LiveWell®

Wellness and prevention information from the experts at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing


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LiveWell blog experts now found on Allina Health’s Healthy Set Go

Training for a 5K or looking to increase your daily steps? Gail Ericson, MS, PT, of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing shares the pros and cons of using a fitness tracker to meet your health goals at Healthy Set Go.

Gail Ericson, MS, PT, of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing shares the pros and cons of using a fitness tracker to meet your health goals at Healthy Set Go.

This is the last post of the LiveWell blog, but it is not the last post for practitioners of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

They will be offering the same great, wellness and prevention expertise with a holistic twist at Allina Health’s new digital destination Healthy Set Go.

This new digital hub offers health advice, tips, recipes and inspiration from Allina Health experts, including Penny George Institute practitioners, along with other primary care doctors, specialists, physical therapists, nurses and more. Healthy Set Go covers these topics:

  • Nourish: Tips and recipes for healthy eating.
  • Move: Inspiration and how-to articles to get moving.
  • Thrive: Support and insight for mental and emotional well-being.
  • Heal: Knowledge to deal with illness.
  • Prevent: Information to prevent illness and injury.
  • Care: Advice to care for yourself and others at life’s unique stages.

Here are just a few new stories by Penny George Institute practitioners that you can find on Healthy Set Go:

Thank you for reading the LiveWell blog and enjoy Healthy Set Go. As T.S. Elliot said, “… to make an end is to make a beginning.”


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How to break down your barriers to exercising, eating healthy and other health goals

By Mary Farrell, MS, PCC

February is a time when many people find their New Year’s resolutions are waning. If you are one of these people, you aren’t alone. The vast majority of resolutions fail.

Too often, it can feel like the obstacles you face to accomplishing a resolution are insurmountable. But there things you can do to break down these barriers.

Here are some tips for busting barriers:

  1. Have a plan and a backup plan.
    • Create SMART goals (specific, measurable, action oriented, realistic and time dependent). If your goal is simply to “eat better,” dig into what that means by creating a SMART goal.
    • Plan ahead. Maybe that means putting meditation time on your scheduler, keeping your gym clothes handy, or taking time each week to draw up a healthier meal plan. This takes a few extra moments on the front end, but will save you frustration on the back end.
    • Know your backup plan. For example, keep healthy snacks on hand in case you don’t have time for lunch. If you exercise outside, have an indoor workout in mind for when the weather is bad.
  1. Know your barriers and break them down. To figure out what your barriers are, fill in the blank: “I’m too _______________ to exercise/manage stress/eat right, etc.”One common answer is, “I’m too busy.” If this is the case:
    • Look at your schedule for a week. Does it reflect your values? Is there time anywhere to fit in your health goal?
    • What is the least amount you could do to meet your goal? Perhaps 10 minutes of walking? 5 minutes of meditation? Bringing a healthy lunch 3 days a week?
    • Consider if you been able to accomplish your healthy change in the past. If you have, think about how you did it. What support did you have? What else enabled you to meet this goal?
  1. Resist “all or nothing” thinking. This kind of thinking can cripple the best intentions. You may be succumbing to this if you hear yourself saying things like, “I blew my diet at lunch, so I’ll just start again tomorrow,” or “I can’t get to the gym today, so I’ll just skip my workout today.”If you are prone to this kind of thinking:
    • Envision what it will feel like to take a step in the right direction. What would that do for your confidence?
    • Remind yourself that every little bit counts. Repeat that phrase as often as necessary.
    • Consider what happens when you do too much too soon? Could you sustain it?
  1. Don’t feel like you have to do it alone. We are a society that values independence, but when it comes to lifestyle changes, going it alone can be a recipe for failure. To deal with this, consider what good support would look like for you: a buddy? a class? a coach? an online community?

Regardless of the barriers you face, tackling them with intention and honesty will pay big rewards.

Mary Farrell, MS, PCC, is an integrative health & wellness coach and an exercise physiologist with the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing’s LiveWell Fitness Center. Call 612-863-5178 to make an appointment with her.


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Women’s wellness: Embracing change

This article originally ran in the Fall 2014 issue of the LiveWell® Newsletter of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

Nancy Van Sloun, MD, advises women to recognize the importance of balance and to be deliberate about building it into their lives.

