America strong – September 11, 2001

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What can be said that hasn’t been already said? How many more tears will be shed over this tragedy? Even if you hadn’t lost someone personally that day, you still lost a lot. A sense of security in our homeland, in our places of work, in our routines, and in our streets. Our innocence of evil and the faith that terrorism would never strike us on our soil. Gone.

But we also gained a lot. The strength to go on and live our lives even in the face of danger, the overwhelming appreciation of those who run toward death and destruction instead of away from it. A pride in our nation that may have been forgotten. The ability for people of all ages, races, and backgrounds to come together to offer support for their fellow man. Let’s find that again. One Nation, Under God.

Even with all of our troubles, and especially today, I am proud to be an American.

COVID Comfy

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Going casual in the age of COVID-19

By Sue Baldani

With many people working from home due to COVID-19, weekday dress is transforming from business casual to, well, just casual. Leisurewear and athleisure, such as yoga pants and stylish sweats, were already hot commodities for after work and weekends. Now, they are becoming the workday norm. This year, fall fashion is going to look much different than it did in 2019.

“Work-from-home is a category of merchandise that never existed before and is going to persist for quite a while,” says David Zoba, Chairman of global retail leasing at JLL, in the article, “How COVID-19 is Changing the Fashion World,” on its website.

 How we dress is not only about fashion. During times of great uncertainty and fear, people seek comfort, whether in clothing, food, or family. Along with the emotional fallout, there is the loss of everyday social interactions. Working from home can be isolating for those used to the hustle and bustle of an office. There is no longer bantering with coworkers during coffee breaks or stopping to chat at a colleague’s desk. So, if we have to be alone at home, we might as well be comfortable.

 People are now living, working, and playing at home, and their clothing reflects that. Instead of changing outfits for these different activities, they’re now wearing the same one for all three.

Lululemon, one of the best-known brands in the athleisure market, is experiencing a tremendous surge in sales after expanding into loungewear. And Betabrand, an online retailer that began its “Dress Pant Yoga Pant” campaign many years ago, has been enjoying steadily increasing sales after hosting a “Work From Home” online runway show early on in the pandemic.

An additional issue these days, especially when it comes to high fashion, is money. Unemployment rates are staggering, and even those still working may have taken a pay cut. This has changed the trend from spending to saving. Having the latest Michael Kors handbag or Jimmy Choo shoes may not be a priority, especially when there is nowhere to go and no one to admire them.

The contents in those designer handbags have also changed. Those fun extras that women used to carry such as body sprays and hair ties have now been replaced with hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and extra masks.

Traditional clothes shopping has also undergone a huge change. Shoppers may be hesitant to go into physical stores, so fashion retailers have shifted their focus to e-commerce. According to data from analysis firm Commerce Signals, online sales skyrocketed following the March closures of brick-and-mortar stores in the U.S.

However, online buying is not without its problems. One major disadvantage of purchasing clothing online is the inability try things on; the other is shipping costs. This has led to more consumers “shopping” in their closets. They are rediscovering outfits that may have been pushed to the back of the closet some time ago.

Joshua Williams, assistant professor of fashion management at the Parsons School of Design, in the Bustle magazine article, “People May Never Dress The Same Again After Coronavirus, Experts Say,” states, “Most importantly, this pandemic has made us realize that we have a lot of clothes in our closets we are not wearing.

It’s forcing us to think about what clothes we will likely wear post-pandemic — especially with the idea of moving through the world in more comfort.”

Social media also reflects this new normal. Whereas pre-COVID it was common to see users showing off their stylish new outfits and accessories, now you see many more selfies featuring more casual clothing.

Another reason for comfortable and oversized clothing during a pandemic? Weight gain. With gyms closed, limited places to go, and  a refrigerator and pantry in the next room 24/7, people are finding it harder to stay fit. Those elastic waistbands help us to ignore the fact that we can’t fit into our tailored suits any longer.

Of course, there are times when business wear still comes into play, even while working from home. Bosses, colleagues, and clients may request to see you onscreen, so “waist up”  dressing has become quite the thing. Basically, wearing business attire on top, but then sweats or even underwear below.

This has also led to a new type of apparel called the “Zoom shirt.” This is a more office-friendly shirt that is donned only while having online meetings.

