Healthy Concepts

In 2018, at the age of 63, the individual monthly health insurance premiums can start at $1,000 per person as shown to the right.

The $12,000 annual premium cost is a big burden, but when you add the potential $7,350 maximum out-of-pocket cost when you need expensive medical care, the total annual cost burden is $19,350.

The current law offers no tax credit or cost-share reduction if you make over $49,000 per year. If you make less than $49,000, you can receive substantial tax credits to lower your monthly premium. Cost-share reductions start below $30,000.

If there is any silver lining in these high costs, it is that more of us as consumers are beginning to realize that it is up to us to reform health care and insurance.

We cannot wait for the government to solve our problem of higher costs. 2018 will be the year that moves us to change as we seek out health care and insurance that offers us better health at lower costs. 


1. Throw a green holiday party.

  • Send electronic invites instead of mailing them.
  • When serving snacks or a meal, get out the good china instead of buying “cheap” disposable dinnerware. Your guests are worth it!
  • Provide clearly marked recycling containers.

2. Reduce food waste.

  • Make a list, and check it twice! This will reduce the risk of impulse buying and help you remember what ingredients you already have.
  • Be realistic when preparing food — do you really need four different desserts?
  • Send guests home with leftover containers.
  • Whatever food is left can most likely be composted.

3. Send e-cards or recycled-content cards. Recycle paper cards and send electronic holiday cards to reduce paper waste.

4. Give the gift of togetherness: No-waste gift ideas. Sometimes the most cherished gifts we can give are our time, love and energy. Consider making a charitable donation in someone else’s name. Or, give an experience or an event to remember.

5. Take reusable cloth bags on shopping trips.Thousands of bags end up in our landfills during the holidays. Reduce the number of bags by bringing reusable shopping bags for holiday gift shopping. If you do use plastic bags, be sure to recycle them at your local grocery or retail store, not in your curbside bin.

6. Give quality gifts. Durable products last longer and save money in the long run. Cheaper, less durable items wear out quickly and create more landfill waste.

7. Use earth-friendly gift wrapping alternatives, such as:

  • Scarves, handkerchiefs, cloth napkins, kitchen towels or bandanas.
  • Old posters and maps.
  • Newspapers (the comic section is great).
  • Give a present in a present (place gifts inside reusable containers like cookie tins, flower pots and baskets).
  • Make a “treasure map” to find an unwrapped gift hidden elsewhere in the house.
  • Wrap gifts in your children’s, or your own, artwork.
  • Use reusable or reused gift bags.
  • Replace ribbons and bows with natural evergreens, berries and dried flowers (keep them as decorations or compost them after the gifts are unwrapped).

8. Use rechargeable batteries. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, nearly 40 percent of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. Rechargeable batteries reduce the amount of potentially harmful materials thrown away, and can save money in the long run.

9. Turn off or unplug holiday lights during the day. This saves energy and lights last longer. Recycle unwanted or broken strings of lights through a scrap metal collection, not in your curbside bin.

10. Recycle your live Christmas tree. When the holiday season is over, recycle your holiday tree and wreath at your local yard waste collection site.

Quick fact

From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, household waste increases by more than 25 percent. Added food waste, shopping bags, packaging, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons — it all adds up! 

Reference: United States Environmental Protection Agency. EPA.

How much will you spend on gifts during the holidays? In 2016, the average American family spent more than $900 on gifts. Most families also spent money on special food, decorations and eating out.

How much money will pass through your hands during the 2017 holiday season? Or, consider this much bigger question: how much money will pass through your hands during your lifetime?

It might be a lot more than you think. Take for example, a 22-year-old woman earning $15 per hour. She gets 3 percent raises in many years. By the time she retires more than forty years later, she may have grossed more than $1,800,000.

Projecting your lifetime earnings is a great exercise to do in your 20s and 30s. Take your current income, assume 2-3 percent wage increases in many years and project your income through age 65. The total amount is often an eye-opening surprise.

What about you? Have you added up how much money will pass through your hands in your lifetime? Projecting your lifetime earnings can be an exciting, thought-provoking exercise.