Nancy Van Sloun, MD, advises women to recognize the importance of balance and to be deliberate about building it into their lives.

If Nancy Van Sloun, MD, could get one message across to all women, it would be this: Love the body you’ve been given.

In appreciating your body, Van Sloun, an integrative medicine doctor at the Penny George™ Institute for Health and Healing-WestHealth, believes you are more likely to take care of it.

And rather than seeing aging and different stages of life as something to fear, Van Sloun advises women to embrace their life’s path. “It’s easy to focus too much on how we look,” she said. “Instead, we should be thinking about what’s next on our life’s journey: How can we best go through it, remain content and do the things that are most important to us?” Van Sloun identified some ways that women can live well throughout their lives.

Twenties and thirties

Whether or not you have children, this is a time when finding balance in your life can be a challenge. Van Sloun encourages women to recognize the importance of balance and to be thoughtful about building it into their lives. “Know what it is that fills you back up, and be deliberate about making time for it,” she said.

If you are planning a pregnancy, check in with your doctor to see what you should do to ensure a healthy pregnancy. Talk about whether vitamins and supplements might be helpful, and discuss any pregnancy risks you may face. If you already have children, remember that you’re a role model. “How kids eat, how physically active they are and how they respond to stress is reflected in what they see in you,” said Van Sloun. “Give your kids the gift of modeling a healthy lifestyle.”

Forties

Changes in your menstrual cycle and mood may be signs of peri-menopause. “These changes are easy for some women and harder for others, but overall, women tend to do better if they are exercising and eating a plant-based, whole food diet,” said Van Sloun.

Because we all lose muscle mass as we age, Van Sloun recommends that women include strength training in their exercise routine. “Maintaining muscle mass also makes weight gain less likely,” she said.

This is also a time when your family life may be changing. “It’s time to refocus on yourself and think about what’s next in your life,” said Van Sloun. Don’t overlook the emotional and spiritual components of health. “Maintaining social connections and having a sense of purpose is important to your health. If your focus has been on your kids or your job and that’s changing, you may need to cultivate new interests.”

Fifties and beyond

As we age and after we go through menopause, we are at higher risk for many diseases. At the same time, women are living longer after menopause. These are two important reasons to maintain a healthy lifestyle and a healthy weight.

While women tend to focus on breast cancer, heart disease is a much bigger threat. “As much as 80 percent of heart disease can be prevented through modifying our lifestyles,” said Van Sloun.

With a longer life expectancy, you want to age well, said Van Sloun. “Investing now in eating an optimal diet, staying active and learning how to handle stress will reap benefits as you get older.”

 

Nancy Van Sloun, MD, sees patients at Penny George Institute for Health and Healing – West Health in Plymouth. For appointments, call 612-863-3333.

 


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Live well, live happy: how exercise increases happiness

Even a small amount of exercise can make a difference in your happiness and health.

Even a small amount of exercise can make a difference in your happiness and health.

By Mary Farrell, MS, PCC

This is part five in a LiveWell blog series on happiness that launched with “Live well, live happy” in January.

I am excited to share more great news about happiness. As noted previously, most happiness comes not from our circumstances, but from how we think and what we do given our circumstances.

Recently my mother has experienced joint inflammation and pain. She had to cut back on activities, including running around with her grandchildren. I was able to recommend to her a supervised, gentle exercise program. After just a few weeks, she is moving better and is also experiencing a shift in her mood. Her confidence has grown, she feels more hopeful and optimistic, and the return of her joyous laughter makes everyone around her smile.

My mother is experiencing what Sonja Lyubomirsky describes in her seminal publication, “The How of Happiness.” She says “exercise is the single best thing that you can do to improve your happiness.”

Documented benefits of activity include:

  • Enhanced ability to manage stress—Exercise releases norepinephrine, a chemical that moderates the body’s stress response.
  • A boost in “happy chemicals”—Exercise releases endorphins, which produce a feeling of happiness and euphoria. Additionally, exercise can alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety and can sometimes be just as effective as anti-depressants in treating depression.
  • A profound positive effect on your brain—Exercise helps create new brain cells and protects certain brain structures, thereby sharpening memory and focus, and preventing cognitive decline.
  • Improved self-confidence and self-esteem.
  • Increased focus, creativity and energy.

