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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Living Through COVID-19 Together

Living Through COVID-19 Together

Yesterday was hard. Actually, the last few weeks have been hard. I, like most women, feel like I am failing—as a wife, employee, teacher and most importantly, as a mother. My stress levels and anxiety are through the roof, and I just feel sad. Sad for my kids who don’t get to finish the school year with their friends and teachers. Sad for my son who doesn’t get to play soccer this spring. And sad for both of my kids whose birthdays will be spent in quarantine.

Recognizing Our Situation

I know that I have it better than so many others and shouldn’t feel this way. This gives me an overwhelming sense of guilt. So many tears have been shed.

That said, while this situation is certainly unprecedented and stressful for all, I recognize that in my case, my family comes at it from a point of privilege. Right now, our jobs are secure. We have health insurance and the internet and a fridge full of food. We are currently healthy and crossing our fingers we all stay that way. So while adjusting to working from home while simultaneously becoming teachers for our kids has been incredibly tricky, we know there are many, many people out there dealing with much worse. So I definitely don’t have all the answers. But here is what we’ve learned so far…

Managing Schedules Is Different

First, we are taking all of this one day at a time. My husband and I check in each night, lay out our work schedules for the following day, and come up with a plan of attack. Sometimes, it works; sometimes, it doesn’t. But we have simply agreed to do our best and adjust as we can. However, I am a planner. I like structure, and none of this has been on my calendar. So, as much as my calendar is empty, I am now entering work zoom meetings, school zoom meetings, zoom workouts and scheduling zoom playdates.

As far as the kids’ education, as soon as schools started to close, social media blew up with advice from parents and teachers everywhere about structure and schedules and how to keep your kids on track. It was, in a word, overwhelming. I am a lot of things, but cut out to be a grade-school teacher? Nope. Going from kindergarten math to third grade math was mind-numbing. Also, how do you create structure at home while both parents are attempting to work full-time just a few feet away? With some serious flexibility, that’s how.

So while we do have a school schedule for the kids and tag-team supervision, we are also letting them sleep in, stay in their pajamas, and stay up later than usual. We are also relying heavily on technology. Yes, we have Chromebooks, but sometimes, science class is a video. And some days, we just throw up our hands and let them play Nintendo all day.

Managing Our Lives is Just as Important

We also recognized quickly that before our kids’ education and our busy jobs, we needed to take care of not just our physical health but our mental health. So we’ve been paying extra attention to our sleep and nutrition, practicing self-care and carving out time to exercise. We’ve also allowed each other “me” time, even if it’s just going for a drive alone.

Finally, we are doing our best to look at the positive and take the opportunity for family time. So while it is stressful, we are trying to incorporate as much fun as we can to create family memories. We are taking daily walks, playing Chutes and Ladders and Candy Land in the driveway with chalk, coloring together, having dance parties and introducing the kids to old Disney movies.

Along with the rest of the world, we just have to wait and see what happens. But we are remembering to breathe, to give ourselves some grace and to remember that our family is alright.

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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How My Grandkids & I Are Handling COVID-19

How My Grandkids & I Are Handling COVID-19

I always try to blog about what’s on my mind and how it connects me to my grandchildren. Last month, I was aware of COVID-19, but it hadn’t really affected my family or me. Although we currently don’t have any health-related problems, the virus seems to be impacting us on a daily basis.

Defining Moments in My Life

The pandemic has caused me to think about my past life-changing moments:

  • Nuclear bombs and our “duck and cover” under our desk practices
  • Landing on the moon
  • The Polio epidemic and vaccine
  • Assassination of JFK
  • Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., race marches, riots
  • Vietnam War and anti-war demonstrations
  • Women’s Movement and the burning of bras
  • Ebola, SARS, but I never thought about its personal impact on me

Defining Moments in My Grandkids’ Lives

Our grandkids’ life-changing moments prior to February 2020:

  • Getting a driver’s license
  • Going to college
  • School shootings and active shooter drills

Grandkids’ life-changing moments after February 2020:

  • Universities and public schools closed indefinitely, learning remotely
  • Sports schedules stopped
  • Knowledge of graduations which won’t be held
  • Uncertainty of summer jobs

Adapting to a New Way of Learning

All four of my grandkids are settling in with school work. I’m sure everyone of them is responding to the remote learning differently. One will work very hard on her assignments and complete them ahead of schedule and do more than required, hoping for extra credit. One will complete only the required work, hoping for the best. The other two will be somewhere in between, doing the work, getting it in on time, but not going above and beyond the requirements.