If you’re going to earn that much during your lifetime, what will you do with that money? How much will you save and invest? Are you taking advantage of all the tax breaks you can legitimately use?

It is easy to get in a financial rut and not pause to ask big picture questions. Sadly, surveys have shown that many Americans spend more time planning for a vacation or buying gifts for the holidays than they spend planning for their retirement.

Without a plan, many people spend and save haphazardly. With a plan, people often can save consistently for their dreams and goals. They enjoy the deep satisfaction of having money for goals like a better home, car, education or retirement. Even modest savings can add up to be significant amounts.

During the holidays, do you prepare special seasonal meals, cookies or desserts? Do you follow recipes closely, using quality ingredients so that your food will be delightful?

There’s a recipe for long-term financial success too. Spend less than what you earn, save consistently and invest for your long-term goals.

To increase your joy this holiday season and beyond, think about how much money is passing through your hands. Have a thoughtful plan for spending, sharing and saving your money.

The metaphor of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse represents four types of disaster. The Horsemen have been called by different names, but regardless of their names, one fact has remained constant: The Four Horsemen are not the guys you want to have over for dinner and you certainly don’t want to have them living with you.

In Gottman Couples’ Therapy, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are: criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling. When the Four Horsemen appear, your relationship is in trouble; especially, when contempt, the most deadly of the Four Horsemen, shows up. Dr. John Gottman became famous for claiming that he could predict (with five minutes of observation) whether a couple would divorce or stay married, and if they stayed married, whether they were going to be happy or miserable. According to John, once the public heard that he was able to make these predictions, and that he was correct over 90 percent of the time, he “stopped getting invited to dinner parties.”

You may be asking yourself, “How did Dr. Gottman do that? Was it magic, witchcraft or a psychic gift?” I have very good news indeed, no supernatural powers were involved. Dr. Gottman’s predictions were based on simple observation. I will be talking about all of the clues that helped Dr. Gottman to predict the course of relationships in upcoming articles; however, the presence of the Four Horsemen in the couple’s interactions was always a significant sign of danger. When the contempt horseman showed up, divorce was likely, but all of the Four Horsemen unravel relationships; they are the “sulfuric acid of love.”

How can you and your partner identify the Four Horsemen?

Let’s start by defining each of them:

Criticism is a blaming statement that comes across as a judgement about your partner’s character and usually starts with the word, “you.” “You’re a slob (lazy, irresponsible, stupid, cold, etc.).” When the “you statement” is followed by the words, “never or always,” the conversation is dead in the water. You are now going to be arguing about whether “it” always happens or never happens; what you are not going to be talking about is the subject that you set out to discuss.

Defensiveness, the second horseman, is usually provoked by hearing a statement that feels like criticism. It doesn’t matter if the comment was intended to be critical — all that matters is how your partner experiences it. When we feel that we are being attacked, we need to defend ourselves; defensiveness is the result. Defensiveness can come in the form of the innocent victim stance: “Why are you picking on me?” or in the form of counter attack- “Me!? Well you...”

Contempt is the result of taking a higher moral plane, in which you seem to believe that your views, thoughts, emotions or behaviors are better, smarter, superior, or more accurate than your partner’s. Contempt is experienced as arrogant and mean-spirited, and demonstrates a lack of empathy and caring for your partner and their needs. “I can’t believe that you forgot my birthday! I would never do that to you!” “I can’t believe that you thought that plan was going to work, you never think before you act. Grow up!”

Stonewalling, the last horseman, usually occurs as a result of criticism, defensiveness or contempt. Often, your partner’s heart rate has climbed to over a 100 beats per minute, their frontal lobes have shut down and they can no longer hear or understand the words you are saying; they have tunnel vision. They just want to escape and, though they may still be sitting in front of you, they are gone. Sometimes they say things like, “I’m done talking to you!” or “I can’t do this anymore!” Women will sometimes freeze and display a blank stare, as if they are looking right through you.

You are now equipped to identify the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse when they take up residence in your house, but how do you “horse clean” your house? To find out, call me for an appointment, bring your partner to the next Art and Science of Love Workshop for Couples, or sit tight and wait for next month’s article. Until then, love well. 

