Whoa, where did summer go?

If you’re anything like me, you’re sitting there, looking at a long list of to-do’s, feeling like summer really ended fast. We’re in week 2 of school for most of MN, but it already feels like October! This cooler weather, along with the back-to-school schedule, has me really feeling the need to check off my list. I know I can’t make more hours in a day, so I have been looking for some tricks to get the most out of each hour that I’ve got!

Here is a list of tips and tricks to getting the most out of your day, whether you’re working at an office, at home, or just trying to squeeze in some enjoyment!

Be Present; Be Mindful

One way to make the most of every moment is to take the time to re-center, and to really experience each moment as it happens. I have found this to be far more difficult than it sounds. I’m always thinking about something, and the harder I try to clear my mind, the more somethings there seem to be! But I am finding that just by being aware, I am able to slow things down, and it helps me to better appreciate the things that I already have.

Magan Olson, Lead Clinical Supervisor, has mentioned before how mindfulness has helped her in her own live. Nissa Fougner, Director of Rehabilitative Therapies, has also discussed how focusing on mindfulness gives value to her daily life. I think they’re onto something! Being present in the moment can help all of us reach our full potential, instead of spending our time thinking about the shoulds, the coulds, the maybes, and the woulds. It’s so much more productive to make the most of what we already have and what we can already do!

Set Goals & Check Off that List!

Did you set a New Year’s resolution? Here’s the hard-hitting question – did you MAKE it? If not, you’re in good company, but you’ve also still got time to make some progress! Here’s another idea – don’t wait until New Year’s to make those goals. Looking at changes that I might want to make right now could be just the head-start that I need to feel a bit more confident by New Year’s Day.

Here’s a little gem from Mark Twain – finish the thing that you like the least, and the rest of your list doesn’t look so bad! Think about what your frogs are – maybe you need to eat them tomorrow morning, so that you can move on to something a little more tasty.

“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

Mark Twain

Have you had enough of lists, goals, and calendar items at work? Maybe you don’t want your home life to be quite so scheduled. That’s OK – you can still have some informal goals to work toward, in areas where you feel you need a bit more control. Maybe you need help with menu planning, or budgeting, or just need a reminder to set aside some time for yourself. Carving out a little bit of time each day for something that’s important to you can be a good reminder to take care of you, too!

And of course, if you or a loved one need help with some physical or mental health-related goals, contact your local HealthStar office to find out how we can help you get started and stay on track to meet them!

Re-think your schedule

Do you dread getting out of bed each morning, or do you greet the day with bright eyes and a bushy tail? Deep down, we all love to hate those bright eyes, but wouldn’t you also love to be more like that, instead of bleary eyed and bristle headed? I know this might sound super boring (#adulting), but it applies to all of us, from childhood to mid-life (with or without the crisis) to elder status: going to bed and waking up on the same schedule each day will help you feel more alert, along with offering many other health benefits.

Your body learns its expected rhythm, and your bodily functions follow that rhythm. Digestion slows when you’re on “sleep time,” and your organs know that they won’t be called into high gear until the next morning’s feast. Your mind can start to wind down when you see 30-minutes left until bedtime. Blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing can all ease into “night mode” when it’s time to rest.

Laugh, and the world laughs with you; snore, and you sleep alone.

Anthony Burgess

Yes, this means giving up on your old College Boy “up until dawn” routine. This might also mean no more binge-watching entire seasons on Netflix. But this definitely means that you will have better quality of sleep, better digestive patterns, more alert waking hours, and hopefully no more baggy saggy dark circles under those beautiful eyeballs. It’s a win-win, even though you might take a few days (instead of just one night) to watch that season of Game of Thrones.

Get Active!

Yes, we are a health-related company, but not everyone here is always the most physically healthy. I’m sure we could all do a bit more to get or keep ourselves in the shape we really want to be. And I know that around 2 pm every day, the desk jockeys among us are starting to doze off. I’ve seen it happen. The worst is when we’re all in a meeting together at that time – don’t go to those meetings.

Maybe you add a walk in the morning, or after lunch. Maybe some old-school sit-ups under your desk, or lunges in the hallway when no one’s looking. How about a few chair stretches, or a couple toe-touches? Or, if you have the ambition to add a full workout, more power to you; it’ll keep you fueled and help you squeeze a little more out of your day!

Are you wondering if HealthStar staff can help you or your loved ones with a plan to get more active? You bet we can! The folks who don’t sit at desks all day – the clinicians, the therapists, and the aides – those folks are MUCH better at getting active, and they have plenty of ideas to share!

What’s In Your Diet?

A better quality diet can help you focus. The right diet can give you the energy you need so that you can power through your day, instead of spending time in food coma-land. So what is the right diet? This one’s touchy – there’s science to say that eating snacks is better, or eating no snacks is better, or that you should intermittently fast, or maybe that you should eat more small meals, or eat more protein, or eat more fiber… the list goes on and on. But one thing that’s unanimous – more vegetables can’t hurt, but too much sugar can.

Check your shelves – do you have a bunch of crackers, cookies, and processed food in your pantry? If so, it might be time for a fresh start. Whole vegetables are on the “do” list of all the diets, whether you listen to the “don’t” side or not. And sugars should be used sparingly, so consider those packaged items a treat and not a staple. Other than this very basic advice: I am the pot, and anyone else that I talk to might be just another kettle, so I try not to say too much at all. Especially because my mouth is often full of the “don’t” list.

Do you have specialized dietary restrictions? Need some help figuring out what works for your specific needs? Contact HealthStar for some ideas – I promise you won’t get any feedback from me, it will be from our clinical staff. They might not write the blog posts, but they sure do know how to write specialized diets!

Start Something Small

Maybe you can’t finish the whole quilt, but you can sew a single square. Sometimes, just finding a place to start can mean you’ll get to the finish line. Little changes are much easier to implement than broad, sweeping changes. Maybe you’ll just go to bed 15-minutes earlier tonight, or get up 15-minutes earlier to do some deep breathing in the morning. Maybe you’ll add a vegetable at dinner, or skip dessert. Take a short walk, write down some of your thoughts, fears, and hopes. All of these things can help you re-focus on what matters the most to you, and filter out the stuff that doesn’t, so that you can really make the best use of the little time that you’ve got each day.

Have questions about mindfulness? Want to know more about modified diet and exercise for your health conditions? Need a few ideas on how you can get things moving on the right track? Check HealthStar out and see how we can work with you to get the most out of every day!

