Maureen Kallinen, Paul Forsberg, Kelly McGraw and Joan McCullough meet weekly to work through the issues of separation. McCullough is president of the local Beginning Experience group that meets weekly in Puyallup..(Joan Cronk/Senior Scene)
Maureen Kallinen, Paul Forsberg, Kelly McGraw and Joan McCullough meet
weekly to work through the issues of separation. McCullough is president of the local Beginning Experience group that meets weekly in Puyallup..(Joan Cronk/Senior Scene)
Paul Forsberg found the Beginning Experience group 10 years ago after his wife died.
“I had three sessions of grief counseling, and they just read to us. It wasn’t bad, but I wasn’t getting what I thought I needed,” he said.
He read about Beginning Experience in his church program and has been a loyal supporter ever since.
Ten years out, Forsberg said he is now in the role of giving back.
Joan McCullough is president of the local Beginning Experience group that meets every Tuesday night at Christ Episcopal Church in Puyallup at 7 p.m. The church is located at 210 Fifth St SW.
After her divorce in April 2009, McCullough said she was “prodded” to attend “by someone in my church who heard me talking about my loss.” McCullough is from New York and said the group has become part of her new family.
Most of the folks start out by attending one of the weekend retreats that are given twice a year in April and October. The retreats offer an opportunity for new folks to meet others and share their experience.
McCullough thinks the retreat is a great way for folks to start out with Beginning Experience.
“By Sunday night you have new friends and you talk about your losses. A lot of times, family doesn’t understand,” she said.
McCullough said the reason the group works is because people feel comfortable.
“Your pain is your pain, and then you walk into the group and we help each other. We cry together and we laugh together,” she said.
Beginning Experience is a Christian organization, started by a nun living in Ft. Worth, Texas. Meetings consist of checking in to see how everyone is doing.
“It is all about feelings,” said McCullough, adding that the group uses a workbook to help them work through their issues.
Kelly McGraw is newly divorced and said her therapist encouraged her to give the program a try.
“I signed up for the weekend retreat, and it was the best thing I have ever done for myself,” she said.
Forsberg stresses that the group is not a dating service.
“We bond with each other, and there have been cases where people met here, but there is a three-month period where we don’t contact any other members for dating. This is a ministry for us,’ he said.
McGraw said when she signed up for the retreat, she regretted it immediately. On her way to her first encounter at the retreat, she talked to a friend on the phone all the way down for support.
“As soon as I walked in, I locked eyes with another woman and saw myself in her. By the end of the weekend, I knew I was going to make it,” she said.
For more information on Beginning Experience, contact Joan McCullough at 253-820-3066.

Anyone who's 50 or older is among the groups of people that health officials urge to get a flu shot.
Anyone who’s 50 or older is among the groups of people that health officials urge to get a flu shot.

Flu season is here. The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department offers the following advice on avoding the bug:

Flu viruses are constantly changing. Each flu season, different flu viruses can spread, and they can affect people differently based on the virus and on their body’s ability to fight infection. Some flu seasons are worse than others, and there is no way to predict how severe the flu season will be. Each year, a new flu vaccine is made from the three viruses that are expected to be present during the season. Two of the three viruses have changed from last season, but the 2009 influenza A/H1N1 virus antigen remains in the 2012-2013 vacccine. (An antigen is the substance that your body recognizes and uses to form protective antibodies.)

Who should get the flu shot?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone over age 6 months get the flu vaccine, with important exceptions. People with severe allegy to egg, people who have had a serious reaction to a flu shot in the past, and people who have had a very rare nervous system condition called Guillian-Barre syndrome should not get the flu vaccine.

If I got a flu shot last year, do I need one again this year?

Yes, you need a flu shot every year.

When should I get vaccinated?

You should get vaccinated as soon as flu vaccine becomes available, but there’s still a health benefit in getting a flu shot at any time during the flu season. In the Pacific Northwest, flu activity is usually at its highest level in January or February, and sometimes later. During the 2011-2012 season, we saw very little flu activity until March and April.

Do children need more than one dose of flu vaccine per year?

In general, children under age 9 need two doses of flu vaccine at least four weeks apart during the first year they receive the vaccination. This season, it is recommended that children under age 9 get two flu vaccine doses if they have not received at least two seasonal flu vaccines since July 2010. This is to ensure that young children receive enough of the 2009 influenza A/H1N1 vaccine to offer the best protection.

Are there side effects to the vaccine?

Yes, but most people usually do not have any side effects. When they do happen, side effects are usually mild. The most common side effects are soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the shot is given. The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu.

How effective is the flu vaccine?

The effectiveness of the flu vaccine depends on the match between the flu vaccine and the types of flu viruses that are circulating that year. If there is a good match, the flu vaccine is 70-90 percent effective in healthy adults. Flu vaccine is generally somewhat less effective in elderly persons and very young children, but vaccination can still prevent serious complications from the flu.

What are the different types of flu vaccine?

Currently, two types of flu vaccine exist:  The flu shot (also call inactivated flu vaccine, it’s made up of killed viruses, can’t give you the flu, and should be given to children 6 months to age 2, people age 50 years and older, pregnant women, and anyone with any health problems or chronic conditions such as diabetes or asthma). And nasal spray vaccine (also called live-attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) trade name FluMist, it’s made of live flu viruses that have been changed and weakened so it can’t give healthy people the flu, is for healthy children and non-pregnant adults between the ages of 2 and 49.

One in three adults 65 and older falls each year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and that number has risen sharply over the past decade.  Falls are the leading cause of injury death for older Americans and they can significantly limit the ability of older adults to age in place.   Falls are not a normal part of aging and there are a variety of measures individuals can take to reduce their chances of having a serious fall.  One of the easiest methods is to get educated about what causes falls, how to avoid them and what things in your personal life can be altered to reduce your risk.  To focus attention on this, Governor Gregoire has proclaimed the week of Sept. 22 as Fall Prevention Week.

The Peninsula Fall Prevention Coalition is offering an educational day on Sept. 27 from 10 to 2 p.m. at the 27th at the HOPE Center, 8502 Skansie Avenue, in Gig Harbor for community members to get valuable information on how to prevent falls, including demonstrations, methods and materials to increase body strength, household safety tips and the part diet and medicine can have on influencing balance.

“The coalition is made up of a large number of area businesses, residents and professionals who work together to provide information and develop programs to help reduce the risks of fall related injuries in our community,” said Vicki Main, community relations director for Visiting Angels and one of the board members.  The coalition has put on the event since 2010.   If you are interested in becoming involved with the Peninsula Fall Prevention Coalition contact Prevention Specialist, Nanette Tatom at 253-851-5111 at Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One.

Face the music…bite the bullet…take our medicine…we have a lot of phrases for it.

They amount to the same issue:  difficult choices involve options that are equally charming…or equally  ugly.

Have the surgery?…or tough it out and hope that (benign) tumor will not grow too fast?  Support your son’s fourth career move…or let him know you have some serious doubts?  Move to a smaller, more manageable condo…or keep the old place near the church and the friends you’ve made in the past 40 years?

Even a decision to be generous can be leave us on a teeter- totter.  Shall we send a check to support the scholarship find at the college where our daughter had a shaky start, but finally settled down?  Or would it make more sense to give that money to a homeless shelter, where we know it will have an immediate impact?

Here’s a different way to frame the situation.  Imagine you are holding a pair of playing cards.  Their face value is not important.  But 10 feet away from you on the carpet a pair of magic fish bowls wait for you to toss those cards.   You can trust your luck and toss both, hoping one of them lands in a bowl.  The bowls, by the way, are symbols of your challenging life choices.
Here’s the magic:  if you choose ONE of those cards, it does not matter which one, the fish bowls merge and triple in size, making it far more likely that your choice will pay off.

Guaranteed?  No.  The point of this exercise is to show how choosing improves our odds.  Putting our whole heart into anything tends to do that.  In other words, if you were 50 percent more sure your choice would pay off, would your choice be simpler?

Using the example of making a gift to charity, assume the decision was correct….which result would satisfy you most?

Finally, you can always test the waters; make a smaller gift first…see how it is received, what feedback you get, and how your modest gift is used.  In other words, don’t wait until the curtains are closing on the final act.  Pick a card, any card.

Mike Robinson is Senior Vice President of Planned Giving for United Way of Pierce County.  Please consult a qualified estate planner before making a gift in your will.