How My Past Brought Me to the Present! Death as Part of Living ~ Part 19

Reading Time: 4 minutes

In the summer of 1994 I took a course called Death as Part of Living. The ISU course was held at the DMACC campus in Ankeny Iowa. Our class often met outside, which was really nice. I also remember taking the class with Chris Fehn, who would go on to join the rock group Slipknot and play drums as #3, Mr. Picklenose.

Chris Fehn at Allstate Arena in 2009

In the class we made genograms. According to good ole Wikipedia: “A genogram is a pictorial display of a person’s family relationships and medical history. It goes beyond a traditional family tree allowing the user to visualize hereditary patterns and psychological factors that punctuate relationships.It can be used to identify repetitive patterns of behavior and to recognize hereditary tendencies.

A genogram is created with simple symbols representing the gender, with various lines to illustrate family relationships.

Some genogram users also put circles around members who live in the same living spaces. Genograms can be prepared by using a complex word processor, or a computer drawing program. There are also computer programs that are custom designed for genograms. In class, we hand drew ours, and I still have mine.

It was really helpful to just think about members of my family, and gather more information from my parents. Ann & Dick’s firstborn son died in infancy.  Jump forward….my parents have been married for over 50 years (married September 3, 1955.). They are ages 74 & 78….  I have 3 brothers and two sisters, all close in age. Here we be:

Richard ~ born in 1956, died 4 days later

Julie ~ born in January 1959

Michael ~ born in March 1960

Janice ~ born in April 1961

Steven ~ born in July 1962

Amy (that’d be me) ~ born in September 1963

You Again!?

~ Ann and Dick Prochnow were busy ~

This closeness in age allowed our family to be involved in a wide variety of activities, some of which we did together and some apart. One example, each summer we took a two week vacation and traveled by station wagon around the United States. I remember South Dakota, Colorado, California, even Mexico and Canada….visiting many incredible places! Thank you mom and dad for these growing up experiences!

Our family togetherness instilled strong bonding, plenty of compromise, and of course, plenty of down and dirty drag out fights. Ahh, the memories. My family of orientation taught me how different personalities can be.  And you can say that again with my brothers and sisters….Totally Different!

Totally Different Peas in Our Family Pea Pod!

I want to share with you my brother Steven died at age 35 in a motorcycle accident. When I took this class, he was alive and living his life to its fullest.  I’ll write more about my bro next week.

Sometimes I worry about my parent’s deaths, or my husband’s, or heaven help me, one of my children. But I have to stop and remind myself that death is part of living. My friend Becky Tjaden is on her death bed. Becky served as my “surrogate golf mother.” Because my mom had 3 daughters to golf with, when it came time to participate in daughter/mother golf tournaments, I was luckily passed on to Becky. She was a great teacher of golf for me. I still have the Daisy putter she gave me.

I Always Think of Becky When I Putt!

I see death as a way to have a renewed relationship ~ with yourself, another human,  and God. To me, death is change, and if you’re prepared, the best change you’ll ever experience! So those you leave on Earth know you’re where you’ve been heading throughout your lifetime!

I came across a beautiful paper by someone who agrees, that being Olive Jones. Here’s a link to what Olive wrote titled No Death Just Change by Olive Jones.

Death is what makes life precious…

Yesterday was Easter. I hope you had a blessed and Happy Easter along with a great time.  We did here.  Mom and dad, Julie, Mike and Myra and Ryanne, all my children (Nick, Jake and Arin) and Jake’s girlfriend. All during Lent we have a special time to think about death as part of living. And now into the Easter Season, we have a special time to really start living.  Enjoy and respect all life!


 My professional rehabilitation counseling practice is focused on helping people participate in the world around them, particularly in their own world of work.

Want to Heal that Injury? Focus on Your Nutrition!

Reading Time: 3 minutes

In a recent post, I talk about a paper I wrote for a health studies course, and I mentioned how important nutrition is in my life. Nutrition ~ the science or study that deals with food and nourishment, especially in humans ~ continues to be as important as ever to my lifestyle.

At ISU, I took a Human Nutrition (FS HN 167) course in the Spring of 1994. It was a lecture style course, and the student body was well over 200 people. I enjoyed the course even in that type of learning environment.

Just as you orient in church, at a sports event, on the bus, or even at your dining room table, you tend to position yourself in the same seat or section.  I recall the lecture room (in Curtiss Hall) and our little pod of people who sat down in front, lower left. We got to know each other familiarly (who would fall asleep first, who was the fastest test taker, who would be most likely to raise their hand and speak out, who would usually leave early…).  This bonding helps with such a large learning environment.