Now that I think about it, this is kind of how they work during the school year. I’ve decided not to ask how their school work is going, as I’m thinking their parents will put enough pressure on them already. They don’t need my inquiries. As a former educator, I’m anxious to know how this whole distance learning thing will work for the last quarter of the school year.

How I’m Handling the Pandemic

I’ve decided that my role during this pandemic is to stay healthy, find humor in the little things and connect with my grandkids at least once a day. One day, I sent them a joke about a guy who is paid to scoop up dog poop in the yard when he finally realized the homeowners didn’t have a dog. The grandkids thought it was pretty funny. Another day, I sent a picture of me doing the Jimmy Fallon Cowbell Challenge. They knew I played a cowbell at North Star High School, but couldn’t make the connection to Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper.”

I’ve sent them a picture of me trying to follow a YouTube video for beginning yoga. I think they were embarrassed for me trying to keep a downward dog pose. Finally, I’ve requested a Zoom session with the four of them once a week. It was good for me to see all of them last week, and they knew it meant a great deal to me. We’ve met once, and we’ll see if I am able to maintain my goal.

A lot of unknowns arise each and every day. I know that, and I’ll do the best to adjust to each one, even if one of the new things is learning new technology. I want to treat my book club to Zooming. Just when I thought I was done learning, I find myself needing more information to keep up with my grandkids.

The most important thing right now is to keep my grandkids safe and healthy. I know it’s really up to them and their parents, but I’ll do my part by trying to keep them smiling and smiling and smiling.

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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COVID-19: Coping with Stress, Social Distancing and the New Normal

COVID-19: Coping with Stress, Social Distancing and the New Normal

We certainly live in stressful, uncertain times right now. Events, schools, jobs, services and life’s milestones, are all coming to a standstill.

As someone who has worked in mental health for 23 years, I want to assure you that some level of anxiety and stress is normal. In fact, some stress is good because it alerts us to threats and motivates us to take care of ourselves.

And, I urge you not to neglect your emotional well-being and self-care during these times. If gatherings, support groups, exercise classes or other outlets you usually rely on are off limits, try phone calls, social media and texting to stay in touch with those you care about.

Here are some other strategies to help while we are safely social distancing:

Strategies for Adults

  1. Practice relaxing and breathing. Take breaks during the day, practice relaxation skills and take deep breaths. As the old Johnny Mercer song goes, accentuate the positive!
  2. Stay positive. Start a journal and write about positive things going on in your life.
  3. Stay Connected. Check in with people through text, phone, email or social media.
  4. Keep in touch, especially with those you trust with your feelings, and share with them your thoughts, concerns and needs.
  5. Have some fun! Watch a movie, go for a walk, play games.
  6. Avoid too much exposure to news and information. You can watch a bit of news each day to stay informed, but don’t get absorbed by it. It can weigh you down.
  7. Take care of yourself physically. Exercise, eat healthy foods and get plenty of sleep.

Strategies to Help Young People in Your Life

  1. Talk and answer questions. Have daily discussions and ask your children if they have questions or concerns. Go over the facts with them.
  2. Reassure children that they are safe. Our community is taking extra care to ensure that we are practicing social distancing and taking other precautions to prevent the spread of this virus.
  3. Be a good role model. Practice good coping skills such as those above. Share the healthy ways you deal with stress.
  4. Limit media exposure.
  5. Keep structure in their lives. Work with your child to set a daily routine.

We’re in this Together

Try to remember: We’re all in this together, and hopefully soon, the “old normal” will return. Perhaps, we will even see our lives with new clarity and hope for a better future.

You can find more information in my podcast “Staying Sane During Social Distancing”.

If you find yourself anxious or if life seems overwhelming and this it’s impactive your daily life, or if you think you are having symptoms of depression, please take our free, online mental health screening.

Additionally, the Bryan Medical Center Bryan West Campus mental health emergency room is available 24/7 to determine if hospitalization is appropriate.

David Miers, PhD, LIPC

David Miers, PhD, LIPC

Health Expert

David Miers, PhD, LIPC, is the Counseling and Program Development Manager for mental health services at Bryan Medical Center in Lincoln, Neb. 

