A Great Holiday Gift for the Men and Women of Our Military

A Great Holiday Gift for the Men and Women of Our MilitaryRegardless of one’s personal political views, I believe that everyone should support our military personnel in any way that we can. Recently Congress extended a very important part of what is known as the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). Specifically, members of the armed forces are exempt from any type of foreclosure attempt upon their property for up to 1 year after returning from active duty overseas.
Why is this so important? Well, if you know your history you would be aware of the fact that many soldiers returning home from WWI, WWII and other past conflicts discovered that they had no home to return to. That’s no way to welcome home a combat veteran is it? Thankfully times have changed and returning veterans now have a 1 year “grace period” to sort out their financial situation and hopefully avoid losing their home due to financial complications. It’s important to remember that being a member of the armed forces is not exactly the easiest way to get rich and I believe that all Americans should show their support whenever possible.
Many financial service companies already have this 1 year protection policy in effect for its military clients and will now continue to honor that policy for an additional year thanks to the decision of Congress to extend it throughout 2015. Without the extension the original 3 month protection period would have been in effect as of January 1st of next year.
It’s worth noting that many leading financial institutions in America were actively involved in the process and sent many letters to Congress urging them for an extension on behalf of our military personnel. I say congratulations on a job well done and a happy and safe holiday season to all of the men and women of our fine military, both here and overseas!
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A Word of Inspiration for All that Have Lost Loved Ones

A Word of Inspiration for All that Have Lost Loved OnesThe loss of a loved one is especially difficult at this time of year, especially if this is the first Christmas without them. While everyone else is seemingly enjoying the festivities, the sense of loss that those of us left behind feel can be overwhelming at times. I have found that there is one thought that can help us to deal with the sense of loss that accompanies the holiday season for many of us. It’s quite simple really; everyone has lost someone at sometime in their lives.
Surviving family members and friends are not alone in this situation and, unfortunately, their situation is not unique. I believe the secret to dealing with grief lies in time itself. While we will always miss loved ones that have passed on, it does indeed become more tolerable in time. I also believe that we should never spend too much time dwelling on the past and thinking about the “what ifs” or the “whys”. Instead we should remember the good times and be thankful that we were able to share even the smallest portion of our lives with such a wonderful and special person.
It’s important to remember that the time we spend grieving is time that we are not spending with loved ones that are still with us. Is that the right thing to do?  Grief is a relentless enemy, but it is not undefeatable. I have decided that now is as good a time as any to let it go. Although I will never be able to replace a single person that I have lost in this lifetime, I also can never replace the ones that are still here with me today.
It has been said that tomorrow is promised to no one and I have learned how true that simple statement really is. I am here now and so are many others that I love and cherish just as much as the ones that have moved on without me. The time has come to enjoy what I do have and stop wishing for what can never be. Yes, tomorrow is promised to no one, but this is today and I intend to make the most of it. You can do the same.
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Did you know there is food in your home that can kill you?

Did you know that you have deadly food in your kitchenBelieve it or not everyone has some type of food in their kitchen that is potentially deadly. Sound hard to believe? I can assure you it’s completely true. Below are 10 foods that have the potential to be lethal if too much is digested at one time. With the holidays just around the corner now is a great time to increase your awareness of what you put into your body and serve to friends and family.