We can’t take all the credit. A special “thank you” to these pages for giving us a little extra help with this blog post:

https://psychcentral.com/lib/my-11-tips-on-how-to-make-the-most-of-each-day/

https://www.sleep.org/articles/sleep-and-productivity-at-work/

https://www.tuck.com/productivity-and-sleep

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffboss/2017/01/19/5-reasons-why-goal-setting-will-improve-your-focus/#7332866c534a

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25080035

https://hbr.org/2014/10/what-you-eat-affects-your-productivity

Fun and Free – Budget Friendly Activities for the Dog Days of Summer

It’s hot. It’s humid. My body craves two things:

  1. Cold water, everywhere
  2. Shade

Sometimes, on the weekend, I’m lucky enough to stand in the kiddie pool. Mostly, though, my kids run around the yard like they can’t feel it’s So. Hot. Outside. And guess who has to chase them. Hot or not, I’m running flat out because my 2-year-old is freaky fast when he gets going. He’s basically the road runner of humans.

Are you in the same rut? Body begging for something cool and relaxing, but you just can’t quite make it work? Don’t despair – here are a few budget-friendly ideas to help you beat the heat in these last few weeks of summer!

Hit the splash pad!

Adults and kids alike can enjoy a splash pad. It’s safer than the beach, because there’s no deep water. It’s also much easier to get around, because most of them are cement or playground foam instead of sand – much friendlier to those with mobility challenges! But it’s just as cool as the pool! Splash pads are popping up all over the place – do a quick Google search for one near your zip code. Or, if you can’t find a community splash pad, check out these splash mats for your yard. Yes, you will end up using a bit of extra water, but it feels amazing to walk through that cool mist!

Beat the dog days of summer this year by visiting your local splash pad

And for those who want a trip to the actual beach but haven’t hit it yet because of those mobility challenges – check out the Sand Pad. This is a relatively cheap replacement for the small caps on the end of assistive devices like walkers or canes. It might just be your ticket to fun in the sand, after all! And hey, most beaches are free – bring a snack and a blanket and you can stay all day!

Jazz up that Kiddie Pool!

For my yard, the kiddie pool is easily the most underrated method for cooling off. Cold water from the hose, into the pool it goes! (Boy, is that cold on my toes!) Standing in that cold water cools me off for hours, and makes the rest of the day tolerable. And truth be told, I may have sat in the kiddie pool without any kids around, with an adult beverage, after the actual kiddies are sleeping. Shhh, it’s our little secret. For these reasons, I urge you to invest in your own kiddie pool, whether you have actual kiddos or not. It’s the cheapest way to cool down – I think ours under $10 at Fleet Farm.

Who said Kiddie Pools are just for kids?

To make this option a bit more attractive, you can add some dollar store pizzaz – get yourself a few leis, some fancy drink cups, and some water toys, and you can create a poolside oasis that the whole family can enjoy. Even the older kids enjoy water gun target practice! You’ll be the envy of all who spy you enjoying your tiny paradise island.

Mall Walking – remember those days?

According to Google, Mall Walking is still very much a thing. For those of us who have a little trouble getting out in the neighborhood, this can offer a fabulous alternative – air conditioned, accessible, and hey, you can also get a little window shopping in. Better yet, our ICLS Services can even get you there (and back)! Get your walking shoes on, or get yourself ready and into whatever gets you moving if you’ve got mobility concerns.

Air conditioning AND pretzels? What more could you ask for?

The mall has ramps, elevators, escalators, and stairs, so whatever your level of mobility, there’s something for you. Just check out “Mall Walking Near Me,” and you can find somewhere to get out and get moving in an indoor neighborhood! Some areas even have mall walking groups, so you can turn it into a social outing.

And hey, no one will judge you if you have a pretzel or a Cinnabon while you’re there…

Bug Out, Under Budget

I’d love to get out of town, but we can’t afford much. Between visiting out-of-state family members and taking time off for sick self or sick kids, my time off and my vacation budget are both pretty low. But even I can afford a couple days at a camp site, and let me tell you, camping is NOT what it used to be.

Creating life long memories with your family doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg

I have many camping memories from my childhood; some great and some I’d like to repress. Bonfires, s’mores, swimming in beautiful and clear water, fishing, hiking, and the joy of piggybacking on my dad’s shoulders when my little legs got tired – those are the good times, and they were really good. Wet and soggy tent bottoms after being rained out, wind that whipped our tent almost off the side of a cliff, BUGS, and Fear. Of. Bears… those are some of my unsuccessfully repressed memories. Like all of life, camping is unpredictable, but that’s part of the awesome adventure!

Camping or Glamping? It’s your call!

These days, lots of camp sites have pools, actual bathrooms, and even units to rent indoors if you get tired of “roughing it.” You can decide how much glam you want in your camping trip – go old school, or pool swim instead of lake swimming if that’s more your speed. It’s still a better deal than a hotel, and no one has to know that you glamped instead of camped.

You can sleep in a real bed and still go hiking in the morning, or enjoy a bonfire and then catch a movie and some air conditioning in a cozy cabin. Or sleep under the stars like a champion, there’s really nothing quite like that feeling – you’ll see SO many more stars than what you ever will see within the lights of a city. Check out “Camp Sites Near Me,” there’s something for every budget, ability, and experience level!

County Fair, State Fair, See You There?

The State Fair can be a fabulous adventure, but it is also humongous and difficult to get through, even on a “slow day.” There are also tons of County fairs around MN, each of them with a little bit of that State Fair glory, but on a tighter budget and a more friendly scale.

Nothing says “summer” like your local county fair!

County fairs generally are easier to navigate, have cheaper food and drink, and offer a great way to visit with some of your neighbors. Yeah, the weather might be hot, but you probably don’t have to pay to get in, and you’re not going to break the bank on your first corn dog! Put on your tank top and flip flops, bring plenty of water, and get out there to meet the neighborhood!

Summer Library Schedule

Here’s three things to love about libraries – they’re free, there’s air conditioning, and they’re usually quiet and peaceful. It’s practically paradise in there. And during summer, there are tons of events to keep the kiddos busy. Magicians, yoga, and story time are just the beginning. Borrow up a few books, get the kids out of the house, and all without breaking a sweat? Yes, please! Throw together a picnic lunch, and you’ve got yourself a free day of fun. Chances are, there’s a local library near you.

Your local library isn’t what it used to be!

There are also a ton of workshops, if you’re looking for a reason to get yourself out and about. My local library has had great success with a “trash to treasure” type event, where community members share their super handy skills by helping people restore, repair, or just figure out what makes their stuff work. I’ve seen broken lamps, sewing machines, and all kinds of half-finished projects on those days. There are plenty of speakers, and even sometimes live music or other entertainment. Trust me, the library isn’t just a place to sit in a corner with a novel – but that sounds amazing, too!

What are you waiting for? GO!

