Is Weight Loss Surgery Right for You?

Is Weight Loss Surgery Right for You?

My passion for weight loss management started when I worked in a family practice doctor’s office. There was a definite correlation with obesity and an increase in chronic diseases and decrease in quality of life. Now that my main focus is helping patients reach their weight loss and long-term health goals, I realize how absolutely life changing it can be.

I will admit most patients come in feeling defeated and have given up hope. Patients feel like they have tried everything from fad diets, extreme exercise and basically starving themselves. And, nothing was working. Some of these approaches led to temporary weight loss. But, they were simply unable to maintain the weight loss and often gained back more weight than they lost. When I see these patients, we talk about the benefits of surgery and a structured weight loss program for long-term weight loss. And, after the first visit they are already starting to feel a flicker of hope.

Benefits of Weight Loss Surgery

Where do I begin? There are so many! One thing I hear over and over is, ‘why didn’t I do this sooner’. Patients feel they have more energy, confidence and overall a better quality of life.

Losing Weight Improves Your Health

Weight loss surgery can help improve or even diminish major health conditions associated with obesity. Body Mass Index (BMI) is the ratio of a person’s weight to height. It is used to determine if a person is at a healthy weight, overweight, obese or morbidly obese. BMI calculators provide an easy way for you to find out your body mass index.

Here are some of the many conditions that can improve with weight loss.


Weight loss surgery is an effective treatment option for obesity-related diabetes, especially Type 2. If you have a BMI (body mass index) of over 35, this type of surgery may be the right choice for you. After your weight loss surgery, your sensitivity to insulin will increase which means you should respond better to oral medication and any requirement for insulin injections will be reduced. Patients generally achieve a lower A1C after weight loss surgery.

Heart Disease

Losing weight makes a world of difference in helping to protect and maintain your heart health. Current research shows a significant drop in cardiovascular risk for those who have had bariatric surgery compared to those who have not. After surgery, losing weight takes a bit of strain off the heart and lowers the risk of heart failure.

High Cholesterol

We all know too much cholesterol can cause potentially serious problems. Conditions associated with high cholesterol levels include heart disease, stroke, diabetes and high blood pressure. After gastric bypass surgery, patients often achieve near normal cholesterol and triglyceride levels within just a few months. Lowering cholesterol levels helps to clear plaque and also reduces risks associated with cholesterol build-up in the arteries.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is when a person stops breathing while asleep. This can cause many health problems. Bariatric surgery is proven to reduce the effects of sleep apnea, and in some cases, cures sleep apnea.


There seems to be a link between some cancers and obesity. However, according to several recent clinical studies, weight loss surgery reduced cancer mortality rate in patients from 29-89% when compared to a group of individuals with morbid obesity who have not had weight loss surgery.


Research shows depression and obesity are closely related. One is known to lead to the other, and vice versa. After bariatric surgery and lifestyle changes, self-esteem is known to increase. As a result, this type of surgery most definitely can help those with depression and low self-esteem related to their appearance.

Acid Reflux

Many studies have proven that gastric bypass surgery can give those with obesity excellent control of issues associated with acid reflux. In fact, weight loss surgery may be an even better option for acid reflux because patients will also benefit from significant weight loss.


There’s a known link between obesity and osteoarthritis of the knee and hips. For those with obesity, knee or hip surgery to treat osteoarthritis may not be an option due to their weight. Weight loss after bariatric surgery can help improve osteoarthritis. This weight loss may also make a person eligible for knee or hip surgery, if it is still needed.

Qualifications for Weight Loss Surgery

You may qualify for bariatric surgery if:

  • You are 100 pounds overweight or more, with a BMI of 40 or greater, or
  • You have a BMI of 35 or greater with one or more serious health conditions linked to being obese, such as diabetes, high blood pressure or sleep apnea, and
  • You have not been able to lose weight in other ways, such as diet, exercise or medications

Other Considerations

There are several things to consider when contemplating weight loss surgery. You can look at it from two different angles both personally and financially. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to help answer this question:

Are you looking to surgery for the right reasons? Bariatric surgery is meant to improve your overall health, it is not done for cosmetic reasons. Looking better is a “side effect”; feeling better is the goal.

Does your insurance plan cover weight loss (bariatric) surgery? Many insurance plans include bariatric surgery coverage. However, if you don’t have this coverage, we have other options available.

Do you have the emotional support you need? It is crucial that you have a strong support network of family and friends that will be there to help you through the process. We recommend close friends and family become educated about the lifestyle changes, risks and benefits of weight loss surgery so they can support you.

Ways the Bryan Bariatric Program Can Help You

At Bryan Bariatric Advantage, we have a specialized team to help you through your weight loss journey. This team includes a nurse practitioner, dietitian and surgeons. We also collaborate with mental health and exercise experts, as well as other specialty services as needed to ensure your success.

As the Bariatric Nurse Navigator, I can guide you through the entire process. Together, we can decide if surgery is right for you. We can also look at weight loss medication, if and when appropriate.