In the article, “The Video Call is Starting. Time to put on your Zoom shirt,” Maria Rugolo, an apparel industry analyst for the NPD Group, states that according to a company poll, only 10 percent of people actually get dressed in business attire to work from home. The majority just slip into and out of Zoom Shirts.

Despite the trend to casual wear, there are people who are still interested in adding some unique style into their everyday lives, especially when they do leave the house. Instead of having to wear those ubiquitous, plain surgical masks, some designers and consumers are making cloth masks that go specifically with certain outfits, either by using matching fabric or fabric that accentuates the colors in the clothes.  Masks have become another accessory, albeit a necessary one, so why not dress them up?

What about post-COVID fashion? Will we go back to a more formal style?

“I do believe we will dress up for special events,” Dawnn Karen, a fashion psychologist, states in Bustle magazine. “But work attire will become lax. At a psychological level, people will still be fraught with anxiety. This has scarred us, and this will affect how we present ourselves to the world externally due to the inner turmoil the pandemic has caused.”

Other experts, however, are predicting a resurgence of the desire to “get dressed up.” They expect people to get bored with the casual look and go back to relishing the idea of  putting on a fancy dress or a designer pair of pants. Timeless classics, they believe, will also regain popularity.

With casual clothing most likely to continue well into the fall season, fashionistas may have to wait until the spring season to break out their favorite au couture outfits once again. Until then, make sure those Zoom shirts are within reach.

Written for Grosse Pointe Lifestyle magazine in Michigan.

https://citylifestyle.com/nashville-tn/articles/style-and-beauty/covid-comfy

Swim Like a Dolphin

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A life-changing and life-saving organization

By Sue Baldani

When Beth Scruggs, an avid swimmer, was asked to help a child with Down Syndrome improve her swimming skills in order to compete in the Special Olympics, she was glad to help.  But she didn’t stop there. Today, the Nashville Dolphins, an organization she started in 2003, has over 215 participants.

“The leading cause of death for people with special needs is drowning, so it’s really important for them to learn how to swim,” said Brenda Vroon, Program Director and Head Swim Coach.

Brenda got involved with the Nashville Dolphins about 10 years ago. She is a physical education teacher and also the Wildwood Gators swim coach. The Gators, which has some swimmers with Down Syndrome, hold Swim-A-Thons to raise money for the Dolphins. During these Swim-A-Thons, swimmers ask family members, friends, and neighbors for pledges, and depending on how many laps they do, money is raised to support the Nashville Dolphins.

According to Brenda, there are no other programs like it in the country. Whereas most programs for people with disabilities end when they turn 18, no one ages out of the Dolphins. Right now, the youngest child is only 2 and the oldest is 52. The person who Beth initially helped all those years ago is still in the program.

Brenda said she is always surprised when parents tell her that no one is willing to teach their children with disabilities how to swim. Swimming is not only a life-long sport, and one that will keep them safe, but it’s also great exercise. In addition, the Nashville Dolphins programs provide a peer group where people with disabilities can feel like they are a part of something.

“It’s really nice for kids to get out there and be with others like themselves and have that camaraderie,” said Brenda.

Their mission is to provide those with special needs the physical and emotional benefits of swimming. They accept people of all ages, abilities, and financial backgrounds, and participation in the Nashville Dolphins is completely free. They will even purchase a swimsuit for a participant, if necessary.

“Parents of  special needs children have so many costs, from medical bills to therapy programs,” said Brenda. “Our program is totally free.  We never have charged, and we never will charge. That’s part of our mission – to provide free swim lessons.”

They have about 65 swimmers on their Dolphin Swim Team, while most of the other swimmers are in the Junior Dolphins. There is also a “learn to swim” program called Future Dolphins.

The ultimate goal, said Brenda, is for most of the swimmers to get to the point where they will be on the Dolphin Swim Team. Some of these swimmers go on to compete in Special Olympic competitions. There are some members with serious disabilities who will not be able to reach that goal; however, they never have to leave the program.

“People love it. They love the friendships, they love the volunteers, and they develop great bonds and learn teamwork,” she said.

Brenda said there aren’t any disabilities that would preclude someone from taking part in the Nashville Dolphin’s programs. Participants include people in wheelchairs, those who are blind or deaf, and others with a variety of disabilities. Some have prior swimming skills while others are absolute beginners.

