Issue No. 77
| Shopping for heart-healthy foods
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Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust Inc.
Church of the Brethren Insurance Services provides the following products: dental, vision, basic life and accidental death & dismemberment, supplemental life and AD&D, dependent life and AD&D, retiree life, long-term disability, short-term disability, and Medicare supplement
for eligible Church of the Brethren employees
Dental, vision, retiree life, and Medicare supplement coverage may also be available for eligible retired Church of the Brethren employees.
For eligibility information, call Connie Sandman at 800-746-1505, ext. 366, or contact your human resources representative.
Medical and ancillary plans (named above) may be available to Brethren-affiliated employer groups.
Long-Term Care Insurance is available for all members of the Church of the Brethren, their family and friends, and employees of Church of the Brethren-affiliated agencies, organizations, colleges, and retirement communities.
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Sometimes it's hard to appreciate the month of February. By this time in the cold season, we are past the excitement of wearing our favorite sweaters and boots, not so thrilled with the idea of another snowfall, and all the big holidays are behind us. Now we feel like we are just in a holding pattern, waiting for spring to arrive. So it seemed like a good time to bring you some interesting reasons to celebrate February, including Ground Hog Day, Valentine's Day, and President's Day. February is also National Heart Month, so in keeping with our focus on physical wellness, we feel that is another reason to celebrate February.
And since we do strive to give you updates on insurance, we also want to make sure you are aware of an upcoming webinar on the benefits of Long-Term Care Insurance. Find out what it covers, who should have it, and how affordable it is. There are many more details in the article below, which reminds you to mark your calendar for this free webinar coming up in April.
We hope this issue of Insurance Update lifts your spirits and gives you reason to celebrate the last full month of winter.
A month rich in celebrations
A glance at the February calendar page reveals four days of note -- Ground Hog Day, Valentine's Day, and both Lincoln's and Washington's birthdays, now combined for Presidents' Day. It is probably a good thing that February has many token celebrations because winter often seems to drag on interminably. Maybe these February days marked with both silliness and seriousness help get us through. What might be of further interest is whether these celebrations have any connections.
Believe it or not, Valentine's Day and Groundhog Day both seem to have distant roots in a Roman festival called Lupercalia, and of course it is easy to connect Valentine's Day to the important matter of heart health as we celebrate American Heart Month each February. But what, if any, is the connection of Presidents' Day to any of these?
It might be said that Presidents' Day really exists because early Americans held close to their hearts their victorious general and first president, George Washington. And very early on, they began to celebrate his birthday on Feb. 22, which became the basis for Presidents' Day in most states.
So, whether connected or not, the four February festivities run the gamut from the ridiculous to the sublime, and make this, the shortest of months when winter weighs heavily, one of the richest in celebrations.
Hogwash and hot air
If you thought that the famous Punxsutawney Phil in western Pennsylvania was the only working groundhog worthy of attention on Feb. 2, you'd be sorely mistaken. It's true that Phil is the best-known and the one who draws the largest crowd. As many as 40,000 have gathered to see him emerge from his burrow to make his prediction in "Groundhogese" to the Groundhog Club president, who translates it for the world. Phil has been doing this for 131 years, and the secret to his longevity is that he drinks the "elixir of life," a secret recipe -- one sip every summer. However, it is not what he says but what he sees. If he sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If he does not, spring will come early.
The people of Punxsutawney like to think their groundhog is the one true weather prognosticator, but the people of Quarryville, in eastern Pennsylvania's Lancaster County, would beg to differ. They have Octorara Orphie, who will make his 109th prediction this year, announced by a member of the Slumbering Groundhog Lodge from the Pinnacle of Prognostication, a manure spreader in the parking lot of the lodge along Octorara Creek. Festivities include a brief parade across a nearby covered bridge. The lodge takes the occasion to initiate new members, which includes dunking at least one of them in the creek. At the other end of the same county can be found another groundhog named Mount Joy Minnie, who appears to be one of the few female marmots on duty on Groundhog Day.
