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.

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What about Amelia?

At times, that question—continually and casually posed by family and friends—threatened to overwhelm me. If I had been pregnant with another child, it would have been celebrated. Instead, the prospect of adding to our family through adoption from foster care was met with raised eyebrows and concern.

Our biological daughter, Amelia, was 4 years old when we began the foster-to-adopt process. There were so many fears surrounding the uncertain world of foster care. In the hopes of offering love and safety to another child, would we destroy our own child’s sense of security?

For some families, the fear that their own biological children might be hurt physically or emotionally is enough to make them steer clear of foster care altogether.

As a parent, you want to protect your own children from the harm and hurts of this world. But what if we are called to something greater?

How to recruit volunteers (and then keep them)

We still need help Saturday in the concession stand …

The play is only two weeks away and we need parents to sew costumes …

Our May Day committee needs a chairperson and you did such a great job the last two years …

The list can go on and on. On a weekly basis, our email inboxes, kids’ backpacks and Facebook newsfeeds are filled with multiple opportunities to volunteer.

These are great opportunities to make a difference … yet we receive so many that we typically can respond only to a few.

That can make the task for finding and organizing volunteers overwhelming.

In fact, most people seem to fall into one of two types of categories—those who avoid any type of all volunteer activity and those who volunteer for everything.

Unfortunately, members of that second group can eventually burn out and become part of the first group.

So why doesn’t everyone just do their part so the same people don’t burn out?

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When a generation gap is no gap at all

For many people, the idea of having a 7-year-old child and a grandchild at the same time, even if the grandchild is quite young, may seem out of the ordinary.

But that is where God’s will has taken us.

My wife, Shirley, and I have two adult children, Leigh Anne and Ken—and two younger children, Savannah, 9 and Autumn, 7, both of whom joined our family through adoption. Our family grew in size when Leigh Anne and TJ were married last year and blessed us with our first grandchild, Maeve, this year.

Shirley and I were empty-nesters. We never thought our path in life would change in the direction it did. But, in the fall of 2007, God presented us with the blessing of becoming parents again.

Savannah, at the time less than 3 months old, needed someone to provide love and protection. God placed this challenge and blessing upon our hearts, and we began a journey that encompassed every emotion you can imagine.

The Rev. Dr. Harold Haas, left, joined with two other former Tressler presidents, the late James Raun, center, and the Rev. Dr. Thomas Hurlocker, right, for a dedication of their portraits in the early 2000s following the creation of Diakon.

Remembering Dr. Haas … rather, Harold

In a long-ago article in T-LSA Now, I wrote, upon the retirement of the Rev. Dr. Harold Haas, that I could never bring myself to call him Harold.

That may have been because of my age (I was half the age I am today when I wrote that article), but it also stemmed from my respect for Dr. Haas (see, even now, I write Dr. Haas). He was simply a man, I told him and wrote about him, who engendered respect.

At the conclusion of that article, in light of his wishes, however, I wished “Harold” a happy retirement.

Unfortunately, another transition has occurred and I learned this week that Dr. Haas passed away in August at the age of 98. He had moved to New England some years ago to be near children and grandchildren; his wife, Evelyn, passed away two decades ago.

If Dr. Haas’ name is unfamiliar to you, that’s understandable, given the passage of time. Yet I believe it’s important you know who he was.