Since they don’t have their own facility, their greatest challenge is finding pool space. Because of this, they do have a wait list, so unfortunately not everyone who wants to take part can do so. If they had more pool space, she said, they would be able to accept more people.

“We have been trying to raise capital to build a pool, which would be life changing, but right now we are in many indoor pools throughout the community,” said Brenda.

Some of these include the Gordon Jewish Community Center, Ensworth High School, the University School of Nashville, and the Centennial Sportsplex.

“Wherever people will give us pool space, that’s where we go,” said Brenda.

While their ultimate goal is to be able to build their own indoor pool facility, for now they would really like to get people off their wait lists and into the water. Swimming is what they’re all about.

“It’s sad that we have so many people on our wait list. We are open to any size indoor pool,” she said.

The Nashville Dolphins holds many fundraisers throughout the year. Their Boots and Bubbles fundraiser, which is a big crawfish boil, is usually held in May or June. This year, because of COVID-19, they had to get creative and do a drive-through event with live music and punch. It was a great success, and they ended up cooking over 2100 pounds of crawfish. They also hold a mum sale in September, and host an event called Soundwaves and Sweethearts every February. It’s a big party with a band, with liquor that is usually donated. Brenda said it’s a really fun event, and guests really enjoy themselves.

In the past couple of years, swim teams in Williamson County and the National Swim League have jumped on the Wildwood fundraising bandwagon and have done their own Swim-a-Thons to raise money for the Dolphins. This summer, four swim teams are taking part.

In addition, the Nashville Dolphins recently participated in a fundraiser called the Big Payback. It’s a huge fundraiser for Middle Tennessee where different nonprofits try to raise money.

“Because we felt like we had to give back to Nashville, we just presented a check to The Store, which is a free grocery store started by Brad Paisley and Kimberly Williams- Paisley in Belmont,” said Brenda. “We gave them half of our ticket sales and presented a check for $8700.00.”

The National Dolphins is staffed by over 150 volunteers, who come from all over the state. Volunteers don’t have to have any swimming background, and they need people both in and out of the water. If people are interested in volunteering, they can go to their website http://nashvilledolphins.org/ and fill out the application. There is even a video showing what volunteers can expect.

“We have lead instructors who help the volunteers, so they just have to have a willing spirit and an open mind,” said Brenda.

If an organization has an indoor pool and would like to donate space, please reach out to the Nashville Dolphins by phone at 615-866-9971, by e-mail at info@nashvilledolphins.org, or on their website at  http://nashvilledolphins.org/. Or, if a corporation or individual would like to donate funds, please click the “Donate” button located on their website. Since members never age out, the financial needs continue to grow every year. Besides the website, information and personal stories about the Nashville Dolphins can also be found on Facebook and Instagram.

“There are so many things that this program does, and I wish more people knew about it,” said Brenda.

Pull quote: “The leading cause of death for people with special needs is drowning, so it’s really important for them to learn how to swim.”

Written for Brentwood Lifestyle magazine in Brentwood, TN.

 

Healing Our Heroes

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How horses are bringing hope to those who give their all

By Susan Baldani

Many of our veterans have a hard time transitioning back into civilian life. Suicide and divorce rates are high, and traditional therapies are not always successful when dealing with their unique issues.

Jennifer O’Neill, the long-time actress, model and author, set out to help these heroes. In 2010, she started Hope & Healing at Hillenglade, an equine-assisted program for veterans (and first responders) that teaches them new ways of coping with a myriad of issues. Steven DePalma, her partner with Hope & Healing, has served in Afghanistan.

“There’s something very special about warrior to warrior conversations,” she said.

All programs take place on her farm, located right outside of downtown Nashville. Veterans often come to Hillenglade from Fort Campbell, as well as  organizations such as Operation Stand Down and Wounded Warriors.

“We have served over 4000 military and first responders and their families,” she said.

O’Neill believes that it’s not enough just to work with the veteran or first responder; you also have to work with their families.

“We are intent on dealing with the entire family unit,” she said. “You can’t deal with one person and not look at the trickle-down effect.”

When participants arrive, they meet with O’Neill and/or DePalma and get to know each other. This exchange helps to ascertain the specific needs of the veterans and first responders. Once that’s done, they will begin to interact with the horses.

“It’s so interesting to see what happens, because it varies with the person and with the horse,” she said. “For instance, knowing our horses and knowing our guests, we can partner them with a specific horse that will work on their specific issues.”

