FAQs for the Flu Shot in 2020

FAQs for the Flu Shot in 2020

Every year people have questions about the flu vaccine. With the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever to be informed and take steps to protect yourself and those you love.

The flu virus can travel up to six feet when someone coughs, sneezes or talks. Droplets can land in the nose or mouth or be inhaled into the lungs. The flu is contagious – this means you should stay away from those who are sick, and if you are sick, you should not be around other people.

The flu shot/vaccine protects you from getting the flu. Here are answers to some of the most common questions about the flu vaccine.

What is a flu shot?

The flu shot is a vaccine given with a needle, usually in the arm. It protects against three to four influenza viruses. It is developed based on research that suggests which virus(es) may be the most common during the upcoming season. A high dose vaccine is available for adults over the age of 65.

Why do I need to get a flu shot every year?

Flu viruses change quickly, so last year’s vaccine may not protect you against this year’s viruses. When you get the vaccine, your immune system produces antibodies to protect you from the viruses. Over time antibody levels will decrease. This is why it’s recommended to receive a vaccine every year.

Why is it so important to get your flu shot this year?

It is very likely flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will spread together this fall and winter. Flu vaccines are approved by the FDA to prevent influenza. The flu vaccine will not prevent COVID-19. The CDC urges everyone to get their flu shot this year to reduce respiratory illnesses and the burden these illnesses can put on the health care system as we continue to treat COVID-19 patients.

Can I have flu and COVID-19 at the same time?

Yes, that’s another reason why getting the flu shot is so important this year.

Is the flu a serious illness?

Yes, the flu can be serious enough to hospitalize people, and for some, it can be deadly.

Can the flu vaccine give me the flu?

No, the vaccine does not cause the flu.

Do I still need to wear a mask if I get a flu shot?

Yes, wearing a mask is still recommended to protect yourself against other viruses, including COVID-19.

Who should get a flu shot?

Everyone six months of age and older should get a flu shot every year.

When should I get a flu shot? Is it too early to get a flu shot right now?

September and early October are usually the best times to get your flu vaccine. So now is the perfect time, preferably before October 31. You want to get your flu shot before the flu is widespread in the community, so you’ll be protected.

Does the vaccine work right away?

No, it takes about two weeks to build your immunity after getting the flu shot. That’s why it’s important to get your flu shot before the illness is widespread.

How long will the flu shot protect me?

Six months is the amount of time a flu shot is thought to offer protection.

What side effects can happen after a flu shot?

Common side effects include soreness, redness, swelling where the shot was given, nausea, headache, muscle aches and fatigue.

Where can I get a flu vaccine?

You can get your flu vaccine at many places including your doctor’s office, urgent care locations and pharmacies.

Michael Sayers, MD

Michael Sayers, MD

Michael Sayers, MD, is a board certified doctor with Family Medicine of Lincoln, part of the Bryan Physician Network.

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Learning to Be More Empathetic

Learning to Be More Empathetic

Early in my teaching career, I took a strengths assessment, and I was not surprised at what was at the top of my list: achiever, discipline, learner and focus. I can see the many times in my life where all of these qualities are alive and thriving. For this specific assessment, all qualities that were assessed were listed from top to bottom, and at the bottom of the list was empathy. Seeing this ranking of words stopped me in my tracks.

I was annoyed and confused. I am a parent, a wife, a teacher, a coach, so empathy cannot be at the BOTTOM of this list. I know empathy means being aware of, and/or being sensitive to the feelings, thoughts and experiences of another. Yet, this is a hard topic for me. I want to be empathetic, but it just seems like this quality will never be part of my personality.

Trying to Be More Empathetic

Ever since this assessment, I have challenged myself to become a more empathetic person. Recently, however, I realized I have a love-hate relationship with this word.

There are times where I want to give someone a hug or show I care in some form, but it rarely comes across that way. When I practice being more empathetic, I usually play out the conversation in my head to find the right words…this obviously is not working. I recall three different situations where I was really trying to help and ended up causing more stress and made the person feel worse rather than better.

Why I Have Trouble with Showing Empathy

Reflecting upon those situations, I came to the conclusion that it’s a learned behavior. I feel sorry FOR the person rather than empathizing WITH the person. I try to be too positive and put a silver lining on everything, or I try to relate with a story that really has no connection to the situation.

Both of these are not necessarily wrong—they just don’t help. I’m not connecting. What I’m actually doing is minimizing the discomfort for myself as I really don’t know how to show empathy.