Soluble fiber is the type of fiber that dissolves in water. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. Both types of fiber are important to the body.

Soluble fiber helps prevent rises in blood sugar, lowers cholesterol and prevents constipation. Soluble fiber is found in dry beans, oatmeal, legumes, and fruits and vegetables. It can be a challenge to eat enough food with soluble fiber each day to lower cholesterol, prevent blood sugar spikes and correct constipation. This is especially true if you are diabetic or tend to gain weight.

Dry beans are a good source of soluble fiber but they are usually eaten with the addition of sugar (baked beans) and added fat. Few of us eat just dry beans with nothing on them and they can cause gas. We can end up eating more calories than is good for us especially if we gain weight easily.

There is a solution to this problem. It is called hi-maize 260, and is made from non-GMO corn but only the soluble fiber part of the corn. It does not include high fructose corn syrup. Hi-maize 260 is sugar free and raises blood sugar very little. It stays in the digestive system for about 10 hours while in the colon it feeds the good bacteria there. When you feed your good bacteria what they like, they multiply. Healthy bacteria improve digestion and the immune system.

Hi-maize 260 is a fine white powder that smells and tastes like corn starch, but it does not thicken as regular corn starch does. It does not need to be refrigerated. One heaping tablespoon a day is sufficient to get the benefits. Start with one teaspoon a day and increase gradually until you have about a heaping tablespoon per day. Hi-maize 260 can be added to yogurt, sour cream, mayonnaise, smoothies, soup, etc. It can also be substituted for 25 percent of the flour in baked goods. In a pinch I dissolve it in my coffee. This is not the best application, but it is better for me than to not have it each day. 


Every December the students at my studio put on a huge show for family and friends. And every year leading up to the show I swear I’m not going to do it next year. It is a silly amount of work for me to put it on and a massive expense since it has grown into this monster of an event with a production company and all kinds of awesomeness. Leading up to the show I’m stressed out planning, organizing and worrying, and I swear this is the last year. But then show day happens. And I see my student’s faces. And I reserve the date for the next one.

Why? Because life doesn’t give adult women enough time to celebrate our accomplishments. Most of the adult women I know don’t take enough time for themselves to do simple everyday things like eating healthy, working out, sleeping, relaxing, etc., and they surely don’t give themselves the chance to be proud of their journey. It’s almost like we are taught not to celebrate for fear of being arrogant. Instead we say, “I’ll celebrate when (insert totally massive over the moon end goal here).” But life is hard. And if we don’t take a second to say, “Hey, I worked really hard on this, lookie!” We miss out on a really important opportunity to decrease stress and increase our self-worth.

Every journey has a bunch of little successes that you need to celebrate. Our culture encourages keeping your nose down until you are completely done with something. For example, “I’ll celebrate when I’m down 30 pounds” and then not making it to 30 and feeling like a failure. When in reality had you celebrated at 5 pounds, then 10 pounds and then 15 pounds you likely would have stuck with your weight loss goal because you took that moment to be proud of yourself and recognize your work on the journey. These moments of rest and reflection are critical to recharging your resilience so you can continue on the journey.

The size of the celebration should reflect the size of the goal/success. If your end goal is to be 30 pounds down, you may wait to take your around the world trip until that is reached rather than after your first 5 pounds. But you most definitely should celebrate. Maybe a day trip or a weekend trip if that is in line with your desires. For my students, that is the show every year. They work hard for months getting new bruises while learning new tricks. The show isn’t the Olympics or America’s Got Talent, but it is amazing to see them on stage and watch them grow from year to year on their journey. That is why the show is so important. I love that we have students who have been with us for as little as 6 weeks and also 6 years performing! It’s so exciting to bring the community together every year and to cherish all that we have accomplished. Life is a journey, not an end goal so taking the time to celebrate along the journey is critical.

Watching my students perform also reminds me of the importance of sharing our journey. The fact that their family and friends are in the audience cheering them on makes the show special. If we did the show at the studio and only had other students attend it wouldn’t be as meaningful. Humans are a social species and we need that interaction. As our culture turns more and more to social media for validation we become more starved for connections. What’s great about a celebration is if someone cares about you and they see your journey milestone being celebrated they will likely get excited about pursuing their own goals. Success is contagious. So not only are you helping yourself by celebrating, you are actually helping those you love by allowing them to be part of it.

