Category: Current Events


You’ve heard heartwarming stories of waiters or waitresses paying the tab for servicemen, patrons surprising their server with a larger than expected tip, or people paying the tab for the person behind them in line. All random acts of kindness done with no motivation other than changing the tone of someone else’s day and of course, enjoying the feeling of knowing they did just that. Their only hope is that the one on the receiving end will pay it forward and do something nice for another.

Such acts don’t have to hit your wallet though; simple acts of no monetary value can make a difference too. Holding the door open for someone, giving that busy mom your shopping cart to save her a few minutes or walking an elderly neighbor’s dog on a hot day are all simple ways to spread kindness to others. These simple acts can inspire others and may just make someone’s bad day a little bit better.

We are all so busy with our own lives and packed schedules that we may not think about the fact that something so simple could make a difference. Kindness can be contagious. Just think, if you did something as simple as open the door for someone and inspired a chain reaction-that’s a lot of people just a little happier and a lot of days changed.

We do live in a society where many people are consumed with the stresses of their daily lives to the point that it doesn’t occur to them that something so small could have any effect. On the other side of that, many don’t realize that a small act could have a positive impact on their bad day until it does. It reminds people that there is still kindness in the world and that maybe their day isn’t so bad after all.

Performing random acts of kindness reminds us of what is possible with a little compassion. You become an inspiration to others of their own potential to change someone’s day. It’s a simple way to inspire love and kindness in others. When our children witness us doing good in the world, they are taught gratitude, compassion, love, and unity. They grow up knowing the world is a bigger place than just what surrounds them on a daily basis. This is something that can be lost on a child of today’s era of instant gratification.

When someone is coming from a place of generosity without any expectation or reward in return, the realization that they are not powerless to help others and that they are more united than they ever thought can have a profound impact on how they view the world. Now isn’t that a wonderful lesson to teach our children and grandchildren.

While many of us wouldn’t dream of leaving our child or beloved pet in the car alone, there are still some who do it-proven by tragic headlines that become too frequent in the summer months.  Many say they remember their parents leaving them in the car to run into the store and they survived.  But the fact is that was a time when hand crank windows were in every car and if you remember it, you were old enough to know to roll down the window if you needed to.  We also now live in a world where news travels so much faster and we hear about the tragic outcomes in other states within hours and minutes of it happening.

I’m sure if our parents constantly heard about these stories, they would have thought twice about it.  On a hot day, temperatures inside a car can reach dangerous levels within minutes.  Temperatures inside a car on a hot day can increase by 20 degrees within 10 minutes and cracking a window doesn’t help.  Children and pets are extremely vulnerable in this situation yet it is still happening.  For kids, that isn’t the only risk as they could be abducted as well.

Public Opinion Strategies of Washington conducted a survey of 1,000 parents and caregivers on leaving a child unattended in a car.  Almost 7 in 10 parents surveyed said they had heard such stories, but they were willing to leave their own children unattended in a car anyway. Particularly dads and parents of children age 3 and under said they had left their kids alone in a parked car.

The study also found that 14 percent of parents say they  have left their infants, toddlers or kindergarten-age children alone in a parked vehicle.  For those with children three and under, the percentage increases to 23 percent.  It also found that dads are almost three times more likely than moms to leave a child alone in a parked car.  Surprisingly, 11 percent of parents said they have forgotten their child in a car.  For those with children age 3 and under, it is nearly 1 in 4.  Remember that this was a study of 1,000 people and yet 1 in 4 had forgotten their child in the car.

While only 19 states make it illegal to leave a child unattended in a vehicle, many others have proposed laws or consider it a crime if the child is harmed.  Even those states have specific guidelines as to how long is ok with 5 minutes being the average time limit.  Find out where your state stands on this issue.

http://www.kidsandcars.org/state-laws.html

Since 1998, 619 children are known to have died from heatstroke while unattended in a vehicle-that’s an average of 38 every year.  More than 8 percent were children age 3 and under.  In 2013, 44 children died, one of the worst years on record and so far there have been 13 recorded deaths.  These are all very tragic and preventable outcomes.  Please remember that it only takes minutes for a quick trip to the store to end in tragedy.