Horses, she said, are flight animals. Their instinct is to check you out to see if you’re going to hurt them.

“Our program is not about riding; it’s all about ground work,” said O’Neill. “Horses have 17 expressions, so it’s interesting to see these men and women warriors who come in perhaps feeling distant, and develop a trusting relationship with our horses.”

What happens, she said, is this beautiful dance between the person in the pen and the horse. During this time, the horse is loose – or at liberty – and by using specialized exercises, O’Neill and DePalma help to create a relationship between the two.

“When a horse, this 1200-pound animal, comes to them by its own volition and willingness to want to partner and have a relationship with them, you just see these amazing heroes just break down and completely respond.”

Many times, she said, participants don’t realize they’re presenting with anger, or coldness, or acting threatening.

“Horses are our mirrors, and with their 17 different expressions, they can show what they think of us pretty easily,” said O’Neill. “God was in a good mood when he made a horse.”

Initially, Hillenglade Hope & Healing hosted large celebrations where veterans, first responders, and their families could get away in the country and be around the wonder of therapy horses. However, when they were finally able to build a covered pen a couple of years ago, they got into deeper healing programs.

“That has been a real blessing,” she said. “It’s very difficult to start to do deeper healing and say ‘Well, I’ll see you in the spring,’ or ‘The weather’s not going to be good this month.’ Now, we have groups come down for three-day deeper healing events.”

Once participants have gone through their program, O’Neill and DePalma will then have them talk about what they’ve learned and experienced at the farm and how they can take that home to their families and friends and to their work environment. If requested, they will also work in concert with certified counselors in more traditional therapies.

Hillenglade Hope & Healing also offers an Empowerment Transition Program. This program provides veterans  a place to stay on the farm for three to six months, while they work through their issues. During this time, they work on the farm daily with the horses and learn how to care for them. Once they graduate, they can then get a job in the equine world.

O’Neill would like to expand Hillenglade’s offerings, but it’s been very difficult lately for many 501(c)(3) organizations. Because all of their programs are free for the veterans, first responders, and their families, their financial needs are great.

“We’re just hoping that people recognize the importance of  this program and help us to keep doing this,” she said. “These days, there’s a lot of need everywhere, but this is not frivolous. This is lifesaving.”

To donate, please go to their website at http://hillenglade.org/. They also need hard-working volunteers who are willing to groom horses, clean stalls, paint fences, and prepare for events. If you can help, please contact them for more information.

Written for Brentwood Lifestyle magazine in Brentwood, TN.

Head to the shore, soak up some sun, and then go shopping

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By Susan Baldani

With the warm weather coming, many of us will soon be heading to the beach. Soaking up the sun, splashing in the waves, and reading a book are great ways to spend a summer day. But, look around, and you will see there are many other things to do to have a great time while there, which allows you to support local businesses at the same time.

Many shore communities have small, often family-owned shops filled with unique and high-quality items that you may not be able to find closer to home. Candle stores, yarn shops, baby boutiques, and stationery stores are usually steps away from the sand and surf. Take some time to visit, say hello to the proprietors, and pick up some items to treat yourself, or to give as special presents for someone’s birthday or anniversary.

Sand, saltwater, and sun can also wreak havoc on your nails and skin. Stop in a local salon or spa and let yourself be pampered with a mani-pedi and facial. You will come back from the beach not only with a tan, but with lovely nails and glowing, vibrant skin as well.

Looking for something with a little more action? How about a game of mini golf or getting soaked at a water park? What kid (or adult) doesn’t enjoy getting a hole in one or gliding down a slide on an inner tube? Much more exciting than just lying on the beach.

Craving a bite to eat? Instead of bringing your own food in a cooler each time, check out what the local delis and mom-and-pop restaurants have to offer. Some of the best food can be found at the shore.  Tear into a lamb or chicken gyro or indulge in a creamy seafood pasta dish. And whatever you do, don’t forget dessert. Enjoy a delicious ice cream cone with sprinkles, funnel cake with powdered sugar, or a generous slice of home-made apple pie with a fresh dollop of whipped cream.

Quite a few of these treasured establishments rely on summer visitors to get through the entire year. Many of these places have been around for years and are considered the backbones of their shore communities.

