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:


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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ATVs – Before You Ride, Make Sure You Have Safety on Your Side

ATVs – Before You Ride, Make Sure You Have Safety on Your Side

Summer and the sun is finally here. Many are taking this opportunity to get outside and enjoy outdoor activities. One activity that is growing in popularity is the use of All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs).

It has become very popular with agriculture, farming and recreational activities, and sure can be fun and enjoyable going on a relaxing ride.

However, many do not realize the dangers of this high-risk activity. In my role working to prevent injuries, I am passionate about getting the word out on how important it is take safety into account when you’re out having fun on an ATV. Last year, Bryan Trauma treated nearly 55 people who had life-threatening ATV-related injuries. And, in the first five months of 2020 we’ve already cared for 32 patients with life-threatening injuries due to ATVs.

We want you to have all the fun, and none of the injuries. Here are some tips to keep you and others safe when you’re out on an ATV.

ATV Do’s and Don’ts


  • Ride an ATV that’s right for your age – this is especially important for youth.
  • Wear a DOT-compliant helmet, goggles, long sleeves, long pants, over-the-ankle boots and gloves.
  • Ride only on designated trails and at a safe speed.
  • Scan the path ahead and identify potential hazards such as rocks, stumps, low or fallen branches, fences, guy wires, and rough or unstable path surfaces.
  • Be careful when driving with added ATV attachments. These affect the machine’s stability, braking and operation.
  • Tell someone where you are going and when you will return.


  • Allow children to operate ATVs without training.
  • Operate the ATV on streets, highways or paved roads, except to cross at safe, designated intersections.
  • Ride under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
  • Carry passengers.
  • Operate an ATV at excessive speeds. Go at speeds right for the terrain, visibility conditions and your experience level.

UNL Videos to Help You Prepare

To help prepare yourself and those you care about for safe ATV outings, the UNL Nebraska Extension Office offers free educational videos developed for the Bryan Trauma Center. We encourage you to take advantage of this to learn more.

Other ATV Resources for You

Want to learn more? Check out this free ATV online safety course.

The ATV Safety Institute (ASI) offers three e-learning courses to address basic ATV safety for:

  • Adults and teens
  • Youngsters
  • Adults who will be helping youngsters on ATVs

The courses includes videos, pictures and interactive lessons to make them fun and effective learning experiences. After completing a course, you can receive a certificate of completion.

Interested in Nebraska laws for ATVs? Get that information now.

Have Fun and Be Safe!

I hope you’ll take advantage of this information to enjoy outings on ATVs. We all know how much fun this can be, and while the Bryan Trauma Center offers expert treatment, we don’t want you to be sidelined from the fun while you recover from an injury.

Joni Folkerts RN, MSN

Joni Folkerts RN, MSN

Trauma Outreach & Injury Prevention Coordinator

Joni Folkerts, RN, MSN, is the trauma outreach & injury prevention coordinator the Bryan Trauma Center.

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Celebrating COVIDuation 2020

Celebrating COVIDuation 2020

How do you celebrate graduation in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic? You find a way to come together with love, laughter and flexibility. No matter the state of the world, this motto has been with me since the mid 1980s when I was teaching and started taking part in high school graduation ceremonies.

It was always important for me to reassure the graduates it was truly their day and to enjoy it. But I would also add that graduation was perhaps more important for their families. My intent being, “please don’t display any behavior that would embarrass your mother!” One of the more memorable graduations was when seniors handed me a marble during our handshake. It certainly tested my flexibility, literally and figuratively.

Organizing Our Own Graduation

I have two grandchildren graduating this year. Our entire family has supported the CDC guidelines with social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands and we were supportive of Lincoln Public Schools canceling graduation ceremonies. It was always a challenge trying to organize 600+ graduates in a normal year, let alone in a year of a pandemic.

I’ve seen news stories of several high schools having creative graduation ceremonies in a race car stadium or on their football field. Our family decided to get creative too. Each grandchild and their family decided to do something special to recognize their unique graduation day. We were fortunate to be included.

