SECRET TO A HEALTHY COMMUNITY

The man on the far right, with the megaphone, is the mayor of my fine city. Every year he holds a 30-day challenge to have members of the community be active for 30 minutes a day. This year the challenge was kicked off with a one mile walk that the mayor led. In politics there is too often examples of “Do as I say, not as I do.” It is refreshing to see a leader who leads by example.

Not only was this an example of a leader walking the walk, but of one who truly cares about the city he leads. Wanting the people who live in the city to be both healthy and happy is an extra step that most officials would not take. The position of mayor is filled with lots of obligations and responsibilities. Arranging both a walk and a 30-day fitness challenge creates a lot of extra work. Including, but not limited to, setting up police presence to make sure the course is safe. Working with sponsors and allocating prizes to be given away, t-shirts printed and what is sure to be countless other details I am forgetting.

Sure, setting up such an event can help you during reelection, but so could just being a great mayor. Why take all of the extra steps? That answer was made clear as we walked along. The mayor did not discuss politics, or as some national politicians are wanting to do, discuss how great of a mayor he was. No, today as we walked along he discussed his son’s love for sports, his family’s like for vacations in northern Wisconsin and an eventful trip they had made to Disney world. Most importantly, the mayor listened. Another sign of a great leader. He listened patiently as people voiced their concerns about aspects of the city, but also when they shared stories of their families as well.

After the walk had concluded, there was a small gathering where water, yogurt and prizes were handed out. Sadly, I did not win any of the State Fair tickets that were up for grabs. I did win, however, by being part of this great community.

I had the great pleasure of talking to wonderful neighbors like Jon and Robin who are also working diligently to foster a sense of community. Even though she wasn’t able to attend, there were plenty of discussions about my amazing neighbor Linda and what a caring neighbor she is. To make the day even better I was able to finally meet several neighbors I had only previously interacted with online including Denise and her fabulous husband. I look forward to chatting more with all of them as we work together to foster a greater sense of togetherness in West Allis Wisconsin.

If your community offers programs such as this I encourage you to join. If they do not, work with leaders to begin some. They not only do a great deal to reduce crime and increase a sense of community, but bring people together for positive and healthy reasons. Leaders, take mayor Dan Devine’s example. Caring about your constituents runs deeper than success at the polls and does not go unnoticed.

FREEDOM TO BE LOCAL

Here is a picture of the local July 4th celebration in West Allis Wisconsin, where I live. I believe the group is called ‘The dancing Grannies’. I think it is awesome that seniors continue to be active and it was even better to hear people applaud and cheer for them as they went by. In this country July 4th is celebrated as Independence Day, or the day in which this country began its self-rule.

Here is me enjoying the parade with my mother and her husband. I had such a good time and do not remember enjoying a parade that much since I was a child. It got me thinking about individual freedoms we either take for granted or choose not to take advantage of. Such as who we share our time with. Ideally, this picture would have included my lovely Margie, not only would that have added to the joy I was feeling, it would have added beauty to the picture as well. Alas, she was not able to join us due to prior obligations. I could have watched the parade by myself, or even with any of the great friends I ran into. I chose to watch it with my mother because lately we have been going for walks in nature and sharing some great conversation and fun times. The freedom of who to spend your time with is a very important one to exercise.

Here are pictures of the food truck and the tasty treats that I enjoyed from it. Do you realize how many more options we have when it comes to what we eat? Only 100 years ago small local grocery stores carried a handful of options. Now, we have stores that have thousands of items to choose from. Some from halfway around the world! We can choose to eat healthy or we can choose to eat…well…pizza. Even when cooking at home recipes and even videos guiding us through how to make exotic dishes are at our fingertips.

These are pictures of the party they held at a local park after the parade. There were things to eat as you saw in the above paragraph, as well as a band, children’s games and beverages. This brought up one of the most important freedoms of all. In a world that has headlines dominated by terrorism, racism, hate and violence, a lot of people are afraid to walk the street. Sadly, that is exactly what those committing violent crimes wish for. It is my belief that one of the best ways to combat a world that seems filled with division is to get out and meet your neighbors. Holiday celebrations are a perfect place to do so. On this day I met great neighbors such as Kristin, the mayor of our fine city, my neighbor Dan and lots of others. Do yourself a favor. As you are enjoying that hamburger, sweet corn or even that frosty beverage, take a second to introduce yourself to neighbors. If you happen to see Margie and me out enjoying the holidays, feel free to introduce yourself to us.

IT’S THAT TIME AGAIN

Fear not. This is not a picture of me. As I write this the temperature outside is a pleasant 60 degrees. Very warm for Wisconsin on the 4th of December. As you are reading this, however, the reading will be 30 degrees less. Yes a drop that big in the space of 24 hours. What is really challenging is the fact that the week ahead features high temperatures in the 20’s and 30’s. Those are average for this time of year and living here most of my life I should be used to that by now, but I am not.

As a person with Seasonal Affective Disorder, my mood tends to dip with the temperature. Knowing this can fill me with a sense of tread as the days get closer to the end of the year, but it also gives me time to prepare. I know I am not likely to see a day like the one we are having today until the month of May. So what can I do for the next 5 months to avoid slipping to a further degree of insanity than my normal state? One cannot certainly change the weather. Closing my eyes and chanting “I think it’s warm” over and over again wouldn’t get me very far either.

If cursing mother nature doesn’t help, what does? When you are faced with challenges you cannot change, then the only option is to change yourself. I am going to begin to plan fun things with the love of my life. Being the budget of an aspiring world-famous author doesn’t include money for many tropical vacations, I plan to visit the local horticultural building here (called the Domes) where there are living plants all year around. There will be more movie nights indoors. Maybe a bundled up adventure in the woods. While this does not replace the joy of riding my bike in the sunshine, these activities will bring me great joy.

Another option is to plan for when the weather is warm in order to make the most of the nice weather. Trips we want to go on. Maybe a road trip when the snow and ice is off of the roads. Getting in shape so I can better enjoy the warm weather when in comes. I have a calendar that I actually mark each day I go to the gym. It will keep me motivated in the cold weather.

The point is this, even if you are faced with a challenge that seems to be insurmountable you can always find ways to adjust. Winter will never be my favorite season, but that does not mean I cannot find ways to discover happiness while it is here.