Up in Nova Scotia people claim to have the only groundhog who does not hibernate but stays awake, training for his big day, doing yoga, meditating, and maintaining contact with his fan base on Facebook and Twitter. This is Shubenacadie Sam, whose enclave can be found in the Shubenacadie Provincial Wildlife Park. For all this preliminary effort, he still has to come out of his burrow and check his shadow. Living on the far eastern edge of Canada, Sam is the first groundhog in North America to emerge. Hence, according to his website, he sets the bar for all other prognosticating marmots across the continent. TV and radio people gather. Just before 8 a.m., a procession including a bagpiper, the town crier, and various dignitaries makes its way to Sam's door, which is opened by Sam's personal representative. After the prediction is recorded, Sam interacts with visitors and the media, and then rests.
Then there is the Town of South Bruce Peninsula in Ontario, also called Wiarton, which claims to have the most famous groundhog in Canada, Wiarton Willie, the world's only albino prognosticator. Each year media from around the world converge on Wiarton to cover Willie's prediction. There is even an official origins story about how three mythic groundhogs "broke hibernation to tell of the birth of a white groundhog who would forever alter the world of weather prognostication." The town fathers realized their marmot would need an entourage -- a "Shadow Cabinet" that includes a Minister of Inter-Burrow Affairs, a Minister of Hogwash and Hot Air, and a Minister of Marmot Management, among other officers. The Wiarton Willie website receives thousands of hits as Feb. 2 approaches, and the festival has grown each year to feature fireworks and many indoor and outdoor activities. During the festivities the town is called "Willie's Basecamp" and is festooned with banners and signs.
All of this fun and foolery has its roots in Pennsylvania German customs of the 18th and 19th centuries, and its origins may go back to ancient European weather lore in which a badger or bear is the prognosticator. But the day may have an even more complicated background. Feb. 2 actually has another identity -- Candlemas Day, which celebrates Jesus' presentation in the temple, and was grafted onto an older Roman festival called Lupercalia, in honor of the god of fertility and shepherds. According to Wikipedia, the first documented reference to Groundhog Day is found in a diary entry from 1841 which connects the day with Candlemas. There are poems from England, Scotland, and Germany that link the weather of Candlemas Day to a prediction of whether winter will continue or be short.
Despite this rather cloudy background, and lest you think the foregoing large claims for prescient rodents pretty much cover the territory, hear this. Newport News, Virginia, has Chesapeake Chuck; Dunkirk, New York, has Dunkirk Dave; Woodstock, Illinois, has Woodstock Willie. We find Balzac Billy in Balzac, Alberta; Chattanooga Chuck down in Tennessee; and French Creek Freddie in West Virginia. There are Lawrenceville Lucy (another rare female), Susquehanna Sherman, Dover Doug, and Pine Grove Grover in Pennsylvania; Flatiron Freddie in Boulder, Colorado; and Manitoba Merv in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
We probably ought to say a word about what a groundhog is. Its Latin name is Marmota monax and it is also known as a woodchuck or a whistle pig. It's a rodent belonging to the marmot family. The animal is typically 16 to 26 inches long but can grow to 30 inches and 31 pounds. Groundhogs are good excavators -- excellent at digging their burrows. They live three to six years (except for those who drink the "elixir of life"). They are good swimmers and can climb trees if they have to. They can be seen sometimes standing motionless on their hind feet, looking ostensibly for danger, but on Feb. 2, for their shadow. They are true hibernators, which means they stay in their burrows from October to March, except, of course, when coming out on Groundhog Day. They have an aggressive nature which can raise some problems for humans, except when they are foretelling weather.
Of course we must ask the question, "How accurate are the groundhog's predictions?" The online Canadian Encyclopedia has this to say - "A study of weather data over several decades for 13 cities across Canada reveals there was an equal number of cloudy and sunny days on Feb. 2. During that period, the groundhogs' predictions were correct only 37 percent of the time." But Groundhog Day organizers claim their marmot accuracy to be 75 to 90 percent. In Nova Scotia people say Shubenacadie Sam's predictions are always accurate, adding, "Whether the weather agrees is inconsequential."
