Committing to a long and well life

IMG_3164As the summer is wrapping up, I knew that I needed to get some last minute things finished before I have to go back to the world of school. One of those things was visiting my grandparents. So this weekend I road tripped out to the great state of Iowa to hang out on the farm with my grandpa and grandma.

My grandparents live in lovely, little Homestead, Iowa in the Amana Colonies. Its functions in the heart of the Midwest’s corn belt and contributes to Iowa’s beef-producing epicenter. Grandpa has lived on this farm all of his life; I’m not kidding, he was born on this land 79 years ago. He grew up doing the hard labor that farming requires and continues until this day to feed all of his cattle and plow his fields himself. Grandpa is the kind of guy who just enjoys his work. Every year when I see him, though, he jokes about how after this upcoming winter, he’s going to quit farming. “Ok, yeah right, Grandpa,” we always say. This time prompted him to bring up his last visit to his general practitioner.

Grandpa got his bones tested, his blood tested and all of that other stuff to make sure that his body was still working well. At the end of the visit, his doctor asked him if he was really 79 years old. He couldn’t believe that he was as old as his birth certificate suggested; his body only suggested my Grandpa could be 60 years old. The doctor attributed my grandfather’s youthful condition to the daily physical activity that he does.

Most doctors recommend that you should be getting at least one hour of physical activity a day, whether it be going for a walk, playing a sport or doing some yoga. Staying active can keep your body young and working properly, and my grandpa can testify to that. I’m not suggesting that we all become farmers, although we could use the boost in agriculture. I’m recommending that we get up and make wellness a priority instead of shoving it to the side as if it were a luxury.

Being active is as important as sleeping. Without it, none of us are going to last very long. As humans, we have the strength and build to move. If we were meant to sit around and do nothing, we’d be sloths or vegetables.

Now, I’m not a carrot or squash, and I am hoping that you are not either. And my grandpa’s story only reiterates what so many other sources say: GET MOVING. SO before it is too late, start making physical activity a priority and necessity. Because really, it is a necessity. I hope that some day I can tell my grandkids that although I am eighty, I can still do all the fun things someone in their 60’s is doing. I don’t want my body to fall apart on me. The main point of wellness is not only to be well now, but to be well always, for the rest of our lives. So get up and get moving, just like my grandpa has done his whole life. It’s so worth your while that it will add years to your life.

 

Purging of the poisonous people

Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 2.43.16 PMLife is filled with handfuls of wonderful people. But it also cannot be ignored that there are plenty of Debby-Downers in day-to-day life. Sometimes people are just chronically negative, having a bad day or taking out a personal problem on you. Needless to say, this can ruin a work day, or any day really. We all probably have in mind that one person who constantly picks on our work or can barely spare a compliment when you do happen to do a good job. Usually, I try to ignore the negativity, but it can build up into a pessimistic mountain at times. So recently I’ve taken on the task of separating myself from the people who have just proven to be toxic in my life.

No, I’m not saying rid yourself from every single person who has hurt your feelings ever. You would be one lonely loner, that’s for sure. In life, we all have to remember that we are just human. We cannot be perfect and we cannot expect others to be perfect either. But we also cannot ignore self-care by letting Negative-Nancys take advantage of us. And we can’t let Meany-Mike strip us of our self-esteem on a regular basis. What I mean to say is that if there are people in your life that you are constantly putting yourself out for, relying on or covering for and they just keep using you like that, move on.

Ah, those scary words. Move on. Certainly not an easy thing to do and certainly not one of my favorite things to do either. I always find myself worrying about things like, “Oh, what if they change and see how much I do for them?” or “Maybe they just need a positive influence in their lives like me.” Forget it, man. Letting someone who does not have his or her own self-esteem worked out steel-roll you for all of your I-love-myself points is not fair to you! I fell into this trap of trying to be the bigger person by staying close friends with some people who were quite rude to me on a regular basis and would constantly use me for whatever I had to offer at the time. Not a fun gig. Not a real friendship.

And I know, you might be thinking that God says we should love our enemies. This is true. But He never said let them take advantage of you and toss you around for whatever they want or need. We can go out of our way, as Christians (and frankly as decent human beings) and help our neighbors, whether we like them or not. We should also, though, stand up for ourselves and the precious person that we were created as.

So if there are bullies getting you down, just step away. It is way more possible than you think. I’ve done it, my mother has done it with her friends and my dad has done it with his job. They seem much happier to me. And I can assure you that I’ve never felt better or stronger myself. Like I said, there are tons of fantastic people in the world. Go out there and surround yourself with great influences, others who lift each other up and friends who will always have your back. You deserve it. No one needs the little guys picking on you, and soon enough, they too will realize it themselves.

Me, myself and mind

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As an active person, sometimes the easiest thing you do each day is go to the gym or get your workout in. For me, this is just part of the routine; I usually have a worse day if I miss getting my daily pumping of iron. Most people don’t realize that there is another side to living a healthy lifestyle – intellectual wellness.