Sleepy Student #1

Remember Julius Michalik (that’s not him!)? Julius was on the men’s basketball team back when Johnny Orr was in his final seasons as ISU’s head coach. Julius played with Fred Hoiberg (still The Mayor!) and Loren Meyer. I remember walking to class behind Julius in early, early morning hours, specifically during the predawn, butt freezing cold, wintery time.

Following in the Largest Footsteps

I used Julius’ huge footprints to guide me to class…kept my boots just a ‘lil less snow filled! He was in this course I’m talking about in this post, adding another special memory for me. Julius, as any basketball player, or as any student, or any worker, may sustain an injury in the course of work.

In my vocational rehab counseling & life care planning practice, I find it important to inquire about nutritional habits.  Good nutrition plays an incredibly important role in the healing of an injury.  If you simply don’t care what you eat, it is more likely than not you will have health related problems. And you won’t heal in an optimal time frame (it doesn’t need to months and certainly not years to heal with most injuries or from most surgeries).  On the other hand, if you’re handling a medical malpractice case, I definitely find that nutrition is vital during rehabilitation.

What really happened in Saturday night’s Kansas vs Ohio State game?

Put tobacco smoking and excessive alcohol intake on top of crappy eating habits, and good luck with reaching a healthy state of healing and of mind. L have learned that healthy eating helps a person stay awake and alert, the body to heal quicker, and allows the mind to focus during important daily tasks in life.

In another of my past blogs I wrote about how I like to use visuals to teach…..and I use that concept for myself.  Take a Look at What I Just Created called EAT ME.  These foods are powerhouses!   Feel free to print it off!

Nutrition is fundamental when helping a person to lead a healthy lifestyle and again to heal in an optimal time frame. Nutritional support varies on an individual basis, but it has to start somewhere.  Here is a link to a simple nutrition assessment.

If I find the person whom I am assessing describing poor nutritional habits, I will offer suggestions and resources and will refer s/he to a dietician. Our local HyVee Food Stores have great information on nutrition.  Nutrition made easy, take a look! Thank you for reading!


My professional rehabilitation counseling practice is focused on helping people participate in the world around them, particularly in their own world of work.


Feeding the Sharks…Even Babies Bite Hard!

Reading Time: 3 minutes

[Original Post date: March 26, 2012] Feeding the Sharks…Even Babies Bite Hard!

I fed sharks!  Incredible!

To explain:  My son Jake (he’s a high school senior) needed help feeding the fish at Central Campus over spring break.  Central Campus is a regional academy of the Des Moines Public School District in Des Moines, Iowa. The campus provides extended and unique learning opportunities to students.

Jake is a student in the Aquarium Science program, taught by Kirk Embree.  In the program, students experience aquatic animal husbandry and aquaculture in a new facility modeled after a public aquarium.  The “fish” are on the 3rd flood of the “old tech high building” and you have to see it.  It’s very impressive.  The entire building is getting an incredible face lift (it used to be a Ford assembly plant).  I’m proud of what DMPS is doing to improve learning environments.

There are over 100 aquariums, totaling 16,000 gallons of saltwater!

Last year, Jake and his cohort traveled to the Bahamas for a 10 day field ecology trip and explored the ocean…..and other areas of life while down there.  He certified in scuba diving for the trip.  What stories he shared…  We are privileged to have this wonderful learning academy accessible for our youth!   Here’s a short video about the marine program.

Sharks have all the senses we have (smell, taste, touch, eyesight, and hearing). They can also sense electricity and vibrations in the water. However, a shark’s primary sense is a keen sense of smell. It can detect one drop of blood in a million drops of water (~25 gallons) and can smell blood 0.25 mile away!  To feed the sharks, I used a realllly long needle with raw shrimp on the end.  They snatched it right up and I let out a bit of a scream!

That would bite!

To change tones of this post I have a question.  Have you seen the movie Swimming With Sharks (also known as The Boss and Buddy Factor)?  It’s a 1994 American comedy drama film, directed and written by George Huang.

Buddy Ackerman, an influential movie mogul, hires Guy, a naïve young writer, as his assistant. Guy, who has just graduated from film school, believes that his new job is a golden opportunity. Despite warnings from Rex, the outgoing assistant who has become hardened under Buddy’s reign, Guy remains optimistic……..Unfortunately, Buddy turns out to be the boss from hell…..

The above is from From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

I’d rather feed than swim with the sharks!