Nutmeg
If you enjoy cooking all of those delicious holiday treats that this is a spice you have probably used many times. You should know that nutmeg is a hallucinogenic. It is said that eating an entire nutmeg can actually produce a type of psychosis. How much is safe to consume? Less than 2oz is considered a “safe” dosage by most experts. I have eaten this many times and not had a problem but the fact remains that it is possible to overdose on this very popular spice.
Almonds
Sweet almonds are completely safe but bitter almonds contain hydrogen cyanide, yes, cyanide. If eaten raw an average of 7 – 10 almonds can be bad for adults and lethal to children. Your best bet is to buy roasted or cooked almonds or to cook them yourself. Who knew?
Apple Seeds and Cherry Pits
The same as almonds, there is a type of hydrogen cyanide known as prussic acid in the pits and seeds of these fruits. Peach and apricot pits also contain this toxin so it’s best to simply throw them away after consuming the fruit.
Potatoes
The leaves, stems and sprouts of potatoes contain something called glycoalkaloids. If potatoes are stored in the light this chemical can spread into the part that you eat and can lead to cramping, diarrhea and confused headaches. 3-6mg for each kilogram of your body weight can cause coma or even death. If you see a potato with that “green hue” to it, throw it away.
Tuna
You’ve probably heard the rumor that tuna contains high amounts of mercury. Well, it’s no rumor, it’s true. While not immediately lethal, mercury can cause a host of problems in people including possible insanity. Tuna is fine but don’t overdo it. As a special note, the FDA recommends that pregnant women and children should not eat any tuna whatsoever.
Cashews
Ah yes, a favorite snack at this time of year! You should be aware that cashews contain a chemical that is also found in poison ivy, namely urushiol. Cashews are perfectly safe if steamed before consumption. What about those “raw” cashews that you can buy in the store? Actually they are not raw, they have been steamed. If eaten raw one could have the same symptoms as having been exposed to poison ivy. If you are allergic it could be fatal.
Rhubarb
Studies have shown that the oxalic acid found within rhubarb leaves can cause kidney stones. 11 pounds of the leaves can be fatal but of course no one eats that much at one time.
Raw Honey
Unpasteurized honed (raw) contains grayanotoxin which can lead to dizziness, weakness, excessive sweating, nausea, and vomiting. Just one tablespoon of this chemical is enough to cause these symptoms so use sparingly.
Cassava
Cassava is a tropical vegetable native to South America. Be warned, both its leaves and roots contain high amounts of cyanide. It is used in Africa to produce a popular local drink known as piwarry. I don’t know if it is available here in America but it can be very dangerous if not prepared correctly. Of all the items on this page this is one that might be best to avoid all together.
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So what’s your New Year’s resolution going to be this year?

So what’s your New Year’s resolution going to be this yearAs the final days of 2014 quickly race towards their inevitable end, I find myself thinking about what changes I would like to make in my life during the New Year.  Like many of us I am already beginning to wonder what New Year’s resolutions I should resolve myself to. If you’re like me you’ve done this many times in the past but how many of the resolutions did you really stick to?
Of course many of us make the same promises to ourselves every year such as quitting smoking, drinking less or losing weight. But more often than not we quickly fail to achieve our newly set goals and soon they are all but forgotten. As I sat and pondered what resolutions I could make this year and actually succeed at I began to wonder if anyone ever really manages to make a change for the better. All of this deep thought prompted me to do a bit of research and I found out some very interesting facts about New Year’s resolutions!
A study was released earlier this year in the Journal of Clinical Psychology at the University of Scranton and to my surprise it turns out that more than 1/3 of us don’t even bother to make resolutions for the New Year! There are a lot of interesting stats in the report about this age old tradition and I found it to be very interesting. The following chart is a summary of what the study revealed and I must say that I was surprised by some of the results of the survey.
Take a few moments to look it over and if you have any unique or different resolutions for yourself, I’d love to hear about them!
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Believe it or not, Holiday Burnout is completely avoidable

Believe it or not, Holiday Burnout is completely avoidableMaybe you’re wondering, “What is holiday burnout?” It’s something that happens to just about everyone this time of year and it is avoidable if you know how. Holiday burnout is when you are so busy preparing for the fun that you’re too tired to enjoy it when the time finally arrives!
I think that everyone has experienced this at least once in their lifetime and for many of us it happens each and every year. There’s just so much to do and so little time to do it in. Preparing for the holidays takes a lot of work. Decorating the tree, shopping for friends and family, preparing food, wrapping gifts, and all the while we still have our hectic work lives to contend with. For many of us it can all become a bit overwhelming and instead of enjoying the season we end up completely worn out and can’t wait for it all to end.
The first trick to avoiding holiday burnout is to get organized. The “pressure” that we feel to get everything done exists because we aren’t sure if we have enough time. This can be defeated by preparing everything in advance and beginning our holiday chores as early as possible. Last minute shopping and food preparation
will only add to your exhaustion.
I can remember that my Mom actually spread her gift buying duties throughout the entire year. Long before the special day arrived she had just about all of her shopping completed and even had most of the gifts wrapped and hidden away! Aside from a few “last minute” purchases she had plenty of time to do other important things when the season arrived. She also saved a lot of money buying things on sale during the year instead of fighting the mad holiday rush and high prices that come with it.
You can also relieve much of the pressure by preparing as much food as possible in advance. Naturally some things need to made fresh but if you think about it there are plenty of holiday foods that can be prepared and frozen in advance and if you are a cookie fanatic (like me!) you can make them ahead of time and they will last for months if stored in air tight containers. There’s nothing wrong with buying some treats to enjoy as well. You don’t need to make every food yourself and there are plenty of great deserts that you can buy to save time instead of slaving away in the kitchen for days!
It’s also important to remember that you don’t need to attend every holiday party that comes your way. Choose only the ones that are most important to you and more importantly that you are sure to enjoy! Don’t over commit yourself. This is a season of friends, family and loved ones. Take the time to enjoy the simple pleasures this year. Watch your favorite holiday movies or cartons, check out all of the beautifully decorated homes in your neighborhood and be sure to sit and enjoy the company of those whom mean the most to you.
We work hard all year long, now is the time to relax and be thankful for all that we have.
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A Christmas Memory is Worth More than a Million Gifts!