Despite these benefits, you may still have obstacles to building more movement into your life. These tips may help.

  1. Fill in the blank: “I’m too ________ to exercise.” Is it busy? Tired? Old? Overwhelmed? Understanding your primary barrier will help you to work through it.
  • If you are too busy, what is the smallest amount that you could do?
  • If you are tired, experiment with just a bit of activity and see if you get an energy boost.
  • If you are prone to black and white thinking, i.e. “unless I am running, I may as well not bother,” know that research overwhelmingly shows the benefit of even a small amount of movement.
  1. Understand your exercise personality and preferences.
  • Do you love the great outdoors or prefer the climate-controlled comfort of your home?
  • Do you crave time alone or do you do best when with others?
  • Do you prefer joining a class or sports team, or is it easiest to weave in movement during your day?
  1. Start slow, be gentle and build gradually.

Even if it has been a while since you’ve been active, it is never too late to start, or restart. Here’s to happiness through movement!

Mary Farrell, MS, PCC, is an integrative health & wellness coach and an exercise physiologist with the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing’s LiveWell Fitness Center. Call 612-863-5178 to make an appointment with her.

Past entries by Mary Farrell in the “Live well, live happy” series:


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Why maintaining muscle is important and how to get started

Fitness training session

Gail Ericson, MPT, C CET (left) conducting a fitness training session at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing’s LiveWell Fitness Center.

By Gail Ericson, MPT, C CET

In a way, muscle is your body’s engine. The more muscle you have, the better your metabolism is, the more calories you burn,  the stronger and more mobile you can be, and the more resilient you are to illness.

As we age, loss of muscle mass is inevitable. This can lead to higher total body weight with increased fat percentage or stable weight with higher fat percentage. It also may result in weakened bones, diminished mobility and a host of other issues.

People who are inactive may lose 4-7 percent of their muscle mass per decade after the age of 40. This could mean a more than 20 pound loss of muscle for a 160 pound person by the time they are 60 years old. Even active people may lose some muscle as they age, and muscle loss accelerates after the age of 70.

A decrease in muscle mass paired with other disease states, such as osteoporosis, can be devastating and lead to a downward spiral in health. For example, loss of muscle mass and strength can lead to a decline in function, balance and mobility. It can also lead to a fear of moving. This in turn may lead to further loss of function and falls, which often end in hospitalization.

The best way to combat muscle loss is with exercise.  Almost anyone at any age can benefit from exercise with few, if any, bad side effects. A combination of strength and aerobic activity three times per week for 20-30 minutes is adequate to maintain muscle strength and prevent some muscle loss that comes with age.

Here are four tips to get started:

  1. Keep moving and limit sitting for long periods of time if possible. Our bodies are built to move, and staying idle backfires on us.
  2. Pool exercise is an excellent starting point for both aerobic and strength work. It is also easy on the joints
  3. Use simple resistance bands or everyday items like soup cans to design a strength routine for home. In most instances, no fancy equipment is needed to add strength training into your day.
  4. If you are considering starting a strength routine for the first time and need guidance, seek out support. Consult with a physical therapist, or a trusted, credentialed athletic trainer or personal trainer.

The Penny George Institute for Health and Healing offers a host of programs and services to help you initiate, evaluate or progress in an exercise program.

Our highly credentialed staff of exercise physiologists, physical therapist, dieticians, nutritionists, and wellness coaches can help people of all abilities and fitness levels get going on an exercise routine.

If you have health issues or you haven’t exercised for a long time, it’s advisable to talk to your physician before beginning a new exercise routine on your own.

Gail Ericson is a physical therapist with the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing‘s LiveWell Fitness Center. She has 25 years of experience in exercise therapy and medical fitness. To make an appointment with her, call 612-863-5178.


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Curious about holistic health? Start here.

The Penny George Institute for Health and Healing - WestHealth in Plymouth is under construction, set to open in August 2014

The Penny George Institute for Health and Healing – WestHealth in Plymouth, Minn. is under construction.