A “shark” can be a greedy or ruthless or treacherous person.  I tend to understand that “swimming with sharks” means “working with ruthless, back-stabbing people who will stop at nothing to achieve their own goals (profit).” In this sense, a shark doesn’t care what he does to you or a company. He “attacks fiercely” in order to achieve his own goals. The “attack” could be perfectly legal, even though it might hurt a lot of other people.

Pay attention to “sharks”

I counsel clients through the job placement process, and we pay attention if it appears there’s sharky behaviors coming from potential employers.  I also counsel myself when it comes to the potential of swimming in water that may be infested with sharks.  In a future post I will talk about my role in litigated cases as an Expert Witness.  Stay tuned and keep watch!

 Even cute baby sharks bite hard!


My professional rehabilitation counseling practice is focused on helping people participate in the world around them, particularly in their own world of work.

How My Past has Brought Me to The Present! ~ A Non Traditional Student, Enlightenment & Marshmallows ~ Part 18

Reading Time: 5 minutes

In my last blog, I started with the Little Brain – so on to him! Being the “non-traditional student” (aka not being 20ish) and being pregnant was … I’m trying to find the right descriptor ~ enlightening.

I was given greater knowledge and understanding about my situation!

Seriously I was enjoying my life immensely (still am!)  At that time, I was 30 years old, on my second pregnancy and feeling great.


Ultrasound 2-1-1994…he’s sucking his thumb!  He being Jacob!

Here’s another glimpse of my story while attending Iowa State University. In the Spring of 1994, along with the 3 credit hour Social Work & Social Policy course I took and wrote about in the blog on March 5, 2012, I was taking 16 more credit hours, including one course called Human Diseases: Causes and Prevention (Health Studies 350).

Here is an excerpt from a paper I wrote on May 2, 1994, titled Personal Disease Projection: An Awareness Guide to My Own Health and Lifestyle.

My current lifestyle finds me reaching explicitly for a very positive and healthy outlook. I am very much enjoying my happy (yet workaholic) husband and our rambunctious five-year-old. We are eagerly awaiting a new child sometime in early August. I feel being 30 is treating me pretty good and I really can’t ask for more at this point in time (except to have my degree in Community Health Education NOW).

Since I am taking 19 credits this semester it was mandatory that I quit my day job, therefore, I only have one part-time job which pays a lot and is pretty non-stressful (I moonlight as a transcriptionist).  We recently (last October) purchased our first home and live in a nice, quiet neighborhood with friendly neighbors (except the mean old man right next door – anyway….)

During this time in my life, and I mentioned it in at the end of my paper,

“A possible cause of alarm is my stress management level.  I plan to learn new strategies to alleviate the stressors that can get to me. I am going to listen to more relaxing music – and try out the old adage of counting to 10 before I get angry.”

Gee, I guess I should’ve given my self a break…..!  And I hope you do whatever you need to/want to do to relax as well.  Here’s some great ideas for you to choose from to squash the stress:

Fun Ways To Reduce Stress

Author Unknown

Did you know…

-Laughter can reduce stress hormones
-Laughter boosts your immune system
-Laughter lowers your blood pressure
-Laughter can exercise certain muscles (diaphragm, abdominal, facial, neck, back, and leg)

Looking for a quick easy way to ‘work out’? Laugh! Did you know that laughing 100 times is the equivalent to 15 minutes on an exercise bike or 10 minutes on a rowing machine. Yep…it is. Amazing isn’t it?

 Here are amusing ways to reduce stress: (Some you may not want to try at home)


  • Jam 39 tiny marshmallows up your nose and try to sneeze them out.
  • Use your Mastercard to pay your Visa.
  • Pop some popcorn without putting the lid on.
  • When someone says “have a nice day”, tell them you have other plans.
  • Forget the Diet Center and send yourself a candygram.
  • Make a list of things to do that you have already done.
  • Dance naked in front of your pets.
  • Put your toddler’s clothes on backwards and send him off to pre-school as if nothing is wrong.
  • Retaliate for tax woes by filling out your tax forms in Roman numerals.
  • Tattoo “out to lunch” on your forehead.
  • Tape pictures of your boss on watermelons and launch them from high places.
  • Leaf through a “National Geographic” and draw underwear on the natives.
  • Go shopping. Buy everything. Sweat in it. Return it the next day.
  • Pay your electric bill in pennies.
  • Drive to work in reverse.


  • Relax by mentally reflecting on your favorite episode of “The Flintstones” during the finance meeting.
  • Tell your boss to blow it out of his mule and let him figure it out.
  • Read the dictionary upside down and look for secret messages.
  • Bill your doctor for the time spent in his waiting room.
  • Braid the hair in each nostril.
  • Write a short story, using alphabet soup.
  • Lie on your back eating celery using your navel as a salt dipper.
  • Stare at people through the lines of a fork and pretend they’re in jail.
  • Make up a language and ask people for directions.
  • Write a message to your doctor on your hip so he can see it during the bone marrow harvest.

Practice up on how to walk like a zombie

  • Count how many minutes it takes to stare at the phone before it rings.
  • Bring “Three Stooges” movies and insist your nurse has to see them with you before you’ll take your chemo.
  • Buy a fake i.d. and have a free Denny’s breakfast for your birthday.
  • Tell your family you have plans and then do absolutely nothing.
  • Leave a message with farm animal sounds on someone’s answering machine.
  • Redecorate your house by fingerpainting the walls and blame it on the kids.Determine your strength. Thumb wrestle with your own right and left hand
  • See how many people are listed in the phone book with your last name. Call and tell them you’re their long lost cousin.
  • Walk around the block and count all the pot holes in your street.
  • Read tea bags.
  • Give yourself a pat on the back and affirm that you made it another day.

Be truthful, how many of the above have you really done or really plan to do soon?  In quick review, I have done…well, never mind!  Do you have any good stressor squashers you’d like to add?

Jake's drawing Landshark

Back to Jacob…drawing helps destress him!

Today, Monday March 19, 2012, leads us closer and closer to Jacob’s high school graduation! The ceremony is on Sunday, May 27 at 7:00 pm at the Drake Knapp Center. Time to celebrate!

Happy Spring!


 My professional rehabilitation counseling practice is focused on helping people participate in the world around them, particularly in their own world of work.




How My Past has Brought Me to The Present! The Student with 2 Brains ~ Part 17

Reading Time: 4 minutes

In Spring of 1994 I took 19 credits, and I did really well academically. I like to relate it to the fact that at that time in my life, I had two brains! Yes you read that right!

I was pregnant with my second child!

 Ahhh, the beautiful brain. FYI:  Your brain weighs 2 to 4 pounds and is comprised of at least 60% fat. It is the fattest system in your body. It’s a compliment when you get called a fat head!

I happen to be quite fond of the amygalda (uh mig’ dull uh).  The amygalda (aka the “emotional brain) is a set of subcortical nuclei that is important for perceiving in others and having in oneself emotional or affective behaviors and feelings (eg: fear, anger). It’s a component of the limbic system. Emotions convey a lot useful information. In a future blog, I will write about emotional intelligence, but for this week’s writing I want to focus on brain health.

The amygalda – the name, comes from ‘like an almond’

I’ve been attending Brain Health Seminars hosted by Emeritus Senior Living in Urbandale, Iowa. The topics are very interesting and revolve around Paul David Nussbaum Ph.D’s research.  Dr. Nussbaum is a Clinical Neuropsychologist and Adjunct Professor of Neurological Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.  Website for  Paul David Nussbaum, Ph.D.  

Dr. Nussbaum is an International Leader on Brain Health Lifestyle and has recently written a book titled SAVE YOUR BRAIN The 5 Things You Must Do to Keep Your Mind Young and Sharp”

Yes, there are six slices, but who could resist?

The five critical areas of brain health, or the “slices to the brain health pie,” include:

Socialization, Physical Activity, Mental Stimulation*, Spirituality and Nutrition

One of the Brain Health Seminars focused on *Mental & Cognitive Stimulation.  The featured speaker was Polly Johnston, Program Specialist, Iowa Alzheimer’s Association.  Polly explains Dr. Nussbaum focuses on the mind’s five main cognitive functions:

~  Language Skills  ~  Memory  ~  Concentration & Attention  ~ Visual & Spatial  ~ Executive Functions (Logic & Reasoning) ~

 Polly taught our group how to come up with ideas to cognitively stimulate our brain.  She recommends we try something new and challenging each day.  Here is one I love: If you are right handed, (I am), use your left hand to eat, write or use your car keys. I personally like to shoot pool positioning the cue stick in my left hand (not that it helps my game, but I do it anyway!)

Many years ago, when I broke my right wrist in a car accident,  I had to use my left hand quite a bit for the six weeks it was in a cast. For example, I wrote, ate, brushed my teeth and washed my hair left handed (covering cast with a bread bag so it wouldn’t get as wet!) Using my left hand/arm helped me conceptualize how important it is to try to be ambidextrous. My husband claims to be….maybe to some degree, luckily for him his mother was a lefty!

Other ideas to exercise your brain include get yourself a Brain Games/Puzzle Book (there are plenty on line to do). 