Our granddaughter decided she wanted something simple. She and her mother called to let us know they would stop over, so I could see the graduate in her cap and gown. I thought it was a sweet gesture and appreciated her including us.

As a surprise, I decided to wear my doctorate cap and gown, which I would wear for graduation ceremonies before I retired. I quickly made a sign and a pretend diploma, and we were ready for their arrival. We topped off the day with a social distance supper for five at their home. It was a perfect graduation and party.

woman wearing graduation cap and gown with cloth mask

Our grandson was also scheduled to graduate in May. He wasn’t as excited to make plans, so his mom took over. His mom had seen pictures of our granddaughter’s earlier graduation and liked the cap and gown idea. I agreed to participate in the graduation, but we agreed to not tell my grandson the plan. We didn’t want him to run away. Knowing I had more time to organize, I made a few adjustments.

Making the Day Our Own

First, I decided to prepare a short and sweet speech. Next, I enlisted the assistance of my husband to be the musician. What is a graduation without music, even if it’s just a kazoo? A diploma was made and we were ready to go to our grandson’s house.

As we drove, I kept thinking of other aspects I could quickly add to the ceremony. This was either going to turn out very well, or he was going to run away. Now, I knew he wasn’t going to run away, but I didn’t want to embarrass him so much he wouldn’t have a good laugh.

We walked into their home, and I told him to put on his cap and gown and I put on mine. He looked at me like I was crazy, yet he played along. My husband organized the four family members in the back yard where the ceremony would be held.

The graduate and I (as the principal) walked the processional to the kazoo sounds of “Pomp and Circumstance.” I gave a quick speech, handed him a pretend diploma, and then we recessed to the school fight song and cheers of family members and the neighbors who were grilling out next door.

A Day They’ll Never Forget

I reminded both of our 2020 graduates that their graduation will be one they’ll never forget. It certainly will be a graduation I’ll never forget. I know there will eventually be a new normal and a new routine for almost everything, including graduations. Both our granddaughter’s and grandson’s graduations may be the new normal with plenty of love and laughter, and no marbles. It was perfect.

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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School’s Out, But the Learning Continues

School’s Out, But the Learning Continues

During my morning walk, I caught myself reminiscing about being in the school building with students and missing everything about it. Not only do I miss teaching, but my kids miss school, their friends and the activities. And, all I can do is plan for and hope that we will be back in school buildings this fall. Without thinking too far in advance, we must experience summer first.

Goodbye School, Hello Summer

The last two months of remote learning is complete, and summer has officially begun. Now our family must conquer summer with three things at the forefront: grace, patience and understanding.

Just the other day, I presented our children with a daily summer to-do list, or as our youngest put it, “a summer contract.” I needed a tremendous amount of grace and patience then, while our kids needed a gigantic dose of understanding. In those moments, each of us wanted to reply without listening or understanding.

At the start of every summer, we always have great intentions to focus on learning something new and traveling, but this summer will end up being different. We do not have any specific plans for the summer, so my husband and I want to spend summer days being more intentional about mental wellness, physical wellness and teaching our kids about our passions.

Finding Our Passions

This summer, my hope is that we are intentional in spending more time as a family and understanding what each of us is truly passionate about. For example, our son is passionate about golf. Our family spends time with him on the golf course encouraging him, yet also trying to learn the sport.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, my husband is passionate about photography and wants to teach our kids about pinhole photography. I would like to stretch our kids’ skills in creative writing or podcasting. Once the kids determine their topics, we will jump into the creative process.

Remembering to Set Boundaries

Even more important than learning, we are going to be diligent in supporting mental wellness through physical wellness. We are encouraging a daily running, strength training and yoga. Going beyond the physical wellness, we need to continue to set healthy boundaries with social media.

As our kids will say, we are the only parents in the world that set time limits to encourage unplugging and stepping away from technology. I believe focusing on these areas will continue to foster healthy relationships with our children as we enter a new phase in our household with a college student, a freshman in high school and a sixth grader. This will definitely take grace and patience from all of our family, but this is part of growing and developing these characteristics before they leave our home for the next stage of life.