The town fathers of Wiarton, Ontario, probably got it right when they created a Minister of Hogwash and Hot Air, but what fun it all is! And after all, until recent decades, how much better were the efforts of serious meteorologists than 37 percent?
Love lightens dark last days of winter
Valentine's Day has rich, interesting, and even violent roots, almost none of which can be documented. Some would say its earliest origins are in the Roman festival called Lupercalia (which interestingly is also sometimes associated with Groundhog Day). Lupercalia was a fertility festival in which young men used strips of bloody animal hide to gently slap young women who welcomed the action, hoping for fertility. After this ritual the young men and women would pair up for the remainder of the festival.
Other sources cite three different men named Valentine who were martyred and sainted. One story is that the Emperor Claudius II decreed that his soldiers should not marry, believing that young men who remained single were better fighters. Valentine was a priest who secretly performed wedding services for soldiers, and was put to death for it. Another Valentine, who was imprisoned for his faith, performed a miracle and healed the jailer's daughter, Julia, of blindness. He also fell in love with her. Despite this, the emperor tried to convert him to the pagan faith, and Valentine tried unsuccessfully to convert the emperor to Christianity. As Valentine was being led to his execution, he wrote a love letter to Julia and signed it, "From your Valentine."
All we know of the third Valentine is that he was martyred somewhere in Africa. Strangely, all three Valentines were supposed to have died on the same day, Feb. 14. There is little documentation for any of these accounts except that they were told and repeated. And we do know that Valentine was added to the calendar of saints by Pope Galesius in 496. We also know that there are various sites throughout Europe that claim to have relics from St. Valentine, and there are various accounts of where he is supposed to be buried. Whether his day was associated with love, we do not know.
Some sources claim that the famed 14th century English poet Geoffrey Chaucer gave us the first true association between St. Valentine's Day and love in a 1382 poem called "Parliament of Fowls." It was written to honor the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia, in which he associates their love with the spring mating of birds. Some dispute that the poem refers to Feb. 14 because that date would be too early for birds to be getting together. But Feb. 14 would actually have been later when the change was made from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. However, the association of the mating of birds with St. Valentine's Day must have had some traction, for it is found in the work of three other poets of the time, and it is difficult to know who had the idea first and influenced the others.
An early description of Feb. 14 as an annual celebration of love appears in the "Charter of the Court of Love," probably issued by Charles IV of France in 1400. And the earliest surviving valentine is a rondeau written by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife. The duke was taken prisoner during the English victory in the battle of Agincourt in 1415 and wrote his letter while imprisoned in the Tower of London. The earliest surviving valentines written in English appear to be letters written in 1477 by a Margery Brewers to her husband-to-be John Paston. And Valentine's Day is mentioned by Ophelia in Shakespeare's
By the 18th century, gift-giving and sending handmade cards featuring lace, ribbons, birds, and cupids had become common in England, and the custom of handmade cards spread to the American colonies. When postal rates dropped in England and the postage stamp was introduced in 1840, the number of valentines sent increased, with 400,000 sent in the year following the stamp's debut. Anonymous cards became possible, sometimes with racy verse. Cards were produced in factories with more than 3,000 women employed in what Charles Dickens called "Cupid's Manufactory."
In the U.S., the first mass-produced valentines were sold by a Worcester, Massachusetts woman named Esther Howland after 1847. In the second decade of the 20th century, a new Kansas City company named Hallmark began selling greeting cards. And the rest is history. As hand-written notes were superseded by printed greeting cards, and then gifts such as chocolates and flowers and even jewels became more common, Valentine's Day became a harbinger of commercialized holidays to come. Today some estimates say that approximately 190 million cards are sent each Valentine's Day in the U.S. alone (a figure that rises to a billion if cards made and exchanged by school kids are included). CNN estimates about 224 million roses are purchased for this occasion.
But St. Valentine's Day has become a victim of its murky past and its present commercialization. In 1969, it was taken off the calendar of saints by the Catholic Church. Though there are still some denominations that celebrate St. Valentine's Day, it is mostly a secular holiday.
There are many clichés associated with this day -- such as the syrupy, sentimental messages spread across TV, internet, and print, complete with plump, bow-wielding cupids, and extravagant red hearts pierced by golden arrows. Then there are the little heart-shaped candies stamped with words of love, much larger heart-shaped boxes filled with chocolates, men scurrying frantically to find flowers, the greeting card aisles in local supermarkets choked with men who, late in the afternoon of Feb. 14, are pawing the nearly empty racks for last-minute cards. Statistics show that 73 percent of flowers sold on Valentine's Day are bought by men.
Although it may be true that many men are pulled into Valentine's Day by necessity, it's likely that even the procrastinators and reluctant romantics gain something from their efforts. Though Valentine's Day is by far the most sentimentalized holiday, how wise it was to put this florid celebration in the dark last days of winter and for brief moments to ask people to remember those they love.
It's easy to understand why February has been designated American Heart Month
Now we can make the leap from the heart as the seat of love to the physical heart, and keeping it healthy so we can live and love fully. It may not be possible to say something new about taking good care of your heart, but there is value in repeating heart-healthy advice, especially since many of us have trouble following it. So in acknowledgment of American Heart Month, consider these tips:
● Stay Active.
- Get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day.
- Choose an exercise that makes your heart beat faster such as walking or water aerobics.
● Keep your cholesterol levels low.
- If you have high cholesterol, take the medications recommended by your doctor.
- Your blood cholesterol score should be less than 200.
- Eat foods that are low in cholesterol, which means following the guide below.
● Eat better.
- Eat lots of fiber - more fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods.
- Eat less red meat and more poultry, fish, and low-fat dairy products.
- In general, eat less total fat. (For many years the advice has been to avoid saturated fats found in meat, cheese, and other dairy and to choose instead healthy fats from nuts, seeds, fish, and vegetable oils. Studies now question that advice. Still the American Heart Association has not changed its guidelines regarding saturated fats.)
- Also, stay away from trans fats, which often appear on labels as "partially hydrogenated oils."
- Avoid processed foods that contain high levels of sodium or corn syrup.
- If you eat chocolate, make it dark chocolate with 70 percent or more cacao.
● Manage blood pressure.
- The best way to lower blood pressure is to reduce your salt intake.
- You blood pressure should be less than 120/80.
● Lose weight.
- Check your body mass index. BMI is a person's weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. Since it correlates height and weight, it is a good indicator of overweightness and obesity. For instance, if you are a man who weighs 180 lbs. and is 6 ft. tall, your BMI is 24.4, which is in the healthy range. From 25 to 29.9 is the overweight range. If your BMI is above 30, you are obese. www.smartbmicalculator.com
● Reduce blood sugar.
- Cut back on your sugar intake, especially refined sugars.
- Keep your blood sugar in proper range. Before-meal glucose levels should be 70-99 milligrams. Levels two hours after a meal should be below 140.
- Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease.
● If you are a smoker, stop.
● If you use alcohol, use it in moderation.
- Too much can raise blood pressure, increase chance of stroke, and damage the heart muscle along with all the social problems it can create. Moderate amounts of alcohol can lower blood pressure and increase levels of HDL good cholesterol.
● Get enough sleep, at least 7 hours.
● Reduce stress.
- Be sure to laugh every day. It reduces blood pressure.
- Listen to music. It lowers stress hormones.
- Chill out. Relax. Turn off your phone. Suspend activity.
Let's all take this lesson to heart -- Leadership matters
Presidents' Day began as a celebration of the birthday of our first president, George Washington, who was born on Feb. 22, 1732. Actually, he was born on Feb. 11, but in 1752 the British Empire switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, and dates were adjusted by 11 days.
Following Washington's death in 1799, his Feb. 22 birthday became a day of remembrance, because he was venerated as the most important figure in the history of the new nation. Much was made of the centennial of Washington's birth in 1832, and in 1848 construction began on the Washington Monument. In 1879 Congress named Feb. 22 as a national holiday for all government offices in Washington, D.C., and in 1885 the holiday was expanded to include all federal offices across the country.
In 1951, efforts began to create a Presidents' Day, but did not succeed. In 1968 there was a proposal in Congress called the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The idea was to move the celebration of certain holidays to a Monday in order to give workers a guaranteed three-day weekend. Part of the proposal was to move the celebration of Washington's birthday to the third Monday in February and call it Presidents' Day, including other presidents and especially Abraham Lincoln who was considered by many to be the second most important president, and who already had a February birthday that was being celebrated. The Uniform Monday Holiday act took effect by the executive order of President Richard Nixon on Jan. 1, 1971, but the proposal to change the name of the February celebration to Presidents' Day was dropped, and the day remained a celebration of Washington's Birthday.
In the mid-1980s the term Presidents' Day began to appear more frequently, and the third Monday in February was increasingly known this way. But the naming of the holiday and its manner of celebration were left up to the states. By the early 2000s, about half the states were calling the holiday Presidents' Day, though with no consistency of punctuation.
Today states vary in what they call the day, whom they celebrate, and how they celebrate. Some don't celebrate it at all, though it is still a national holiday. According to the website geometrix.com:
41 states observe some form of Washington, Lincoln, or Presidents' Day.
9 states do not observe any form of this holiday at any time during the year.
38 states observe a form of this holiday on the third Monday of February.
9 states observe Washington's Birthday only.
24 states observe Presidents' Day only.
And to make things even stranger and more varied, states cannot even agree on the punctuation in the name:
17 states call it Presidents' Day (plural possessive).
5 states call it Presidents Day (simple plural).
4 states call it President's Day (singular possessive).
Though the holiday is still officially designated by the federal government as Washington's Birthday, many of the states include at least Lincoln, but there are notable exceptions. Alabama continues to snub Lincoln, who led the Union during the Civil War, by calling it George Washington/Thomas Jefferson Day, ostensibly because Jefferson was a southerner from Virginia. Arkansas may have the most unique take on the holiday. As a former Confederate state, it commemorated only George Washington until in an unexpected twist, in 2001 it added Daisy Gatson Bates to the day's celebration. Bates was an African-America
n woman and Arkansas native who as a civil rights activist played a central role in the integration of Little Rock Central High School in 1957.
These state-by-state variations raise the question: What is this holiday, really, other than a chance for workers to get a three-day weekend? Maybe it's marking the recognition that leaders are important and that they shape our consciousness. That's certainly how the early citizens of our democracy saw George Washington.
From the silliness of Groundhog Day to the seriousness of Presidents' Day, the celebrations of February remind us to laugh and have some fun, to cherish those we love, to keep our bodies healthy so we can continue to live and laugh and love, and to remember that it is the leadership of individual men and women that has helped mold our national experience. When we think about all that, we can be grateful for this short and interesting month.
Do you have a plan for long-term care?
Sign up for the April 6 Webinar
What will you do if you need nursing care at the end of your retirement years? How will you pay for it? Seventy percent of people age 65 and older will face a long-term care event -- needing care for 90 days or longer. Do you have a plan for that care?
BBT can help
Brethren Benefit Trust, the financial arm of the Church of the Brethren, offers a way to plan for and finance long-term care for Church of the Brethren employees and their families and for all Church of the Brethren members and their families, friends, and acquaintances.
Thinking about Long-Term Care Insurance
If the answer to any of the following is yes, you especially should consider LTCI.
- Is there a history in your family of stroke, dementia, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, or another debilitating health problem?
- Is there a history of longevity in your family? Will you live so long that you are likely to need care?
- Are you single? Single people are more likely to need care of this type as they age).
- Are you a woman? (Genworth reports that 70 percent of LTCI claims are for women, because they live longer and are therefore more likely to outlive their spouse.)