These are just a few ideas – I’m sure you have some that are even better. Just get out there and get active before summer ends. All good Minnesotans know that our warm days are numbered, so let’s enjoy summer down to the last drop! We don’t need to mention the W-word for motivation, do we? (Hey, Arizona and New Mexico offices – keep it down, we hear you snickering.)

OK, I know fall is basically the best Minnesota season ever because you can still enjoy the beautiful outdoors without all the heat and humidity, but I still always have a little moment of panic when I see the calendar getting closer to September. I’m going to panic-cram some fun in, like I always do. How about you – do you need a little inspiration or motivation? Get in touch with one of our offices to find out how we can help you get the most out of these last few weeks of summer!

Spotlight: Katie Wagner, Finance Operations Manager

We all know that person. She’s the one you ask when you want to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth – nothing buttered up; no flowers or rainbows. Just tell it like it is. It’s a rare talent, and Katie Wagner, Finance Operations Manager, has it in spades.

She’s not afraid to give her honest opinion, loudly and with feeling. But she’s also got a soft side, and she lets that side come out while she’s around her two kiddos at home. Don’t expect too much of the soft side to show up at work – Billing and Finance don’t allow a lot of touchy-feely stuff. But if you get her talking about Client care, you’ll know that soft part is still all melty and gooey in there, driving Katie to find the best possible coverage for each Client. Get ready for some extra special “insider info,” because Katie Wagner, the HealthStar Spotlight’s on you!

Big sister, Little sister

Katie has younger siblings as well as older siblings, which makes her the perfect combination of “little sister, big sister.” She grew up with 7 people in the house – both parents, plus four siblings. Talk about sharing! As the “big sister,” Katie knows how to take charge, but she also knows how to take a “little sister beating” in the form of being picked on by the other office “family.” Not that we would ever pick on employees, right Tim Lively?

Katie also has plenty of health care experience, which helps her to put herself in your shoes, whether you’re a caregiver, Client, or family member. She started out in PCA service and Assisted Living, and then worked her way up through the ranks to Office Manager at another home care agency before coming to HealthStar in 2013.

For me, home is where you can be yourself… there are no judgments, you can make up your own rules, you can have things the way you want them, and it’s not dictated by someone else… That’s the best part about home care; it gives people the option to be themselves, comfortably.

Katie Wagner

Katie can be the strong source of advice, and she can also sometimes be the one who needs a little TLC. For example, when we’re not sure of a Client’s coverage, Katie is always the first person in line to help figure things out. But when we have big hairy scary issues with a certain software which we won’t mention by name, Katie might need a little help peeling herself off the ceiling. No matter whether she’s in little sister or big sister mode, Katie is a fun part of the HealthStar family!

Competition, much?

If you really want Katie to shine, just tell her that it can’t be done, or that she’ll never find the answer. It’s not always obvious, but Katie is a fierce competitor. Katie wants her work to be the best – a great example of a job well done. She’s not just here to work, she’s here to shine, and she expects the same from her team.

Tell Katie that no one can get through to that insurance payor, and she’ll have a rep on the line before you can turn around. Tell her that we can’t figure something out, and she’ll call together a committee to get you an answer lickety-split. Give her an hour to get the job done, and she’ll have it back to you, finished, in 15-minutes. Apparently, she even has a long-running badmitton game with her brother, who lives in Arizona. They just start up again with the previous score every time they’re together. (and, yes, Katie is winning.) The only thing that Katie doesn’t compete on is food – she’s kind of a plain-Jane. But if there was a competition on who could eat the most Cheese Pizza, Katie would… at least show up.

Tenacity? YEAH, she has it!

The best part of the deal is that HealthStar’s Clients get the benefit of Katie’s drive to be great. She fights tooth and nail to get every allowed service covered. She is an insurance knight, fighting for those who don’t have so many years of billing experience to fight for themselves. Boy, does it feel good to have an advocate like this on your side when you are looking for service coverage! And for HealthStar, to have someone who knows the ins and outs is amazing, especially when researching and launching a new service line like we just did with ICLS!

As someone who has also “fought the good fight” in insurance billing, I can say from experience, it is very difficult to navigate benefits coverage if you’re not sure what you’re looking for. And with more than 16-years of home care experience, Katie knows what she’s looking for! There are some things that you can only learn from dealing with insurance coverage day in and day out. It’s amazing that Katie’s skill set and years of experience are available to our HealthStar Client base!

Laughter is the best… everything!

My personal favorite thing about Katie is her sense of humor. I had to choose this, because she is such a plain eater. I’m a very food-motivated person, so it is hard for me to write about someone who doesn’t really love the same variety of foods that I do. But that’s a me problem, and this is supposed to be about Katie… so, sense of humor it is!

Katie loves to laugh, and I love it when she laughs loud. She has a great “throw your head back” laugh. And she loves sarcasm, which is fabulous because many of us at Corporate are extremely sarcastic. But the absolute best thing about Katie is that Tim Lively can pick on her in just about any situation. She makes it so easy to tease her, it’s almost as easy as picking on Susan Mocchi for being small (and let me tell you, from experience, that is very easy to do. Like, any time someone brings a child’s hand-me-down clothes around, you say “Hey, that would fit Susan.” Or when you need someone to help put on your fine jewelry, it’s like, “Susan, can you do this with your tiny hands?” So, yeah, pretty easy.)

Wait, a fun meeting?

My favorite meetings are the ones where Katie, Tim, Susan and I are all involved. It’s really more of a roast than a meeting; Tim and I just take turns tossing one-liners around, and Katie and Susan look at each other like, “when can we file a complaint?” But they also both know how much we love them, so everybody comes out feeling great in the end. Or, at least, we haven’t gotten the complaint paperwork yet.

How can someone who has such a serious Billing and Finance job also have such a great sense of humor? I think it might be genetic. Katie has an awesome picture of her dad on her desk, and he has the BIGGEST smile I’ve ever seen. I’m pretty sure that his attitude and legacy have a lot to do with Katie’s own big smile. So, if you’re ever in North St. Paul, stop in and ask for a meeting with Katie, Tim, Beth and Susan. Bring some popcorn and put your feet up for a while – you won’t be disappointed.

If Katie helps everyone, then who helps Katie?

OK, so this spotlight also has an extra bonus item. Katie is a great biller in her own right, but she has a really awesome team. I couldn’t do this spotlight without mentioning the rest of the Billing/Finance staff. Greg Klinger and Leela Vang are the quiet strength to Katie’s thunder. They are both amazingly hard workers who want to get things done right. I sometimes realize that I’ve gone all day without talking to Leela or Greg, and I feel a little guilty and sad… But it’s not because I don’t love them – it’s because they are so focused on their tasks, and they very rarely need outside help to complete their responsibilities. After all, as much as it might feel like family, we are all here for work. Good thing you were sitting down for that, right?