There are days when I want to say being empathetic is just not part of my wheelhouse and I need to quit trying to care and be sensitive to those around me. But is that really the right thing to do?

What I Can Do in the Future

Yet, I can do something about it. I can love those people and acknowledge their pain. I don’t have to always be positive about the situation or connect with a story. I just need to learn to listen and let people share their feelings.

While I am still annoyed that empathy is at the bottom of the qualities I possess and annoyed I am not naturally empathetic, I do realize I can still show love by doing something. And ultimately, that is the route I need to go—be silent and show empathy through love by doing rather than by conversing and storytelling.

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.

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Atrial Fibrillation (AFib): A Common, Treatable Heart Condition

Atrial Fibrillation (AFib): A Common, Treatable Heart Condition

If you have atrial fibrillation—also called AFib—you’re not alone. AFib is a common heart rhythm disorder. In the United States, more than 5 million people have atrial fibrillation.

As a cardiologist who specializes in heart rhythm disorders, I am seeing younger, healthier patients with atrial fibrillation than I did five years ago. There are many factors that can contribute to atrial fibrillation including: obesity, alcohol intake, high blood pressure, sleep apnea and genetic factors.

What is Atrial Fibrillation (AFib)?

Atrial fibrillation is a disorganized heart rhythm of the two atria of the heart. The atria are the upper two chambers of the heart that receive blood returning from other areas of the body. These disorganized electrical signals are then filtered to the bottom two pumping chambers of the heart, known as the ventricles. It is the job of the atrioventricular node (AV node) to keep the heart chambers synchronized. But in atrial fibrillation, this area gets bombarded by electrical signals. This leads to an irregular heart rate.

What health conditions should I be concerned about if I have AFib?

As the atrial (upper chambers of the heart) quiver, or fibrillate, the blood tends to move more sluggishly in this area. This sluggish movement allows the blood to clot along the walls of the atrium, which is a part of your heart. The most common areas to find blood clots are in the atrial appendages. As a result, atrial fibrillation contributes to an increased risk of stroke. In fact, the risk of stroke for people with atrial fibrillation is five times that of people who do not have this condition.

When my patients see me for management of atrial fibrillation, our first step is to assess their risk of stroke.

  • The most common way to manage stroke is with anticoagulation or ‘blood thinner’ medication. If the blood is thinned, it has less of a chance to clot and this helps prevent a possible stroke.
  • Another potential safety measure to prevent strokes due to blood clots forming in the atrial appendage area is covering the left atrial appendage with a device called a Watchman, made by Boston Scientific.

Once the assessment of stroke risk is complete, we then assess the heart rates. Generally, we want to keep heart rates between 60-100 beats per minute. People with atrial fibrillation can experience a much faster heart rate. When the atria are quivering, it can fibrillate at rates above 300 beats per minute. This causes the ventricles to move faster and the heart rate to increase.

By controlling heart rate during the atrial fibrillation events, we can help limit the symptoms of the arrhythmia. These symptoms include chest pressure, shortness of breath, inability to exercise, lightheadedness or feeling faint.

How is AFib managed?

No two patients are the same. I have discussions about rhythm control with my patients to discuss their needs and concerns. There are some folks where it is clearly better to try to control atrial fibrillation. There are some folks where stroke prevention and heart rate control are all that they need. Typically, the more symptoms someone has, the more aggressive we are about rhythm control.

The two main ways to control or manage atrial fibrillation are with arrhythmia medications or with ablations.

An ablation is the removal of body tissue. For AFib, this means to neutralize or silence tissue in key areas that trigger and maintain the arrhythmia or irregular heartbeats. This is accomplished by heating or freezing the atrial tissue.

A large part of my practice is doing ablations for atrial fibrillation. I like this approach as it avoids the risk and side effects of rhythm maintaining medication. Ablation has a good success rate in managing irregular heart rhythms, or AFib.

Generally, we are able to minimize atrial fibrillation in 75% of the patients who receive this treatment. This strategy works better when it is combined with lifestyle behaviors to address all factors related to the arrhythmia (or improper beating of the heart). This includes maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise, minimal alcohol use, and treatment of associated conditions such as high blood pressure or sleep apnea.

Atrial fibrillation can feel scary; however this is a treatable heart rhythm. And, with proper treatment you will feel better and more comfortable doing the activities you enjoy in life.