The holidays are a stressful time for SO many people and families.  The media and society has programmed our brains.  TV commercials, news outlets reviewing toys DAILY, Black Friday, Small Busines Saturday, Cyber Monday….  Buy buy buy!  More more MORE!  People take out loans for Christmas and spend all year paying them off.  How jolly is THAT!?

Holiday Stress Growing up, my parents didn’t have much, but we had a LOT.  My father was/is self employed and owns a construction company.  When I was little, he was just starting out (and now he has an incredibly successful business). My mother was a stay-at-home mom and she helped my father grow his business.  (She now is a successful restaurant owner)  When Christmas came around, we didn’t have a Christmas tree…we didn’t get gifts…we got MEMORIES!  How??  Let’s explore.

Shoppers around the country say they are planning to spend an average of $861 for gifts this holiday season, up from $801 last year according to the 30th annual survey on holiday spending from the American Research Group, Inc.  Parents, on average, are planning on spending $271 per child.  The average expendature on FOOD is $384.  That all ads up!  Add gift wrapping, tree, decorations, ELECTRICITY etc and you are talking about thousands!  What is the alternative??  I’ll tell you what we did/do…

My parents didn’t have much back them.  I remember my sister and I sharing a room and my mother warming our sheets with a hairdryer so they were warm when we climbed into bed because they couldn’t afford to keep the heat turned up in the winter months.  I was born in Oklahoma City, OK and for the holidays, we ALWAYS took a family vacation.  Always.  My mother always felt bad and would get each one of us a little gift because when we’d go back to school everyone would talk about their awesome Christmas presents.  Well…I can honestly tell you I don’t remember one gift that I ever received.  I DO, however, remember every vacation we spent together.

US News & World Report compiled a list of the 8 Best Affordable Family Vacations.  I have been to 6 of the 8 places and to most of them we drove to.  We drove from OKC to Pagosa Springs, CO most years…or some other ski resorts in New Mexico (like Red River)…

We would drive through Dallas and up through Amarillo. I remember the Cadillac Ranch in the field off the Cadillac Ranchside of the road and we’d always stop at The Big Texan where we would pay a quarter and play the shooting range game they had there.  It was a blast!  I ate rattlesnake & gator tail there for the first time. Big Texan

 

We would drive through the night up through Santa Fe where we would sometimes stop and eat some killer Mexican food and visit the Indians that sold silver and turquoise jewelery, clothes and trinkets.  I still have a bracelet my mom and dad got me from there when I was small.  We would walk around and enjoy all of the luminaries, ice sculptures and decorations.  Sooo many great memories.

Old Town Santa FeWe would alway go with my grandparents and close family friends…  I remember one time we had this old Oldsmobile with an 8 track player (I liked pushing the buttons for the tracks) and we were driving down a snowy road in Colorado.  There was a blizzard going on and we saw where a car had run off the road.  My father got out and went down the embankment to check if the people were ok.  They were gone and we figured we’d see them walking up the road.  We DID see what we thought was a HUGE man.  I remember my dad saying sarcasticly, “We are NOT giving HIM a ride!”  As we got closer, much to our amazement, it was a HUGE elk!

One time in Pagosa Springs, the FIRST night we stayed there, the pipes burst and the basement flooded!  I remember the adults putting big fans under the carpet to dry it out and running on top of the big bumps that were created.  We had a lot of fun.