Besides Billing staff, though, Katie also supervises payroll SuperWoman Jane Bauer, aka Sneezy MacSneezerson. Yes, that’s right, between Jane’s high number of rapid-fire “is she sniffing out of the pepper jar in there” sneezes, and Greg’s booming, large-breed dog-barking impersonation sneezes, the rest of us are mice among men in the sneeze department. So, not only does Katie have the most Corporate Office staff in her department, she also has the most Corporate Office sneezes reporting to her, by a large margin.

Work hard, play hard (then work hard some more)

The best thing is, Leela, Jane, and Greg also each have their own great sense of humor. So basically, the whole Billing/Finance/Payroll team is a barrel of sneezes and laughs. (ok, it’s not as gross as it sounds.) But at the end of the day, the most important thing about Billing is perseverance, and you know by now that Katie has this in spades. She doesn’t give up, which is a win for HealthStar and our Clients.

Got questions about insurance coverage for yourself or a loved one? Give us a call and see what Katie and our Billing/Finance team can do for you. Just don’t forget your sense of humor; you’re going to need it.

Independence – what does it mean to you?

This month, the US celebrates its independence as a nation. But when do you celebrate your independence as an individual? We all have different levels of independence, whether we look at physical, mental, emotional, financial, or age-related dependencies. But there’s no special day to celebrate our own personal successes in independence! Why not? We should all be celebrating the things that we can do on our own!

I remember the first time I was able to take my mom and dad out to dinner with money that I had earned. That feeling of accomplishment sticks with me today, although maybe it’s not so fun to pay the bill these days! I also feel grateful for all the things that I can do on my own every day, like getting out of the house or driving myself around where I need to go. Working in home care has shown me that health and independence are too important to take for granted!

Celebrate small victories!

We’ve all had various successes, from small to monumental; moments when we gain the strength and the ability to take care of things on our own. Some things come easy, but sometimes we really put a lot of work in before we really feel that independence! The good thing is that all that hard work makes the accomplishment feel So. Much. Greater!

One tip that we’ve discussed before comes from Nissa Fougner, director of Rehab Therapies. She reminds us that it’s important to celebrate the small victories, so that you can see the progress as it’s being achieved. When you are able to recognize those small steps that you’ve cleared on your way to the big hurdles, it gives you more energy to keep going toward the end goal!

New service, same team!

At HealthStar, we believe that this great feeling of accomplishment should be experienced by everyone! We’re excited to help our Clients achieve independence in whatever form makes the most sense for their unique goals. This is why HealthStar is expanding into a new line of service, designed to improve and foster independence for those we serve. We’re pleased to announce HealthStar’s new ICLS initiative (short for Individual Community Living Supports)! Adding ICLS service to HealthStar’s service offerings provides a new opportunity to help our Clients achieve greater independence in their own lives.

Adding ICLS still means working with the same great office staff that our Clients already know and love. We’re lucky to have such an amazing team – they are all excited to add this new tool to our home care toolbelt! We think the new ICLS initiative makes HealthStar one service stronger in the fight for our Clients’ independence. Whether we’re helping with mobility, rehabilitation, home safety, or just providing basic homemaking services, we want our Clients to learn and grow with us!

How can we help you with your independence goals?

Take a look at all of the various support services that HealthStar has to offer – maybe we’re a fit for you or for a family member who needs a little extra help gaining greater independence. The best part is, that when you invite HealthStar into your care circle, you also get our billing team and all of the services that we can cover for you! Our awesome billing department is great at digging into the specifics of what your insurance will cover. Insurance can be very confusing, but with a few experts on your side, you can be sure you’re getting the most out of your insurance coverage. Give us the chance, and we’ll be thrilled to discuss your situation – we’d love to work with you toward a more independent future!

Spotlight: Jayne Brinkman, Area Manager

Close your eyes, take a slow breath in, and think of the most relaxing place you can picture. Breathe out – is there a quiet trickle of water? Maybe there’s a soft carpet of moss, and speckled sunlight dancing through the forest canopy. Is there wildlife? Maybe a baby deer, gently nibbling on a fern? Or a soft baby duckling, waddling into the pond with his brothers.

"It will be fine!" - Jayne Brinkman

Wait a minute, is that a person in there? She’s so quiet, I almost didn’t notice. She’s even been talking this whole time, low and soothing and quiet. Something about “you got this, no worries.” She looks up and smiles, and I know everything will be taken care of.

Who is this magical embodiment of peace and calm? Why, it’s Jayne Brinkman, of course! She’s a great example of kindness, flexibility, and compassion, and a pretty darn good role model to follow. I know that I usually keep the spotlight to three special things about a person. If I can only tell you three things about Jayne, it might be painful for me. I will try, but I can tell you now, this will be a wandering 3-item path. Jayne Brinkman, the HealthStar Spotlight’s on you!

Empathy, much?

It’s no surprise that Jayne can represent the needs of our Clients and staff so well – she has been working in health care for 35 years. But the best thing I have learned in the process of writing this article is this: one of Jayne’s first jobs was in a factory, making cute and cuddly stuffed animals. In my head, this is what Jayne does every night in her sleep – sews adorable fluffy things to send out into the world when she wakes up. Jayne speaks with a velvety soft voice; never sharp, and only loud when it’s for fun. If we could see a physical form of the words that Jayne speaks, they would be literally soft and sweet, like powdered sugar pillows, covered in downy fluff.

Jayne feels for her audience, understanding where others are coming from and carefully choosing when to speak and when to let silence have a moment. In conflict, she soothes hurt feelings and reminds us that we’re all in this together. She is careful and considerate in decision making, weighing the options and thinking of all the people involved. She can energize the group, and she has her own spice that she brings to everything she does, but even when she’s energetic, she shares her energy in a comfortable way!

And Jayne can train!

Jayne has been sharing her empathy skills with HealthStar for just over 20-years, and has grown right along with this awesome HealthStar family! She is a 24ECC trainer and has been instrumental in development of the 24ECC program since its beginning. But wait, there’s more! Jayne has had a hand in just about every office, helping to train HealthStar staff far and wide. She helped train me, when I started here. She travels at the drop of a hat, to rescue whichever offices need her most. Jayne has a knack for bringing things down to a manageable level and making people feel welcome. She’s pretty much the Mary Poppins of HealthStar. And no matter what she gets asked to help with, she’s always…

Calm, party of 1

From the early days of New Mexico, to many years in Duluth, plus a few years in Wisconsin, then Fairmont… and, oh yeah, can we add Inver Grove Heights? Jayne is the ultimate HealthStar wanderer. Today, back on the home front, she manages 3 offices and one satellite in Minnesota. It’s common to receive a “where in the world is Jayne” email, detailing her plans for travel between Cloquet, Waite Park, Inver Grove Heights, and we can’t forget the super northern Nett Lake. She even has a Carmen SanDiego hat! But if she’s stressed about all the travel, she doesn’t let it show. She just spreads the calm from office to office, going with the flow on her journey!