Our dietitian uses her weight loss nutrition expertise to prepare you for surgery and the life-long diet changes after surgery to achieve your goals. If surgery is not for you, she will help you to address your personal barriers with weight management and set goals to break through those barriers for good!

We’re here for you – to support and help you with compassion and expertise, and help you determine and navigate your best course to the ultimate goal of a long, happy and healthy life.

Learn More About Bryan Bariatric Advantage

Tara Wenta

Tara Wenta


Tara Wenta, APRN, works with Bryan Bariatric Advantage

Grandma’s Online Ordering: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

Grandma’s Online Ordering: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

Reflecting on the past holidays is always a fun thing for me to do. We are still lucky enough to have all of our kids and grandkids with us, and enjoy each and every minute at our traditional gatherings, which may someday come to an end.

There were grandmas who told me during early December that their Christmas was being celebrated in January, because their kids and grandkids weren’t able to make it home for December 25. I understand as traditions may sometimes need to be changed, and I’m confident we will all adjust with good cheer when our time comes. Until then, I’ll bask in the joy of our traditions.

I’ve always taken on the task of hosting our extended families. It’s a challenge, but not a problem. It’s buying the presents which sometimes frustrates me.

Lists to Santa Are Long Gone

When our grandkids were young, their parents always told us what they wanted from Santa. Even when they were older, their parents were the elves giving us ideas for presents under the tree. Once a couple of the grandkids went off to college, I’ve begun asking them for ideas. I decided it was probably time the kids get what they want. Unfortunately, this plan doesn’t always work. This year being yet another example.

The grandkids send me their ideas by taking a picture of what they want and sending it to me. Sometimes I’m able to decipher the small print and sometimes I can’t. Yes, even enlarging the picture doesn’t always help. One granddaughter sent me a picture of a pair of tennis shoes. I had some trouble finding the link for the Ultraboost Adidas (why would anyone name the style Ultraboost if the shoes are not for racing or basketball?).

The shoe was located, and I had some difficulty finding the correct color, but I persevered and had them ordered. When she opened them during the Holiday, I was pleased they were the correct shoe, but unfortunately, her foot didn’t fit in the shoe. Yep, I had been so excited to find them that I didn’t change the size that automatically came up. They could be returned, but they no longer send a printed receipt with the delivery, so I had to go online to print it for a return.

The Winding Road Online Orders Take

Our grandson also wanted a special pair of high-fashion athletic shoes. These shoes were not carried by any local store and with my history of ordering online, I was very nervous. After hours of figuring out the website and procedure, it was finalized and would be at our front porch in five days. When the package arrived, I was amazed when I saw the route to our home in Lincoln, NE. Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong, to Anchorage, AK, to Memphis, TN, to Omaha, NE, to Lincoln, NE.

The tracking and distance was not noted when I ordered the shoes. Had I known the origin, I may have changed my order—or not. I’m guessing the shoes cost $10 plus the tariff. The shoes arrived in perfect shape. When our grandson unwrapped the box, he smiled ear-to-ear. He even cradled the shoes like a baby.

One Order, Two Pairs of Shoes

Our second oldest granddaughter sent me a picture of a pair of UGGs she liked. I thought they looked like my grandfather’s Romeo slippers, but I found the link and went through the process of starting my order. The process was interrupted by our needing to attend our grandson’s basketball game. I am not perfect with the planning of time. I wasn’t worried as I had the information I needed and I could complete the order soon.

The next day, I went back to the site, found the UGGs, filled out the information and pushed the enter key to place the order. Within four days I had her UGGs. Within six days, I had another pair of UGGs. I didn’t realize I had to quit/delete an order. What the heck? The good news is that I wear the same size as my granddaughter. So I unwrapped the second pair of UGGs, which I gave to myself. We all had a great laugh at my purchasing fiasco.

All my time, mistakes and successes couldn’t take anything away from the joy and laughs we shared that day. My takeaway may be to attend a computer class at SCC titled, “Ordering Online!”

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

I have four grandchildren ages 14-17. In some ways, I’m a very typical grandma, always proud of everything the kids do and wanting to help support them in whatever way I can. In other ways, I’m not very typical. My goal as a blogger is to share my thoughts and experiences that I think are funny and meaningful as I adventure through grandmahood.

Scholarships Season is Stressful

Scholarships Season is Stressful

It’s snowing outside, the Christmas lights are shining bright on the tree, and I am sitting in the recliner enjoying my cup of hot cider watching holiday movies. I’m enjoying the silence and reminiscing about the most wonderful time of the year. Then I hear it, “Mom, what does this mean?” “Mom can you proofread this essay?” “Mom, do you remember what year I did this?” Even the daily, “Mom get off my back, I will get it done by the deadline!” It hardly seems like the most wonderful time of the year with all the stress of scholarship writing.

Scholarships Are Stressful

It may be stressful, but this is an important time of the year. As a parent, I thought preparing for graduation would be stressful, however, preparing for graduation seems easy compared to the stress of scholarship writing. Our daughter’s stress definitely comes down to her personality and wanting to be the best version of herself in all of the applications. Still my constant harping, “Do you have that scholarship done?” may be adding to the stress.