Tornadoes can be fatal and devastating to areas that experience them. The months with the greatest number of tornadoes overall are April, May, and June, but tornadoes occur during any month of the year. Tornado seasons vary in different parts of the United States. In the Southeast, the peak season for tornadoes is February through April. In the northern Plains, tornadoes are most likely to develop from June through August. Generally, tornado frequency is high in the South in late winter and early spring; and in the Plains, Midwest, and Ohio Valley from early spring through summer. The region most likely to experience tornadoes is an area known as Tornado Alley, which is typically defined as the region from Texas north to Nebraska. Tornadoes can vary greatly in terms of their length, width, direction and speed. The median path length of a tornado is just under one mile, while its path width averages 50 yards, half the length of a football field. Since most tornadoes are formed in conjunction with severe thunderstorms, forecasters first must determine where thunderstorms are likely to form and reach the severity necessary for tornado formation. The difference between whether a thunderstorm will be severe with large hail and strong winds but no tornado, or whether it will spawn a potentially deadly tornado is very subtle. That’s why it is important for those living in an area susceptible to tornadoes to monitor a weather radio when there are thunderstorms predicted for their area. They can be fast moving and unpredictable so it may give you those few life-saving minutes ahead of the storm to get to the safety of a storm shelter or the safest place in your home. Weather signs that may mean that a tornado is approachin are dark or green-colored sky, large hail, a large, dark, low-lying cloud, and a loud roar that sounds like a freight train. If you notice any of these weather conditions, take cover immediately, and keep tuned to local radio, TV stations or a weather radio. If you have a cellar, storm shelter, safe room or basement available, go immediately to that area. If none of these options are available to you, get to the lowest level of your home. Get to a windowless interior room, such as a bathroom, closet or inner hallway and stay as far from windows as possible. Stay in the center of the room since corners tend to attract debris. If possible, get under a sturdy piece of furniture; heavy table or desk, and hold on to it. Try to protect your head and neck with a blanket, if possible. Mobile homes are very vulnerable during tornadoes because they can easily be over turned or picked up with the high winds of a tornado. If possible, get to a safe, sturdy structure with solid foundation or if one isn’t available-lie in a low laying area such as a ditch that is a safe distance from the mobile home. For most who’ve grown up in areas prone to tornadoes-this is common knowledge but tornadoes can hit anywhere so it is important to know where to go in advance. It’s also important to educate children in where the safest place is if they find themselves having to get there without you. The key to surviving a tornado and reducing the risk of injury lies in planning, preparing, and practicing what you and your family will do if a tornado strikes. Flying debris causes most deaths and injuries during a tornado. Although there is no completely safe place during a tornado, some locations are much safer than others.

Earth Day began on April 22, 1970, in the U.S. as a nationwide environmental protest day. It has since become an annual day for many to participate in local cleanup projects and for educators to inspire students to take care of the environment.   Any activity concerned with cleanup or energy conservation can be turned into an Earth Day event.  In honor of Earth Day, here are a few ways you can do your part around your home and on a busy schedule.

  • Replacing incandescent light bulbs with more energy-efficient fluorescent light bulbs.  The fluorescent light bulb is known to reduce replacement costs and is an energy saver. The price difference has dropped dramatically to just a few dollars more than incandescent bulbs and they last 10 to 20 times longer than the incandescent bulb while using less energy- which will lower your electricity bill.

 

  • Reducing, reusing and recycling — recycling refers to more than aluminum cans, plastic bottles and newspapers. Every object that a person reuses saves money and the community’s landfill space.  Use glass and plastic containers to organize all the small clutter in your garbage or tool shed.  You can also reuse newspapers to help cut down on clean up time for various home projects or art projects for your kids.

 

  • You can cut down on water usage by taking shorter showers and washing only full laundry/dish loads.   You can also leave buckets out to collect rainwater to irrigate gardens and lawns.  Rainwater is actually preferred for starting seedlings over city water because city water contains chlorine to help eliminate bacteria growth but prolongs seedling growth.

 

  • Strategically planting a tree that will provide shade will help to conserve the electricity used to cool a home and helps clean the air in the process.

 

  • Walking or biking to run errands instead of driving, which keeps the air cleaner and is good exercise.  Those with too far of a commute can always carpool to do their part in cutting down on air pollution as part of their Earth Day efforts.

 

  • Composting is a great way to keep kitchen scraps out of our landfills while creating “black gold” for your gardens and flower beds.  It is the best way to provide your soil with an excellent source of vital minerals needed for optimal plant growth and it’s a great way to show kids how to reuse and recycle what many just throw away.

 

  • Planting a garden is one of the best ways to share the Earth with your children. It will teach them about the seasons as well as the cycle of life. Gardening offers lessons in the weather, chemistry and the local wildlife. Your kids will also learn that some creatures like worms, bees and ladybugs are good friends to have in an herb garden or vegetable patch with important jobs to do.  Having a garden will cut down your grocery bill as well as the air pollution expelled on your drive to the store.

One issue making headlines is the legalization of recreational marijuana use in some states.  The legalization of Medical marijuana use has made headway in many states in the last decade.  With the legalization of medical marijuana, the 20 states that passed these laws have strict guidelines as to the amount that is legal for medical use only, proof of residency, registration and renewal fees for those that have completed an application for and received an ID card for the medical use of marijuana. 

Proponents of medical marijuana argue that it can be a safe and effective treatment for the symptoms of cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, pain, glaucoma, epilepsy, and other conditions. They cite dozens of peer-reviewed studies, prominent medical organizations, major government reports, and the use of marijuana as medicine throughout world history. 

Opponents of medical marijuana argue that it is too dangerous to use, lacks FDA-approval, and that various legal drugs make marijuana use unnecessary. They say marijuana is addictive, leads to harder drug use, interferes with fertility, impairs driving ability, and injures the lungs, immune system, and brain. They say that medical marijuana is a front for drug legalization and recreational use.

While there are other legal drugs that can help with the same ailments that medical marijuana is prescribed for, they have more harmful side effects and interactions that can be dangerous if a patient is required to take certain other drugs.  That said, many states view medical marijuana as an alternative treatment to a variety of ailments. 

Now with the legalization of recreational use of marijuana in Colorado and Washington, the marijuana debate is on the forefront again.  Colorado and Washington are currently the only two states where recreational marijuana use is legal. New Hampshire may be following in these states’ footsteps – its state House of Representatives passed a bill on Jan. 16 that would allow recreational use of marijuana for those older than 21.  Other states expected to propose initiatives in 2016 are California, Alaska, Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana and Nevada.

Many argue that alcohol and tobacco are legal and more harmful than marijuana while others hold true to the argument that it is a gateway drug which will only lead users on to harder drug use.  Many acknowledge that this is taxable revenue that will help our economy and let the “war on drugs” focus on more dangerous drugs out there.  Whatever stance you take on the issue, the legalization of recreational use will have problems with the regulations in this new industry. 

For instance, the legal sale of marijuana will have guidelines regarding how much they can sell, where they can operate a business.  In Colorado, the law states a community can decide whether to allow pot shops into the area.  Another worry many have is that recreational use will not be done discreetly and in open areas.  Public use is not legal and those caught will be warned, cited and fined. 

Many are watching Colorado and waiting to see if this actually works and what issues they run into before they make any decisions toward legalizing recreational use.  Whether the recreational use is eventually legalized in all the states or not, without regulations being upheld, the movement will fail or become a new scapegoat to our country’s problems. 

As the US endures another cold snap with temperatures dropping below zero and another one predicted for next week, let’s take a look at history and see where our frigid temps stand.  The core of the cold came  Jan. 6th and 7th.  Subzero temperatures affected a large swath from Montana to New York and as far south as northern Oklahoma and northern Alabama.  The low temps brought the windchil reaching 40 below to 60 below zero across a large swath of the Midwest. The National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio, said the wind chills were the coldest observed in central and southwest Ohio since 1994. 

Many cities from Atlanta to Indianapolis and Madison, WI recorded their lowest temps since the 90’s as well.  In Birmingham, Ala., and Nashville, Tenn., low temperatures were the coldest since January 2003.  New York City set its first daily low temperature record since 1996, but the low of 4 degrees was not as cold as the 1-degree reading they had Jan. 16, 2004. 

Many areas in Ohio, including Cincinnati and Columbus, failed to drop below low temperatures observed in cold snaps during 2009 and 2011.  While Minneapolis-St. Paul spent 2 ½ days below zero and Chicago spent 37 straight hours in subzero territory, neither of these  streaks failed to make the historical top 10 for either city.  Brrrr! 

The January 2014 deep freezes have been unable to break many long-term records because of its short life span. The coldest air moves into and out of most locations within a 36-hour span, often not lasting enough to keep temperatures anywhere near historic lows for a full 24-hour calendar day.  The weather for the month of January seems to consistently drop very low, warm up a little to thaw us out and then drop back down to frigid temps.

Contrast this with December 2013, when dozens of all-time December record highs and record-warm daily lows were tied or broken, especially ahead of Winter Storm Gemini Dec. 21-23.  It seems even with the artic temperatures across the country for the month of January, we aren’t breaking any records or experiencing anything new.  One thing is for sure, regardless of how low temperatures dropped in your area, cold is just cold.

Depression is a lot more common than many think and though some get help for it, there are still many people who never seek treatment because they are ashamed or don’t identify their symptoms with depression.  Over 80% of those with symptoms of clinical depression don’t seek treatment.  Some more facts, women are twice as likely to suffer from symptoms of depression than men and depression is more prevalent in those 45 and older.  How’s that for some scary statistics? 

Although, every year the number of people that do seek treatment for symptoms of depression increases by 20% which means more people are getting help.  The rates of depression are higher in some states, particularly OK, AR, TN, LA, MS, AL and WV.  Those same states have a higher rate of obesity, heart disease, stroke, sleep disorders, lack of education and no access to healthcare. 

While it is more common for those that are unemployed or recently divorced to have symptoms of depression, and the fact that 1 in 10 Americans suffer from depression at some time in their lives shows that it is becoming a common problem that people shouldn’t be embarrassed about.  The stigma that suffering from symptoms of depression means that a person is somehow flawed needs to change so that more people can be comfortable with getting help. 

There are plenty of outlets to seek help for symptoms of depression, whether one just needs someone to talk to or believes their symptoms require medication to control.  Believe it or not-some people can manage their symptoms with just a lifestyle change of a healthy diet and regular exercise.  These changes can also reduce the rate of other ailments that lead to chronic depression. 

Think about it, if you are putting garbage in your body everyday- you are more likely to feel like garbage but if your diet is rich in healthy vitamins and minerals- your body and mind will reflect that.  Exercise is proven to not only keep our bodies running properly but releases happy endorphins which might be just what you need on a regular basis to kick those sluggish symptoms of depression to the curb. 

Regardless of how a person decides to seek treatment for symptoms of depression, the important thing is that they seek some kind of help or treatment rather than suffer through it alone because they are embarrassed or ashamed.  Sadly, many people suffer from depression yet their family and loved ones are unaware of their struggle.  Breakdown the barriers-talk to your loved ones about it and reassure them that seeking help is nothing to be afraid of and will only help. 

The healthcare overhaul or Obamacare has seemingly made the task of getting health insurance a painstaking one.  While the goal was to create an easily understandable one stop online market place for people to shop for insurance plans that met their needs and budget-the outcome is anything but that. 

We’ve all heard the horror stories from the launch of the healthcare.gov site crashing to consumers creating logins that are lost.  Now another issue being discussed in the headlines is that of people who signed up for insurance through the website only to contact the insurance company who has no record of them. 

For those reasons alone, it’s no surprise that many would procrastinate to even get this started.  I am one of those people but as the latest enrollment deadline loomed, I decided to take the plunge and finally venture onto the site for my own insurance needs.  This is my experience.

My first attempt was online, upon entering the insurance market-place website, I clicked on to “see plans before applying”.  This brought me to a simple questionnaire asking about my family size, our ages, where I lived and our expecting income for the year 2014.  Once I completed the questionnaire it offered very little explanation of what was available in my area. 

I went to the next step of creating a Login Account which had to be activated by clicking a link in an email sent to the email address I provided when creating my login.  I clicked the link and then proceeded to login to my new account ready to shop for a plan.  Instead of shopping for insurance I was greeted with a message that my login was locked and I had to contact them directly.  How can this be when I just created the account minutes before and then was never able to login?

My next step was to call the number provided to find out why I was locked out.  The customer service representative told me there was no record of my login.  They asked if I would like to create another login using the same email.  While still on the phone with the representative, I attempted to create another account but the website said another account had already been created with this email.  That would be the account they have no record of. 

While still on the phone, I attempted to create another account using a different email address, I followed the same steps of clicking the link in an email sent to my email address and the same thing happened- no record of this account.  So I now have two accounts created using two different emails and I still have no access to them. 

The representative then offered to take my application over the phone and estimated that it would only take about twenty minutes.  Sounds good, right?  I stated our names and was told that the computer kept changing the name on my application to my maiden name and then freezing.  After several attempts from the representative, it finally kept my married name.  I then answered questions about my family size, our ages, where we live and our expected income for 2014.   Then I was told that there was a system error and that I would have to call back tomorrow.  I was given an application number and ended this 40 minute phone call.   

The following day, I called back and told the new representative that I was instructed to call back due to a system error the night before.  I gave my application number and she went over my information with me. 

Before I continue, I should add that my income has not changed in the last three years but my husband is an independent contractor so his yearly income fluctuates greatly.  I explained that this may be an issue since he never makes the same each year so it’s hard to guess what the household income for 2014 will be.  Another note-at the beginning of this process it is stated that they will pull information from various sources like previous tax returns.  I gave a generous estimation of my husband’s estimated income for 2014 yet last year’s income kept popping up on their screen. 

After the representative’s fourth attempt to change his income to my estimation didn’t work, they decided we should start a new application in case there were entry errors from the previous representative.  So we went through the process again and after the third attempt of today’s representative changing my husband’s income from last year’s to my 2014 estimation, it finally took(meaning it didn’t automatically change it back to last year’s income).  And then…I was told that I needed to provide proof of income for myself before continuing.  That is correct, not proof of my husband’s fluctuating income-just my income-which hasn’t changed in the last three years. 

So my next step in continuing to shop for insurance through the marketplace is to send them proof of my income through the mail.  It’s obvious to everyone but the network asking for these answers that this is not the only information they will need-but it is the only instructions I am left with if I want to continue.  To say that I am frustrated is an understatement but at least I expected it to be a hassle after reading of all the other issues they have had. 

In closing, if you have yet to explore the marketplace for yourself, do not expect it to be hassle free as there are many system glitches and more coming to light as time passes.  And please keep in mind that the customer service reps are there to help us, they did not create the system, but are simply navigating through the process with us. 

If you have already ventured into the insurance marketplace- please share your story-good or bad.  As for me, I will continue my journey of shopping for insurance through the marketplace and will update this posting with whatever outcome I come to. 

K. Campbell

Its Christmas time and many of us find ourselves indulging in all the delicious treats served up at holiday gatherings.  Some of the tasty seasonal treats are actually good for us.  Let’s talk about some drinks that actually have health benefits to them. 