Be sure to patronize these local shops and take advantage of all they have to offer so they can continue to flourish for many more years to come. And then, head back to your towel on the beach and take a long nap under the umbrella. Happy summer!

Written for the Country Register, published across the U.S. and Canada.

A Pet Pig Tale

Atticus

From farm animal to family member

By Susan Baldani

Atticus, named for the noble Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, is a 400-pound pet pig who loves watermelon, pumpkins, and carrots. He also enjoys getting lots of love and attention from his humans.

His owner Jaime and her 5-year-old son live on 1.5 acres in Williamson County. Along with his two dog siblings George Clooney and Merci, cat sister Kiki, and goldfish Goldie, Atticus is a beloved member of the family.

“I love animals, and even though I’m originally a city girl, I’ve always loved farm animals,” said Jaime.

After she saw an ad for pet pigs, her interest was piqued. A friend introduced her to someone who had pet pigs so she could learn more about them.

When a family friend’s pig had a litter of piglets, Jaime went out and met Atticus and his parents so she could see how big he was really going to be.

“I waited until Atticus was 3 months old and 22 pounds before I brought him home,” she said. “Now, he’s 7 ½ years old and 400 pounds.”

Jaime said pigs can live 15 to 20 years, so it’s a big commitment. Just like with any other pet, it’s important to do your research before adopting.

“Atticus is a Vietnamese potbellied pig and at 400 pounds is considered mini,” said Jaime. “This is why so many pigs need to be rescued; there is no such thing as a teacup pig. Those are babies and then they get big. Adopting a pig is not something to do on a whim.”

Getting Atticus was the right decision for her and her family. Since she did her research, Jaime was well prepared for the care and responsibility of owning a pig.

“He’s super sweet to my son, and of course, I’m his mommy, so he loves me,” she said. “Pigs have the intelligence of 2-to-3-year-old children, and they’re stubborn, so you have to earn their love and attention. Sometimes he runs to you for scratches and other times he’ll stand 3 feet from you and grunt at you, expecting you to come to him.”

Jaime also mentioned that pigs are highly intelligent. She taught Atticus to sit down and turn around in less than 5 minutes. Of course, it was all food motivated. And Atticus, like most pigs, is extremely sensitive, so if you yell, you can hurt his feelings. She said he also holds grudges.

Not one for toys, Atticus instead prefers to nose around the property. He has a special designated area in her backyard, with a sturdy pig house about the size of a large doghouse, and a lovely fenced in back yard. He lives mainly outside, but will come in when it’s very cold or really hot, or when the lawn is being mown.

Jaime puts down hay throughout his pen, which is about 30’ x 30’, and Atticus also has access to the screened-in back porch. He doesn’t like to go for walks; he would rather just hang out in the yard.  And like a true pig, he likes to root around his pen.

“You want to keep them busy since they’re like toddlers, so I’ll sprinkle grapes or Cheerios throughout his pen, and he likes to find them,” she said. “I try to keep [the snacks] low in sugar.”

Like most other pets, Atticus takes naps during the day. Around 7:00 p.m., when he usually goes to sleep, he’ll retreat into his pig house or lie in front of it. In the morning, if Jaime isn’t awake by 8:30 a.m., he bangs on the back door, looking for his breakfast.

His vet comes to the house twice a year and the only maintenance he really needs, Jaime said, is to get his hooves trimmed. And since he’s a boy, his tusk also has to be tended to.

Besides pig food, which she soaks in water to ensure he stays hydrated, he also gets healthy scraps.

“My next-door neighbor is in love with Atticus, thank you Lord, because you always want your neighbors to love your pet, especially when it’s a pig. So, she brings him her leftover watermelon and carrots. All the neighbors actually love Atticus.”

If you’re thinking about adopting a pig, besides doing your research, Jaime recommends seeking out a reputable, local rescue organization and support the people who are out there every day rescuing animals. Also, be sure to check your town’s ordinances and/or your homeowner’s association’s regulations, since some places may not allow pet pigs.

Written for Franklin Lifestyle magazine in Franklin, TN.

Summer’s Here – Get Your Grill On

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By Sue Baldani

How do you BBQ? Are you a charcoal fan or a gas griller? Apparently, there are two very different schools of thought on the way to cook meat and other foods in the great outdoors. Of course, there’s always the campfire option as well, but I’m talking about what most of us do on nice days in our own backyards.