Learn More About Our Counseling and Mental Health Services

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How We’re Handling COVID-19 School Closures

How We’re Handling COVID-19 School Closures

When I originally started writing my blog post last week, I was planning on writing about my daughter’s college decision or preparing for a graduation party. Oh, how life can change in a matter of moments.

I Am Going to Be Alright

I am emotionally and mentally drained. Emotionally, I am drained as I am sad for my kids, for the senior class, for my kindergarten friends. I miss my students already. I miss my colleagues. Mentally, I am drained.

The school staff has spent the past 48 hours figuring out what the best form of virtual learning looks like when we know what is best for our students is being in our building. I am adapting. I am learning quickly, and I am trying to help my colleagues be the best they can be in this time of uncertainty.

I am going to be alright.

My Kids Are Going to Be Alright

After 12½ years of education, the last semester of our daughter’s senior year is going to e-learning and all major events have either been cancelled or postponed indefinitely. There are so many lasts the seniors are missing. It is almost like the last pages of this chapter have been ripped out from their story.

Today, I talked to many of them. Many had tears in their eyes. Some shared fear of the unknown. Some just said they already miss the halls, miss their friends, miss the teachers.

Our oldest daughter and the rest of the Class of 2020 are going to be alright.

Then I think about our junior high daughter in her last semester before entering high school. Learning-wise, I am not worried about her, yet my heart aches for her socially. School is about being with her friends. In junior high, she is figuring out who she is, she is learning to find her passion, she is maturing and getting ready for high school.

She is going to be alright.

And then I think about our fifth grader, he loves his teacher. According to our son, his teacher is the best because she makes school fun. He loves being around his friends. He is a sponge for any historical information or current event. He will continue to learn it will just be hard that it is not in his classroom.

He is going to be alright.

My Husband Is Going to Be Alright

I think about my husband. Honestly, his sole focus the last week has been being the principal. He has lived at school. The admin team has met many, many times. They have worked tirelessly to figure out what is best for all of our students during this unprecedented time. You see, as principal, he not only has three of his own kids; he has 332 other kids he loves and worries about.

He is heartbroken. He is going to miss standing by the door each morning greeting students. He is going to miss mentoring the senior class in their final months of high school. He is going to miss his daily lunch picture with our middle daughter.

He is going to be alright.

We Are Going to Be Alright

The end of the school year is going to look different in comparison to the past years. The school setting makes our family better because of the relationships we have built inside the school walls. However, now we have an opportunity to find innovative ways to serve, care, love, and be kind. This unprecedented time in history is going to teach us something.

We are going to be alright.

Actually, we are going to be better on the other side of this storm than we are today.

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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What Do I Want to be When I Grow Up?

What Do I Want to be When I Grow Up?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

It’s one of those questions you’ve probably thought about countless times since you were little. And as you got older, the question started to feel more real, especially when teachers, parents, and even friends started asking.

Young graduates might imagine that discovering your passion happens the way it does in a movie: with a flash of insight and a trumpet blast. But before that flash or any other insight, I was struggling to find myself. I was waiting for the next moment when you know exactly who you are meant to be.

Planning Your Future Is Tough

Like many 18 year olds, I went to college not knowing what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to be a mom, but I also knew that I needed a degree. After four years, I graduated with a degree in journalism, I had a full-time job, and Mitch and I were engaged to be married that next summer, which led to me becoming a mommy, my true passion.

I can say the reality of following your passion isn’t very romantic. It takes time to develop a direction that feels so in-the-bones right that you never want to veer from it. I never really had that moment or feeling.

Now that I am a working mom and have two wonderful children, I find myself in my mid-thirties, growing and changing into an entirely new version of me, long after the world has stopped expecting me to develop further. I’ve experienced a significant growth spurt in the past couple of years (not in height, sadly), which has led me to wonder: “What do I want to be when I grow up?”

Figuring Out the Next Phase in Life

I’ve been at the same company since graduating from college. I’ve moved around within the company, but now I feel stuck and don’t think I can move up anymore. But this is all I’ve known. Is this my passion? Can I really see myself doing this for the rest of my life? Should I settle?

This job is just a job. I never saw myself in this role. I never wanted this. It’s a good job that pays okay, the people are great, and it allows me the time I need to be a mother. But is it a job or my passion? I consider myself a “boss mom,” but I want more.