In fact, over 10-years of working together, I have yet to see Jayne lose her cool or raise her voice in anger. Sometimes, I do hear her laugh a little loud or crack a joke, though! Through all of the changes at HealthStar, Jayne has been an oasis of calm, patience, and experience. We’ve seen successes and challenges, but never a negative peep from Jayne. She just says “time to put on the big girl panties,” and away we go! She never shies away from a challenge, and she is always there to help out. That’s probably why she get asked to do…

Other duties, to the MAX

The perfect blend of flexibility, responsibility, wisdom, and generosity have come together to create the Jayne Brinkman effect. Need help with a project? Jayne will magically show up and give you a hand. Struggling with your day? Oh, there’s Jayne to help figure out what’s going wrong. Have a weird question about how things are done at HealthStar? Jayne will help you figure things out. Starting a new venture? We all know that Tim has called on Jayne many a time to help get new things off the ground.

All in all, Jayne is a “let’s get this done” kind of gal. She’s resourceful, she’s great at gathering people together, and she knows how to direct focus toward the problem at hand. Maybe it comes from farming – she grew up on a dairy farm, and had to feed the cows, pigs, and chickens before and after school. The farm work ethic is clearly ingrained, and has followed Jayne to HealthStar, lucky for us!

No matter what the project, she’s ready to dig in. She truly does it all, from processing payroll to home visits. She’s even been a registered COTA in the past, but of course HealthStar administration won her back full-time. We just wouldn’t be the same without this Jayne Brinkman effect.

But what does she like to eat?

Gladys

Jayne is a “good eater” and says she will eat anything, but her favorite is macaroni and cheese. She also has very strong feelings for Cheetos, and a great sense of humor. Ask Jayne about Gladys, and you’ll hear a heart-wrenching story, from first love to a lifetime spent together, ending with Jayne’s sadness during Gladys’ final days. Luckily, Jayne emerged from the fire of loss and has, with time, begun to heal. Oh, did I mention, Gladys is Jayne’s old office chair? Shortly after Jayne was forced to replace Gladys, there was a mysterious “abduction” of a few choice chairs at Corporate, and a large jug of cheese balls was required to be paid for ransom. But I’m sure Jayne’s love of Cheetos had nothing to do with this crime spree…

So, what do we think of Jayne?

For Jayne’s 20-year HealthStar anniversary, we made her a scrapbook. Cristina Hernandez (and her wonderful and multi-talented mother, Marisol) created the most beautiful scrapbooking collection ever known to mankind. We all took surveys, we wrote powerful poetry, and we had a great time going through the memories that we all have of Jayne’s wild HealthStar adventures.

So what do we really think? Most people think that Jayne is the embodiment of Experience and Wisdom, followed by a tie between Calm/Peace and Joyfulness/Optimism. We love her Jayne-isms, which you have already seen peppered through this post. If Jayne were an animal, some people say she would be a mama bear, some say a work horse, and some said an owl. And we all think that she likes her coffee black and often!

But of course, my favorite question was, If Jayne were a food, which food would she be? Apparently, she would be pizza, cheese puffs, chicken noodle soup, cake, hotdish, mashed potatoes, sour patch kids, spicy meatballs, buffalo wings, caramel apple jelly, and salad. How can one person be so many different foods? Well, you’ll just have to contact our Cloquet, Waite Park, IGH, or Nett Lake office and request a meet and greet to find out for yourself!

Love and Charity – 24ECCs in action! HS + Safe Haven = ❤

During the month of May, HealthStar is focusing on the 24ECC’s of Love and Charity. Each office is partnering with a community agency to help support a good cause. Corporate and the Twin Cities Skilled office, for example, are working with an agency called Safe Haven Foster Shoppe. Safe Haven holds a unique mission of providing basic items to newly placed foster kids.

Safe Haven Mission: We want no child to enter foster care empty-handed.

Kids placed with foster families often have no belongings, other than the clothes they are wearing on placement. Safe Haven puts together bags of essentials (like toothpaste, toothbrushes, socks, or pajamas), with a goal of providing newly placed foster kids with a special bag within 24-hours of placement. HealthStar Home Health Corporate and Twin Cities Skilled hope to provide 4 completed bags to Safe Haven; two for girls and two for boys.

Found your heartstrings?

Hearing Safe Haven’s mission gave me chills. Kids in foster care need a little extra love, and what an amazing difference when there’s something special waiting at their new home. It’s a small thing, but to a kid going through this transition, this bag of items is something stable, personal, and all his/her own. If you’re in the twin cities metro area, please consider supporting Safe Haven with a donation. Drop items off at HealthStar’s Corporate and Twin Cities Skilled office during our drive, or contact and support Safe Haven directly at any time. Your support goes to a great cause!

Here’s a list of what goes into the various bags that Safe Haven creates. Providing these basic essential items on placement is a great way to support foster families and foster kids both at the same time! When you choose to donate financially or donate items, you can play an important part in Safe Haven’s mission and vision.

HealthStar has a big heart!

Thanks to Tim Lively, HealthStar owner, for generously supporting this effort. We are lucky to work at a company that supports staff in setting up a drive like this. And it’s also great that HealthStar financially participates in the donations set up by each office!

This is just one activity for these two combined offices, but all of HealthStar gets to join in on every 24ECC project! That’s ten more offices for Love and Charity. Don’t forget to check back and see all of the great Love and Charity activities from our other offices! I can’t wait to hear about them all, myself!

Want to know more about working at a supportive and caring company? Check out open positions, and learn more about HealthStar’s mission and vision!

Thank All The Nurses!

It’s National Nurses Week beginning today, May 6th, and ending Sunday, May 12th. It’s true – we can’t fit all of our national appreciation into a single day, so we have to spend a whole week appreciating. Because nurses are amazing. And we know HealthStar nurses are extra special, because they have the HealthStar family to back them up!

Nurses, like folks in any other profession, come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and personality types. There are gentle nurses, there are “down to business” nurses, there are kind and caring nurses, there are spiritual and not-so-spiritual nurses. There are some nurses who like wound care, some who like paperwork and regulations, and some who like becoming a part of the patient’s direct support group. The great thing is, all of these nurses have something in common – a drive to heal others, in one way or another.