A celebration doesn’t have to be a huge event that took months of preparation. A celebration can be taking 30 minutes to read a book just for fun, going to bed early, eating cake, going to your favorite restaurant, calling a friend and just talking, or anything else that makes you feel grounded and supported. Every day you have successes. How will you choose to celebrate them? 

It is likely you have been told to exercise more, and you know there are benefits to regular exercise. But what exactly are those benefits, what types of exercises should you focus on and just how much exercise are we really talking about?

When you begin to exercise regularly, your body starts to experience changes. You become stronger, lose weight, your endurance increases and your clothes begin to fit better. But these external changes are not the only benefits of regular exercise, internally your body is experiencing changes as well.

Your body begins to use oxygen better and the heart uses oxygen more efficiently. More blood is getting to and from your muscles so your heart doesn’t have to work as hard as it used to. Your body can recover faster after a workout and you may start to notice an increase in energy levels. Regular exercise can also improve your good cholesterol and decrease your bad cholesterol. These changes affect your chance of mortality from coronary artery disease. It also means that you decrease your chance of cardiovascular disease or a heart attack.

Regular exercise also decreases your chance of stroke, colon cancer and breast cancer. It reduces anxiety, depression, inflammation and improves cognitive function as well. Exercise is so important that doctors encourage people who have cancer to continue to exercise even while going through treatment.

So what type and how much exercise should we be aiming to accomplish? The Athletic College of Sports Medicine recommends that a healthy adult, 18-65 years of age, should work toward a minimum of 150 minutes per week, or 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise five days a week. This is the equivalent of a fast-paced walk. Another minimum option is 20 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity three days a week. This would be a jog, fast run or a slow paced swim. In addition to aerobic activity, resistance training is recommended two to three days a week. Resistance training is important for everyone because it improves bone strength, and can reduce the likelihood of a bone fracture from osteoporosis later in life.

It has been shown that the benefits are more notable if a person can work their way up to 300 minutes a week, or 60 minutes five days a week. The best thing about aerobic activity is that it can be split up into 10-minute sessions all week; 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes at lunch, and 10 minutes in the evening adds up to the minimum 150 minutes a week. For some people, this may be an easier way to fit regular exercise into their daily routine.

The best advice is to start slow, and work your way up to 150 minutes a week. Once you have reached that goal, your next goal could be to start working toward 300 minutes a week to reach the full benefits of exercise. You can make small changes in your daily routine to include exercise, and you may begin to experience all of the benefits, both external and internal, that regular exercise can bring.

If you are concerned about exercise duration interacting with any preexisting conditions, remember to consult your health care professional before starting any exercise program. 

Reference: “ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription.” American College of Sports Medicine. Linda Pescatello et al. Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Health. 2014.

It’s that time of year again when we all get challenged with saying “no” to the seasonal treats, and endlessly say to ourselves, “Well, just a little bit shouldn’t hurt me.” Then we wind up sampling everything that our curious taste buds want to discover and what our eyes have already swallowed. Undoubtedly, the next day there is regret when we say to ourselves, “Why did I do that?” The purpose of this article is to help arm ourselves with ideas and approaches to manage and even have victory over the holiday snack fests that add unwanted pounds to our bodies, and disappointment in our own willpower.

First, let’s understand that we are all emotional eaters. In the first moments after your stressful experience of birth, your mom cuddled you, nurtured you, soothed you, and yes, fed you — and so then did your entrainment to be an emotional eater begin. It is built in to our emotional life. So let there be no self-condemnation over being an emotional eater!

Strategies for victory over holiday eating:

1. Plan ahead. If you get invited to a party and you know compromising food choices will be there, choose instead to eat ahead of time and bring something to share that will be safe for you to eat, like a raw vegetable platter or fresh salad. We did this for the last party we went to, about 8 years ago now. Actually that’s not true, fresh vegetable platters go over very well but alternatives to a fresh vegetable platter are many, including chicken breast prepared in a crockpot.