The cost of college and writing scholarships is a frequent conversation in our home right now. The other night our daughter was finishing up a semester budgeting project and she commented, “It really takes 20 years to pay off college debt?” Another learning opportunity for my husband and I to talk to her about the cost of college and the implication of debt beyond the college years.

Have the Tough Conversations

We discussed with our daughter how we paid off my college debt in less than eight years by making monthly payments, however, at one point we paid between $1,500 and $1,750 per month for one year to get rid of the debt. Our discussion turned to needs and wants and delaying purchasing gratification but I could not go without saying, “Do you see how important applying for scholarships really is?” In hindsight this was not the most opportune time to make the comment.

Right now, all our daughter sees is the time it takes in her busy schedule to write and apply for scholarships. Yet, for all the stress that may occur and the time preparing scholarships, it really is worth the time for the potential financial rewards. As she continues through the scholarship writing season, I definitely need to trust she will complete the application and quit nagging her each day. Our daughter does have high expectations of herself and I know she will complete all of her applications.

Sit Back & Have Faith

As I sit in my recliner and answer questions throughout the scholarship writing season, I listen as I know I will not be around her next year in college encouraging (nagging) her to meet deadlines. I also remind myself this is all part of me learning to let go of control. Ultimately, this scholarship season is another growing season for me to have faith and continue letting her grow into the adult I have prayed for her to become since the day she was born.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

Planning a Disney Family Vacation

Planning a Disney Family Vacation

It’s a family vacation to remember. I can already picture it: Me, lounging poolside with a fruity cocktail as my carefree husband applies sunscreen to my back. We laugh, charge another round to the room, and bask in the sight of our happy kids splashing responsibly in the shallow end of the hotel pool. Hey, a mom can dream, right?

If you’re considering a trip to the Most Magical Place On Earth, it’s likely you’re feeling a little stressed and maybe even confused on where to start. With four theme parks, two water parks and a giant shopping district, it’s easy to see why. This was our first big family vacation and the planning felt more in-depth than planning my own wedding.

Where to Start When Planning a Disney Family Vacation

The first step you’ll want to take when you plan a Disney World trip is getting prepared. I started with reaching out to friends and family who’ve recently gone to Disney World. I also reached out to a co-worker who used to work at Disney—she helped out tremendously.

If you are staying at a Disney Resort, which I highly recommend if you have the budget, you’ll have an account created on Disney World’s website. This is where you’ll be able to access the My Disney Experience that holds your reservations and links your dining reservations and FastPass+ selections. The preplanning took my co-worker and I a couple of dinners to select and plan. So make sure you decide early on selecting your FastPasses and dining reservations! When you’re at the parks, you’ll be able to use the app to view maps, restaurant menus, your plans and more. It’s a must for any Disney World vacation!

How to Properly Pack for the Family

The next step is packing. Here, it’s all about packing smart from the start—remember, less is more!

I went above and beyond on the Disney clothes beforehand and planned out a new outfit every day we were at the parks. This was not necessary, but it made it feel more special for the kids. I figured that we are probably only going to offer Disney once, so why not! Also, don’t forget to pack ponchos as it rains almost every day in Florida.

While packing don’t forget that snacks, games and movies are a traveling must! Both kids had a backpack full of these items to help with boredom on the plane. Luckily, this was their first airplane experience, so the newness of flying helped a lot! After the major things are complete, try to enjoy your time as a family.

Expectation vs Reality

Without going into every little detail about the trip here were my expectations vs. realty.

  • Expectation: We’ll get an early start first thing in the morning! Let’s do this vacation thing!
  • Reality: Why can’t we sleep in; we are on vacation?
  • Expectation: Let’s go to all four parks starting from when they open and stay until the fireworks at night.
  • Reality: “Mooooooom, can’t we just swim in the pool?”
  • Expectation: Let’s take hundreds of pictures at every location. Everyone is very posed, smiling big and happy.
  • Reality: Nobody really wants to take a picture; they just want to have fun! The smiles are only half smiles and everyone’s thoughts are, “Fine, let’s get this over with.” And of course, there’s always that one person, my five-year-old daughter that just doesn’t want to cooperate, making everyone else annoyed.
  • Expectation: Even if the lines are long, we’ll enjoy the family time together.
  • Reality: “Mooooom, can I have your phone!”
  • Expectation: This is the “Happiest Place on Earth,” my children will act perfectly and be happy.
  • Reality: “Mom, my feet hurt, why is this line so long?” And then there was at least one melt down a day!

One Last Piece of Advice

My one big piece of advice when planning a trip to Disney is plan down time. I wanted to visit as much as possible, but my daughter wanted pool time every day. We did see all four theme parks and visited the shopping district, but in reality, we could have spent several days at just one park.

We crammed a lot into a short time. However, Disney World exceeded my expectations. Even though the trip wasn’t always what I had planned, we created memories that will last a lifetime. And it is safe to say, we are all ready to go back!