Plan for exciting travel!

 Learn a new musical instrument (this engages different parts of your brain and why our DMPS schools need to never ever rid our students of the opportunities for band, choir, symphony…..).

Additionally, listen to wonderful classical music!

In his high school days, my son Nick played:  alto sax, bari sax, flute, baritone, and piano.  My daughter Arin takes band lessons (thank you Mr. Most Talented Craig Swartz, Instrumental Music Director of Des Moines Public Schools) and plays the flute for her school. She also self-taught in a number of instruments, and plays the guitar, bass, ukulele and piano. As an aside, my 15 year old beauty also self-taught in sign language! I am in awe when she signs songs. Absolutely beautiful.

I blog…..which really helps my brain! I receive the online Word of the Day (I love this). And, well I work! Think brain, think, how else do I exercise my brain? Does golf count (without getting pissed off?) I really want to play the piano again (I took lessons from Ms. Schweiger for many years as a youngster while growing up in Iowa Falls.)

What do you do to exercise your brain?

I started this blog with the baby inside topic….but never did mention Jacob… week young man! Read on!



How My Past has Brought Me to The Present! More Recollections of ISU – Part 16

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Hope you enjoyed last week’s blog post about motivation. On to more recollections of my days at ISU:

In the Spring of 1994 I took Social Work 261, taught by Stephen M. Aigner.  For the course,  I was required to read a book about the depression titled “In The Shadow of the Poorhouse”, by Michael B. Katz.

I still remember the book….17 years later (woah)

From Library Journal

According to Katz, the American welfare system that nobody likes has been able to resist fundamental change over two centuries because of its symbiosis with the social structure and the political economy. From his analysis of the history of welfare in the United States he finds that there have always been contradictions among its goals: deterrence, discipline, compassion, control, and patronage. Real reform, unlikely in the near future, would require that both social insurance and public assistance be replaced with full employment at fair pay, complemented by a social wage to all who are unable to work or find a suitable job. A stimulating challenge to the benevolent interpretation of welfare in America; recommended for academic and large public libraries. Harry Frumerman , formerly with Economics Dept., Hunter Coll., CUNY
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.

I prepared a report after reading it titled “A Personal Look Into the History of Welfare in America.” The instructor gave me a 100 on the paper and wrote “You’ve worked hard on this and it shows. One of the better papers I’ve had in five years!” The instructor encouraged me to think about a career in social work. Hum, I pondered….

Here’s a few paragraphs from the report I authored April 6, 1994, to answer a couple of questions from Chapter 9:  

Did the claims of critics about the expansion of social welfare hold water?  In my view, the criticisms of social welfare didn’t hold water for a number of reasons. The expansion of social welfare included many new sources of benefits and programs that assisted all level income populations Benefits included in-kind programs, implementation of a retirement wage and increase in public welfare roles. Nutritional programs such as school lunches and dietary supplements for women and young children were expanded. Food stamp application grew and housing projects were subsidized. The commitment of social welfare programs to minimize poor quality living conditions and improve services to enhance human development and the general quality of life was an important step in the continuation of our country’s welfare policy.

Some people criticized the increase in welfare reform. Social insurance was seen to undermine the free enterprise system. And of course, the well known dubious demoralizing work ethic effect thought to exist was ever present. Many people also complained of the increase in federal government expenditures, yet the helping profession wasn’t the only service increased. Perhaps the critics didn’t view health care and legal assistance as beneficial to the entire country.

Relative to other western industrialized countries, how does the U.S. compare in its treatment of its citizens? When all national expenditures for social welfare are added and compared to the gross national product, there is a remarkable comparison between the U.S. and other industrialized demographic countries. The U.S. relies the heaviest on public assistance because our people have lower relative incomes and fewer incentives to work. Our government provides its citizens with a semi (half-there) welfare state. It taxes its citizens fully while only partially helping the disadvantaged members of its population. Compared to Switzerland, the United Kingdom, West Germany and Australia, the U.S. ranks last in its methods and principals of providing helpful assistance to its people.

 Helping Client Systems

Although I didn’t become a social worker, my career as a rehab counselor is similar in nature. Paramount to our work is building relations with clients and client systems. Relationships are based on mutual participation in identifying goals that are practical for the Client.  In my profession as a rehabilitation counselor, I have chosen to focus on helping people find their true vocation.

 A vocation (from Latin vocare, meaning “to call”), is a term for an occupation to which a person is specially drawn or for which he or she is suited, trained, or qualified. Though now often used in non-religious contexts, the meanings of the term originated in Christianity.  Source:


Into the second week of Lent, I thank God for giving me this gift to help others.

I hope you enjoyed reading. On to Part 16!


My professional rehabilitation counseling practice is focused on helping people find a place in the workforce

How My Past has Brought Me to The Present! Part 15 – Motivation and Your Homework

Reading Time: 3 minutes

In my post last week, I wrote about motivation…and my Grandpa Jack. This week I am continuing with this omnipresent topic of life.  Motivation is what drives an individual from the inside. It cannot be learned or taught, this is just who you are!

But, last week I was so wrapped up in my writing, I forgot to give you your homework! (Is that lack of motivation or forgetfulness?) Be sure to draw that line and not get too strict with yourself if you forgot something!

Your homework On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the highest level: What level of motivation do you feel is required for you to get fit?  To study hard?  To succeed at your job? (add your own….)

This sure looks like a baby teething ring!

Your daily “to dos” or weekly goals are a huge part of how you view your level of motivation. They differ from minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day, and month to month, year to year! It’s helpful to score your motivation related to specific goal(s) on a daily basis according to your schedule and plans for the day. You don’t have to be detailed.

Your motivation score for cleaning your desk or for cutting your toenails might be a 2.  While weighing yourself or finishing a project a day early might be a 5.  How about a 10 as your score for acing that test, doing well in an upcoming job interview, or working to your best ability every day?

For example, last Thursday, I said:  Hey, Amy, it’s a 10 for the day that I will work on my taxes to get ready for tomorrow’s meeting with the tax guy.  I got it done!

Another example, today is Monday, I’m giving myself a 5 for starting that research project, but in my mind if I don’t get it started today, I know it’ll move up higher in score value (to a 6 or 7) by tomorrow. If there’s a deadline (which I think of when I hear of schedules, assignments, time limits or cutoff dates), be sure to set your task(s) to complete at a 10.  Hey You, that means JUST DO IT.  Be realistic with your time.

You Still Love to Play With This Baby Stacking Toy, huh?!

But of course make time for doing what you enjoy…….or being around those who you love!

Are Babies Motivated to Make Adults Smile?  I Believe It!


My professional rehabilitation counseling practice is focused on helping people find a place in the workforce

How My Past has Brought Me to The Present! Grandpa Jack & Motivators ~ Part 14

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Last week I mentioned the importance of understanding your own inner motivations.  At the end of my post, I let you know I’m into step aerobics.  I started step last October 2011 offered through Des Moines Public Schools Community Education and taught by Rhonda Judge, a wonderfully talented instructor.

I first took step aerobics during a Physical Fitness and Conditioning course at ISU.  I liked it back then (1995) and always thought about getting back into it.  But geez Amy, it took me well over 16 years to do so!  That’s a bit embarrassing, and I hope if you want to do something, please don’t wait that long!

How am I continually motivated to do step aerobics after all these years? 

I am going to compare it to how I am motivated to get fit and how I got motivated to do well in college (recall I was a high school dropout–what a dud!); and I want to look at what motivates people to work to their best ability.

I have 3 objectives to write about in this post: 

First, what motivates a person to exercise?

As far as step aerobics, it’s a workout using a step of four inches in height in front of your body. While listening to the instructor (and music) in a room full of like-minded people, you perform a choreographed exercise routine. 

Step is a form of endurance training. You burn calories, increase your strength and flexibility, and improve your gait and balance. Sounds good, huh? Trust me, it works in a fairly short period of time….if you stick to it.

The most important aspect of any type of exercise or training is the positive impact it has on your mental health.  There’s your motivator #1!

Step Aerobics is Fun!

Secondly, how do students find the motivation to do well academically? There are different concepts of motivation (extrinsic and intrinsic).

In my case, I love to learn but not in a controlled environment (eg: how public school was structured in the 60s, 70s & 80s…do what the teacher says, memorize, take tests, get graded–external pressure/external rewards.) Once I had autonomy (going to college), and became driven by my interests and enjoyment in the tasks involved in my learning, I realized, hey I’m not so dumb after all!  

Intrinsic motivationMy intrinsic motivation soared! 

My interest for learning soared, too! In fact, it I found deep purpose, and was driven towards learning and enjoying the quest for more!

The process of self-enlightenment shines through when you focus on your interests and tap into your inner wisdom.  There’s your motivator #2!

After the comic scroll down please, there’s more…

And thirdly, let’s take a peek at what motivates people to work to their best ability.  I want to introduce you to my maternal grandfather.  John V. Dodge.  The V is for Vilas.  Vilas was his grandfather’s first name! 