Eggnog is very popular and festive concoction served this time of year and consists of  milk, cream, eggs and liquor.  It has the potential to be very unhealthy but by choosing low-fat versions of the drink, you can avoid the potential health risks and enjoy all of the benefits at the same time. Eggnog is rich in calcium and high in protein as well. Calcium helps with preventing  osteoporosis, nerve transmission and muscular function.  Protein is an important component of every cell in the body and is used to build and repair tissues.  Be sure to drink only pasteurized or treated eggnog, as consuming raw eggs may cause a variety of health risks.

Cocktails made with cranberries and cranberry juices are another popular choice for the holiday season. Cranberries are full of the free radical fighting antioxidant benefits of vitamin C.   A few benefits provided include cancer protection, an immune system boost, heart disease protection, and stress relief. Choosing a cranberry juice based cocktail can have beneficial effects on your digestive and urinary tract as well as other parts of your body, too.

Apple cider is a delicious and healthy fruit drink in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions.  Both contain antioxidants which offer protection against cancer causing free radical damage.   A popular cocktail is Spiced Apple Cider, which contains apple cider and rum or another equivalent liquor. Boost the healthiness of this drink by adding cinnamon into the mix.  Cinnamon is widely popular because of its effects as an antioxidant and also for its ability to help regulate your blood sugar levels. This can be especially helpful at holiday occasions, where there may be many types of tempting sugary foods available.

Sangria is a popular year round drink that is also very commonly consumed at holiday times.  Red wine is one of the primary ingredients in this cocktail and has been proven to have antioxidant effects, as well as helps to lower blood pressure when consumed in small quantities.  It also helps reduce bad cholesterol levels, prevent blood clots, and provides a range of other cardiovascular benefits as well. Many sangrias are made with fresh fruits which can provide even more wonderful health benefits to your holiday menu. 

Holiday punch is fruit juice based with non- alcohol or alcohol versions but both are filled with fruits which offer a wide variety of benefits from cancer protection, a heart healthy boost and immune system protection.  Add a little mint to pile on even more healthy benefits while giving it a tasty kick.  Enjoy your holiday season!

The holiday season can sometimes be filled with stress from trying to fit holiday shopping, busy schedules and travel into your calendar.  Well take a load off and load up on some of these wonderful stress fighting foods during this year’s holiday crunch.

Foods high in folate help us ward off the effects of stress.  It’s particularly great at stabilizing your mood and reducing depression, anxiety, and panic.  Add some high folate foods like asparagus, spinach, avocadoes, broccoli or oranges to your menu. 

Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with depression, chronic fatigue and stress and muscle pain as well as osteoporosis, PMS, hypertension, and cancers such as breast, colon, and prostate.   Look for fortified milk, liver, and calcium supplements to boost vitamin D levels.

Foods high in vitamin C will also help you manage stress.  Vitamin C is vital to our health in other ways such as boosting our immune system, helping to repair body tissue and providing antioxidants.  Load up on vitamin c rich foods like oranges, blueberries, raspberries, broccoli, kale, kiwi, strawberries and red peppers. 

Foods rich in vitamin E will help you better deal with holiday stress as well.  Spinach, nuts, avocadoes, broccoli and fish are all high in vitamin E.  This wonderful vitamin will also improve skin condition, offers antioxidant protection and reduces the risk of heart disease. 

The amino acid tryptophan, found in protein food sources, can affect serotonin, which means restricted or inadequate protein can negatively affect serotonin levels and lead to moodiness and depression. Nuts such as pecans, walnuts, and almonds also contain tryptophan and can improve depression and promote relaxation.

Those not getting enough magnesium are at risk of chronic fatigue, increased muscle tension, irregular heartbeat, insomnia, and restless leg syndrome, which can all cause depression or anxiety., leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach and lettuce as well as whole grains are rich in magnesium.  Nuts such as almonds, walnuts, and pecans; and seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, and flax, all contain magnesium as well.   Magnesium supplements are available as well, but it’s best to obtain the mineral through food.

While loading up on healthy stress fighting foods will help you battle holiday stress, remembering to get adequate amounts of sleep and hydrating yourself are key  to staying healthy and not being overcome by that burnt out feeling of the holiday rush.  Tis the season!