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

‘You Have Cancer’: What To Do When You Hear These Words, for Yourself or a Loved One

‘You Have Cancer’: What To Do When You Hear These Words, for Yourself or a Loved One

By Joanna Morgan MSN, RN, OCN & Joselyn Hayes BSW, CSW

For over 35 years, we’ve been helping people and their families through the many emotions and challenges that change their lives after hearing these three words. I’m Joanna Morgan, an oncology nurse navigator and I’m Joselyn Hayes, an oncology social worker, at Bryan Medical Center.

While each person and every situation is different, there are some strategies that seem to help everyone. We hope sharing these will help you – whether you’re the one receiving a cancer diagnosis or it’s a loved one.

What Do You Do When You Hear the Words “You Have Cancer”?

Breathe. Surround yourself with people you love. Allow others to help and support you.

Most people ask, why me? Most people wonder if they have done something to cause the cancer and come up with ideas of why it occurred. If you are having these thoughts you are not alone. Cancer is not a punishment for things you did or didn’t do. Blaming yourself doesn’t help and often makes you feel worse. It’s almost impossible to know exactly what caused the cancer. Instead, focus on taking care of yourself now, both your body and your mind.

Ways You Can Help Someone With a Cancer Diagnosis

When someone we care about is diagnosed with cancer, we want to help but often don’t know what to do or say.

According to the American Cancer Society, people with strong emotional support tend to adjust better to the changes that cancer brings to their lives, have a more positive outlook and report a better quality of life.

Here are some ways you can provide support:

Keep in Touch

  • Write, text, email or call often (try to keep it short) – this lets the person know you are thinking of them.
  • Call at times that work best for your friend.
  • Be available: When your friend calls or texts you, answer right away.


  • Call before you visit, and be understanding if your friend doesn’t feel well enough to visit.
  • Keep the visit short: understand they may be too tired to actively participate.
  • Don’t be afraid to touch, hug or shake hands.

Know What to Say (And Do)

  • Listen. Allow your friend to honestly share how they are feeling (good, bad or ugly).
  • Give advice only when asked. Don’t urge your friend to fight the cancer if that is not their goal, offer treatment suggestions or share negative stories from your experiences with others who have gone through cancer treatment.
  • Support your loved one’s treatment decisions.
  • Remember the caregiver and seek ways to support and help this person.
  • Stay connected throughout the entire treatment process and beyond – checking in regularly over time is very helpful and meaningful.
  • Let your friend know “we’ll get through this together.”

Know What Not to Say

  • “Everything is going to be fine.” We are often tempted to say it will be fine, but this can make the person with cancer feel like you’re unwilling to talk about the realities and challenges of a cancer diagnosis.
  • “You’ve got the good kind of cancer.” There is no ‘good kind’. Any cancer diagnosis causes fear and changes a person’s life.
  • Nothing at all. Say something, anything. It’s okay to admit you don’t know what to say. What’s most important is starting a conversation.
  • “Let me know how I can help.” People rarely reach out and ask for help. They are exhausted emotionally and physically and don’t have the energy to think about what you can do, and even if they did it’s hard for most people to ask for help. Instead offer concrete ideas of ways you can help, and when your friend takes you up on your offer, make sure you follow through!

How to Help

  • Offer to run errands – get groceries, pick up prescriptions or help transport to and from appointments.
  • Make meals or help coordinate meal drop offs from other friends.
  • Help with tasks – cleaning their house, lawn care, babysitting, pet sitting, walking the dog.

Ways the Bryan Cancer Program Can Help

At Bryan, we have specially trained nurses and social workers to help you and your family through each step of your cancer care. Our oncology certified nurse navigators can help you through all aspects of your cancer care, and especially decisions about treatment.

Oncology social workers have expertise to help you navigate the emotions, financial and insurance concerns, and other areas related to receiving the care you need.

We’re here for you – to support and help you with compassion and expertise, to relieve some of the stress and uncertainty in your life. And to help you determine and navigate your best course of treatment.

You are Not Alone. We’ll Travel This Road Together.

A cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming – the emotions, the unknown, the decisions. At Bryan, our specialty trained nurses and social workers are here to help you and your family through each step of your cancer care.

Talk to your doctor about a referral to this Bryan oncology nurse navigator and social worker program. This is a free service for our patients.

Joanna Morgan MSN, RN, OCN

Joanna Morgan MSN, RN, OCN

Oncology Nurse Navigator

Joselyn Hayes BSW, CSW

Joselyn Hayes BSW, CSW

Oncology Social Worker

Darting Memories

Darting Memories

Being a retired educator, our poor grandkids have learned I always have a lot of questions about school. I tend to ask what classes they are taking, who their teachers are and what topic they are studying in a particular class. I also ask about tests, their projects and grades. I guess my questions come with the territory of my professional life.

All of the grandkids have used me as a topic or reference in one class or another, and they love asking me questions. Heck, they have probably also used me as a class project I’m not even aware of like “Things not to do when you get older” or “Why do older adults not understand their phones?”

Finding Out More

I knew our grandson was taking a literature class this semester. He’s not a huge reader, so I wanted to know how he was doing. I couldn’t remember if he was taking a Holocaust Literature class or the Sci-fi Literature class, since both are great opportunities to get students involved. He responded by saying he was taking the Sci-fi Lit class. Next question, “Who’s your teacher?” As my retirement years keep growing, I know fewer and fewer teachers. I have found my influence with the kids or their teachers is waning. Probably a good thing on everyone’s behalf. Next question, “Do you like it?” He said it was OK for an English class. I thought to myself, “BONUS!” I know he won’t read “War and Peace” soon, but a positive response was a thrill to hear.

Next question, “What are you reading?” I could tell he was deep in thought for a second. In my mind I’m thinking, the kid has no idea what he’s reading? Doesn’t he go to class every day? Is he not participating in any class discussion because he’s not reading the book? Why the hesitancy? Following the sci-fi theme, is this kid really an alien who has been taken the body over my grandson?

Memories Come Darting Back

Two seconds passed and my grandson looks at me with a twinkle in his eye and he hit his chest four times and made some whistling sounds. What the heck was this? Are they teaching sound effects in sci-fi class? I thought for two seconds. I then asked if the novel he was reading was “Frankenstein” written by Mary Shelley. He smiled at me. Telepathically, we recalled the time all four grandkids watched the movie “Young Frankenstein” at our house.

We watched the movie during one of our movie dates at our house. “Young Frankenstein” has always been one of my favorite movies, so of course I wanted to share this unique experience with them. Both my grandson and I started slapping our chests making the whistling sound. This is the scene when the police chief pretends to throw the darts at the dart board. The chief actually puts the darts into his wooden arm. The chief made a whistling sound with his mouth imitating the darts going through the air and striking the dart board.

Reliving Memories Together

Soon, the other grandkids caught on and joined in the charade. The five of us had a great time sharing our experience with their parents and grandpa. It was a fun reminder of how we’ve enjoyed connecting in the past. One of our granddaughters then commented they liked the “Young Frankenstein” movie, however, she was really freaked out by the movie, “The Crows.” The Crows?? The rest of us looked at each other in a confused state of not being able to recall the movie. She talked about the scene which really scared her. It was when the crows were in the school yard attacking the kids running down the street. I quickly realized she was talking about the movie, “The Birds.” What a hoot, and I laughed till I cried.

The grandkids haven’t been over to see a movie in a couple of years, so to have them recall some of those memories was a thrill for me and, hopefully, for them. It was a reminder to me that the memories I hope to create may or may not have a long term connection with my grandkids, but when it does, it sure is great.

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

I have four grandchildren ages 14-17. In some ways, I’m a very typical grandma, always proud of everything the kids do and wanting to help support them in whatever way I can. In other ways, I’m not very typical. My goal as a blogger is to share my thoughts and experiences that I think are funny and meaningful as I adventure through grandmahood.

Becoming More Intentional in Life

Becoming More Intentional in Life

During many of my leadership lessons, my students and I often discuss how important creativity is. In most instances, students believe creativity is a skill they have lost. So, I recently began teaching a leadership unit focused solely on creativity.

I started planning many activities around not only embracing the creativity each student has, but challenging each student to further enhance their creativity as well. I have activities planned from seeing the world through shapes, doodling, researching personality traits, inspiring others, taking a gratitude walk and spending ten minutes in complete silence.

The Importance of Being Intentional

The whole purpose of the unit is being intentional in finding ways to enhance one’s creativity. As I started thinking, the word “intentional” kept creeping up in my mind. I decided I needed to take the challenge along with my students to be more intentional.

With the busyness of the winter season at both home and school, I decided I would model intentionality by spending 15 minutes in stillness for the next 30 days. I suggested to my students that they all pick out a notebook to write or doodle in. The ultimate goal of the project is to connect to our inner creativity.

Practicing What You Preach

I wanted something more than a doodle book, therefore I started searching for something as a visible reminder to be intentional about my time of quietness. The idea came to me quite quickly. Six years ago, I kept a little gratitude book that I carried with me at all times. I was intentional in writing down the little blessings, and I also added meaningful pictures and inspiring Bible verses.

Due to the number of times we looked through it, the pages were torn and the edges were bent. However, the book was filled with love. I made this little gratitude book for two years, but I stopped making my little gratitude books. Looking back, I realized the busyness of life just took over. It also just seemed natural to have pictures on my laptop and on an external hard drive. I told myself I would print them out someday. Someday turned into some month which ultimately turned into never.

Make a Visual Record of What You’ve Learned

The visual reminder of my intentionality is simple—create a little gratitude book. During those 15 minutes of intentional stillness, I am going to record in words and pictures the joys in my life. My little book with those torn pages and bent edges will be moments of joy and moments I do not want to forget.