Just as important as it is to be physically fit, being mentally fit is a staple to a well life. Intellectual wellness stems from just feeling good, channeling curiosity and feeding creativity. Some vague terms, yeah? It can be hard to know what is actually curbing boredom or what is stimulating your brain cells. In all, anything that makes you really think is doing wonders for your intellectual wellbeing.

If you’re trapped at a desk all day or stuck in a job where you just go through the motions each day, try a few of these mind-pumping ideas in order to get the nerve juices flowing and keep your brain healthy and strong, just like your body.

 

Coloring – That’s kindergarten stuff, Sarah. No, friends! It is not. Mandala and destress coloring of really intricate pictures works as an awesome mind-winddown after a long day of intense, brain heavy work. Focusing on the hues and the lines is a sweet break after a long day of words and numbers. You can find oodles of adult stress-free coloring books in book stores.

Sudoku – Think you’ve had enough of numbers? Think again. Sudoku is a solid way to let numbers become a game. This helps the mind problem solve on a simple level. By perfecting the steps toward reaching the right answer of the sudoku puzzle, your brain adapts some thinking methods for real-life problems.

Poetry – Yup, that’s right. A quick throwback to high school English class with some ambiguous poems can be a great step away from the daily norm for your mind. By giving the descriptions a shot at interpretation, you test your head to think in a way that paints pictures in your mind. With colorful, detailed mental images, this helps cool down the firing neurons that have been working to boredom all day.

Optical illusions – I don’t know about you, but these frustrate the heck out of me sometimes. Optical illusions function perfectly as a challenge, especially if you haven’t seen the illusion before. While these can grow a little weary on the eyes, they dare your mind to think outside the box in order to pretty much change perception of the illusion.

Give these brain busters a shot and exercise your mind to keep it sharp and strong. Intellectual wellness is just as important as taking care of your body. Don’t be hesitant when it comes to feeding your curiosity.

Wellbeing Biographies: Sarah Schlaefke

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Photo by Nolan Bollier

Recently the news contains headlines that are riddled with devastating events. Dark and dismal happenings like shootings, bombings and corruption cover our TV screens, newspapers and social media feeds. I don’t know about you, but I could use a pick-me-up. Here’s my shot at adding a little positivity to your daily news intake.

As a wellness website, I feel that it is important to recognize, celebrate and encourage the sharing of our own healthy lifestyles as well as the lifestyles of those around us. Through Marquette Employee Wellness, I would like to start a little collection of stories amongst our campus of the positive changes, successes and even valiant efforts put forth by our community. This is an opportunity to share with those around us what we have been working on, not to boast and not to be ragged on for it, but to set forth positive examples and inspire each other to take on wellness for ourselves. We are, however, Marquette, and we do, in fact, make quite a difference, even in our own lives.

So to start us off, I’ll let you in on a little more about me.

A year ago, I could not have told you that I would be writing anything even remotely near to “wellness.” I did not really know what it meant to be well. I was struggling with some heavy depression, a not-so-healthy relationship and just an all-over raincloud on the outlook of my life. After a while, and after I had given up on the hopes of being happy, something changed.

I woke up one day feeling like I deserved it, which is true – we all do. I deserved to be happy. I could make that my reality, too. I just had to go at it headfirst. From that moment, I cannot think of a single regret.

I tossed my garbage relationship out the window. I started doing things that I wanted to do again, not things that I thought were out of the way and approved of by everyone else. I quit the job that made me unhappy. I took up rock climbing and full-fledged strength training. I cared more about what I ate, telling myself that my body deserves to be fueled correctly, so that I could go and accomplish the great things I wanted to accomplish.

Yes, I still had a handful of people doubting me, telling me “no,” or putting me down. I actually just decided that life is too short to care what they think. It was a tough pill to swallow, but in the end I realized that at the end of the day, I have to live with myself, so taking care of myself and my wellbeing became very important.

Today I am part of an amazing relationship with a man who makes me really happy and is pretty much my best friend/default adventure buddy. I am extremely excited to start up classes again this semester; I am very much looking forward to working with the teachers I  have. I also just recently began writing freelance articles with OnMilwaukee, one of my journalistic dreams come true. I have been slowly seeing progress in my climbing, which I have been using as inspiration to making new media featuring nature and the outdoorsy lifestyle. My faith is strong. My relationship with my family is full of smiles and laugher. And I am just about done with all of the anxiety and depression treatment that I started when all I could see is dark blue. All in all, I don’t think I could say I have ever been happier than I am right now. I am proud of my wellness and that is why I am here. I am aching to inspire others to take hold of life and just go for it, go for the happiness. And I know I am not the only one.

Here’s the good part. Since I can’t be alone on this wellness adventure, I want to hear from you about the successes, goals and healthy habits that have made you a better person. Your story does not need to be long, and it doesn’t need to be perfect (that’s why I have copy editing experience, don’t you worry). But I do want to hear it.