Costly challenge -- many expensive options
The Baby Boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964) are coming into retirement age. The cost of long-term care is rising and becoming confusing. Many options have emerged: including traditional long-term care insurance, hybrid life/long-term care insurance, and short-term financial plans. All of these alternatives are expensive. BBT would like to explain this complexity, help you protect yourself and your family from a financial crisis, and show you how you can afford protection.
Will there be enough facilities and money in the future?
For many of us the need for long-term care is still 20 to 30 years in the future. It is difficult to predict what will face us when that time comes. How dramatically will medical costs have risen? Will there be enough facilities? Will there be enough money and resources? Already some care centers require that new residents have financial resources to cover three years of nursing care.
Rise in costs!
Genworth, one of the largest companies offering LTCI, has calculated the present median cost of levels of long-term care for all 50 states and then has estimated the increases over the next 30 years. You'll find this information by
. Here is a chart showing the median costs for the whole U.S. for 2016, 2031, and 2046:
The costs will be lower in some states and, of course, higher in others. But this chart shows that the already high costs of care will more than double in the next 30 years.
Will Medicaid be able to provide?
Medicaid has been the primary way to pay for care when people use up their own resources. But it is not known whether state governments will be able to continue providing this support when so many citizens will need care, and at these increasing prices? Having a plan is critical!
When to buy LTCI?
Long-term care insurance is available to anyone older than 18. The best time (in terms of cost) to purchase it is between the ages of 50 and 65
Sign up for the Webinar on Thursday April 6, at 10 a.m. or 7 p.m.
To learn how to plan for your long-term care, sign up for this webinar offered by Randy Yoder, Independent Agent for Brethren Benefit Trust and Long-Term Care Specialist.
"The Ins and Outs of Long-Term Care," Introducing and explaining long-term care insurance. What is it? What are the options? What are the basic costs? The webinar will run for 30 minutes with live Q&A to follow.
To register for the 10 a.m. morning session
To register for the 7 p.m. evening session
Call or email for a personal contact or a group presentation
Randy Yoder is also available to talk with you by phone or, if possible, through a personal visit to explore options that might fit you and your goals for the future. He also could bring a presentation to you and your family and friends and to your congregation. Randy can be reached at 847-849-0205 or
Don't risk NOT having a plan
Brethren Benefit Trust can provide options and service for this critical issue facing all of us no matter our age. Having no plan is like driving an automobile without insurance. Join this Webinar and learn what you need to prepare for your future.
We hope you are enjoying our new addition to Insurance Update -- monthly BRAIN PUZZLES -- just for fun!
Jim and Wanda both have some candy hearts. If Jim gives Wanda a candy heart, they will both have the same number of candy hearts. However, if Wanda gives Jim a candy heart, Jim will have twice as many as Wanda. How many candy hearts do Jim and Wanda each have?
Click here for the answer.
If you and a friend each have the same number of valentines, how many does she need to give you in order to have 10 more valentines than she has?
| Long-Term Care Insurance
Brethren Insurance Services offers Long-Term Care Insurance
Eligibility for long-term care insurance benefits is determined by the inability to meet at least two of these six activities of daily living -- bathing, eating, dressing, toileting, continence, or transferring. Cognitive impairment can also trigger benefits.
It's difficult to think about the fact that a debilitating condition or a disabling injury might leave you unable to care for yourself, or that when you reach your twilight years, the time will come when you will need some extra care. Long-term care insurance makes sure that you will get the care you need. It assures that the cost of your custodial care will not eat up your savings. Finally, and this is one of the best things about LTCI, it can help protect your children and other relatives from having to use their resources to care for you.
Brethren Insurance Services offers Long-Term Care Insurance for all members and employees of the Church of the Brethren and their family and friends; and also for employees of Church of the Brethren-affiliated agencies, organizations, colleges, and retirement communities and their families and friends.
If you are interested in obtaining this coverage, contact Brethren Insurance Services at
or 800-746-1505 for a free, no-obligation proposal or
to request more information.