At HealthStar, we know that we need all of these different types of nurses to help us provide the best possible patient care. And so this week, we’ll make an extra effort to show appreciation to all of these types of nurses for the many ways they touch our lives and the lives of our HealthStar Clients!

Put ‘er there!

To all of our HealthStar nurses – I can’t come out and high-five each of you, but I can send you this:

Image result for virtual high-five

Thank you to our HealthStar nurses!

“As a nurse, we have the opportunity to heal the heart, mind, soul and body of our patients, their families and ourselves. They may forget your name, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou

Without our nursing staff, we would be lost as an agency! HealthStar is lucky to have each of you putting your special kind of care into all that you do. Thank you to all of our HealthStar nurses for your service, your compassion, and your dedication to patient care!

Interested in learning how you can become a member of the HealthStar family? Check out our careers page to learn about what positions we have open in your area. Just think, the next spotlight post could be about you!

Better Health through Kindness

To me, May is a reminder of kindness. My favorite part of May has always been “May Day,” celebrated on May 1st. To celebrate, my family would create a little basket of goodies for each of our neighbors. Then, the fun: ding the neighbor’s doorbell, leave the basket, and RUN. This always felt amazing! Not only was I doing something fun with my mom and my sister, I also loved to imagine my surprised neighbors, overjoyed by finding a surprise of flowers, fruit, or cookies in a lovely basket on their doorstep. (I’m sure they knew it was us, but it felt like such a secret to me as a kid.)

To this day, I get excited about May Day, because it represents something wholesome, kind, and caring. I’m no Martha Stewart, but I still yearn for those happy little things that make my heart feel full to bursting, and this memory is one of those things.

As it turns out, that “heart full of joy” feeling you get from kind and generous activities does more than just make you happy – it’s also great for your health! (I’m sure you knew I’d get around to this eventually.) Check out these benefits of sharing a bit of kindness, and stick around for a few simple ideas to spread the warm, fuzzy feelings around! At the end of this post, you’ll also find a bunch of links that support the positive impact a little kindness can have on your health and well-being.

A kind heart is a healthy heart!

Studies have shown that when we complete an act of kindness, we receive a boost in the hormone Oxytocin. According to Dr. David Hamilton, “Oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide in blood vessels, which dilates (expands) the blood vessels. This reduces blood pressure and therefore oxytocin is known as a ‘cardioprotective’ hormone because it protects the heart (by lowering blood pressure).”

Is it enough of a reduction to negate the extra salt in my diet? Well, I’m no doctor, but I am an expert in wishful thinking. Maybe if I share those French fries, the kindness boost might just evaporate some of the “bad stuff” about the fries themselves. Plus, by sharing, I’m only eating half as many as I would have if I’d been selfish. That’s a win, win situation!


Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.

Albert Schweitzer

Oxytocin has also been called a “love hormone” because it is produced by nursing moms and helps them bond (and fall absolutely in love) with their new babies. It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that this same hormone helps us bond with others in social situations as well! It can help reduce anxiety and keep depression at bay. When you couple this benefit with the next, the cumulative effect is a great mood boost!

More endorphins? Yes, please!

Acts of kindness can also repay you in the form of serotonin release and endorphin production. Most of us have heard that serotonin “makes you feel good.” It is commonly believed that low serotonin levels can lead to depression, anxiety disorder, and other mood disorders. On the flip side, a little boost in serotonin supports feelings of happiness and enhances the “good mood” feeling.

Add the endorphin release, and you’ve really got a good thing going! Endorphins increase the feeling of well-being, help relieve stress, and even decrease pain in a similar way to opioid drugs, but without any of those nasty side-effects! Together, the increases in oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins create an unstoppable mood-and-body-boosting trio. The kindness effect combats everything from depression and anxiety to aches and pains. Speaking of aches and pains, that brings us to…

What about inflammation?

Chronic inflammation is of great interest to researchers as a potential underlying contributor to many illnesses. According to this study, “Regularly engaging in volunteering has a special way of getting ‘under the skin,’ resulting in what appears as a younger biological profile for inflammation.” Volunteering gave a greater health benefit, in terms of reduced overall inflammation, than other types of “productive activity,” possibly because of the health boost received based on the generosity and kindness involved in the act of volunteering.

Reducing inflammation may help the body avoid many kinds of health issues, including Alzheimer’s disease, congestive heart failure, heart attack, stroke, obesity, cancer – and these are just the big names. Everyday ailments like joint pain and arthritis can also seem lighter after an act of kindness. If we thought of kindness as medicine, how much more of it could we create?

Wow, kindness is strong stuff!

But wait – there’s more! In addition to all the benefits we’ve already discussed, let me throw in one more tidbit. This one is my favorite. Kindness begets kindness. It’s the ripple effect – an act of kindness can spread from one person to many, and it happens with so little effort!

Put kindness in action:

Maybe you buy a coffee for the guy behind you in the drive-through today. The person working the window gets to be a part of your kindness, which benefits him or her. The guy getting the free coffee doesn’t know you to thank you, so hopefully he’ll pass on the kindness to another stranger, or maybe even two. Each of those people, in turn, commit their own acts of kindness, spreading your single act to a positive health impact on a whole bunch of people, all for the cost of a single cup of coffee.


I like to pay for the coffee of the other folks behind me in line. It typically costs me less than $10, and makes the other people feel good, but more importantly, it makes me feel so good, and random acts of kindness change the world one person at a time.

Robert Kraft

It’s easy for me to see the benefit of a single act, but really, who does only one kind thing in a day? How many kindnesses can you spread around today? If we all take a few minutes to plan something generous and selfless, just imagine the impact we can have! Here are some ideas to get you started:

Our first day being kind

Everyone is new at something, some time. The good news is, it doesn’t take long to get the hang of dishing out kindness. A smile at a stranger, a compliment or a helping hand – these are all free. Here’s one of my secrets, and I don’t mind sharing it with you: lots of times, when I see someone is having a tough day, I will go out of my way to find something nice to say about that person.

Look at what he or she is wearing, the hairstyle or the accessories. There’s always something that took a little extra time to do, or something that maybe he’s insecure about or she wasn’t so sure if she could pull off that day. What if you’re the one to say “hey, I really like your scarf, where did you get it?” or “you look great today, what did you do differently?” Such a simple thing can really go a long way to making someone feel noticed.

A few more freebies

Donate your unwanted stuff to a women’s shelter or volunteer for an outreach organization in your area. These are fabulous causes, and of course, you’ll get the health benefit from the act of generosity. Help load someone’s groceries, open the door for a stranger, or help your neighbor with yard work if you happen to be outside at the same time.