Shelf Life picks the perfect pickle | National Post

Sounds like a pickle, Grandpa joked of his middle name!

Grandpa’s career was in writing, as a publishing executive. Jack (what everyone called him) worked for Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. for well over 50 years. Encyclopedia Britannica is an international educational publisher with products that promote knowledge and learning. Sadly, it is no longer being published, however you can perform research, learn something new, and find many of your answers online. 

Growing up, do you remember a set like this on your bookcase?

For a long time Gp’a was the Editor in Chief for Encyclopedia Britannica.  If you click on this link, you’ll find the typical responsibilities of an editor in chief.  Jack was also an Army Intelligence Officer during World War II. Pretty impressive, don’t you agree?!

“John V. Dodge, in full John Vilas Dodge (born Sept. 25, 1909, Chicago, Ill., U.S.—died April 23, 1991, Glenview, Ill.), American editor and publishing executive of the Encyclopædia Britannica. A graduate of Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill. (1930), Dodge also studied at
the University of Bordeaux, France (1930–31). During World War II he served with U.S. Army Intelligence. He joined Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., in 1938, was managing and, later, executive editor of all Britannica publications (1950–64), and was vice president of the international division when he retired in 1972. 

John Vilas Dodge was a consultant to the editors of the 20-volume The Encyclopædia Universalis (Paris), a French language
general encyclopedia published by Encyclopædia Britannica, a privately held company. The articles of the Encyclopædia Universalis are aimed at educated adult readers, and written by a staff of full-time editors and expert contributors. It is widely considered to be the most scholarly of French-language encyclopedias.”


Jack and Jean Dodge lived in the Chicago Illinois area all their lives.  Grandpa had a college degree from Northwestern University (Grandma did too).  G’pa also studied for a time at the University of Bordeaux, France.  For his work, he traveled worldwide, being fluent in seven languages, culture and people simply fascinated him.

Jack and Jean had four children:  Ann (my mom), John, Gerald and Kay.  Here’s a picture from June 1986 that I took of my grandpa in his study.  Besides all the books, notice the print. I know it’s by a famous artist, but am not sure of the artist.  I’ll find out (hey, mom, got a question!) and get back to you with information about it. 

G’pa would love love love the World Wide Web!  

Here is a story I wrote about Gpa for an English Composition class in 1981.

Grandpa continued to consult during his retirement (and hang out with Jean in Florida during the wintertime!) Jack loved to write and help others to learn.

When you use your best skill sets and love what your work is about, you become naturally motivated to work to your best ability. There’s your motivator #3!

Every person has different motivations for working. The reasons for working are as individual as the person. But, we all work because we obtain something that we need from work.

Enjoy YourselfWorking to your best ability is gratifying. 

The something we obtain from work impacts our morale, our motivation, and the quality of our lives. 

As a consultant, I work to help others experience success in their work efforts.  I find value keeping my grandpa and his successful career in my mind (heart and soul, too!). 

I hope you enjoy reading this post and my other blog writings. Need help on a case involving work and disability? Give me a call at 515-778-0634 or email me at


My professional rehabilitation counseling practice is focused on helping people participate in the world around them, particularly in their own world of work.



How the Past Has Brought Me to The Present! Part 13

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Here’s an example of how I helped others to learn using a visual… on please!

To prepare for a presentation titled Weight Management Techniques for my Personal & Consumer Health course at ISU in November of 1993, I visited my local Fareway grocery store meat man down the street.  He happily turned over five pounds of meat fat free of charge, chuckling at my request and my reason for it.

My presentation focused on how to maintain a healthy body composition and to help avoid disease through a combination of moderate exercise and a low-fat diet.  I stressed the importance of understanding your own physical make-up and inner motivations before starting a weight reduction program.  I offered a number of techniques that can be used to meet your weight loss objectives.  At the end of the presentation, as a grand finale, I passed around the blob of fat to serve as a visual.

This is 1 pound of body fat.  It was passed around to every student in class…gross…..but effective!

To get to know your own physical make-up, one method is to estimate your body fat percentage.  The Body Mass Index (BMI)  is based upon simple weight and height measures.

The BMI calculation is an indirect measurement, and has been found to be a fairly reliable indicator of body fat measurements in most people. It is a number representing your weight distribution and, for most, is a good quantifier to determine if you are overweight.

If you have a lot of muscle mass, you’ll likely have higher limits. Here’s a BMI calculator from the Mayo Clinic for your reference.   A value between 18.5 and 25 is considered a normal weight.