2. “Don’t” instead of “can’t.” Changing your thinking pattern is small, but has a large impact. Naturally, we can all say, “I can’t eat cookies,” but a more positive way to say that would be, “I don’t eat cookies.” It will have even more impact if you say it out loud to someone who presents you with an unhealthy choice: “Thank you, they look delicious, but I don’t eat cookies.” Then hold up your piece of raw broccoli, dip in the hummus and say “Cheers!” Take a bite, and party on.

3. Prepare responses in advance. Plan ahead of time how you will address the peer pressure of how everyone is eating and partying. You could say, “I have health goals that I really want to stick to this time, and so I am focusing on my relationships with friends and family instead of food. I hope you can respect that.” Having a prepared response means you will be consistent in your answers from one person to the next in case it comes up again, and it will also affirm your own resolve to the idea that no one but yourself is responsible for what you eat.

4. Better emotional eating choices. Since we are all emotional eaters, we should expect to have moments when we will be making food choices solely on our emotions. Whenever we open the refrigerator for something to eat, it is usually solely an emotional decision. Do you say to yourself, “Geez, I’ve only had four servings of vegetables so far today, and since the National Institute of Health recommends at least nine, I will heat up some frozen peas?” I didn’t think so! When we recognize that we are emotional eaters then we can plan ahead. The problem is not that we emotionally eat, the problem lies in what we reach for at that moment. When we want something crunchy, we can reach for almonds or carrots instead of potato chips. When we want something sweet we can reach for an apple or plum. Establishing a new set of foods that we reach for in times of emotional eating can make a huge difference.

5. Prepare for success. Plan the process of success instead of just the endpoint. For example, “I want to get into my old dress again” is not an example of a process of success. However, planning ahead, saying “don’t” instead of “can’t,” preparing responses in advance, having better emotional eating choices, and preparing for success are all excellent examples of the processes for success. When an approach like this is employed, you will get into the dress size you used to be because you will have changed the way you think about your daily lifestyle choices. Lastly, don’t be afraid, you can live mindfully and flourish.

“For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7

May you and your family have a healthy holiday season and may you have victory over holiday eating this year.

The holiday season brings many joys and it also brings a good deal of stress, so it is an appropriate time to discuss stress, its damaging effects on the body, and what you can do to protect your body and mind from stress. Research has demonstrated time and time again that chronic stress is very bad for us. Stress has been directly linked to heart disease, weight gain, low libido, a weakened immune system and premature aging, amongst others. Unrelenting, constant stress interrupts critical hormone processes that affect us in obvious ways: emotional, depressed, can’t sleep, crying and sad; and not so obvious ways: suppressed hormone production, inflammation in the body, and constricted blood vessels.

Stress happens

There are unmistakable stressors we encounter in our lives, such as divorce, death of a loved one, loss of a job or diagnosis of a terminal illness. Our bodies are designed to react to these stressors for a limited amount of time by producing cortisol to help us ramp up our ability to deal with the situation. In prehistoric times, we needed this “fight-or-flight” response to survive our environment and not become prey. The body then produces DHEA to help neutralize the cortisol and bring the body back down to a state of “all clear.” Chronic stress interrupts this cycle and can throw the body into a state of HPA (Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal) Axis Dysfunction. A tricky aspect of stress is the everyday stressors we have come to accept as part of our daily life, such as being late for a meeting or stuck on the highway. Our body does not distinguish between the obvious and not-so-obvious stressors and responds in the same manner, whether you are late for your daughter’s dance recital or you just got into a car accident.

Protection is the key

It is important to be mindful of the stress in your life so you can make healthy choices to reduce your exposure and create healthy habits to counteract the effects of stress. Below is a list of suggestions to help you combat the negative effects of stress and create a buffer between you and the stress you encounter as you move through your day.