It is important to support each other in our journeys to wellness. This is why I feel this little project is essential. I hope that you will reach out to me with a story. We are not alone this planet for a reason. Let’s work together on being the difference in each of our lives.

Wellbeing Biography stories can be submitted to me, Sarah Schlaefke, at sarah(dot)schlaefke(@)gmail(dot)com. I will edit them up and let you know when they will be posted! Please feel free to include a photo, too, because the Internet loves pictures.

Thanks for reading, hope to hear from you all soon. Stay healthy, my friends.

Summer Cookout Series: Chocolate Pretzel Bars

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Photo via Julie Craig

Well, would you look at that. We are already at the last week of July! Since this month is coming to an end, I want to share with you my favorite way to end any meal – dessert. And since we are still talking about summer cookouts, I dug up one of my favorite picnic desserts and tweaked it just a tad to make it a little bit healthier.

This gooey, chocolatey, pretzel-filled dessert has all the ingredients to appease any kind of cookout guest. Take on a sweet tooth with the melty chocolate and satisfy the salt-lover with the chunks of pretzels bursting from every bite. These pleasing pretzel bars are the perfect way to end the party.

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups of whole grain wheat flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 sticks of softened unsalted butter
1 cup of light brown sugar
1/2 cup of sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract
One 12-ounce bag of bittersweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons of crushed cocoa nibs
1 1/2 cups of coarsely chopped mini quinoa pretzels
2 tablespoons chocolate sprinkles

HOW TO MAKE THIS RECIPE

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 9×13-inch metal baking pan with parchment or wax paper, allowing overhang on the edges of the pan.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. In a larger bowl, using a mixer, beat the butter with both sugars at medium speed until light, so only beat it for about 1 minute. Then add  in the eggs and vanilla and beat again. At a lower speed,  now beat in the dry ingredients. After, stir in the chips, nibs and pretzels by hand.
  3. Spread this concoction in the pan and dust the top with the mini chocolate sprinkles. Bake for a half an hour until golden and the center should still be still be a little gooey. Let cool completely. Just pull on the parchment paper to get the bars out of the pan. Cut them up and enjoy!

Summer Cookout Series: Glazed Bacon Cheeseburger

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Photo via Debra McClinton

Hello friends! We are hitting the middle of summer, so I hope your cookouts are roaring! With only a few weeks left in July, I would like to give you a quick main course idea, healthily upgraded of course.

This juicy stuffed burger is an upbeat and easy twist to the classic cookout meal. Complete with a bacon and cheese stuffing, this glazed burger is sure to keep you guests coming back for seconds.

Ingredients

3 tablespoons of dark brown sugar
1½ teaspoons of paprika
½ teaspoon of garlic powder
½ teaspoon of ground cumin
¼ teaspoon of chipotle powder (chili powder works too!)
¼ teaspoon of salt
¼ teaspoon of ground black pepper
1 pound of ground turkey
½ cup of low-fat shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
6 slices of cooked, crumbled turkey bacon
4 whole-grain rolls

Directions

  1. Heat grill to a medium temperature. Mix the sugar, spices, salt and pepper in a small bowl and set to the side. Mold the ground turkey into 8 round patties. Combine the cheese and crumbled turkey bacon together in another bowl, and then place an equal amount of the mixture on only  4 of the patties.
  2. Place the remaining 4 patties over the cheese and turkey bacon mixture. Press the edges of the burger to seal. Generously pat and cover each burger with the sugar and spice mixture. Grill until it is as done as you’d like! Enjoy!

Summer Cookout Series: Parmesan BLT Salad

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Photo via Alison Miksch 

Nothing says summer like a good cookout! For the rest of July I would like to share with you some family recipes that I love to see at cookouts I’ve attended in the past.

To start off the menu, here’s one of my favorite sandwiches turned into a healthier salad version! Behold, the Parmesan BLT Salad!

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups of cut-up, cubed white bread
3 tablespoons of melted butter
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup of buttermilk
3/4 cup of mayonnaise
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
1/8 teaspoon of sugar
12 ounces of chopped romaine lettuce and spinach
1 1/2 pounds of sliced cherry tomatoes
6 slices of cooked, chopped turkey bacon
 Flat-leaf parsley and torn basil leaves to garnish

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. Prepare Croutons: Toss together bread, melted butter, salt, and pepper in a medium mixing bowl. Place on a baking sheet, and bake 7 to 8 minutes. Remove from oven, and set aside.

3. Prepare Dressing: Combine shallot and vinegar in a medium mixing bowl, and let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk in buttermilk and next 5 ingredients.

4. Make Salad: Arrange romaine lettuce and spinach on a serving platter. Top with sliced tomatoes and chopped bacon, and drizzle with 3 Tbsp. of dressing. Add croutons, parsley and basil. Serve right away with leftover dressing on the side.

Wa la!


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