Our middle daughter put it the best, “Why is it that my parents who are teachers still make us learn throughout the summer?” We encourage our family to spend the summer together, so we all have a deeper understanding of each other’s passions and enhance our patience and grace with each other. School’s out, but our family will continue learning.

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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Celebrating During a Pandemic

Celebrating During a Pandemic

Here’s a confession: I realize now that when this pandemic started, I was trying to be as optimistic as possible.

Working in the news business, I just thought it was the news story of the day, and we’d all move on the next day. But then events started to get canceled and businesses started to close.

I told myself that it was OK to spend a couple weeks at home because after this, we’d be able to go back to our normal lives. But a couple weeks turned into much longer.

At first it was, “Well, I guess we’ll postpone my daughter’s 6th birthday party. But we’ll still celebrate!”

Then, “Well, at least my son’s birthday in May will still happen.”

And, “Well, our 10-year wedding anniversary is in June; we’ll still get to go on our planned vacation for sure.”

And finally, “Jeez. At least we’ll have the family vacation that’s planned in August.”

It’s safe to say we’re experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions due to the pandemic caused by COVID-19.

Every Day Brings New Emotions

Some days are bad, while other days are meh. But once in a blue moon, there’s an elusive good day that sneaks up and shakes up our pandemic routines…and it can feel weird to experience.

When a lot is uncertain and the world is struggling, having a good day or a celebration felt wrong, or even caused some guilt. But I realized it’s important to give yourself permission to savor those moments of joy, even in the face of a pandemic. In fact, it’s important to find joy during times like these.

We’re dealing with canceled birthdays, anniversaries and other celebrations, and we continue to stay inside and practice social distancing. That doesn’t mean we still can’t celebrate; we just need to be a little more creative.

Celebrating Our Way

On the day of my daughter’s birthday party, my husband and I hung up streamers and draped a banner with a glittery “six” across the living room window. I woke up early to get her favorite donuts and then we decorated her cake and wrapped presents.

Everything was going according to the plan I had drawn up months earlier, except at 1 p.m., the doorbell wouldn’t ring and guests wouldn’t pour into our house for a birthday party.

Instead, I made sure to set the laptop on the dining room table and email a Zoom link to friends and family, so they could sing “happy birthday” virtually.

Despite the fact that there’s a pandemic, I’m a firm believer that celebrations—birthdays, holidays, anniversaries— still matter even if we have to celebrate a little differently!

Make the Most of Each Day

It’s okay to smile, laugh and celebrate during these times. In the midst of quarantine, love is stronger than ever and we need to continue to feel that kind of love and laughter.

Whether your good day is determined by crossing that one thing off your to-do list or just by being kind to yourself, it’s important to remember that what a “good day” looks like for you might be different than how it looks for someone else, and that’s OK.

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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Your Ankle Pain: Could It Be Arthritis?

Your Ankle Pain: Could It Be Arthritis?

How many times have you stepped off the curb or out of your car the wrong way, and twisted your ankle? Probably more than you’d like to admit! Ankle injuries are pretty common. It’s easy to make a misstep and give yourself a strain or sprain. But as an ankle surgeon, many of my patients are surprised when they learn that arthritis can also be the source of their ankle pain.

So What Causes Arthritis in Our Ankles?

The most common form of ankle arthritis is actually caused by a previous trauma or injury. Perhaps you were in a car accident, or had a sports injury and had surgery for it. Then this injury, in a way “re-awakens.” This is different than when you get arthritis in your hip or knee, as these cases are usually caused by overuse or general wear and tear over time. With trauma, we can see deformities of the ankle caused by the injury.

Symptoms of Ankle Arthritis

There are several grades of arthritis, and your symptoms and treatment largely depend on these.

Grade 1

This is a very mild form of arthritis. You may only feel pain when you exercise or perform certain work duties or chores. Your pain might be in a specific area of your ankle joint. Pain will come and go; you’ll have good days and bad days.

Grade 2

This is a more moderate form where a significant portion of your cartilage may be lost. You’ll have more pain, and more limited range of motion and function. You might feel the changes in weather because your ankle might swell and be painful.