Stress recovery suggestions:

  • 10-12 hours of sleep per night for 14 nights (in bed by 9 p.m., stay in bed until 7 a.m.)
  • Lounge, eat good food, get a massage, listen to relaxing music, meditate
  • Reduce work hours and workload (32-40 hours or less per week)
  • 4 hours a week to do what you want — “it’s fun to play”
  • Get rid of clutter, organize and batch cook and clean so your environment is soothing
  • Breathing exercises
  • Take days off for a vacation or “stay-cation” — stay in your hometown but explore and enjoy new areas
  • Gentle muscle building exercise (yoga, Pilates, walking)
  • Ask for support from family (emotional and physical)
  • Journal, practice mindfulness, appreciate beauty, kindness, good things
  • Regularly eat healthy, low glycemic meals and snacks (to balance blood sugar) — NO junk or processed foods!
  • Take an Epsom salt bath daily
  • Reduce inflammation — stress reduction, food choices, supplements (yoga, gluten-free diet, turmeric, fish oil)
  • Adrenal appropriate exercise (yoga, Pilates, walking)
  • Fix leaky gut (GI testing, remove reactive foods, take aloe, L-glutamine, zinc, vitamin A)
  • Replenish important nutrients and start adaptogenic herbs (professional-grade vitamin and mineral high in B vitamins and magnesium, vitamin C, selenium, ashwagandha, rhodiola, etc.)
  • Remove gluten, dairy, sugar, soy, caffeine and alcohol from diet
  • Try Paleo diet – fruits, vegetables, grass-fed, pasture-raised, free-range meats, eggs, night shades, nuts, healthy fats and pea protein powder (no grains, hot peppers, dairy or seaweed)
  • Have fats and protein at each meal and reduce carbohydrates
  • Repeat positive thoughts in the form of affirmations daily: “I am healing,” “I am loved,” “Every day in every way I am getting better and better”
  • Kick the caffeine habit 

Randi Mann, WHNP-BC, NCMP, is the owner of Wise Woman Wellness LLC, an innovative wellness and hormone care center at 1480 Swan Road, De Pere. Mann is the author of the eBook: A Guide to Gluten and Going Gluten Free. She is a board certified Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner and certified NAMS Menopause Practitioner, one of a handful in Wisconsin and less than 700 worldwide to achieve this distinction. She combines the best of conventional, functional and integrative medicine to help women with female, thyroid and adrenal hormone issues to live healthier, more abundant, joy-filled lives using a blend of compassion, cutting edge science, practical guidance and humor. Please contact her at 920-339-5252 or via the Internet at

Reference: “Hashimoto’s Protocol.” Izabella Wentz PharmD, FASCP.

What constitutes healthy living is subjective, and is often based on a variety of things that essentially add up to an overall balanced existence. Physical fitness, mental and emotional well-being, and connecting to a deeper sense of self and spirituality are often parts of such a life.

No one quite understands the significance of this holistic approach more than The YMCA of the Fox Cities (the Y). The group includes five locations: Apple Creek, Appleton, Fox West, Heart of the Valley and Neenah-Menasha, and all carry a strong focus on the spirit, mind and body connection. To describe the group as a “fitness center” is technically accurate, but also only one miniscule piece of multi-dimensional and impressive puzzle. In fact, the establishment doesn’t even mention the two words but instead offer an all-encompassing message in its mission statement:

To put Christian principles into practice by promoting youth, adult and family activities that build a healthy spirit, mind and body for all.

“There’s no other organization that focuses on the total person like the Y does,” Joel Zeiner, a YMCA Mission Emphasis Committee member and local pastor, says. “It encompasses all. People can focus on the physical and be very strong, but their mental or spiritual state might be completely absent.”

“The Y is a place to nurture everyone at every level of their self-development,” Maeghan Johnson, Arts and Humanities Director for the Neenah-Menasha Y location, adds. “We provide tools to really find life balance. We’re all-inclusive and a positive place for all of our members and staff.”

“The members set the culture,” Scott Schanhofer, Executive Director for the Neenah-Menasha location, says. “The staff is great, and our whole philosophy is that we want to leave something better than we found it. It’s a home and there’s a sense of ownership. It’s really cool.”

“We have programs of all types — fitness is truly only a portion of what we do,” Kourtney Kositzke, Arts and Humanities Coordinator in Appleton, says. “We always say ‘cradle to grave’ because we have child care, we have programs for active older adults, youth sports, visual arts. Across the board we have a wide variety.”