I’m playing a waiting game. My husband is currently getting his master’s degree and trying to figure out what career path he wants to follow. He has a vision, he has a passion, he has an understanding of what he wants to do. He is taking the steps he needs to obtain his passion. From the moment he started college, he knew he wanted to help children in difficult situations. He has a purpose. He has a passion.

The Present Is as Bright as the Future

But I sit here struggling to find a passion that will make me money. I know money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does pay the bills. I’ve already obtained my true passion which is, of course, being a mom, but now what? I wait for my husband to finish school and see where his degree takes us, but for me, the world has misrepresented life as to cause people to resist adulthood and then have a crisis thinking their best years are behind them before they’ve reached their thirties?! Is this all there is? By no means!

Life is good right now. I can sit back and enjoy it, but I know that there’s more (far more) to life than this. Further up and further in!

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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Understanding Kidney Stones: What are They & How do They Form?

Understanding Kidney Stones: What are They & How do They Form?

If you’ve ever suffered from kidney stones, you don’t need to be told how painful they are. They’re also very common, as more than half a million people visit emergency rooms each year for kidney stones. As a nephrologist, I see a lot of kidney stone cases. They are most common in warm, humid times of the year; when people sweat, they get dehydrated, which isn’t good for the kidneys.

We tend to see more men with kidney stones than women; about 1 in 7 men will have a stone in their lifetime. Females experience about half of that. Although interestingly, in the last 10 to 20 years or so, kidney stones in females has been on the rise.

How Do Kidney Stones Form?

Calcium or Uric Acid Build Up

The most common reason is a build up of too much calcium in the urine. About 8 out of 10 types of stones that are formed are calcium stones, and a smaller percentage are what we call uric acid or gout stones.

Chronic Infection

Some kidneys stones are caused by chronic infections, but these are much less common

Other Contributors to Kidney Stones

  • Age: As we get older, we’re more prone to get kidney stones. Caucasians have the highest incidence of kidney stone disease of any ethnicity.
  • Family history: If someone in your family has or had kidney disease or stones, you’re more likely to develop them.
  • Obesity: People who are obese and people who lose weight after bariatric or weight reduction surgery, have a higher incidence of kidney stone disease.
  • High-salt diet: When you have too much calcium in your urine it is usually a result of too much sodium in your diet.

Kidney Stone Symptoms


The most common symptom of kidney stones is abrupt, severe pain. It’s usually felt in your back, or what we call the flanks, although the pain can be felt in a number of different areas, starting from your back, rotating around to the side, going into your groin, and in some cases it actually goes into your genital area. Note again that this pain would be abrupt, severe and may or may not include some blood in the urine.

What to Do if You Think You Have Kidney Stones

If you’re having severe pain, go to either an urgent care or an emergency room to be checked. Providers will likely need to do an X-ray (there are several types of X-rays or scans to diagnose kidney stones) or ultrasound, as well as a urine analysis. A physical exam also provides clues, because you may have a pelvic or bladder infection; or even appendicitis or gallbladder attack that can mimic kidney stones. It’s important to have a good handle on your medical history.

Treating Kidney Stones

Treatment depends on the size of the stone.

Water and Pain Meds for Smaller Stones

Drinking a lot of water and easing the pain are the best ways to deal with smaller stones. If the stone is less than about 5 mm, which is small, it most likely will pass through with urination, along with pain meds and hydration. Hydration will be either orally or through an IV, depending on the severity of dehydration. Finally, on rare occasions we might need to use other meds, like alpha blockers, to help pass those stones.

Surgery May be Needed for Larger Stones

If the stone is greater than about 10 mm, it likely won’t pass on its own, so surgery is the best option. Surgeries include:

  • Lithotripsy, where sound waves are used to break up the stones
  • Cystoscopy, which goes through the bladder with a small ‘basket’ to break up stones
  • Major surgery, where the kidney stone has to be cut out or directly visualized by the surgeon

Home or Hospitalization?

Whether you are treated at home or in the hospital really depends on your degree of pain. If you can drink water and take your pain meds without nausea or vomiting, you can wait it out at home – again, taking your meds and drinking a lot of water.

But if you are vomiting or having severe nausea, which can be very common with stone disease, then you’ll likely be hospitalized.

Preventing Kidney Stones


I tell my patients to think about it like this: Say you’re putting sugar into iced tea. If you use too much sugar, it all falls to the bottom and the only way to get it back is to put in more tea. Well that’s what happens with urine. You get too much unwanted stuff in the urine and it falls to the bottom, and forms crystals and stones.

