By Sue Shekut, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

A few weeks ago I had the chance to visit an amazing toy store, the Magic Tree Bookstore in Oak Park. It was full of colorful, educational, and fun, toys, books, and games. With Winter coming around the corner, having interesting games, toys and activities for active kids who will soon be cooped up inside is a great strategy for parents. Magic Tree has crafts, magic trick sets, basic loom making kits, all kinds of clay and art supplies, educational coloring books (Color a dinosaur!), easy snow cone and ice cream makers, colorful chalk, frisbees of all sizes, candle making kids, superhero action figures and a few play areas for kids to play while mom and dad, or grandpa and grandma shop.


Magic Tree Bookstore's Helpful Friendly Staff

Magic Tree Bookstore’s Helpful Friendly Smiling Staff

And play isn’t just for children. Adults can benefit from play as well. In, The Benefits of Play for Adults, from Helpguide.org, authors explain how play can help adults reduce stress, be more creative and increase productivity at work. Magic Tree is one of the few remaining stores that sells games like Settlers of Catan and games that encourage cooperation instead of competition like Cauldron Quest.

Excellent books, cards and toys at Magic Tree Bookstore

Excellent books, cards and toys at Magic Tree Bookstore

There’s something for everyone, young and old. Bubbles, balls and building materials for your own kids or the kid in you. Play can be a great stress reliever, no matter how old you are.

Magical Toys from Magic Tree Bookstore

Bubbles and more!

By Sue Shekut, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Stand Up Desks are becoming very popular these days as people realize that sitting all day is not healthy for our backs and bodies. But electric lift desks can be expensive. There are alternative, crank desks, desktop risers, and more. One alternative is the Varidesk.


Varidesk raises quickly!

Varidesk raises quickly!

Varidesk offers a variety of options, A standing desk, a desktop riser for laptops, standing desks for those with multiple monitors and foot pads that help reduce strain on your knees when you stand for long periods. One reason I like the Varidesk is that it is relatively affordable, easy to set  up (most models require no installation!) and most versions can sit on top of your existing desk.

Varidesk ProPlus can sit on top of your regular desk

Varidesk ProPlus can sit on top of your regular desk

For those of you with one monitor, prices for the Varidesk models range from $275-375.  For those with multiple monitors, prices range from $350-$650.

Varidesk Pro 54

Varidesk Pro 54″, a standalone version

Keep in mind, neither sitting all day nor standing all day is great for your back and body. Alternating between sitting, standing, stretching, walking (to restroom or short walks around the office) is optimal for your spine and overall health. I recommend that either program your phone or computer to cue you to change position (take a break sit if standing, stand if sitting) about every 30-45 minutes so that you don’t over tire your muscles and put too much wear and tear on any one body part. If I had my way, we’ve all have access to swimming pools/lakes near our workplaces so we could take short swimming breaks.  But it would have to rain a whole lot more in Chicago for that to happen any time soon!

Varidesk fits most office environments easily

Varidesk fits most office environments easily

In the meantime, if you are considering investing in your own stand up desk, and don’t want to spend thousands of dollars, check out the Varidesk options here.

Note: Neither, I , Sue Shekut, nor Working Well Massage, has any financial interest or relationship with Varidesk.  (Other than I may become a customer.) I simply saw a Varidesk a ta client site and asked them where they bought it. I looked into the product and was impressed! And my clients seem to enjoy using them, which is the best endorsement.

By Sue Shekut, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Recently James Cannon contacted me to offer me a blog about office chairs. I get a lot of inquiries from advertisers to post links to their sites on this blog. I am cautious about sharing other bloggers posts when they mainly seems to be selling something.  James’ site, comfyofficechair.com is not advertising chairs, but is an attempt by James to help fellow office workers sit more comfortably. His blog is clean and easy to read and he does provide pass through links to great deals on office chairs via Amazon. James may or may not earn a few cents for promoting Amazon and chairs on Amazon, but overall his info seems sound and in line with what I know about office chair ergonomics.

James and I agree that even with the most ergonomic office chairs, it is best if you get up frequently and take breaks from sitting.

Who is James Cannon and Why is He Writing About Office Chairs?

James Cannon of Comfyofficechairs.com

James Cannon

According to his blog, James’  story starts with horrendous low-mid back pain. He had an expensive $200 chair that he THOUGHT was good when he purchased it, but it gave him absolutely no support. James educated myself, bought a new chair and immediately sold the old one on Craigslist for $50. He doesn’t want the same to happen to others, so he created his site, comfyofficechairs.com


By Sue Shekut, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

When someone we care about is in pain or has had surgery, it is difficult to know how to help them. For many people, time is the main healing agent. For others with chronic pain,  patience and respect for your loved one’s needs are important as time may not heal or reduce their pain. Watching someone you care about suffer can be stressful and difficult. I’m sharing some ideas for care giving a loved in pain below.


Keep in mind that when someone is in pain, they are likely to have less energy for conversation and may not be able to be clear about their needs. Offering help is kind, but general offers of help such as “let me know if you need anything,” puts the burden of determining what is needed on the person in pain. This kind of help may actually be more frustrating than helpful. Instead consider what your loved one may need and offer a few specific services or items they may need. For example, “Would you like me to read to you?” Or, “Let me know if you want to watch a funny movie.” “May I have someone come in (or come in myself) and clean your bathroom/home for you?”