Matthew Kapalis, DO

Matthew Kapalis, DO

Dr. Matthew Kapalis, DO, is a cardiologist at Bryan Heart.

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Teaching Grandkids about Death and Life Transitions

Teaching Grandkids about Death and Life Transitions

The world certainly is in an interesting place. Between the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement, I find my emotions all over the place. There are times when I want to cry, and I do cry. There are times when I want to scream, and I do scream. There are times when I want to keep informed and watch the news. Then I find I can no longer watch the news, and I turn the TV off.

This past month, I was a part of yet another emotional, life-altering time. After years of fighting a hereditary illness, my brother-in-law passed away. Any time a family member dies, it is difficult. He had to spend months isolated in the hospital and care facilities before coming home on hospice, which was difficult for the entire family. My brother-in-law kept his humor until the very end, and we were thankful he could be home and converse with us.

A Funeral During COVID-19

Funerals for close family members are difficult no matter when they happen in your life. Funerals during a pandemic provide another layer of expectations and plans, still knowing we’ll do the best we can. My sister had an amazing attitude and decided to have a graveside service and a family-only reception in our backyard. Masks were required at both sites, and social distancing was suggested.

I told my sister I would take care of the reception, and she should not have to worry about anything. I worked on the details and soon realized I couldn’t do everything myself, so I did the next best thing and asked my grandkids for help. Fortunately, they said yes and we began dividing up the responsibilities. We ordered or purchased tables, chairs, food, tablecloths, drinks, flowers, vases, and hand sanitizer. We were off to a good start.

Getting Help From the Grandkids

The day of the service came, and we set up the backyard in the early morning. The grandkids took my instructions well and even felt confident enough to let me know they had a better idea. We did the best we could and guessed where the sun would be in a couple hours.

Following the service, all of us raced home to check on our set up. We quickly moved three tables out of the sun, and put flowers, hand sanitizers and box lunches on the tables, just before the rest of the family arrived. The graveside service and reception went off without a hitch. I thanked the grandkids profusely for their assistance in the reception.

Understanding Life’s Transitions

What I realized is they wanted and needed to take part in the process. It had been 15 years since the last family member died, and I wondered how my grandkids would react. They found that keeping busy and giving back to our family was important. They saw it as giving back to their special uncle.

I know their mothers will be the ones carrying out future funerals plans, but this experience helped the grandkids understand the transitions life will bring. They realized these funeral receptions are a time for family to share stories, memories and to laugh with one another. Our grandkids have now experienced the transition, and this tradition is in good hands!

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.

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How the First Day of School Was Different this Year

How the First Day of School Was Different this Year

Anxious. Nervous. Not ready at all. Excited. Overwhelmed. Ready. My emotions and thoughts were all over the place as I prepared for the first day of school.

The planner in me was not prepared for any day beyond the first day. I was even more nervous knowing that the schedule for the first two days did not include seeing all students both days. The uncertainty of how school would “look” made me nervous. I worried about school being ordinary. I hated not knowing what to expect. The planner in me hated hearing “I don’t know” or “let me get back to you.”

A Different First Day of School

However, the first day started and it was exhilarating being back in the building. I worried about not seeing the smiles of students, but I definitely could see the smiles behind the masks. The students had more questions than I had answers; yet they extended grace and waited until I could find the answer.

It had been nearly 160 days since the last time students were in the building, so they all were glad to be back. The worry, anxiousness and uncertainty of the day started fading away as each student smiled and said, “Hi Mrs. Mo, it’s great to be back!”

For how much I longed for a normal ordinary school year after teaching remotely last spring, this year is hardly off to a normal start. There’s social distancing between desks, students wearing masks, lunch in three different areas of the school, and even cleaning classrooms between passing periods. Yet, I am already a better teacher as I adapt to this not normal year.

Learning and Sharing our Experiences

Learning can and will take place anywhere. However, building relationships is extremely hard via remote learning. When I look into my students’ eyes, there are some still filled with fear in the uncertain world, but they have so much to share. They all have a perspective on what is happening. They have found ways to learn, unlearn and relearn, they have found ways to be positive role models and most of them want to share.

And more for me, this is hard. I am a private person and most times, I do not like to share. After two days, my students have made me better, and they have showed me the importance of asking questions and letting them lead discussions.

I spent most of the summer wishing for a normal, ordinary year. And now I am thankful this is anything but normal right now. The bright spot in this unordinary year is that my students are making me a better person. It has taken only a few days for me to realize this. Hopefully by the end of the year, I will have made all of them better.