For convenience, a gas grill is easier and faster, and just about anyone can use one. Charcoal, on the other hand, needs a somewhat skilled hand to get it going, and it does take a while for those black briquettes to turn gray and hot enough to actually cook food. And then, you have to carefully dispose of those used coals after waiting for hours for them to cool down. Otherwise, if you dump them in a pile of grass or leaves, you’ll have one of those previously mentioned campfires. That may be fine for toasting marshmallows, but neither your neighbors nor your local fire department are going to be happy about your unintentional bonfire.

Also, if you only grill once in a while and want to make a quick meal on the grill after work, then gas is faster. However, if you like having outdoors parties and don’t mind prepping ahead of time, then charcoal may be for you.

For taste, most diehard BBQ masters insist you need charcoal for that authentic smoky flavor that only comes from wood. Since charcoal is made from wood, they say it’s essential to use. Although, you can always add wood chips to a gas grill to get some of this flavor as well.

Preference also seems to depend on the food being grilled. Most people agree that hamburgers and hot dogs taste fine on both grills, but many others insist that steaks grilled over charcoal cannot be beat. Also, if you are grilling larger pieces of meat like a whole chicken that benefit from slow roasting, charcoal will give that stronger smoky flavor every time.

Gas grills are more expensive up front than many charcoal grills, and propane isn’t cheap either. Hooking it up to a natural gas line is usually the best bet, since it’s economical and you don’t have to worry about running out of propane in the middle of a party. But, you can’t pack them up and take them to the park or beach. Charcoal grills can hit the road with you.

When deciding on the type of grill, you also have to consider where you live.  If you have a small patio in an apartment building, the smoke billowing from a charcoal fire and into other units may not be the best way to make friends with your neighbors, and it may be against the rules as well. It’s also not safe, but then neither is a gas grill, which can flare up. All grills should be a safe distance from any structure, and if that can’t be done, an electric grill can be used as a last resort. But let’s face it, that’s not really grilling.

Written for The Country Register – published across the United States and Canada.

Let’s Stay Vigilant Against COVID-19

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People are starting to let their guards down. You can see it on social media with photos of family members gathered in backyards for barbeques, and in snapshots of teenagers hugging and high- fiving at graduation parties. However, COVID-19 is still here, and we are still officially in a pandemic. Yes, our numbers are way down, but other states are seeing a resurgence, and that can easily happen here as well.

In New Jersey, in addition to wearing masks and staying six feet apart indoors, wearing a mask is  also now mandated while outdoors when not able to maintain social distancing. As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s important to wear masks correctly by following these steps:

  • Wash your hands before putting on your face covering
  • Put it over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin
  • Try to fit it snugly against the sides of your face
  • Make sure you can breathe easily

The Scotch Plains Rescue Squad is still actively answering calls for suspected COVID-19 cases. Most people on the front lines continue to see it every day, and many of us now know someone who has been infected and/or who has possibly died from COVID-19 complications.  There’s no doubt that our state has been able to flatten the curve to an amazing degree, but even one death is one too many for the family and friends of that loved one.

People are missing their family members and friends as well as the normalcy of everyday life. This pandemic has turned our lives upside down, and it’s understandable that people want to regain some sense of control. But, it’s important to continue to follow the guidelines to keep others safe. Our EMTs, doctors, paramedics and nurses are out there striving to meet the demands. Let’s continue to bring that demand way down, so they too can safely go home to their families.

Written for the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad and published in local outlets.

Life’s an Adventure

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Glamping and camping in style

By Susan Baldani

Camping outdoors can be a lot of fun, but some people don’t like the idea of spending the night in leaky tents while sleeping on the hard ground. Morgan and Ashley Gliko, owners of The Flying Ham, came up with a way to incorporate camping with a little bit of luxury and a lot of comfort.  The Mount Juliet couple rent out 2015 Shasta Airflyte campers that look exactly like the original 1961 Airflytes, as well as glamping tents.

“These campers are called canned ham campers; they resemble a can of ham on its side,” said Ashley. “The Shastas are specifically known for their iconic wings on the back. We like fun names, and when we came up with The Flying Ham, we didn’t even consider anything else.”

Morgan and Ashley met when they were both in the U.S. Air Force. Now married for 15 years, they have two sons, 8-year-old Jack and 5-year-old Ben. In 2015, they were working long hours and decided to make a change in order to spend more time as a family. So, Morgan stopped working to stay home with their second child. Starting Flying Ham was a great supplement for their income and a way to share their love of these campers with others.