Notice what your loved on seems to struggle with. Is it difficult for him/her to ask for help? Are there certain responsibilities (paying bills, cleaning, grocery shopping, prepare meals, etc.) that are difficult that you may be able to help with? Make a list and ask your loved one if you can help with any of those needs.

Consider your loved one’s energy levels and ask him/her the best time to call or visit. Even if someone does not “look” sick or tell you they are in pain or feeling tired, does not mean they are not feeling tired or need rest. Be mindful of your loved ones face and expression. If it seems he/she is getting tired, it may be time to cut the visit short or let your loved on sleep while you do dishes or other helpful chores.

Be a gatekeeper for other friends and family so that the person recovering does not need to speak to multiple people with updates. At the same time, if the person recovering seems to be able to handle phone calls and texts and finds that a good distraction from the pain, help make that easier by setting up pillows and a phone ear piece so that your loved one can sit or recline comfortably as he/she talks on the phone or texts.

If speaking is difficult for your loved one due to pain or fatigue, agree on a  few hand signals so that your loved one can tell you if he/she needs rest, pain medication or does not want to talk to someone. Rest is key in recovering from many illnesses. Try not to bombard your loved one with too many questions, excessive offers of help or with visitors, especially the first week after surgery. Quiet assistance, merely being nearby and not being overly chatty may be much appreciated.

Aside from kindness, patience and respect for your loved on, there are some gifts that may be helpful when a loved on is recovering or bed ridden.  This blog post shares great gift ideas for post surgical loved ones and also may have helpful for loved ones with chronic pain or limited mobility, “26 Surgery Recovery Gift Ideas – Cool Gift Ideas For Someone In The Hospital.”

Feel free to share your experience and ideas for helping a loved one through a surgical recovery or painful illness in comments below!

By Sue Shekut, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Working Well Massage now has an updated website that is easily viewable on your mobile device (smart phone, tablet and good “old-fashioned” computer screen). We’ve also redesigned our signage and added a new overhead sign at our Lincoln Park–Whole Foods Market location.

We added new photos of our latest signage and our friendly, professional massage therapists, Aaron Hanna and Cindy Bokhof. We plan on adding more photos and info over time. For now, check us out on your computer or mobile device and let us know what you think of our new look!


wwm screen shot edited

Working Well Massage Website

Check out our new website here.




By Sue Shekut, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Chicago has had a very wet Spring, like much of the U.S. Hiking in boggy muddy land is not as easy as hiking on dry land. Sitting inside and waiting for Summer to arrive can be frustrating. While we are waiting for Summer to warm up, it is a good time to start planning some hikes and getting yourself ready for warmer weather. Or venture out and brave the elements now!

Waterfal Glen

Waterfall Glen

Backpacker magazine recently posted lists of great local hikes in major cities around the U.S. They have a few good suggestions for Chicagoans in an article entitled Chicago’s Best Local Hikes.

Keep in mind that some of the best trails in the Chicago area at and near Waterfall Glen are lined with limestone (gravel), not dirt. So although they may be wet, the trails there won’t be as muddy! The trails also make mountain biking a bit more adventurous (versus biking a paved trail like at Tinley Park.)

If you want to brave muddy trails between Spring showers, Outdorky has some great tips for hiking in mud here. And SunValleymag.com has some additional tips of Spring hikes in muddy terrain Sun Valley Mud hike tips.

What are your favorite trails to hike this Spring? Share your thoughts in our comments section


By Sue Shekut, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

For those that are interested in fresh juice or a fresh smoothly with wholesome healthy ingredients, check out the new Pressed Juice Bar at Whole Foods Market in Lincoln Park!

Whole Foods Market-Lincoln Park, New Pressed Juice Bar

Whole Foods Market-Lincoln Park, New Pressed Juice Bar

I recall when most Whole Foods markets, and other stores, had juice bars…then over time they disappeared. The only way to buy fresh juice has been at a select restaurants. Then in the past few years, the availability of fresh bottled juices has expanded, from Odwalla to Naked to Suja and more. Some people miss the convenience and freshness of in store juice and smoothies! Whole Foods has responded to that demand.

Fresh pressed juice..and smoothies, too!

Fresh pressed juice..and smoothies, too!

Recently inside the giant Whole Foods Market at 1550 N Kingsbury,  the new juice bar also sells BluePrint Juices. According to Whole Foods website, these juices were created for juice cleansing. They pack each bottle is packed with raw, organic fruit and vegetable juices made with a special hydraulic juice press.

Fresh from the grocery aisles to the juice bar to you!

Fresh from the grocery aisles to the juice bar to you!


Why Pressed Juice Over Any Other Kind of Juice?

A  centrifugal juicer is one in which the blade spins around at a very high-speed which produces heat and can destroy some nutrients. A juice press operates at a slower speed and causes less oxidation. The juice press also uses pressure instead of heat to kill harmful bacteria in a process called “high-pressure pascalization,” or high-pressure processing (HPP). This is an alternative form of pasteurization. According to Whole Foods’ Blog, HPP maintains a high percentage of the juice’s minerals and nutrients. This increases the shelf life of the juice so that it can remain fresh and nutritional for several weeks.

Pressed juice that has pasteurized via HPP  can be shipped without fear of spoilage. This has allowed more of us to be able to buy  nutrient-dense, pressed organic juice!


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