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.

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Drinking In Front of My Kids

Drinking In Front of My Kids

With football season less than a month away (fingers crossed) and the potential for e-learning, there seems to be more alcohol in our household.

Let’s be honest, my children are the reason I drink; therefore, I can drink in front of my children. In fact, given the last several months, my glass of wine may be the reason we’re all still alive today.

Set Boundaries

I don’t judge people with kids who drink but the subject of alcohol when it comes to kids is still a touchy subject. For some, drinking in front of younger kids is an extreme no-no, whereas others might consider a glass or two to be fine when having dinner with family.

Some of my friends can’t imagine drinking an adult beverage in front of their kids. I’ve seen parents sneak a sip when their kids aren’t looking, or wait for when their kids go to sleep, and the coast is clear. However, recently in my mom’s group, this topic was brought up in discussion and I believe that hiding your drinking or waiting till your kids are in bed sends the message that drinking is wrong.

We all know that a glass of wine here and there is not bad for you. It can actually be good for your health. If you think that drinking in front of your children is considered “bad parenting,” I just want you to think about this question, “Is there a right and wrong way to do it?”

Kids Learn By Your Actions

If we, as parents, don’t teach them how to drink, then who will? Their friends? Their friends’ parents? Television? Or maybe behind the bleachers at a football game with a kid who stole his dad’s vodka bottle? When I was growing up there was very little alcohol in my household. I never knew what drinking responsibly really meant. Teaching kids how to drink responsibly is a valuable lesson.

So even now, when my kids ask about what mommy’s drinking, I know my kids are watching and learning from my behavior and I serve as their primary role model. Alcohol is not the problem but rather the abuse of alcohol is. So, when my kids see me drinking alcohol, they know that I am an adult and I am drinking responsibly.

Some days, the day stretches out so long that without the effervescent light at the end of the tunnel, we may not make it through the day. I am in no way advocating getting truly drunk in front of your little ones, but having a drink isn’t shameful or it doesn’t need to be done behind closed doors.

Show Them What Responsibility Looks Like

When my kids leave to go to a friend’s house or one day out on their own, I want them to be prepared. My child’s success depends a great deal on what they learn and see at home.

My husband and I teach them these things by drinking responsibly, by finding a designated driver when we’ve had one too many, and by not reliving our college days with old school friends. Drinking in front of your kids is not “bad parenting,” its “responsible parenting.”

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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Diabetic Foot Wounds: Myths, Care and Healing

Diabetic Foot Wounds: Myths, Care and Healing

In my podiatry practice, it goes without saying, I see a lot of foot issues. But for people with diabetes, foot problems and wounds take on a whole different meaning. Usually they are chronic conditions.

The way you care for your feet can have a big impact on your lifestyle so I thought it might be helpful to share some of the more common misconceptions and myths, as well as good practices, when it comes to foot wound care.

What is the most common foot wound for people with diabetes?

The most common issue I see is the diabetic foot ulcer. This is a break in the skin or a deep sore. Foot ulcers can be caused by minor scrapes, cuts or from the rubbing of shoes that don’t fit properly. It’s important to treat these as soon as you notice them.

Why are people with diabetes at higher risk of foot wounds and wounds that don’t heal?

Most often, people with diabetes are at an increased risk because many suffer from a condition called diabetic peripheral neuropathy. This is when you lose sensation in your feet because of extended periods of elevated blood sugars.

When this happens, you may step on something sharp or on a hot stretch of concrete, or have a rock in your shoe – it could even just be a high pressure point in your shoe. But you won’t notice these things because you can’t feel them. So you’ll continue to walk until the area breaks down and becomes an open sore, or ulcer.

And to make matters worse, having elevated blood sugar levels impede healing. So, it’s an added layer of complication, and that’s why it’s so important to stay on top of foot wounds if you have diabetes.

What are some common myths about wounds and healing?

MYTH #1. Use alcohol or hydrogen peroxide.
While these are good first aid tools for one-time use to disinfect a wound on a skinned knee, they don’t help with long-term wound care or wound healing. In fact, prolonged use of either of these is actually cytotoxic, meaning it kills both unhealthy cells and healthy cells, and slows wound healing.

MYTH #2: Soak a wound.
Soaking an open wound predisposes it to bacteria. On the other hand, showering is great for wounds; it rinses bacteria off and makes it tough for bacteria to stick to the wound.

MYTH #3: Wounds need air to heal.
I think we’ve been told this from our grandparents for generations! What studies actually show is that a moist wound will heal up to five times faster than a dry wound. To provide moisture apply a topical medication then keep it covered with a Band Aid or dressing 24 hours a day.

MYTH #4: Foot wounds need an antibiotic.
The Infectious Disease Society of America recommends that if there is no infection, we don’t need to treat it with antibiotics. Patients with diabetes are already at increased risk of developing antibiotic resistance. So, we only use them if the wound becomes infected.

What about socks and footwear?

If you have a wound on your foot, it is best not to wear shoes. For the wound to heal, you’ll need to remove any pressure to the wound. This may mean using crutches, a wheel chair or a walking boot for a bit. Once healed, it’s critical to be very careful with the shoes and inserts you wear, so there aren’t any pressure areas that may cause the wound to return.

With socks, you should avoid those with seams, because they can rub on your feet or toes and cause issues, too. Your socks also should be made with a breathable fabric that won’t cause excess sweating.

Is it important to examine my feet, and if so how often should I do this?

The American Diabetic Association recommends people with diabetes have their feet checked at least annually by a doctor. If you have diabetic neuropathy, you should check your feet daily.

What are some tips for checking my feet?

It can be hard to see the bottom of our feet, and if you have neuropathy it’s especially difficult to know if anything is wrong because you don’t have feeling in your feet. Here are a couple of ways to check your feet:

  1. Apply lotion to your feet after bathing or showering. When you run your hands over your feet, you can feel with your hands if there is something new happening with your feet.
  2. Take a handheld mirror (like you use when you’re checking the back of your hair) and set it on the floor in your bathroom or bedroom. Then hold up your foot so that you can see it in the mirror. This way you can see the bottom of your foot and look for problem areas.

If you see or feel something abnormal with your feet—whether it’s a blister, a cut, a wound or bleeding—call your doctor as soon as possible. This is especially true for those with diabetes and neuropathy.

Jeffrey Wienke, DPM

Jeffrey Wienke, DPM

Bryan Health Logo

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Should We Play Sports During COVID-19?

Should We Play Sports During COVID-19?

My grandson plays baseball. I think he’s very talented, but I’m the grandma and am always partial. Last spring, schools and all sporting activities were canceled. It was a necessary and wise decision, and we never second guessed it. He never complained.

Attending my Grandson’s Baseball Games

I love watching baseball, even though I only watch games when my grandson plays. Maybe I should say that I love watching him play. I also need to clarify there are times when my grandson has played baseball when it was difficult for me to watch. This feeling has nothing to do with whether or not he played. It has nothing to do with whether his team won or lost.

It does, however, have everything to do with the outdoor temperature and conditions. Did you know the baseball season begins in March in Nebraska when outdoor temperatures can be very cold? It was the norm for me to wear my winter coat, stocking cap, gloves and boots to watch one of his baseball games, and I always brought along a blanket. After sitting still for two hours, your feet go numb but the blanket provides some relief. The good news was the season moves quickly, and soon you were in T-shirts and shorts. Gotta love Nebraska weather!

Changes to the Baseball Season

This summer, my grandson had committed to playing on a select team, which started mid July. The coaches made many adjustments to comply with the guidelines. They followed a short two-week schedule with limited travel, and they only played one team, repeatedly. It appeared they had thought through the whole process carefully.

Our Return to the Stadium

Even so, the first game we attended was weird. During COVID-19, we’ve tried to self isolate as much as possible. I’ve only been outside for walks, and I’ve gone to the grocery and drug stores. So when we walked into the stadium with our masks on, it was thrilling. I felt like I was a kid in a candy store for the very first time. I looked around and realized I really was outside and in a new environment. It truly was amazing. We found seats away from others in order to physically distance ourselves. The ballpark was helpful by closing off every other row in the stands.

However, not all fans were wearing masks. We were outside so I did not give my usual scowl, but I kept my distance from them. I quickly noticed the players didn’t wear masks. WHAT??!! Grandma antenna went up! I immediately wanted to run a mask to the dugout but knew better.

The game seemed normal. Sometimes a player hit the ball, ran the bases, scored and made outs.

My Take on the Situation

I was outside and it felt good, but I found I was very distracted. That’s nothing new, but I would see someone in the stands who wasn’t socially distancing and stare. Everything seemed to be a distraction. Hearing kids laugh, watching them run up and down the stadium steps, watching them eat, watching them run after the foul balls was fun.

The highlight was watching and cheering for my grandson when he threw the ball for an out and got three hits. I yelled and it felt wonderful. I hadn’t yelled for months, except indoors at my husband. I cheered and I clapped more than I had in the past five months. It felt great. I also realized once I started clapping, I did not want to stop. All the fans around me stopped clapping and I wanted to continue. It felt good; it was a release.

Playing and Celebrating Sports Safely

After the game, there were lots of cheers because of our 11-4 win! We greeted and celebrated your grandson as he walked toward his family. We wanted to give him a big hug, but knowing he came from a group of young men who were not socially distancing, we knew it wasn’t a smart idea. But a virtual hug is warranted. Virtual hugs suck, but are better than nothing!

Even during COVID-19, I still love baseball. I had never viewed it as a release for Grandma, but more of an opportunity to watch my grandson. I have a brand new appreciation for the sport and its ability to relieve my stress. So I say, PLAY BALL, as long as you follow the CDC guidelines and no one gets the virus!

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.

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Back to School…I Hope

Back to School…I Hope

In the next few weeks before school starts, people will decide what’s best for their family – whether that’s home schooling, distance learning or going back to in-person learning. This is a hot topic that hits every parent hard, and there are lots of opinions and emotions involved.

Before you talk to your friend, your neighbor, your sibling or your coworker who has made a different choice, I suggest you check your tone. And if you don’t have anything nice to say during this uncertain time, just don’t say anything.

Concerns About the 2020-2021 School Year

I didn’t like any of the options in the survey for Lincoln Public Schools regarding the upcoming 2020-2021 school session. My husband and I have full-time jobs, normally in an office, and can’t stay home some mornings, afternoons and every other week to help with distance learning. Nor do I feel that my children benefited from virtual learning. I know LPS will have a solid plan in place that will address everyone’s issues. Most of my concerns were addressed when I watched the public forums and after I read the notes from the board meetings.

I reached out to my son’s previous teacher, and she is excited to get back. Yes, there are more requirements to stay safe, but she is willing to do whatever it takes to give my children the best “normal” routine through all of this.

But if I’m being completely honest, none of the changes from the schools make me feel completely confident that my child will be safe from contracting COVID-19. I’m well aware of my kids’ hygiene habits and other kids’ hygiene habits in general, so even with the extra precautions in place, I’m not sure how effective the changes will be.

Why I Want the Kids Back at School

However, the longer we remain in quarantine, the longer my husband and I realize that this is a pretty indefinite situation until some medical solutions are found. And our child’s mental well-being could not wait the one, two or three years it would take to find those solutions.

We had some conversations and agreed it’s in everyone’s best interest to hopefully send the kids back to school full time, if available. This was decided based on what we know about the status and future of the virus and what we know about our children, plus the fact that I was drowning trying to keep up with professional work, housework, teaching and mommying.

All summer long, we crossed our fingers and toes that school would be open without varying times or days. My son, who will be in 4th grade, is very excited to return to school. Hopefully, it will be full time. Otherwise, I am not sure what we will do for daycare or how we will get virtual classes scheduled. If they go back to school full time, I’ll be able to concentrate on my job and give it my full attention during the day, and then focus on the kids in the evenings.

Making the Best Decision for Your Family

I know that this decision doesn’t have to be permanent. Just like with all of our parenting decisions, we’re constantly evaluating how they are working for our family and ready to make the necessary changes if this plan stops working for us. So if I feel like it’s no longer safe for them to go to school because of COVID-19, I will keep them home, but for now, sending them back is our plan.

I know our decision will have some negative responses from family or friends, which seem to be driven by worries about the infection risk. Many people are highly doubtful that children can prevent sharing bugs and carrying them out into the community, and lots of people have picked up on teachers’ concerns about whether schools have had enough time to prepare a safe environment.

It seems likely that people’s responses are driven by understandable fear and uncertainty, but if you’re a parent run ragged by nine weeks of homeschooling while attempting to hold down a job, other people’s judgement is likely to be the last thing you need. So check your tone before you comment on other people’s situations.

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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5 Ways to Keep Cool & Safe When Exercising Outside

5 Ways to Keep Cool & Safe When Exercising Outside

It’s hot out there, but summer weather shouldn’t stop you from exercising, gardening or enjoying other activities outside – in fact, getting out in nature helps with stress levels! But it’s important to be prepared and proactive to avoid heat-related problems.

The more physically fit you are, the better you’ll be able to adapt. If you have medical conditions, please check with your health care provider before you begin exercising in the heat. Then, use these guidelines to help ensure that when you do go out, you’re being smart and safe.

Hot Weather Guidelines

Take It Easy at First

If you’re used to working out at the gym or are not used to hot temps, decrease your usual intensity, frequency and/or duration to allow yourself to acclimate. Monitor your heart rate and your feeling of exertion. For example, if you normally walk for 60 minutes, start with 30 minutes, at a slower pace than you’re used to. It can take up to two weeks of repeated activity in the heat to acclimate.

I know, it’s hard! I have known many athletes over the years and even those who are quite fit are surprised at what heat will do to a workout! Be aware of the “feels like” temperature as opposed to the actual temperature; humidity levels also make a difference.

Drink Plenty of Fluids, Preferably Water

At a minimum, drink 12 ounces before exercise, 12 ounces every 30 minutes during exercise, and 12-16 ounces after exercise. Drink more if you feel that you have lost a lot of fluid due to sweating during your exercise. It’s also helpful to monitor your urine output. If it’s dark yellow and/or low in volume you need to rehydrate.

But Don’t Drink Too Much!

Drinking too much water, called over-hydration, can lead to low blood sodium. To stay hydrated but not overly so, here is a general rule: Drink before, during and after exercise and other physical activities. At other times of the day, drink when thirsty.

Wear Loose, Light Clothing in Fabrics That Evaporate and Wick Sweat Away

Try clothes such as DryMax, CoolMax and others. Avoid dark colors, because they absorb heat (darker colors also attract mosquitoes). Wear a light-colored hat to help limit direct sun exposure.

Use Sunscreen, and Try To Reapply at Two-Hour Intervals Even if the Labels Have Sweatproof and Waterproof Claims

Sunburn increases the risk of premature skin aging and skin cancer. Another good way to decrease sun exposure is to a wear wide-brimmed hat, avoid the midday sun and heat (10 a.m.-2 p.m.), rise early, or make sure your route/trail for exercise is shaded. Or, consider a swim!

What If You Start to Feel Sick?

Pay attention to the heat. Listen to your body. If you start to feel faint and/or sick, stop immediately. Sit down in the shade and drink water. If possible, it’s also a good idea to have a healthy, hydrating snack, such as fruit. Energy bars or crackers are not ideal as they slow hydration.

Here are some of the most common heat-related illnesses and how to handle them:

Cramps

If you get heat cramps, usually occurring in your legs, stop the activity, move to a cool spot, place a chilled cloth around your neck, and sip water or a sports drink – water is usually better. Since sweat helps your body cool itself, if possible sit in a breeze or in front of a fan.

Heat Exhaustion

Signs include heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness, nausea, a fast and weak pulse and possibly fainting. Seek medical help if symptoms are extreme or if they last longer than an hour.

Heat Stroke

This is the most serious, potentially fatal, heat-related condition. Symptoms include high body temperature (104 F or higher), absence of sweating with hot, flushed or red/dry skin, rapid pulse, difficulty breathing, hallucinations, confusion, agitation, seizure, coma, and if untreated, death.

Sometimes these things come on quickly with little warning. If you suspect that you or others are suffering heat stroke, call 911 immediately. If possible, move to a shady area, drink and spray cool water on the person, avoid alcohol or caffeine (in tea and soft drinks), apply ice packs under the armpits and groin, and fan until help arrives.

Any Amount of Exercise You Get Has Health Benefits

Having said all of this, always remember that even a 20-minute workout has positive health benefits! Don’t sweat it (no pun intended!) when the weather is not giving you your best day out. It’s the number of days you exercise that matters most, not the length of time of any given exercise session.

Cindy Kugler, MS, Bryan LifePointe

Cindy Kugler, MS, Bryan LifePointe

Cindy is a certified exercise physiologist and certified strength and conditioning coach.

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Renovations 17 Years in the Making

Renovations 17 Years in the Making

My husband had to talk me into purchasing our home 17 years ago because I didn’t want to have to do any remodeling. All I could see was update after update that would need to be completed. However, I really wanted to live in a house rather than an apartment, so I began to imagine what our home could look like after these updates. The good news was my husband taught industrial technology, had a construction job in high school and had the tools to make these imaginary images in my mind come true.

