverse.

At many of Diakon’s senior living communities, we have wellness coordinators and committees to encourage both residents and staff members to make healthy choices.

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Why just count when you can measure true impact?

When I arrived at Diakon in 2015, I was impressed with a number of things: the scope and breadth of programs, the difference those programs made in lives, the unbroken heritage of service since 1868 and the dedication and commitment of staff throughout the organization.

The time was also one of challenge and change.

We were essentially giving birth to a new organization as Diakon Child, Family & Community Ministries—offering such services as adoption and foster care, at-risk youth services and counseling and behavioral health care for people of all ages—was created as a “sister” to Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries.

In line with that creation, we needed to make more-efficient use of our limited benevolent-care dollars. We needed to grow our programs, both in scope and geography. And we needed to demonstrate our impact.