How much water? We want people to hydrate to the point where their urine is pale yellow. The exact amount of water is individual; we can’t tell someone how much water to drink, exactly. But seeing pale yellow urine is a good goal. If you are someone with a lot of kidney stones, you may even have to get up in the middle of the night to drink water, because during the night is the longest time you go without liquid, and that’s when your urine becomes most concentrated and can potentially form a stone.

Eat Less Salt

As I mentioned earlier, excessive salt intake is the most common reason why people get stones. Salt affects other components of urine, like uric acid and other minerals, causing crystals and stones to form. I’m a very strong proponent of the D-A-S-H (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, which has been shown to decrease the incidence of stone disease as well as reduce blood pressure. The National Institutes of Health did studies on this diet dating back to the 1990s; it’s been very good for lowering blood pressure as well as preventing kidney stones.

Dr. Leslie Spry, MD FACP FASN FNKF

Dr. Leslie Spry, MD FACP FASN FNKF

Dr. Leslie Spry is a Nephrologist with Lincoln Nephrology and Hypertension.

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Why It’s Difficult to Watch My Grandkids Play Sports

Why It’s Difficult to Watch My Grandkids Play Sports

I’m getting older, that’s a fact. I try to follow the “aging” suggestions my doctor gives me and while I’m not worried about an injury, I do notice I think about it more now than in the past. The injuries I’ve endured are a few bruised fingers and a twisted ankle from playing pickleball. I’ve been fortunate to avoid anything which required an ER visit, casts or crutches, but it’s my grandkids who worry me.

As grandparents, we’ve become permanent bleacher bums for the past 15+ years. From those early years, it was significantly painful to watch Y team soccer, baseball, softball, basketball, tennis and volleyball games. My husband and I have been faithful attendees at hundreds of sporting events. I use the term sporting events loosely, as in many games we watched a granddaughter spend more time picking dandelions than she did chasing the ball.

As Intensity Increases, So Does Caution

As the grandkids grew and learned the various sports, the action got more heated. Fortunately, our grandkids didn’t get hurt when they were young, but some of their friends experienced injuries. I saw the tears and agony in the faces of the child, their parents and even their grandparents.

I recognized I was becoming more and more anxious. I’m sure there is some scientific formula where, mass (speed) + the number of practices + games = the higher probability of an injury. I may have missed that chapter in my high school textbook, so don’t quote me. With two grandkids in college and one in high school still competing, watching their events brings me a thrill, much joy and pride, but with a tinge of wincing and cringing. I don’t tell them this, but it’s true.

Even Safe Sports Can Be Scary

Our oldest grandchild rows crew in college. Sounds like a safe sport, right? Have you ever read any headlines about an accident in a crew race? The boats go in a straight line for heavens sake. However, one look at her calloused and blistered hands make me weak. Then there was the concussion she received while practicing, which was beyond my comprehension. I wonder if the crew team rows with itty bitty life vests in those skinny boats?

Our second grandchild is also a college athlete and plays volleyball. She entered college recovering from ACL surgery she received playing high school basketball. This recovery was very painful for me to watch, and I developed a sympathetic limp watching as she recuperated. By fall, her recovery was great, but the vision of seeing her dive on the court to dig a 45 mph spike delivered by a giant opponent took my breath away. I know I missed some great plays because I had my eyes shut!

The Fear from the Bleachers Is Unrelenting

This winter we have watched our grandson play high school varsity basketball. At 6’3” I’m sure he can take care of himself. I watched him break his pinky finger and I immediately wished the injury would bench him for the rest of the season, but no such luck. He was back in a week with lots of tape on his hand. Two weeks later he was fouled while airborne making a lay up. I watched as he lay crumpled on the court and I feared the worse. Thankfully, it was not a knee, but a sprained ankle. He was out for only one game—hallelujah!

As spring approaches, I remind myself we now have baseball games to watch. I love watching baseball. What could possibly go wrong when your grandson stands in the batters box and the pitcher throws a ball at him from 60 feet away at a speed only cars should be allowed to travel? I won’t tell any of them about my fears. I only tell them I love them and will cheer them on at every event I have an opportunity to attend. Eyes open or eyes closed? I’ll decide that at the time.

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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