Ultimately, I hope modeling intentionality for the next 30 days with a visible end product to share with my senior students will encourage them to unlock their creativity. These quiet moments, however, will go beyond enhancing my creativity skills. These moments will allow me to pause, reflect and be thankful for all of my blessings.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

Parent-Teacher Conferences

Parent-Teacher Conferences

Just the phrase “parent-teacher conference” makes me anxious. However, this last experience was a positive one. Typically, parent-teacher conferences happen either right before or right after report cards. And with grades in the picture, the stakes are raised.

That means it’s worthwhile to make the most of the short time you have to meet with the teacher, and it’s also reasonable to expect that the teacher is prepared to discuss your child in a meaningful way.

Some have been more successful than others, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the preparation beforehand that makes the difference.

Worry Leads to Joy

Like most parent-teacher conferences I worry, as the last few experiences haven’t been positive. Going into this year, I was expecting the typical: Cohen’s reading isn’t grade level, he’s getting upset very easily, he’s becoming anxious, he’s needing to go the office, and so on. Those have been his critiques for the past three years.

But boy was I surprised during this year’s conference. Cohen’s teacher had nothing but good things to say about him. The way she described him and her attitude towards him gave me goosebumps. You could see her overall joy when talking about Cohen. She talked about his wonderful personality, his willingness to help, and his compassion towards others. She made the executive decision to stop the score sheet he had to bring home every day because he continuously got a perfect score. She was shocked that he needed to do those sheets for the last three years.

Sure, she addressed his reading and his anxiety when taking tests, but she was proud of his determination and his willingness to participate despite his lack of confidence when it comes to reading. Lastly, she hoped her son, who is 6 months old, will have Cohen’s characteristics when he’s that age. This comment brought tears to my eyes. I have never left a conference feeling so proud and excited for him like I have in this class with this teacher!

It’s All in the Preparation

This last conference made me realize that there are different ways to prepare. I’d like to offer a few tips on how you, as a parent, can get the most helpful information from your child’s parent-teacher conference.

I purposely choose the last conference of the night. That way if we go long, I’m not holding up anyone else. If I can, I don’t bring my children. That way I can bring up things that I want to say that I wouldn’t say in front my child and vice versa.

As hard as it is, I try and come with an open mind. As a parent, I have to remind myself of this often, but my children’s grades and behavior are not a reflection of who I am as a person. They have free will and will make mistakes and decisions that I don’t approve of, but It doesn’t make me a bad parent.

Ask the Teacher Questions

I also bring specific questions or concerns and not the typical, “So how’s my kid doing in your class?” Since we only have a few minutes to talk, I’d like to know right away which areas are of concern.

If your child is unhappy in school, you may be the emotional dump at home who hears about all the things that went wrong during the day. That’s what I hear from Cohen most days. I don’t get to witness my children having fun with their friends at lunch or answering a question that stumped everyone else in the class. I learned that we needed to focus and build on these little victories together.

Lastly, tell the teacher what works well at home and what you need help with. I often feel like I’m on my own once my children get home, but teachers often have tips that may help studying and getting organized at home go more smoothly too.

Now that I know a few tricks of the trade, I am less anxious for these conferences. I feel that Cohen is growing and learning in third grade. I love that his teacher was so open and honest with me, and I’m glad she is willing to work with him and for him. I trust in her and am so happy she is teaching my child because Cohen is starting hate school a little less.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

On the Road to a Healthy Heart: Dr. Keith Miller Takes His Own Advice

On the Road to a Healthy Heart: Dr. Keith Miller Takes His Own Advice

I started thinking a lot about my heart health because, at 52 years old (holy crap!), I have come to terms with the reality that I am not immune to the disease that I attempt to PREVENT and TREAT every day as a cardiologist. In short, I have been confronted with my own vulnerability.

So far, thank goodness, I haven’t had any health issues, but I want to be honest with myself and deal with my own future risk of heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular death.

Plus, there are a lot of people like me out there who are getting a little “middle-age-ish,” who may not fully appreciate their risk of cardiovascular disease.

So I thought it would be interesting, educational and perhaps inspirational to share my own personal experience of going through a risk assessment and trying to reduce my risk of heart and vascular disease. I’m focusing on lifestyle changes, but also evaluating whether I am a candidate for prescription medications (such as statins) to reduce my risk.

I had lab work done to find out my cholesterol levels and a coronary calcium scan to help define my risk. And, I have calculated my 10-year risk.

I also signed up for the Good Life Halfsy because I needed a goal to motivate me to exercise!

Identifying Your (and My) Risk for Heart Attack or Stroke

Using only a few, easily obtained pieces of information about your health, you can find out whether you’re on the right track or need some serious lifestyle intervention. You can determine if a little improvement in your diet and exercise program is enough, or whether you may benefit from a medication to lower your blood pressure or your cholesterol level.

If you are in your:

  • 50s or 60s – Age alone becomes a very important risk factor for heart disease. Even if you’re seemingly healthy you may be at risk. Let’s face it, cardiovascular diseases like heart attack, stroke and heart failure are extremely common and we are all at risk to one degree or another.
  • 40s – You aren’t off the hook, and depending on other risk factors, blood pressure or cholesterol lowering medications may help you.

Taking a Dose of My Own Medicine

I recently did my own cardiovascular health assessment.

Here are my stats:

  • 52-year-old white male
  • Total cholesterol – 255 mg/dL
  • HDL cholesterol – 71 mg/dL
  • LDL cholesterol – 168 mg/dL
  • Systolic blood pressure – 110 mmHg
  • Non-smoker
  • Non-diabetic without hypertension

My 10-year risk of having a heart attack or stroke was 3.2%. Not too bad!

I was a little disappointed that my LDL cholesterol was 168 mg/dL, which is definitely higher than I would like. A little improvement in my diet and exercise should do the trick to fix this.

If that 10-year risk number had been 5% or more, with other risk factors like family history, I might have considered going on a cholesterol medicine.

What Can Be Measured Can Be Managed

The point is, heart attack and stroke risk can be measured. And what can be measured can be managed. Lifestyle changes and blood pressure or cholesterol treatment have been shown to reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and death from cardiovascular disease in people with elevated risk.

The question is, are you one of those people? Don’t wait to find out!

Find Out Your Risk & Take Action if Needed

If you don’t know your cholesterol numbers or you haven’t had your blood pressure checked in a while, talk to your doctor or consider taking part in a health screening offered by Bryan Health.

Find out if you’re at risk with our helpful cardiovascular risk estimator!

The next health screening where you can find out your cholesterol levels, A1c and other important health information is:

Thursday, Nov. 21, 7-9 a.m.

Bryan LifePointe Campus, 7501 S. 27th St.

To learn more and register, click below!

Other Free Risk Assessments


Offered by Bryan Health

Find out your heart age, risk for heart disease and steps you can take to improve your heart health.

If you are at risk, you can choose to have a free consultation with a nurse to discuss ways to improve your heart health.

My Life Check

Offered by the American Heart Association

Get a heart health score with recommendations to make improvements and track your progress.

Remember to Exercise!

Staying active is important for all of us, and any amount you do is helpful to your heart health. It doesn’t have to be a half-marathon! If you’re wondering how my training is going, here’s a photo of me after finishing this year’s Good Life Halfsy. I’m getting there!!

dr miller at the good life halfsy finish line

Let’s Improve our Heart Health Together

I hope you’ll join me so we can improve our heart health together. Take the screenings to find out your risk. Look for ways to improve your daily lifestyle. And, if you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it!

I invite you to follow me and see more videos and blogs to inspire you to better health.

Dr. Keith Miller, MD

Dr. Keith Miller, MD

Health Expert

Dr. Keith Miller, MD, is a cardiologist with Bryan Heart.

Dressing Up Never Gets Old

Dressing Up Never Gets Old

I love the fall and especially enjoy the Halloween season. When my grandkids were little, I volunteered to be the witch in residence at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo. Maybe I wasn’t the witch in residence, but I read books to any kids who happened to stop by my chair.

It was a wonderful experience, especially when my grandkids showed up for story time. Despite my makeup and costume, they knew exactly who I was. When our grandson saw me, he yelled “Hi, Grandma!” Needless to say, those words caused a little confusion with the kids I was reading to. I let out a cackle and brought everyone back into the groove.

A Growing Costume Collection

After several years of reading at the Zoo, enjoying the interaction and getting my little kid fix, I handed my books over to the next witch. I did not, however, turn in my witch’s costume. Over the years, I collected many costumes, including our daughters’ numerous dance costumes. Some are worse for the wear, but I’ve still held on to them. I used costumes and hats as props for introducing concepts at staff meetings and to participate in student theme days.

It’s not the spotlight I crave, but the laughter I can generate. I think I always had more fun than either staff or students had. I may have become a bit overzealous as I probably have too many costumes and hats. The hats and costumes each have their own storage bins and do take up a tad bit of room in our basement.

Grandma to the Halloween Rescue

Enough background of my costume fetish. A week before Halloween, one of our grandkids called. I always think when I get a call, it’s because they want to talk to me. It’s so cute when they call, “Hi Grandma. How are you?” “Hi Grandma. What are you up to?” “Hi Grandma…” then, they have a follow up question, which is why they actually called.

This call was a request for cowboy gear. Yes, one of our granddaughters was going to a party, which had a Western theme. Did I have any hats, shirts, skirts, boots? I detected desperation in her voice, and I determined the party was the next weekend. Yep, but better late than never.

Bringing Joy With One More Costume

I did an inventory. Yes, we did have some items which might work for her. Hats, shirts, boots and bandanas were all available for her use. I took pictures and sent them to her. What would work and what wouldn’t work for her party. She picked out a few things and tried them on. Score another point in the win column thanks to the costume store in a corner of our basement.

It always brings a smile to my face when you can deliver for your grandkids. Maybe that’s why I try to watch my diet, chase the Pickleball and listen to my doctor. I just know these costumes may someday be needed for my great grandkids.

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

I have four grandchildren ages 14-17. In some ways, I’m a very typical grandma, always proud of everything the kids do and wanting to help support them in whatever way I can. In other ways, I’m not very typical. My goal as a blogger is to share my thoughts and experiences that I think are funny and meaningful as I adventure through grandmahood.

Traveling Through Life with My Squad

Traveling Through Life with My Squad

The group text message went like this:

“Okay squad…I am 95% sure I want a tat. Who also needs one? I need my squad for moral support to get me through the door.”

“I am definitely out for the tattoo, but can be there for moral support.”

“I am in!!! I want one with my Dad’s handwriting.”

“I might consider it!”

“I will support. But out on the ink for me.”

I am an introvert and a private person. Being around crowds is very overwhelming to me, my anxiety rises and I tend to find myself conversing with only a few people whom I feel comfortable with. This may come as a surprise to some since I am surrounded by students, adults and other colleagues all the time in my career.

Forming My Squad

Believe me, throughout the many stages of life, I have tried to include everyone in everything. But I also realize that due to my introvertedness, it may be hard to get to know me and I can come off as unfriendly at times. And having people think I am unfriendly causes me additional stress. This is why my circle of friends is so important to me, especially during this stage of life.

Ten years ago our squad had one thing in common: our daughters’ softball team. Eventually, at the games, we started sitting by each other, sharing snacks, and learning about each other’s likes and dislikes. Over the course of ten years we have celebrated new additions to families, mourned the deaths of parents, shared hysterectomy stories and gone on family vacations.

Friends Through Thick & Thin

So naturally, I turned to my squad to find the courage to get a tattoo (or talk me out of it). Yet, what I appreciate about our squad is that there is definitely always a gathering place, we show constant support for all of our kids, we can laugh to “make it all better,” and we respect the silence that helps bond and grow all relationships.

Every stage of life brings new adventures, challenges, stories and milestones. While we travel through each of these stages, the best part is having a squad by your side for the journey.

There are those friends that come into our life journey for a short distance or even get out at the first stop sign. While others are there for the long haul and walk your journey with you. The softball moms could’ve sensed my closed nature and quickly jumped out at the first stop sign and given up on me long, long ago. But they didn’t—they all stayed in the vehicle, and I am incredibly thankful to be on this ride together.

Enjoying Every Bit of the Ride

This year is special. This year is hard. This year four of us have high school seniors. Two moms have kids who have already graduated, two moms are experiencing graduation for the first time, and another smiles and cries along with us and is trying to figure out how she will do this next year. Senior year is hard not only for the child, but also for the parents. We have spent our entire parenting years preparing our kids for their next journey, but we want to hold onto them and keep them in our homes just a little longer.

Yet, if it was not for our daughters, we would not be the friends or better yet, the family we are today. Each of us has our own joys, frustrations and insecurities, but we also bring our own perspectives and insight about life and the journey we are on. In the end, we all know we are still loved and we will be there for each stop along the way.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

I Share Too Much

I Share Too Much

“I know you, and I haven’t even met you.”

Lately, several bloggers I follow have written about issues of privacy and what they are willing to reveal about themselves in their blogs. I am an over-sharer, especially with friends. I reveal everything in real life, but I am more hesitant online and I try to retain some vagueness.

What You See Is What You Get

When I started writing for this blog, it was an exercise in public writing. I have, over the last several years, been open about my flaws, struggles and family issues. I’ve willingly allowed the blog to become a collection of personal essays. I try to be protective of the people in my life, but write about aspects of our lives together. I regard very few things as sacred—I am an open book.

I assume that I am not unique and that my experiences and feelings have been felt by many other humans. Commenters have said that they admire my openness and honesty, but it is less about those virtues than the fact that I like to live my life the easiest way possible. I want to be the “What You See is What You Get” version of myself online, because it’s easier. People who know me offline are rarely surprised by anything that I post. Recently, however, I think I overshared. There’s such a fine line between presenting the authentic you and sharing too much.

The Downside to Oversharing

In a recent blog, I discussed how important communication is with your spouse, as every married couple knows! However, my husband and I have been so busy, our communication has been lacking, resulting in built up anger and frustration. Lately, we’ve been having arguments and they never get resolved. We yell and go to bed angry and never talk about it, or at least it doesn’t get brought up for a good couple of weeks.

Well, the past fight had been eating away at me and I overshared with a bunch of friends and on social media. I divulged deep and embarrassing details from our marriage. At the time it made me feel better to talk about my feelings, but I realized after I shared these intimate details that I needed to talk to my husband instead of my friends. When these details came up at a group outing with my husband, I knew he was hurt.

Knowing When Enough Is Enough

In today’s world, communication that used to entail my best friend through a private pipeline is now something posted, tweeted and pinned. I decided I probably should make time to be a spouse, parent, take a shower, and occasionally talk to my husband. If I would have just talked to him in the first place — not during the argument, but set a time to talk — my oversharing may not have happened.

The beauty of blogging, and the thing that sets blogging apart from other forms of Internet marketing, is that it is personal and relational. Thus, I pride myself in being real and authentic, and to tell stories that other women can relate to. I just need to make sure that I strike that balance between sharing without oversharing and letting everyone see the real me, flaws and all.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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