One of the ways the YMCA of the Fox Cities encompasses the “something for everyone” mantra is by providing healthy practices for spirituality. And for both longtime members and new visitors, it’s more than the words that make up the mission statement that create the environment that conjures up warmth and a genuine sense of acceptance. It’s a feeling.

“When you walk into the YMCA, we want you to feel it, to feel welcome,” Joel says. “We have a Christian foundation but all faiths are welcome — no matter who you are or your condition — we want you here.”

The YMCA is committed to helping members on their spiritual journeys and make sure to do so in a natural and organic way. Meetings are begun with invocations, inspirational quotes are found on the walls and there are Bible verses littered throughout; however, they are mindful to present spirituality and spirit health in a natural, respective manner.

“We have a spiritual exercise board so people can engage with it at their own leisure. It doesn’t have to be intimidating or a part of a program,” Joel says. “We also have a devotional booklet that we give every leader that provides a lot of different material to use — whether it’s starting a cycling class with music to inspire people spiritually or starting a workshop with a devotion.”

Spiritual workshops vary from all-purpose adult Bible studies at the Appleton YMCA to more focused groups such as Fellowship and Friendship: A program for seniors to join other members for coffee, treats and fellowship; Conversations on Scripture; and Women’s Bible Friendship Group, focusing on spiritual practices of rest and simplicity for women of all ages.

“The one thing that really makes a strong Y is a leadership team that believes in the full holistic focus: spirit, mind and body,” Joel adds. “(The YMCA of the Fox Cities) team does. I’m so proud of that.”


Arts and humanities have long been considered a vital part of a person’s development, and the Y provides a variety of programs for children and teens to set the tone for mental and emotional well-being and growth as early as two years old.

“There’s a lot of diversity in ages,” Maeghan says. “We have a working pottery studio, painting, drawing, stop motion, stain glass working. You name it, we probably do it.”

The art classes are presented in an array of ways and curriculum, like the complimentary program developed at the Y called Artful Expression, encompassing the idea that art has the power to heal and provide coping mechanisms for those who may struggle to express themselves in other ways.

“It’s a program focused on teens, grades 5-12,” Kourtney explains. “It’s great for kids who are battling a mental illness, or it could be as simple as suffering from a lack of self-esteem or confidence. They learn to use art as a form of expression.

“Each child is different but our idea is that by giving them art techniques and making sure that when they’re doing the art they feel good, when they’re struggling and they’re not in our classroom, they can start drawing and feel better inside.”

Participants in the Artful Expression program are often referred by school counselors or teachers, and classes can be accommodated for all schedules: both during the day for homeschooled students, after school and on weekends.

The Y also offers family programming in the form of one-day workshops and progressive week-long courses.

“We love hosting family classes for an intergenerational group to come together. It opens family dialogue. Once you start creating something, you really start to see the conversation flow. I’ve heard so many parents say, ‘You actually got my teenager to talk to me!’” Maeghan laughs. “They’re able to connect in a face-to-face, engaging way.”

The Growth and Development program helps children prepare for school and focuses on fine motor and gross motor skills, and socialization. Private (one-on-one) and semi-private (two students to one instructor) music lessons for piano, violin, drums and voice — to name a few — are offered as well as humanities courses for safety in the form of classes teaching the importance of safety in technology to babysitting certification and bike safety.

“We can start to see the trends in our community and parents really set the pathway for us by letting us know what they’d like to see and what our next curriculum should be,” Maeghan says.

“I personally oversee the dance program. We offer every genre you can imagine: ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, ballroom — baton is making a comeback. We have both recreational and competitive programs. Every student is welcome and everyone is a part of a team. We work a lot with special needs clientele and we hold a great sense that there’s nothing that can’t be accomplished.”

“Mental health concerns can start as early as young childhood,” Kourtney adds. “Finding things that kids enjoy and make them happy will help them in the long run and can help them get past some of the struggles they might face… You never know who is going to walk through our doors. It’s really neat to see young kids connect and interact with older adults.”


The physical aspect of health is no doubt a focus of the YMCA of the Fox Cities. The state-of-the-art fitness center provides physical fitness for all levels and ages. Youth sports programs can begin as early as 4 years old, and encompass core sports: flag football, basketball, indoor soccer, track and field, volleyball, as well as lesser available offerings in our community like fencing, “Jedi training,” rugby, archery and more.