I learned to ski at Wolf Creek and we would cross county ski when we were tiny on the golf course behind the house.  We’d go to the hot springs and check out all of the pools…snowmobile rides through the National Forest, sledding…

I have two small children of my own now and this is a discussion I have had with their dad.  My 6 year old started making her Christmas list in September this year and it just made my heart ache!  We have LOST the meaning behind Christmas (and so have our children)!

Christmas is supposed to be a time to celebrate Christ’s birth and him dying for our salvation and sins.  It’s a time for family and friends and making new memories and being thankful for the belssings we have been given.  Somewhere over the past few decades we have lost sight of that.  This year I HOPE that you spend money to make more memories vs. buying more gifts that will be forgotten or thrown away in a few months.  I lost my little brother in January of this year and I am SO glad and grateful that my parents gave us so many opportunities to make those memories together as a family.  I would give anything to spend another day with him…

 

I hope you enjoyed my blog and here’s to creating NEW memories in 2015!!

 

Happy Holidays!

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Why I think EVERY home should have a security system

Why I think EVERY home should have a security systemMany homeowners consider having a professional security system installed in their homes but for one reason or another it never seems to get done. I wonder why this is? Perhaps some people feel that it really isn’t necessary or they don’t like the idea of paying the monthly service fee for a professional monitoring service. Regardless of the reasons I believe that there is a certain peace of mind and level of safety that makes the investment worth every penny.
Most insurance companies will also provide a discount on your homeowner’s insurance premiums if you  have a professional system in your home that is monitored. I am told that if you add fire protection you could save as much as 20% on your insurance. Aside from financial reasons the best reason for owning a system is the level of safety that it can provide for you and your family members in the event of the unthinkable.
Regardless of what you may have heard security systems do deter home invasions. Obviously a criminal is looking for an easy target and a home that is protected may often be too much of a risk for a “would be” burglar. In fact, the latest FBI statistics state that an unprotected home is 3 times more likely to be burglarized than one that is protected. That reason alone is enough to get my attention.
But what if a desperate person decides to enter your home anyway? It’s a scary thought but desperate people do desperate things. At least with a system installed you will be warned of an intruder. I would rather know that someone is in my home than not know and meeting them face to face in the hallway is not the way to find out. A security system will certainly inform you that something is amiss and just as importantly the monitoring station will dispatch the police to your home if necessary.
I personally feel that in today’s world every home needs some type of protection and if it’s within your budget you should at least give it serious consideration.
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Can video games actually be harmful to our children

Can video games actually be harmful to our childrenToday more than ever young people spend a lot of time playing video and computer games. Many parents are concerned that too much of this past time is unhealthy for their children and that perhaps other activities would be more beneficial. According to developmental psychologist and child expert Douglas Gentile there is cause to worry. Here are some of the reasons that excessive amounts of time spent playing video games can have a negative effect on your child or teenager:
There are More Important Things to Do
It comes as no surprise that children that spend 10 hours or more a week watching television don’t do as well in school as children that do not. This is more common sense than anything else and any parent knows that “hitting the books” will equate to better grades. Too much time spent on other activities (including video games) means less time spent studying and working on school projects. Regardless of what diversion your child enjoys, it is important that specific time be set aside for school assignments and other responsibilities (such as household chores) that he/she is expected to do.
Video Games Can Be Desensitizing
The same as watching violent movies, games which portray aggressive behavior and violence can actually affect your child’s real life personality. It’s also important to remember that many games today are much more adult oriented and aside from excessive violence may also contain sexually explicit material which you may not deem appropriate for younger persons. Even if you do limit the amount of time that your child is allowed to play, it’s a good idea to make sure that the games he/she is playing are age appropriate.
Bad Habits Begin When We Are Young
Much of what we do as adults began when we were just children. Those of us that are taught self discipline at an early age tend to become more disciplined adults. Wasting time that could be better spent is something that we learn as children. Simply stated, lazy children often become lazy adults and that can affect our social lives, work lives and personal relationships with others. Today the average boy in 4th grade spends about 9 ½ hours playing video games only. That does not include time spent watching movies, chatting with friends or other “screen time”. Limiting your child’s time that is spent on frivolous activities will benefit him/her for the rest of their lives.
Too Much Time Alone Is Not Healthy
Childhood is the time of our lives when we develop the necessary social skills that we will need the rest of our lives. Spending time with others is important for young people and so are regular physical activities. Playing outside on a nice day is always better than sitting in front of a screen and too much time alone could even cause a young person to become “socially awkward” and unable to communicate well with others. For the sake of both their physical and mental health, young persons should spend time with family members as well as people in their own age group. This will help to ensure that they grow up a well adjusted adult that is able to function well in almost any social situation. You can’t learn that from any game.
Does all of this mean that children should never be allowed to play video or computer games? Not at all! There are many quality games that can teach our young persons a variety of skills and increase their knowledge and playing games with others is, in a sense, a social activity in and of itself. The best advice that Dr Gentile has to offer is simply this: Limit the amount of time that your child is allowed to spend playing video games and be aware of exactly what types of games they are playing. I still remember something that my mother used to say when I was a child, “Everything in moderation”.
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How many hours of sleep do we need to maintain good health?