Another method, now a days, it to look at your “Lean Body Mass”, and know how to calculate it.  What is Lean Body Mass (aka LBM)? Simply put, lean body mass is comprised of everything in your body besides body fat.  Your lean body mass includes:

 …and anything else in our bodies that has mass and is not fat.  As an aside, for the average adult male about 42% of body weight is skeletal muscle and it’s about 35% for females.

Lean Body Mass Formula: Lean Body Mass = Body Weight – (Body Weight x Body Fat %)

This equation is taking your body weight in pounds and subtracting it from the amount of fat you have in your body in terms of pounds.  Simple.  If you don’t know how to measure your body fat, here are are Ways  to Measure Body Fat.

Here’s another web page that will help you calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI), Waist-to-Height ratio, percent body fat, and lean body mass.  Diet Calculator, Body Fat Calculator


Ideal Body Weight and Percent Body Fat

The ideal weight and fat-lean ratio varies considerably for men and women and by age, but the minimum percent of body fat considered safe for good health is 5 percent for males and 12% for females. The average adult body fat is closer to 15 to 18% for men and 22 to 25% for women.

I hope the information in this post is helpful to you.  I am in progress of changing my body composition (aka:  losing body fat, lowering my weight, trying to ditch the gut, firming up, whatever!!!…) through exercising and watching what I eat, especially tracking daily carb and sugar intake.

I’ve been into yoga for well over a year, and I recently started a step aerobics class.  If there is something you feel you need to do to get fit, start now.  Try something! Do it for yourself.

Dennis has the best words of wisdom:

Thank you for reading!  On to more next week!  Post 14 I believe! Any comments are welcome!


My professional rehabilitation counseling practice is focused on helping people find a place in the workforce

How My Past has Brought Me to The Present! Part 12

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I continue to blog about recollections while attending Iowa State University in the mid-1990s.  Seems like yesterday I was on campus, but alas, time has taken us all much into the future…and it is fun to have fond memories.

In the Spring of 1993, I took 12 credits.  The courses were:  Legal Environment of Business, Business and Social Science Calculus, Business Organization and Management, Principles of Marketing.  I remember these classes (in an earlier post I praised the tutor I hired to get me through the Calculus course).  After this semester, I realized – hey these courses don’t really trip my trigger (other than the legal business course).

As I wrote about in my blog post on January 16, 2012 –  Part 9 I switched my major to Community Health Education.  In a very small nutshell ~ we’ll say a filbert ~

Health Education enhances the quality of life for all people.  For more detail, please click here – What is CHE?  I was very happy to find this major, it really fit in well with my interests, personality and learning style preference.

Now with a new academic outlook, I signed up for 17 credits in the Fall of 1993.  My courses were:  Principles of Biology, Emergency Health Care, Personal & Consumer Health, Drug Education, Individual and Family Life Development and Normal Personality.  All As and Bs, well and a C in biology.  GPA is 3.24.

I worked really hard for my grade in the biology course – which included a class and a lab.  Making my stains, focusing my microscope, studying those micro-organisms, memorizing scientific names, working with my biology partner, turning in lab work and taking tests…  I was genuinely trying to be positive about the whole course – but not really “getting” what I think I was supposed to be “getting” Get what I’m getting at?

Do you learn best by hearing someone say something?  By seeing it written down in words?  By studying diagrams or pictures?  By doing it yourself, or with a partner?  All of these ways of learning can be useful, but most people don’t have a clue about the best way for them to learn. The key to passing many a course at the college level (or to find success at tackling a project at work) is to first figure out how you learn.   Then apply that information to how the instructor structures the course (or you supervisor or team members are structuring the project.)

I recommend you get to know your own learning style to figure out how you “get things”. Take a minute or two to take this short VARK questionnaire that provides you with a profile of your learning preferences.  Here is a link to more information about VARK

I took the questionnaire and my scores were:

Visual: 3

Aural: 1

Read/Write:  4

Kinesthetic:  7

I have a kinesthetic learning style preference according to the test.

You can also look at the various studying strategies available on that VARK website to find some that work best for each of these learning styles.  I hope this is helpful….even if you are no longer a college student. For more information about your learning style,  see good old Wikipedia – I learn from it!

If you work like I work, you learn something new every day.  I personally like to learn (or to memorize) using a  double “clip art with acronym” method.  For example and this is one we all know.  What are the seven conventional colors of the rainbow?

Roy G Biv ~ You have a visual in two ways!

Stay tuned, for part 13 of “my story” and how I mix up my thoughts on work, life, love and passions as a rehab counselor.  Next week I’ll write about how I used FAT to teach.