Come and tour the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing’s new integrative health clinic set to open at Abbott Northwestern – WestHealth in Plymouth, Minn. this August.

The new clinic will host an open house on Thursday, Aug. 7, from 3-6 p.m. Come and learn how integrative medicine consultations, acupuncture, Resilience Training, fitness consultations, and nutrition can help you become the healthiest version of yourself.

The new clinic’s physician, advanced practice nurse, acupuncturists, health coach, nutritionist and other experts will be on hand to answer your questions.

All are welcome, and no registration is required. Refreshments will be provided.


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How can measuring quality of life lead to better health?

CoupleOnBikesBy Jeffery Dusek, director of research, Penny George Institute for Health and Healing

In medicine, we’re very focused on measurements – blood pressure, weight, cholesterol levels – values that are easily understood by the medical community. One thing that we have not focused on as much is how quality of life affects health.

A person’s quality of life is influenced by a variety of factors including their physical, mental, and social well-being. Numerous studies have shown that low quality of life is related to increased rates of illness, chronic disease and death.

In June 2012, a team at Allina Health began implementing a tool called the PROMIS-10 questionnaire developed by the National Institutes of Health to assess quality of life in Piper Breast Center patients. Since then, this initiative has expanded across other Allina Health patient groups – touching 1,500 patients.

Our goal is to engage patients and help them achieve their health objectives. Questionnaires like PROMIS-10 have been found to:

  • improve patient satisfaction and communication between patients and their health care providers
  • support efficient patient visits, guiding visits without lengthening overall visit time.

Allina Health is in good company as our colleagues at major health systems such as Partners HealthCare (Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital) and Cleveland Clinic are also using PROMIS-10 to measure patients’ quality of life.

Specifically within Allina Health’s Penny George Institute for Health and Healing, clinicians use this questionnaire as part of every visit at the outpatient clinic. I asked Courntey Baechler, MD, at the Penny George Institute about using the tool with her patients. She said, “It really helps me understand how they gauge their own quality of life. It’s easy as a physician to quickly tie medical numbers to a patient and arbitrarily rate their quality of life. With the questionnaire, I can quickly see how the patient rates their own indicators of health. This is yet one more way to hear the patient’s voice.”

Other areas of Allina Health that are using the questionnaire include the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute®, the cardiac rehabilitation program, Healthy Communities Partnership, and others.

Knowing that quality of life is important to health, you can take some simple steps to improve yours:

  • Take time to focus on what brings you joy.
  • Talk to your clinician about what’s most important in your quality of life. Perhaps being able to play with your kids or grandkids in the park is what brings you joy each week.
  • Ensure that during each visit with your clinician, there is time to concentrate on aspects of your health that are affecting your quality of life. An example would be poor sleep hindering your ability to be active.
  • Take time to speak to family or friends about what affects your quality of life. This could be physical and emotional pain, stress, being rushed, or having limited time to sit and connect with them.

Check out our previous blogs for information on how to improve stress management, sleep, nutrition, social connection, spiritual connection, and physical activity. All are key to improving quality of life.

Jeffrey Dusek, PhD, is the director of research for the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing. Prior to that he was with Harvard Medical System at Harvard Medical School as the director of Behavioral Sciences Research of the Benson Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine of Massachusetts General Hospital.


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Breaking away from unhealthy American ways

AmericanWays.57300728By Megan Odell, LAc, MS

My professor was new to our school and the United States, having only recently left China. I had the privilege of observing this brilliant acupuncturist as he assessed patients’ concerns and composed treatments.

As he worked on a patient chart one day, he paused and with a big sigh asked, “Why does everyone here have this pattern?”

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the word “pattern” is used instead of “diagnosis.” Where conventional Western medicine works to whittle an illness down to a single cause, TCM instead looks at the whole body-mind ecosystem and attempts to find a pattern to what is happening. A treatment plan is created to restore balance and health.

My professor had noticed that Americans appeared in our clinic with one predominant pattern―Liver-Spleen disharmony. This doesn’t (necessarily) mean there is anything structurally wrong with a patient’s liver and spleen. The issue lies in the functions that the Chinese medical system attributes to those organs.

Patients with Liver-Spleen disharmony might express concerns such as headaches, high stress, digestive difficulties, menstrual pain, irritability, fibromyalgia, or a host of other symptoms.

So, if my professor’s observation was right, what is it about living in the United States (or perhaps an urban area of the Upper Midwest) that makes it so common? In my experience, this pattern is all about four things:

  • Stress: According to TCM, the liver is in charge of the free flow of Qi.  Qi is energy that moves through your body along channels. When you are healthy, the Qi moves freely. When you are in pain, sick or emotionally upset, the Qi can become stuck. When you are in a state of stress, the qi often stagnates (which you might express by clenching your jaw, stopping breathing or tensing your shoulders).
  • Emotions: In TCM, we believe that emotions come and go like water in a stream. If we let them come and express them, everything should be fine. However, sometimes we deny or “stuff” emotions, such as anger, sadness, grief or jealousy. I often speak to people who have semi-successfully hid from emotions for months or years with unintended physical results.
  • Exercise: If we aren’t physically moving, Qi is less likely to move.
  • Food:  In TCM, the spleen is largely attributed with the transformation of food into energy. Some foods, such as soup and lightly cooked vegetables, are easy to transform. Other foods, such as dairy, sugars, and fried foods, are difficult to transform. Eating too much of the latter can bog down the digestive system. And if we do other things while eating (working, reading, driving), the body’s ability to focus energy on digestion is hindered.

Does any of that look familiar? Do you see it in your life or our culture? I would offer that the “American way” often encourages stress, overworking, emotion-stuffing, screen-watching, and food-as-stomach-filler. Even when we try to avoid these things, it is easy to feel pulled in a number of directions in our daily lives. And usually our self-care is the first to go.

So what do we do? TCM offers solutions like acupuncture and Chinese herbs that can help. But improvements from those therapies will only be sustained if lifestyle changes are made, too.

  • Meditate or find another way to manage your stress. Biofeedback and Mindfulness Training are available at the Penny George Institute and offer excellent approaches to handling stress.
  • Feel. Know that your feelings are right, and they are temporary. If you feel you need help processing your emotions, please consider seeing a therapist to help you.
  • Move. It doesn’t have to be high-intensity interval training. Any time you move your body in a way that you enjoy, that is good.
  • Savor. Experience and enjoy your food. Experiment. Slow down. Smell it. Taste it. Eat only enough to feel 70 percent full.

Good luck – together we can work to change the American pattern to one of balance and harmony.

Megan Odell, LAc, MS, is a licensed acupuncturist and offers services at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing – Abbott Northwestern.


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Exercise tips for sleeping well

SleepPhoto.StockImage.pngThis article originally ran in the LiveWell newsletter of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

According to Sue Masemer, MS, sleep is usually not the primary reason that leads people to seek out exercise programs at the LiveWell Fitness Center, but that doesn’t mean that sleep isn’t related to overall fitness.

“Our clients often aren’t aware of the significant connection between quality sleep and exercise, and how great of an impact poor sleep may be playing in derailing their fitness efforts,” said Masemer.

Although the science of how exercise helps you sleep better is not fully understood, researchers do believe that it may have to do with temperature changes in the body that occur during and following exercise. The body’s temperature normally increases slightly as the day progresses and starts to decreases in the evening. It is assumed that this decrease in temperature may signal the body that it is time to sleep.

“The idea of exercising to gain more energy is somewhat counter-intuitive to people,” said Masemer. “After becoming more active, people often find that they have more energy throughout the day and actually feel more sluggish when they aren’t physically active. Consistent exercise has been shown to lengthen, deepen and improve the overall quality of sleep.”

Tips on how to incorporate exercise into your day to achieve a better night’s sleep

  • Figure out what suits your body best. As a general rule, people are usually encouraged to avoid high-intensity exercise within two to four hours of going to bed. This may make it more difficult to sleep as well as not allow the body enough time to cool itself down. Research suggests that for most people exercise in the late afternoon or early evening may work best for sleep enhancement. The key is to remember that exercise at any time is better than not exercising at all and you need to determine what works best for you with your sleep schedule.
  • Give yourself time. For people with significant sleep issues, it may take months to establish a quality sleep pattern. The benefits of exercise may not be seen right away, but they are there. Work with an exercise professional to determine the type and intensity level of an exercise program that works best for you.
  • If you can’t sleep, try gentle movement. If you suffer from insomnia and restlessness, you can try getting up and doing some light stretches, gentle yoga, or movement such as tai chi or qigong. Try this in a dimly lit place so that you don’t over stimulate your body.
  • Winter months are difficult for many. Really listen to your body. Try to think in terms of 10- to 20-minute blocks of exercise instead of half-hour or hour-long timeframes. Know that the benefits of exercise are cumulative. Research has shown that three, 10-minute activity sessions spread throughout your day are as effective as one 30-minute session.
  • Discover the hidden benefits of exercise through a fitness profile. At the LiveWell Fitness Center, a fitness profile includes a health history including complete muscular strength, flexibility, body fat and muscular endurance tests, along with a cardiovascular fitness assessment to establish ideal exercise levels and heart rate. The power of exercise is evident even during the assessment, as many people will discover that it is much easier to meet their goals and health needs when it is approached safely and is customized to meet your lifestyle. The results from a fitness profile are helpful to determine the best fitness plan for you, which may help you with sleep issues.

Sue Masemer, MS, is an exercise physiologist and manager of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing’s LiveWell Fitness Center. To make an appointment or learn more about the programs and services offered by the LiveWell Fitness Center, call 612-863-5178.


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Tips for embracing winter wellness: Exercise

winterThis article originally ran in the Healing Journal newsletter of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

During winter months, your exercise routine may change, and according to exercise physiologist Marc Arndt, MA that’s okay. “With the shorter days and darkness, it may not be possible to take a walk or run outdoors after work, but it may be the ideal time to focus more on an indoor strength training routine.”

Arndt suggests that people think differently about fitness during the winter and take small steps to incorporate exercise into your daily routines. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator, or if the weather is nicer, park your car further from the entrance to your office or the grocery store.

At the Penny George Institute – Unity Hospital in Fridley, Arndt works with people of all fitness levels, from those with no previous exercise experience to competitive athletes. He helps some through one-on-one personal training and others to simply develop a fitness routine. In as little as a one-hour fitness consult, he is able to identify goals and put together a routine to follow at home with minimal equipment.

Tips on how to incorporate exercise into the winter months

  • Try some new winter outdoor activities that offer great exercise. Snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ice skating, winter hiking and downhill skiing are great options. Be sure to dress for the weather with layered clothing designed to keep moisture away from skin such as wool socks and a Merino wool base layer. Snowshoeing, for example, is an exercise that just about anyone can participate in. Arndt notes that the energy expended during 15 minutes of snowshoeing is equal to that expended during 30 minutes of treadmill walking. It is also good for developing balance skills.
  • Develop a home routine. You don’t need expensive equipment or machines to start an effective home exercise routine. For strength training, a simple set of weights or resistance bands will suffice. If you do a high number of repetitions and multiple sets, you can gain as much cardiac benefit from strength training as you could on a treadmill for 30 minutes.
  • Remember that exercise helps change your mood  for the better. Even a short break in your day to incorporate physical activity will help change your hormone levels to elevate your mood. During the winter, it’s natural to feel more lethargic and a little exercise will make a world of difference. Ideally, Arndt recommends 20 to 30 minutes a day, but if that isn’t possible with your work or personal schedule, try to get in as many 10 minute periods of physical activity as possible, whether it’s taking stairs, walking indoors at your work place or taking a break for strength training.
  • Hydrate. During cold weather, you still need to hydrate. Make sure you take in as much water as you would during exercise in warm weather.
  • Window shop. In the coldest days of winter, the best exercise is walking through your local mall or shopping center. Many of the malls in the area have walking programs, with early morning or late evening hours designated especially for those seeking a warm, safe place to walk. Community sports centers may also have an inside track available for those seeking a costeffective, reliable spot to get some exercise.

Marc Arndt, MA, is an exercise physiologist at Penny George Institute for Health and Healing – Unity Hospital. To make an appointment with Arndt, call 763-236-5601.