Renovation Prep May Not Involve Everyone

My husband tells me I’m unrealistic when it comes to home renovation ideas. He tells me to quit watching the home improvement shows. He often reminds me to quit looking through Pinterest for ideas. For 17 years, I’ve wanted to renovate our kitchen. Actually, I only want to demo a wall and replace it. The wall only houses the oven and stove top, so it’s not too big of a deal. I not-so-patiently wait for the day we decide to tackle the yellow and brown kitchen wall. But during the meantime, my husband has tackled many projects on the infamous “honey-do renovation spreadsheet.”

We’ve held onto the old wood for seven years in hopes of creating a shiplap wall in our kitchen. Two weeks ago, my husband started refurbishing the wood. My excitement was building. After much debating, planning and finding consecutive free days, we started the demo of the kitchen wall. But when I say “we,” I actually mean my husband. I quickly learned in the first hour of prepping that this was not going to be a task that involved both of us.

Putting His Skills to the Test

Two not-so-brilliant suggestions and a handful of tears later, I was off to wash and fold laundry. I left the renovation to my husband. This I know to be true about my husband: he does not like doing any home renovations because of my unrealistic timeline expectations. Still, I found myself standing outside of the plastic watching my husband as he demolished the wall and strategically planned how to rebuild it.

And, no matter how frustrated I was, I could not help but be amazed as I watched my husband in his element. He meticulously cut the drywall to save the adjacent walls. He was careful to collect all of the nails, so they would not be left on the floor. He intensely studied the measurements to ensure my ideas would work. And he even prepared me for a longer renovation timeline due to unforeseen issues.

17 Years of Waiting Will Be Worth It

There are days I struggle with patience because I’ve waited years for this one renovation project to start. I will definitely have to adjust my expectations of how fast this project will take to complete. However, as I continue to wait for the moment my husband will holler to help make a decision or to sweep the floor, I realize I’m lucky that my husband has pretty amazing craftsmanship.

We’ll have to live in chaos longer than I would like, and we’ll have to make meals without our oven or stove for the next month. We’ll have more renovation frustration ahead of us, yet at the end of it, our home will have another project completed by my husband’s hands.

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.

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Talking to Kids About Divorce

Talking to Kids About Divorce

Di-vorce – the legal dissolution of a marriage by a court or other competent body.

But what does that mean to a child?

I’d like to start off by saying my husband and I are not getting a divorce! I repeat, Mitch and I just celebrated our 10-year anniversary, and we are NOT getting a divorce.

However, the topic of divorce recently came up in our household, and both of our children were made aware of what the term divorce meant and why we were talking about it.

Tell Them What Divorce Is

While every family has to do what’s right for them (and for their kids) in approaching this topic, we had it a little easier since we weren’t talking about us. But no matter the situation, our priorities were to make sure our kids understood what divorce is, let them ask any questions and reiterate the importance of family.

We wanted to tell our children together, even though they’re at different ages. We felt that they could gain support from each other, which they did— more so my daughter looked up to her brother for understanding. And by doing so, no one felt excluded or that there were secrets because everyone heard the same thing.

Don’t Try to Avoid What’s Happening

Before I get to individual advice points, there was a piece of advice we got that calmed my nerves a great deal. The actual “telling” of the situation to the kids was important, but how we acted moving forward was bigger. At the end of the day, words are words, and they never speak as loudly as actions. We wanted to let them know that we’re still one big family, but things were going to look a little differently for holidays, birthdays and special family occasions.

There were two initial things we explained to our children: who was getting the divorce and the reasons why. The reasons why sounded a bit blunt, but we wanted to be honest. The explanation for it was as accurate as possible without confusing them or being too detailed.

Embrace Their Questions

When we told the children about the split, it led to many more questions. The questions were very practical. They wanted to know things like: Where will each of them be living? Will they still see them? Can they still talk to them? Will they still get presents from them on birthdays and Christmas?

It also provoked some insecurities from them about mommy and daddy’s relationship. Will you and dad split up? If you fight or disagree, is that the start of you both separating too? This led to more conversations about relationships, conflict, resolving conflict, love, marriage, and other issues they wondered about. But in the end, this discussion made us closer as a family.

Whatever you decide to tell your children initially, my guess is that the majority of your discussions with them will be about your own family. We made sure to reassure them that mommy and daddy have a secure and stable relationship and that no matter what, everyone is here for them! Again, making them realize the importance of family does not diminish after a divorce. Our family is strong, and our extended family is still strong—and we are committed to helping them maintain those ties.

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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