While it’s an impressive list in itself, Scott explains that there’s an added component to the program that incorporates all three of the aspects of health that the Y focuses on: spirit, mind and body not readily found in other clubs.

“We do value talks and huddles in all of our youth sports. One team or both teams talk about our core values – caring, honesty, respect, responsibility and what it means to them in school or within the game. It makes them think about the sport but also their experience overall. Winning and losing is only a small part of what sports are.

“What we’re finding is that club sports and competitiveness is forcing some kids out of sports because they’re not as engaged,” he adds. “We want them to have fun. We want to teach them to compete against themselves, to learn new skills and to understand that failing isn’t fatal. We want to give sports back to the kids.”

The Y approaches sports and all aspects of health with the belief that while promoting skills and lessons within the program, the bigger picture includes volunteer coaches and staff teaching life lessons in a natural and organic way that’s easy to understand: fun.

“If kids aren’t having fun, they’re not putting in effort or getting better,” Scott explains. “Having fun means more easily developing skills. If you come to the Y and participate in youth sports, you’re getting the benefit of developing as an athlete but so much more.”

Meet some of the YMCA of the Fox Cities family!

Bill Breider

President/CEO, YMCA of the Fox Cities

“The YMCA of the Fox Cities is a mission-driven organization bringing people together from all walks of life and at all stages of life, around a common and inclusive set of values by providing programs, services and facilities that improve spirit, mind and body. Our purpose is to strengthen the foundation of our community by providing opportunities for everyone to reach their highest potential in all areas of health.”

Maeghan Johnson

Arts and Humanities Director, Neenah-Menasha

“I love the sense that I’m connecting with people and making a difference. And they’re giving to me too. I love interacting with our members and my co-workers. We have a sense of family. There’s something for every age, every family — every internal need.”

Kourtney Kositzke

Arts and Humanities Coordinator, Appleton

“I really like being able to bring my creativity to different programs and see children grow and flourish. Knowing that a child went home better from just meeting with me and knowing I made an impact is huge. Our art program has grown into so much more. It has been really rewarding.”

Scott Schanhofer

Executive Director, Neenah-Menasha

“One of the unique things about the Y is that it’s a community organization. We attract many different people to our facility. Visitors always say we’re a very warm place, welcoming and friendly. And that’s important to us. Coming to the Y is a great way to start your day. People care. Impact isn’t necessarily changing someone’s life, it can be as simple as putting a smile on someone’s face.”

Joel Zeiner

YMCA of the Fox Cities Mission Emphasis Committee Member

“Physically you can be strong, but if you don’t spend time on spiritual health and trying to connect with God you’re going to miss a really important, joyful and life-giving part of your experience. We want everybody at the Y, no matter their religious background, no matter their lifestyle. This is a place where the community gathers. And they’re connecting in meaningful ways.” 

“You can thrive at any age”

The YMCA of the Fox Cities offers a wide range of ways focusing on spirit, mind and body health to prove that you can be happy and healthy – and active! – at any age. Their Active Older Adults (AOA) program offers activities such as:

  • Land and water exercise classes
  • Health screenings
  • Use of workout equipment/walking track/pools
  • Yoga/Pilates/Tai chi/Qui gong
  • Enrichment Classes: Language/computer/music
  • Clubs: Knitting/Book/Chorus
  • Social events/luncheons

The YMCA of the Fox Cities collaborates with the Menasha Senior Center and the Thompson Community Center to provide the above programs. For more information, visit

For more information and to discover how you can get involved in your nearest YMCA of the Fox Cities location, visit or contact:

Apple Creek YMCA

2851 East Apple Creek Road, Appleton • 920-733-9622

Appleton YMCA

218 East Lawrence Street, Appleton • 920-739-6135

Fox West YMCA

W6931 School Road, Greenville • 920-757-9820

Heart of the Valley YMCA

225 West Kennedy Avenue, Kimberly • 920-830-5700

Neenah-Menasha YMCA

110 West North Water Street, Neenah • 920-729-9622

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