And, of course, there’s that “pay for the guy behind me” trick in the drive-through. It’s a game of chance – he or she might be buying for the whole office! It sure does feel good though, when you can surprise someone with a free order; even though you don’t see the reaction, you know what you’d feel like if it happened to you!

We’re not done yet!

I’m lucky to work at HealthStar, because we have whole offices full of kindness. There is something to be said for working with people who truly care about people. I feel it every day, surrounded by nurses and support staff who would drop everything to help a person in need. But even for those who find it easy to spread kindness, a reminder might be needed. It’s easy to get wrapped up in our own little world sometimes! Here are some of my favorite workplace examples of sharing kindness – maybe you can start small in your office today!

Share your lunch with someone who doesn’t have much that day – I know I’ve been on both the giving and receiving end of this one, and both are amazing. Give a few minutes of your time to a co-worker who needs a listening ear. Leave a “love note” to tell your co-workers what you admire most about them. Bring a treat to share, or if you’re on a health kick, bring some fruit or veggies and hummus. Recognize the contribution of a team member, or just send a little email to tell someone you’re thinking of her. And don’t forget the May Day basket – I’d love to see this tradition revitalized, in or out of the office setting!

Go forth and be kind!

I challenge you to come up with your own creative ways to spread kindness, and I promise you’ll enjoy these wonderful benefits to your own health and wellness in return. I think this is nature’s way of telling us that this is how we should be doing things – give to someone else, and in return, you get something that maybe even money can’t buy. A heart full of joy, and a body full of health!

And as always, contact HealthStar if you’re looking for staff who know how to put kindness into action to help you reach your health and wellness goals!

Please check out these links for more information:

Understanding Inflammation

The Science of Kindness

6 Science-Backed Ways Being Kind is Good for Your Health

How Sharing Kindness Can Make You Healthier, Happier

Why Random Acts of Kindness Matter

A Little Love for Admin Day!

HealthStar has plenty of administrative staff to thank today, in honor of Administrative Professionals Day! If it weren’t for our Admin staff, we’d all be curled up in a ball, crying, and wondering what we’re supposed to do next.

To say a very special thank you to each of our Admin staff, in varying departments, with all of their different titles and hats, I thought do a little mini-spotlight for each Admin! There are so many of you, and only one of me, so forgive me if they are quite brief. HealthStar Admin staff – the spotlight’s on you!

Here comes the thank-you train

Special thanks to Jill in Bemidji, for her positivity and for her super MacGyver door-unlocking skills… not that she’d ever need to use those skills at work, because no one would EVER lock the door by accident…

Thanks to Theresa in Gallup for 11 years of amazing attitude and fun, but when you have to work hard, boy does the office get scared!

Jean in Cass Lake – thank you for being so friendly and kind, for always chatting with me a bit, and on behalf of the Cass Lake office, thanks for keeping things neat and tidy!

The trouble with doing something right the first time is that nobody appreciates how difficult it was.

Walter West

Thank you to Jane at Corporate for the obvious, of course – watering the plants, and keeping us up-to-date on the ancestry of her family! (and also thanks for being amazing at payroll, can’t forget that minor detail)

Thanks to Stephanie in Ogema for being a fun, new team member, even though you don’t like post-its. Can’t wait to hear more about the gardening and animal rescue!

Laura in Bemidji, your love of post-its might cause friction with Stephanie, but we can’t see it from Corporate so we will pretend it isn’t happening. Thanks for your amazing empathy, and for having the best phone voice at HealthStar.

Barbara in Inver Grove, your character shines through the phone with the power of a lightsaber. Thanks for always helping out, and for having a fabulous sense of humor!

Accomplishing the impossible means only the boss will add it to your regular duties.

Doug Larson

Thanks to Kaely in Arizona, who sings to the office and calms everyone with wonderful candles. We appreciate you keeping Holly in check!

Thank you to Kristen from Bemidji to Cass – we sure do appreciate your chameleon skills going from office to office and helping out where you are needed most!

Cristina, our Metro then Corporate then IGH transplant – we miss you at Corporate! Thank you for being outspoken and funny, for lightening the mood, and for keeping us organized!

Jekeia in Mental Health, thank you for always being willing to help out with equipment going one way or another! You have a way with putting a smile on everyone’s face, which helps everyone stay positive on those dark and dreary days!


No one is more cherished in this world than someone who lightens the burden of another. Thank you.

Joseph Addison

Corporate would not be the same without Greg, our resident pizza delivery man. Thank you for being willing to carb out with us (and for making me feel less bad about my life choices)!

Thank you to Rachel in Gallup, first caregiver, now office staff. Everyone in the office is really enjoying your enthusiasm on the team! Thank you for jumping right in and being willing to learn!

Joanne, our Corporate “Betty Crocker,” thank you for the thoughtful treats, for your positivity, and for keeping our meetings lively!

Diane in Arizona – sounds like you are the “Betty Crocker” of the Arizona crew! Thank you for the treats that you share, and for your willingness to fill in as needed in the field!

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.

William Arthur Ward

Thank you to Denise in Cloquet for being so patient with our help desk! Thank you for sharing your wisdom, and for helping Amy, we know she is so glad to have you there!

Maria at Corporate – I’m not exactly sure if you really count as an admin because you also have reports, but your biggest thank you from what I’ve seen is for your flexibility and patience with us as we figure out just exactly what we are doing around here!

Kelsey in Waite Park – thank you for being new with Neal, so that he is not alone! Thank you for your positivity and compassion!

Thank you to Leela at Corporate for being super easygoing and calm about everything. You’ve got a great laugh and we love when we sneak it out during meetings!

Thanks for being you!

To all of our admin staff – THANK YOU for being you, we are so lucky to have such an amazing team! If I have committed a mortal sin and forgotten someone, please accept my apologies! HealthStar truly appreciates each and every one of you; you’re our backbone and we are so grateful for the support that you provide!

The greatest sign of how much you are all loved is this: when I sent out a request for feedback, so that I could write this post about our admin staff, I got something from just about every office within a day. That’s totally unheard of, so I know how much you all mean to your offices. Every single office jumped at the chance to send amazing and wonderful information about each and every admin employee. It has been fun to learn a little more about each of you, and I hope that I’ve done the offices justice in my “thank you” duties!

Let’s go OUTSIDE!

I love it when I start looking for blog ideas and I hit something that has millions of articles published. It tells me that I am on to something. When I went looking for “health benefits of time outdoors,” Google blew up with so many articles explaining what I already know from personal experience – being outdoors is fabulous for our health, and most of us aren’t spending nearly enough time out there!