“I’m originally from Montana and we travel back and forth to Montana a couple times a year,” said Morgan. “This was one of the reasons we initially got the little red 16-foot camper.”

“People had such a great response to it,” said Ashley. “It brought so much joy to everyone and put a smile on their faces.”

They now own two 16-foot campers and a 19-foot camper. The smaller two feature a full-size bed in the front and a short twin in the back, which is perfect for a child. The larger one has a full bed in the front and another full in the back.

They all have the same amenities, which include stainless steel appliances, kitchen utensils, coffee makers, televisions, blue ray players, record players with records, and hammocks. Everything is included, even the pillows and bed linens. The campers also have air conditioning, heat, running water, and bathrooms with showers. All the comforts of home, in the great outdoors.

Last year, for the Bonnaroo Music Festival, they added tents to their rental business. All of them come with glamping gear décor and have rugs, vintage lanterns, radios, and whimsical twinkle light chandeliers. Cots, pillows, bed linens and sleeping bags are all provided, and yes, all have air conditioning.

“The nice thing about the tents is we can bring them right to your backyard and set them up,” said Morgan. “If campgrounds aren’t your thing, or if you just want something at home, the tent is perfect. The tents originally started with the Bonnaroo Music Festival and evolved to include other events and parties.”

They’ve even been used indoors, including at the Country Music Awards After Party at the Municipal Auditorium. Morgan said there are lots of different things you can do with them besides just camping; they’re very versatile.

The campers and tents have also been rented out for birthday parties, weddings and other events. Customers have also had campers delivered right to their driveways and used them as extra bedrooms for guests, especially around the holidays. In addition, because of their retro look, the Airflytes have been featured in quite a few photo shoots and music videos.

“What’s nice about the Flying Ham is that it’s a family business,” said Morgan. “We can do it together. Sometimes the kids come with me on deliveries, and sometimes we all go.”

If interested in renting one of these campers or tents, try to reserve at least one to two months in advance, especially during their busy months, which run from April through November. The campers are delivered to the destination, while tents can be picked up or delivered.

For those who would like to camp, there is a list of campgrounds on The Flying Ham website. Ashley said they often advise people on where to stay and the types of things available at local campgrounds, such as playgrounds and lakes.

Contact info:

The Flying Ham

P.O. Box 1361

Mount Juliet, TN 37121

615-979-1208

www.theflyingham.com 

Written for Brentwood Lifestyle magazine in Tennessee.

Keeping Our Minds and Bodies Healthy

 

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Susan Baldani

During this pandemic, the focus has been on keeping our bodies healthy, which is a priority. There are many guidelines to help us to do just that, including wearing masks, washing our hands, and maintaining social distancing. But, what about our mental health? Studies have shown that depression, anxiety and suicides are now at an all-time high.

Many factors contribute to these increases, including loneliness from self-isolation, loss of employment, fear for our families and our futures, and dismay at the economic impact to our country. The constant barrage of bad news in the media also heightens our sense of anxiety and sadness. For those who have battled COVID-19 or lost loved ones, and for the healthcare workers fighting on the front lines, these issues are compounded. Facing our own and others’ mortality can wear greatly on our mental health.

What’s been even more detrimental during this time is our inability to take part in activities that decrease stress, help us cope with anxiety, and bring us enjoyment. Playing sports, going to the gym or spa, getting together with friends, and being with our families often add to our sense of well-being. For many, these options are limited right now.

So, what can we safely do to maintain and improve our mental health? Here are some ideas:

  • Get outdoors. A change of scenery, along with some fresh air, keeps our minds active.
  • Walk, run, or bicycle around your neighborhood, or take a hike through some local parks.
  • Go to the beach. There is something about being near water that always makes us feel invigorated.
  • Connect with family and friends by phone or online. Just hearing loved ones’ voices provides an instant lift to our day, and if you can see their faces, even better.
  • Nothing gives us a better sense of accomplishment and joy than helping others who are less fortunate.
  • Reach out. If depression or anxiety become overwhelming, call your healthcare practitioner or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Help is always available; don’t hesitate to ask for it.

Contributing Author:  Susan Baldani, a life member of the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad.