Rethinking Fear

By: Jeff Mortimore, RSI Community Connector

I started to resume connecting 1:1 with the people I work with at RSI during this past week, and I was surprised by the array of emotions that I experienced. I must say that it was not like riding a bike, not even close. It was more like just focusing on balancing the bike! Remember what it was like when we first made the attempt to ride without training wheels? A little shaky.

However, after checking in with my sudden social anxiety, I was able to identify some of the challenges of the open road ahead. I, like so many others, have been obsessing about the virus. I have found myself paying extremely close attention to all facets of the pandemic, and tuning into news has become a habit.  I think that I’m trying to ascertain some level of certainty to ease my fears. The reality is that so much of this situation is a journey into the unknown.  

So, what do you do when worry seems to be the proverbial piano on the back? The solution, I think, isn’t found through more worrying. Rather, it’s doing all we can to achieve as much clarity as possible, and understanding that uncertainty is part of life. Doesn’t that help? I must say that I have now started to be a bit more mindful of the amount of news content I’m consuming. But, here are some things that really have helped me to fight a better fight:

Use the pause button. Shortly after the virus veered into my lane, I committed myself giving myself time for calm.  I adopted the practices of deep breathing and meditation. The bottom line is that I was being hijacked by the flood of thoughts and emotions, and running and escaping wasn’t working.

Embracing the fear. The best approach is to be aware of the risks that we face and do all we can to be prepared for any serious or imminent dangers. This is a scary time, especially for those who are more vulnerable to the virus. I realize that I am responsible for my own safety, as well as the safety of those in my community but that by looking at the science, there aren’t any unknowns to feed my fear.

It would do us well to give ourselves more credit, as we have all survived hardships and tackled obstacles at some point in our lives and seen the other side. Now is the time to connect with our bodies and minds, to allow ourselves some grace, and to sleep more restfully. It will not only help us to stave off the fear and anxiety, but it will have lasting positive effects for the rest of our lives.


Learn more about Jeff’s work at RSI on our Community Connections page.

The Power of Friendship

By: Jeff Mortimore, RSI Community Connector

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”
– C.S. Lewis

It’s a time of social distancing and practicing safe measures in order to remain healthy and to keep others safe. It’s pretty safe to say that for most of us, this hasn’t come easy. The truth is, that this self-imposed isolation has come at a cost to our health. Friendships are important to our souls, as they can increase our sense of belonging and purpose, and boost our happiness and reduce our stress. It’s even been said that having just a few intimate friendships can add years to our lives. So, this time of fear and uncertainty is a wonderful opportunity to take pause and review just how important friendships are in our lives. Oh, how we long for that time when we can see, hear, touch, and feel the meaning of true friendship.

When I first met Ben, he wasn’t one to talk much. Instead, he preferred to show me what was important to and for him. He happily showed me his collections, his videos, and his weather apps. Yes, he had three weather apps on his phone, and according to his team, he spent countless hours studying the weather radar patterns. He particularly liked violent weather, and thunderstorms made him light up with excitement.

It was an easy decision to introduce him to Adam Clark, Chief Meteorologist for KBJR in Duluth. I knew Adam to be very passionate about his job and he seemed engaging and approachable. So I set it up, a blind date of weather guys. Meeting new people can be hard, but I was unprepared for such a joyful connection and laughter when they first met. Adam cracked a joke, and off they went to the soundboard and satellite feeds. Have you ever met someone that just felt like an old shoe, comfortable and safe? It was an amazing thing to see, and I quickly removed myself to the fringes to watch this wonderful process unfold.

Throughout the last year, Adam and Ben have gotten together several times in person. Each time with the same level of joy and engagement, never wavering. When the pandemic hit this country, it caught Adam square in the crosshairs as he was in Europe at the time. Luckily he caught a late flight out of London and spent the necessary time in self-quarantine. Upon returning to his duties, he had to conduct his weather programming from his home. It was also during this time that he was offered a job to return to his home state of South Carolina.

I took Ben to meet with Adam on his last day at the station, and it was very bittersweet. They met each other just as they had the first time, with joy and laughter. Old friends. They promised to stay in touch and I sincerely hope that they do. It reminded me again of how simple it can be when another human being touches your heart.


Learn more about Jeff’s work at RSI on our Community Connections page.

Our Response to the Recent Events in Minneapolis

These past two weeks have been very difficult for Minnesotans. We are all struggling to understand the senseless and unjust murder of George Floyd and the conditions that exist that allowed that violence to take place. It is hard to know what our responsibility is as an employer and a healthcare provider in the face of such blatant hatred and discrimination.

Everyone at RSI has probably seen the discrimination that people with disabilities experience in our culture. The people we serve face this in our own communities. As caregivers and advocates, we are asked to stand up and speak out on their behalf. All of us have the responsibility to do what we can to end intolerance and injustice. This responsibility extends to everyone who suffers discrimination due to the color of their skin, national origin, sexuality, gender identity, religion, age, and family structure.

None of us can be silent when we see racial injustice. Racism is a long-standing part of discrimination and has created suffering and pain that many of us do not fully understand. Our country’s painful past includes hundreds of years of the type of violence we all witnessed in Minneapolis on Memorial Day. There are systems and structures in our country that feed disparities and discrimination. Laws change and promises are made yet equality and justice continue to escape communities of color.

When people experience fewer educational and economic opportunities and more health inequities just because of the color of their skin, our whole community suffers. The cost may not be as personal as it is for those who experience it firsthand, but there is still a cost. We all need to respond to that injustice by doing whatever we can to stand up for one another and be part of creating better outcomes.

Being different, whether it is because of the color of your skin or a disability should be seen as an asset to any organization and community. Appreciating our differences, and not just accepting them, will lead to a richer and stronger community for everyone.

Please look for ways you can help bring justice to marginalized people. It is needed now more than ever. RSI will also be looking and listening to our employees about what we can do better. We understand that there is much more work to be done in our communities, nationally, and within our own organization. RSI must examine our own place in these unbalanced systems, elevate and uplift the voices of our employees and the people we serve who experience discrimination, and we must put a plan in place to make sure we are doing more to create equitable, inclusive, and safe working and living spaces for people of color.

Changing Times

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” ― Rumi

By: Jeff Mortimore, RSI Community Connector


We’re a couple of months into this lockdown and crisis, and it’s starting to wear on many of us. We continue to experience boredom, tiredness, and emotional exhaustion. We experience it as an ongoing burden and can’t wait for it to be over. We lose patience and want to do anything else but this. That all makes sense. It’s also exactly why we have difficulty sticking to habit changes, to long-term commitments, to ongoing projects, and long-running challenges. The good news is, with the boredom and tiredness we’re feeling from the lockdown and pandemic, we have the perfect practice ground. This is the time to practice, right when we’re feeling like not facing this difficulty.

It’s pretty clear that change is the one constant in our lives that will occur at some point. Strangely, change is the one thing that many of us resist and fear the most. As I look out my window today, I see so many people adapting to change by adopting new habits such as walking, enjoying nature, and getting outside in other ways. The trails I run on are now shared with people I have never seen before. Bike sales are up 121%, with most bike stores overwhelmed by demand. By the end of April, many stores and distributors had sold out of low-end consumer bikes. Now, the United States is facing a bicycle shortage as global supply chains, disrupted by the Coronavirus outbreak, scramble to meet the surge in about essential business!

My point here is, that in spite of the winds of the pandemic, I am seeing so many people committing to transformative change. Whether it’s because we suddenly have more time to consider the benefits, or whether we are now looking more within ourselves, people are changing. With uncertainty surrounding us, what a perfect time to consider the benefits of positive change in your life. If you haven’t yet considered a change in your life, or are somewhat resistant to change, know that whether you resist or adapt change will take place nonetheless.  The fact is that most people prefer to stay within their comfort zone, but I’m a firm believer that if you are the one that initiates change, it will be easier to adapt. So, how do we get ahead of change and develop a more proactive mindset? Perhaps it might help to look at the benefits of change as a reward system to develop a new perspective.

Personal Growth: When you look back at some of the past changes in your life, are you not a better person for it? For many of us, our greatest changes came with a pretty high level of resistance. But, having the gift of retrospection, today you can see the benefits that change made brought to your life.

Flexibility: We all have the gift (or curse) of our own belief system. Our belief system governs how we adapt, adjust, or resist new experiences. Frequent changes make it easier to adapt to new situations, new environments, and new people. As a result, there isn’t as much of a shock when experiencing abrupt changes.

Resilience: I love the power of resilience, but unfortunately, resilience can only be learned through experience. It is built through the process and the experience of dealing with adversity. But, resilience has everything to do with change and the personal power to adapt and overcome the situation.

The snowball change:  I’m not a huge fan of clichés, but there is the saying “as one door closes, another opens.” I can’t tell you how many times my own personal change has come through failure or disappointment. Often we give up because we cannot accomplish the difficult task of making a significant and immediate change. That is when small changes become extremely valuable. Though one shift at a time, small changes will eventually lead you to the desired big one.

Each change in our life is about turning a new page and creating a new chapter. When you think about it, what would your life really be like if it always stayed the same? We all long for change, but sometimes we hesitate when it comes. So next time you get the temptation to avoid or resist, aim instead to initiate the experiences that will lead you to where you want to be.

And remember—if there were no change, there would be no butterflies!


Learn more about Jeff’s work at RSI on our Community Connections page.

Embracing Our Fear

By: Jeff Mortimore, RSI Community Connector


“We are more often frightened than hurt, and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.” –Seneca

As we begin to see many states usher in the process of re-opening their economies, I can’t help but wonder about the fear and anxiety that attends this process. I see photos of crowded beaches, passengers filling planes, and patrons at bars, and I wonder if we might be moving a bit too fast. 

The anxiety and fear that we’ve had to endure the past two months has been palpable, and we are doing our best to embrace the “new normal”. But I wonder, what is the “new normal” supposed to look like? We have learned that we’ll be in a better position if we can face possible threats with a calm mind, alert to our internal signals, but we can’t be expected to anticipate every possible negative outcome. Being told to stop panicking never helps anyone, but we benefit by understanding that being overwhelmed by fear will hurt us more. Our imaginary fears harm us more than reality ever does.

We’ve adapted to this pandemic pretty well, adopting the new safe practices of wearing masks, sanitizing our world, and keeping safe distances, but the fear is still out there. For many it won’t be safe until we have vanquished the virus with a proven vaccine. Fear, however, is not the same as anxiety.  Understand that we are anxious, and it’s because we are facing an uncertain future. Hence, we create our own storyline of outcomes. The solution to this, then, isn’t worrying more—it’s doing all we can to either find clarity, or working to accept that uncertainty is part of our life. Once we’ve faced that reality, some of the shock goes away and we can then think about how to prepare for the journey ahead.


Learn more about Jeff’s work at RSI on our Community Connections page.

The New Starting Line

By: Jeff Mortimore, RSI Community Connector


“It’s not how you start that’s important, but how you finish.” 

That quote is attributed to Jim George, a Christian minister and inspirational speaker, and it’s a quote you might have heard before. For the most part, I agree with this statement and I have used it a lot in my athletic background. But, there’s also the well-used Nike quote, “there is NO finish line!” I’ve been thinking a lot about the analogies of toeing the starting line these days and finding our way to a new starting line in the midst of this pandemic.

Looking back, I remember the many days of training that built up to race day. The routine, the pain, the sacrifice, and all of the hard work leading up to one moment. When the big day arrived, I could barely contain myself, flushed with the emotions of anxiety and anticipation. All of that preparation, the days of practice, now culminating at this moment. The exhilaration giving way to the knowledge that it was time to be present and perform. It takes a lot of courage to show up at the start line, preparing and dedicating yourself for this particular moment. Trusting that you’ve done the work, but also feeling the fear of the unknown journey ahead. Whether it’s sports, family, work, or favorite pastimes, we’ve all felt that mix of emotions when it’s time to show up at the starting line.

I’m guessing that many of us are anxious to get to the starting line these days. Much of our discipline and preparation has been canceled, changed, or if you’re fortunate enough, postponed. One thing is for sure, we will all have to find our way back to the starting line at some point. So, with the next race on the horizon, there are some things to bear in mind as we inch our way back to that starting line. Here are some thoughts to consider while we wait for the starting gun:

Know that the race will not be the same as before: Maybe it will look like a marathon, or maybe a series of sprints, unexpected hills, and dizzying descents, roots, rocks, and washouts. The race has changed, and we will have to adapt. Reaching the finish line will require emotional agility, adjusting expectations, and a different training regimen. Our jobs, relationships, community, and practice will probably not look the same when the starting line appears, and the best time to prepare yourself is before the race begins.

Technique and tactics are essential: Most successful competitors have spent significant time learning about the necessary tools and techniques that will make the race ahead more enjoyable. It’s not just about showing up, but HOW you show up. How will you handle the new landscape ahead? The best way to prepare is to embrace the change, and develop new tactics for success such as mindfulness, empathic listening, and self-awareness. 

Finding joy and gratitude: Yes, the race might have changed, but this is now a chance to adapt your skills, open your heart to new opportunities, and prepare yourself to show up in a state of readiness. When you arrive at the starting line, you will not doubt yourself, but rather show up in a state of emotional preparedness.  

For those of us who have taken the time to adjust our strategy and technique, it will be the start of a new and amazing journey.


Learn more about Jeff’s work at RSI on our Community Connections page.

RSI is Seeking Dress Shirt Donations

We are currently seeking donations of extra-large or bigger dress shirts. Please consider sharing this information with friends or family who may be interested in helping out.

These shirts may be used as a substitute for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) while we continue to work hard to gather all of the necessary supplies for our homes and employees.

For any questions or for drop-off and pick-up information, please contact us at (218) 740-7603 or [email protected]

Thank you!

Positive Transformation During This Difficult Time

Written by: Roni Horak, RSI Clinical Director for Behavioral Health and Counseling Services


Our vision for moving forward continues to shift as our world is adapting to many changes in our safety needs, protocols, and day-to-day practices. Living in a time of pandemic is difficult, to say the least. However, how we choose to navigate this journey can have a profound impact on what our lives will look like on the other side of this. If, for a moment, we were to work with the notion that the only choice was to navigate this time period with a mindset of opportunity for personal growth, what would our world look like? What positive changes would we see?  Embracing an “opportunity mindset” and framework when in difficult situations will help us rise to a level of positive transformation.    


This is a time to look for transformation in ourselves and our lives.


A time for changes, of discarding things that bogged you down and brought negativity or influenced you to go outside of your own values or ethics. It’s making small agreements with yourself about what will continue to be important in your life and what you want to let go of.


A time to focus on long-awaited goals and dreams, of looking at the things we felt we didn’t have the time for and can now dedicate ourselves to accomplishing.


A time to prioritize what we value, and what we want to spend more time doing in the future. A time to recognize what has been put to the side due to the rush of life, conflicts, or lack of support. 


This is a time of refocus and renewal.



Learn more about Roni’s work at RSI on our Outpatient Counseling page.

It’s National Nurses Week!

Written by: Claire Farmer-Lies, Marketing and Communications Specialist


National Nurses Week starts today and goes til May 12th!

We are so grateful for our team of talented RNs and LPNs, and the crucial support they provide to our homes, the people we support, and to all of our direct-care employees.

An excerpt from a letter to our Health Services team, written by Executive Director Jon Nelson:

May 6, 2020 is National Nurses Day, part of National Nurses Week that runs through May 12, 2020. May 12 is the birthday of Florence Nightingale. If you do not know who she is you should Google her. Especially because our very own Health Services Director, Mary Hallsten, is nominated for the Florence award this year. This award recognizes the nurses in our region who best represents the traits of Florence Nightingale – Empathy, Innovation, and Mission.

When Mary learned of her nomination, she was quick to point out that any success she has had is due to the wonderful group of nurses at RSI.

RSI’s nurses had us prepared for dealing with something like COVID-19 because of all the training, protocols, and support mechanisms they have put in place. Their focus on the details of proper handwashing, cleaning and sanitation, use of protective equipment, and monitoring people for signs and symptoms, has put us in a good position to manage the concerns that come with COVID-19. None of us should take this for granted. Having nurses available to support us during this crisis is making the fear and anxiety that comes with COVID-19 more manageable.

Please join me in thanking RSI’s nurses for everything they do every day at RSI. For the caring and compassion they bring to their jobs and for their commitment to supporting anyone who wants to live more independently at RSI. Please extend a word of appreciation to any nurse you see this week and let them know you recognize the value they bring to RSI.

Thank you to all RSI nurses, you deserve the recognition.


Searching for Certainty in Uncertain Times

By: Jeff Mortimore, RSI Community Connector


I’m probably like many people these days, spending a lot of time trying to dissect the news and educating myself on how best to navigate these uncertain waters. Unless I’m missing something, I have yet to see anything certain about the path ahead. We think there are experts, looking to science and modeling, who can see the future ahead. However, we often see these claims refuted, only to be replaced with blame and frustration. We make ourselves delirious, spinning our minds through the same handful of scenarios we come up with over and over, never feeling any closer to a resolution.

However, it seems a great paradox of life that it is actually through embracing the uncertainty, we thrive. Our lives are greatly determined by what we do when faced with uncertainty. Without uncertainty, we might never grow because we would never be pushed beyond our comfort zones. Contrary to popular ideas, not knowing exactly what will happen in our lives is okay. In fact, it can actually be quite liberating…if you can begin to let go. We are all different in how much uncertainty we can tolerate in our lives. Some people seem to enjoy taking risks and living with unpredictability, while others find the randomness in life deeply distressing. But, we all have our limit. If you feel overwhelmed by uncertainty and worry, it’s important to know that you’re not alone. As they say, “we’re all in this together!”

I don’t pretend to have all (or any) answers to this new crisis, as it’s new ground to cover and the landscape is a little less defined. However, I do know that worrying about the future is a bit tricky.  Unfortunately, chronic worrying can’t give you more control over uncontrollable events; instead, it just robs you of enjoyment in the present, saps your energy, and keeps you up at night. But, there are healthier ways to cope—and that begins with adjusting your current mindset. 

For myself, I have to begin by forcing myself to look at my mindset. What real control do I have to save our world, our community, even our businesses? However, I do have control of who I contact, how I contact them, and what message I convey. It all comes down to my attitude and emotional response, and that can make a difference to a person who needs love and connection in their life. Some of my recent conversations have been transformative, yet so simple. I don’t think that we as human beings are looking for anything sensational at this point, but it is in the reflection and reassurance that we get our strength.

I think there is a sense of peace when we can learn to accept uncertainty, and recognize when you feel the need to be certain. One of the surest ways to avoid excessive worrying about the future is to focus on the present. Instead of trying to predict what might happen, switch your attention to what IS happening right now. By being fully connected to the present, you can interrupt the negative assumptions and catastrophic predictions running through your mind. I have heard it said that the furthest distance in the universe is from the head to the heart, but it is in the stillness that we find this path. It is in the quiet space that we can get out of our heads and connect deeply with ourselves, thereby allowing ourselves to be open to possibilities and opportunities when they arrive. But, here’s the big takeaway: this might take a new dedication, a new mindset, and a new way of seeing yourself and the world. But, I do think that this is a time to be kind to yourself, be more curious, and attend to your need for becoming more grounded in the reality of uncertainty.


Learn more about Jeff’s work at RSI on our Community Connections page.