The following is a collection of my personal top 5 reasons to get outside. Now that this long, snowy, and ridiculous winter has finally come to a close (you heard me, winter – COME TO A CLOSE), I hope you’ll join me in getting back out into nature! (yes, you can still go outside in winter. But it’s so much easier to get outside in spring!!)

1. Pure Joy

I feel a special something when I walk outside – smelling the fresh air, feeling the warmth of the sun on my face, and looking up into the skyline. It’s a feeling of freedom, hope, and happiness. Even just thinking about a warm summer breeze can bring a smile to my face. I’m guessing you have the same feeling, at least sometimes, when you step outside!

We spend so much time indoors. Some studies estimate as much as 90% of our time is spent inside. Whether you’re in your house, in the office, in your car, or even in a shopping center, there is a feeling of being enclosed that you may not realize is there until you step out into the wide-open spaces. Stepping outside on a day with great weather, I am like Maria in the Sound of Music (Julie Andrews), singing in the grassy meadows, arms outstretched, surrounded by beautiful, gently rolling hills covered by soft greens and framed by a clear blue sky.

Even what some would consider mediocre weather has its moments – the wonderful pitter patter and that amazing smell when it rains; the beauty of a fresh snowfall; the crisp chill of a fall day – I appreciate the joy in all of the seasons, and I know I need to be better at finding ways to get outside no matter the perfection of the skies! What’s your favorite season? Think about how you feel when you’re outside on your perfect day. Pretty great, right? You can’t buy that joy, it’s free just for stepping outside!

2. Burn off Stress

No, we’re not just talking about the angry walk around the block, but maybe this helps explain even that. Walking it off is a great way to burn off anger and frustration, but why? Well, the exercise helps burn off some of those pesky “fight or flight” endorphins, but also, I think the time outside helps put things in perspective. I am one person in one home on one street, surrounded by a town, a State, a Country, and all that before we even get to the size of the whole planet. Walking outside, I see my neighbors and their families. I have even walked outside to find that a neighbor is also “rage walking.” Talk about solidarity – none of us is alone in our experience, whether it’s a celebration or a challenge!

We are also connected with each other by nature. We use the same water, absorb the same sun, and smell the same fresh air. Getting outside is important, because it reminds us that there is something greater than ourselves – something that has been here far longer than we have, and will continue to be here after we are gone. It reminds us that we are not permanent, and neither are the things that can cause us stress and frustration. Even when you don’t feel stress building up, it’s still great to get outside and enjoy the peace and calm that comes from being in nature. It helps you re-center and tackle your responsibilities and challenges with new energy!

3. Oh, the health benefits!

Folks who struggle with mobility, mental health, and other barriers which make it more difficult to enjoy time outside – we are working for you! Many HealthStar clients already have help with improving outdoor mobility, whether it be a PCA who accompanies Clients on walks or nature outings, the Mental Health team helping get Clients motivated and setting goals for time or activities outdoors (we’re looking at you, Magan!), or the Physical Therapy team working on skills that make it easier to get outside independently (and with Nissa in charge, you know you’re in good hands), there are plenty of ways that HealthStar builds additional time outside into your plans for better health! We want to make sure that everyone can enjoy the health benefits that can be gained from spending time outdoors.

The potential health benefits from getting outside are numerous enough to fill several individual top 5’s all on their own. Here, in rapid fire, are just some of the health conditions that can be treated by spending time in the great outdoors – maybe it’s not a full cure, but for these diseases or disorders, at least a reduction in symptoms, severity, or a decrease in prevalence has been linked to more outdoor time.

Addiction, anxiety, arthritis, asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease, common cold, dementia, depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, inflammation, insomnia, mental health disorders, mobility, nearsightedness, obesity, osteoporosis, pain, preterm birth, restless legs.

Phew. That’s quite the list, and just scratches the surface of how healthy it is to get outside. Please look into the links provided below, or Google for yourself for more information about all these health benefits. I would love to go into each, but this is only a 5-item blog post, not a dissertation. If I start getting even longer-winded than I already am, no one will read my posts!

4. Build outdoor skills with your kids

This one is my personal favorite. I love the look on the kids’ faces when we get outside for a nature walk. Maybe there is a nature preserve near you? We live near Tamarack Nature Center, which is a fabulous (and free) preserve in White Bear Lake. There are walking and hiking trails, there is a nature center for kids to explore, and there is even a sand and water area for the warm weather months. It is awesome to see the kids’ joyful faces when they get to run in the field and play in the mud. Playing outside is also a great time to learn survival skills, like which berries are toxic and what poison ivy or poison oak look like. Fishing, hunting, camping and hiking are all inexpensive ways to spend more outdoor time with your kiddos, and each presents a unique learning experience!

5. Screen-free time!

There are different viewpoints about screen time. Some people say “it’s no big deal,” and others believe that any TV is bad TV. As with most things, the answer is probably somewhere in the middle. For me, personally, it is important to disconnect from the screen at times. As a mom, I also think that it is important for my kids to have plenty of “hands-on” interests. Getting out in “the wilderness” is an awesome way for our family to forget all about phones, tablets, TV, and computers. As long as I remember to put my phone on silent. 😊

My kids love being outside. I have never had them ask “can I go inside and watch TV?” We often go for a “family walk” after dinner, with the little one in the wagon and the 5-year-old on her bike. There are so many good things about this time. It is a true family connection for us – time that we spend actively together, not just staring at a device while we’re in the same room. It’s time that we exercise together without thinking of it as exercise. And it’s time when we can look at the world around us – learn about trees, grass, birds, and all kinds of other wildlife, just by being exposed to it together.

Can’t you Google that?

Yes, you can learn about these things by looking them up on Google (and sometimes we do, when we get home). But the hands-on experience of touching a leaf and feeling its bumpy veins, running your hands over the rough bark of a tree, or watching a bunny speed through a field, its little white tail just peeking over the tall grass, until it hears you and poof becomes still, blending into the scenery except for its shiny eyes and its soft and twitchy little nose – Google, even in 4k, just can’t compete.

A little wisdom from Grandma Alma

I’ll close with a tribute to my grandma. Grandma Alma is a wise woman – she says “the more often kids eat dirt, the healthier they’ll be.” She still lives on the farm where my dad was born and raised, on the same dirt that I’m sure he ate as a child. She spends plenty of time getting outside, whether it’s mowing the grass, checking the garden, or just enjoying the warm sun. She’s in her nineties now, and still going strong, so I know she’s onto something… not that I’m going to eat a fistful of dirt now, but I hope you’ll agree, there is plenty of immune-boosting power in the outdoors. Maybe we just don’t all have to do the dirt eating part, OK, grandma?