How many hours of sleep do we need to maintain good healthHave you ever wondered just how much sleep you should be getting? There are many factors that determine the proper amount of sleep for each of us including our age. Doctors recommend that infants and toddlers be allowed to sleep 9 – 10 hours each night in addition to approximately 3 hours nap time. School age children no longer require a nap but should be sleeping from 9 – 11 hours. As adults we need the least sleep of all according to the experts, maybe 7 – 8 hours.
This seems simple enough but there are many other factors that determine how much rest we need in order to feel revitalized and fresh the next morning. Pregnant women may require more sleep than other adults and the elderly among us need only about the same amount of sleep as younger adults. However, an older person may tend to sleep “lighter” and for fewer hours than they did when they were younger. This is why good ole’ Uncle George always falls asleep during the Super Bowl!
Regardless of your age if you have not slept enough recently you will require more sleep to “catch up” on your rest. Remember the old wives’ tale that you can never catch up on your sleep? Well, it’s just that, a wives’ tale. Sleep quality also plays a vital role in how many hours we should plan for each evening. If you are frequently interrupted during sleep you will require additional time to recoup. It is true that the quality of our sleep is just as important as the quantity.
Research indicates that people that sleep less than 7 hours a night are not able to concentrate as well as people that sleep 7 hours or more. Perhaps the most surprising results from various studies is the fact that the mortality rate of adults that get less than 7 hours sleep each night or much more is higher than those that average 7 – 8 hours consistently. It seems that too much sleep is also not healthy.
If you have consistent difficulty sleeping well you should probably consult with your doctor. Lack of sleep can affect our mood and our lives in many ways and everyone is entitled to a good night’s rest.
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“Third hand smoke” can dramatically lower the value of your home

“Third hand smoke” can dramaticallylower the value of your homeFirst of all you might be wondering, “Exactly what is third hand smoke?” We’ve all heard of second hand smoke but this new term was coined by a research team at Dana-Farver / Harvard Cancer Center. It is what remains long after the smoke has cleared. It is the odor and residue of the smoke that is left behind in clothing, furniture, our hair, everywhere! Believe it or not, simply touching this residue can put you at risk of suffering from many of the same illnesses as smokers themselves.
If this isn’t enough reason for smokers to NOT smoke in their homes, here’s another point to ponder. A recent survey of real estate agents in Ontario, Canada revealed that smoking in the home can lower its value by as much as 29%. That’s an amazing statistic and something to consider if you or a family member do smoke indoors. This means that an average residence (at least in Ontario) could lose as much as $64,000 off its sale price! Here are some other interesting statistics to think about.

 

  • ·  44% of agents and brokers agree that smoking definitely lowers its value.

 

  • ·  88% of brokers state that it is more difficult to sell a home if the previous owners smoked inside of it.

 

  • ·  27% of brokers have experienced situations where the buyer simply refused to purchase any home that was previously owned by smokers.

 

A final thought is the amount of time and effort required to remove all of this third hand smoke from a residence. This monumental task would involve steam cleaning all carpets in the home, wiping down all of the walls with hot water and detergents and then repainting them up to 3 times as well as wiping down all flat surfaces that were exposed to the smoke. This is to say nothing of clothing, furniture with fabric, windows and mirrors, painting, pictures……. As you can see, smoking can actually damage your home and cause a tremendous amount of dangerous chemicals to saturate into various items. The bottom line? Aside from being dangerous to your health, allowing anyone to smoke within the confines of your home can cost you thousands.
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