Grade 3

This is what we often consider end-stage arthritis, where we see bone-on-bone in the joint. This means the two bones now grind together because there is no cartilage to provide a nice gliding surface and lubricating joint fluid. Think of an engine trying to run without motor oil. This friction causes inflammation, and the ankle further deteriorates and starts to deform. When you reach this stage, ligaments and tendons can become compromised as your ankles are now weakened and unstable. At this stage, your pain is persistent.

Treatments for Aching Ankles

For those with milder symptoms, there are several things we recommend. Anti-inflammatory medications, using a brace or wrap, and shoe modifications such as orthotics are great first steps. As podiatrists we may recommend specific types of rocker bottom shoes or modifying certain activities. We also prescribe physical therapy to strengthen muscles around the ankle. There are also some injections that may help.

Some patients benefit from minor arthroscopic procedures that enable us to go in and clean up scar tissue or remove bone or cartilage fragments that may be the cause of pain. These are the types of treatments we consider for those with both grades 1 and 2. Again, frequency and intensity of these treatments depend on the each person’s case. If you’re at grade 3, surgery may benefit you. Two types of surgery are ankle replacement and ankle fusion.

Who Needs Surgery and What Kind of Surgery?

Ankle fusion

This is the tried and true method of treating end-stage ankle arthritis. It’s been described in the medical literature since the 1850s believe it or not! This is where arthritic bone is removed, the joints are “welded” shut, and held in place at a 90 degree angle with plates and screws. This eliminates grinding and eases inflammation and pain. It does a great job of relieving pain, but the ankle does become quite stiff. This is good for those who perform high-impact activities or whose job entails heavy labor, because it’s sturdier than ankle replacement.

Ankle replacement

With ankle replacement, we take out the arthritic joint and replace it with two metal surfaces with a plastic liner in the middle. This allows patients to have some flexibility and range of motion. The goal is to ease or eliminate pain while preserving range of motion as much as possible. You will have a more normal walk compared to joint fusion, but not as complete as before surgery. This is a great option if you prefer low-impact activities, such as walking, playing golf, swimming, etc. It’s also a very good option if you are in your 50s or older.

What to Expect After Ankle Replacement Surgery

After your ankle replacement surgery, you probably won’t do any weight bearing activities for 2-6 weeks. This timeframe really depends on your surgeon and your situation. When your surgeon thinks it’s appropriate, you’ll ease into exercises for range of motion, strength and balance. After that, you can expect several months of physical therapy. You’ll likely stay in touch with your surgeon periodically for months or even years to ensure your joint is still in its proper place and your pain is still relieved.

In the final analysis, we want to make sure that you get the right treatment for your lifestyle and life stage so that you can live as pain-free as possible.

Dr. Eric So

Dr. Eric So


Dr. Eric So, DPM, is a fellowship-trained foot and ankle surgeon with Capital Foot and Ankle, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

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Can’t Tap My Way Out of This

Can’t Tap My Way Out of This

The world feels like it has stood still. Am I in Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day asking the questions, What day is it? What time is it? What’s to eat? Do I shower today or is that tomorrow?

As I’m sitting down to write my May blog, I’m trying to remember what I wrote about for April’s post. I have no clue. I worry if I’ll be writing the same exact words. Then I remembered I can reread April’s blog. Duh!

So much has changed in one month. Every time I leave our house, I wear a face mask. I wash my hands so much my fingers are wrinkly. OK, they were wrinkly before, but they are really wrinkly now. My hair color makes me look like a skunk with a big white streak running down my scalp. My fingernails are a mess. What I’ve realized is that this is the new normal.

Trying to Meet Goals

One of my goals last month was to Zoom with the grandkids once a week. We’ve only chatted on Zoom twice. The first time, it was just to connect together and it was perfect. The second time was when we all decorated Easter cookies.

It’s no one’s fault this hasn’t worked out more often. There seems to be virtual school still going on. Also, all of the grandkids work and their schedules frequently conflict. My only schedule is getting to bed at my normal time, which is sometimes when they’re just getting home from work. In spite of missing the mark with this goal, I continue my quest to touch base with them once a day.

The adjusted goal for this grandma is to learn something new each week. I give my grandkids the opportunity to suggest what the goal is, but I get to make the final decision. They don’t always know my physical limitations or my physical abilities. Heck, I may or may not know my own abilities or limitations.

Setting New Goals

This past week, I was challenged to tap dance. Our daughters took lessons, and the three granddaughters took lessons. I always loved the sounds, the rhythm, and of course, the recital costumes. I tap danced 65 years ago, so I knew it would come back to me quickly. I think they call it muscle memory. I decided to take tap dancing on as a goal.

The grandkids chuckled and were excited to see what I could accomplish. Actually, I don’t think that statement is true. That’s what they lead me to believe.

I quickly found a YouTube tap dance lesson online. I couldn’t find a lesson that was very long and involved, which was a blessing to me! You have to pay for those lessons. Here I go. Front toe taps, side toe taps, heel taps, ball change. These were all steps I recalled from my own lessons many years ago. What could go wrong other than the grandkids nagging me for my video?

Tapping My Way Through It

I danced in my Mary Jane shoes with a 1.5-inch heel as running shoes would not have been appropriate. Toe taps went well. Heel taps were good. Putting them together with a shuffle was not as good. It’s called balance.

What the heck was I thinking when I decided to wear heeled shoes when I haven’t worn anything but running shoes since the beginning of March? Yes, the balance was a bit off, and the video I made showed a tad bit of hesitation, but I did it and I’ll continue to shuffle ball changing once a week.

My tap dancing may bring humorous relief and take my grandkids’ minds off COVID-19 for a couple of minutes, but it won’t tap our way out of the pandemic. As long as the tap dancing video brings a smile to their faces, I’ve achieved my goal.

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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Being Proud of How We Handle This Time

Being Proud of How We Handle This Time

Here we are weeks and weeks without walking into a school and seeing our secretaries’ smiles, without seeing my colleagues, without a school activity, five weeks without seeing students in the hallways. There are many unknowns: when will we be able to go to church or a restaurant? When can I give a hug to a non-family member? What will the hallways of our school building look like when we can actually go back to school?

Unknowns Continue to Mount

As unknowns continue, my husband and I have challenged ourselves to make sure our daughter feels special and still experiences the last few pages of her high school chapter. All of the prom plans, graduation plans and end of the semester plans we had been preparing for our senior daughter have all changed or are non-existent. Yet, we still planned a prom where she could pose for pictures, dance, sing and just enjoy the evening. When she decided which college to attend, we set up a signing day in our kitchen. We celebrated our girls’ birthdays with two birthday cakes, which for 14 years has only been one cake dedicated to both girls.

The driving force behind making sure our kids—especially our senior—have a memorable quarantine time has been these heart-to-heart questions: “When I look back on this time, what did I do? Would I be proud of how I spent this time?”

Recognizing a Need to Be Happier

After the first week of being home, I soon realized how much time we now had on our hands. There were a few days I was not necessarily the best version of myself when the stress and fear of the unknown got to me. I quickly realized the importance of finding the positives in each day.

I started asking myself, Am I proud of how I’m spending this time? and made steps to improve. We all know our weaknesses, and mine is definitely cooking. So I decided to open up a recipe book and starting making new and old recipes. The time I now spend in the kitchen lends itself to hours of conversations at the supper table. Prior to this time, a family supper for 20 minutes one night a week was normal; now, suppers together every night of the week is something we all look forward to.

What Am I Proud Of?

Am I proud of our family time? I am also taking time each day to spend individually with my three kids. From golfing with our son, to biking or playing catch with our daughters, I value this time immensely. My husband is finding the time to teach the kids how to build shelves and teach the entire family about pinhole photography.

Am I proud of my individual growth? Beyond all of the family time, I also enrolled in a writing class to develop confidence in my writing skills. This class provides me with a dedicated time and space each day to not only write, but also to reflect, unplug, and meditate.

The unknowns about this time are substantial, and it’s hard to think about all of the things we are missing. However, I want to focus on the family time and appreciate the special moments we create for our family. So, the question becomes, “When you look back on this time, will you be proud?” I definitely am.

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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