Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Ooooh! Ahhhh! Ooops!

It’s that time again. Tomorrow, July 4 is the day we celebrate our freedom; the independence of our nation; the 242nd anniversary of its birth. Three cheers for the USA and a great big Happy Birthday! There will be celebrations of all kinds; parades, concerts, family get-togethers, barbecues, sporting events and fireworks.

Practically synonymous with the Fourth of July, fireworks have long been a part of our Independence Day celebrations. As far back as 1777, Philadelphia put together a full day of festivities that included a parade, dinner, music, musket salutes and fireworks.

Fireworks are magical; explosions of bright colors, shapes and sounds lighting up the night sky as young and old alike watch in awe. They are the grand finale for the day’s celebrations. Fireworks are also dangerous. There you have it. The other shoe just dropped.

The fact that fireworks hold such a high risk for serious burns, fires, eye injuries and more, groups like the National Safety Council and the National Fire Protection Association recommend people to avoid consumer fireworks altogether and just enjoy the public displays put on by professionals.

Fact is that in 2017, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 12,900 people for firework related injuries; eight people lost their lives in firework incidents. Fireworks start more than 10,000 fires per year with an estimated $43 million in direct property damage. It’s enough to put a little tarnish on the magic don’t you think? But it doesn’t have to –JUST BE SMART AND BE SAFE! For example, did you know that a sparkler burns at a temperature of around 2,000° F? That’s enough to cause third-degree burns. A sparkler. And please, please keep pets safe. More pets run away on July 4th than any other day of the year. They bolt from fear of fireworks and all the noise. Keep them inside and safe.

A celebration is no time to cut corners on safety. Remember, it’s only fun until someone gets hurt. Leave things to the professionals.

And, amidst all the festivities, please take a few minutes to remember the real reason we celebrate this day – our freedom and all of those who fought and still fight to preserve it.

Have a safe and happy Fourth of July!

Posted by MJ Thomas

Thursday, May 24, 2018

A time to remember…

Monday, May 28 is Memorial Day – a day of remembrance for the men and women who have died in service of our country.

Memorial Day can mean different things to different people – parades, family gatherings, cemetery or memorial visits, a three-day weekend, a holiday sale. For some, it even means the unofficial beginning of summer. The one thing that it should be for all of us is a time to remember; remember and honor the sacrifice of those who did not return from defending our liberties in battle, those who are currently serving to preserve those liberties; remember family and friends no longer with us and cherish the ones that are; appreciate what we have and renew our hopes for the future.

The National Moment of Remembrance resolution asks that at 3 p.m. local time American pause “To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to Taps.”

Whatever activities you have planned for the holiday, take a minute on Monday at 3 p.m. to remember and say thanks.

In the words of John F. Kennedy, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter the words, but to live by them.”

Happy Memorial Day!

Posted by MJ Thomas

Friday, December 29, 2017

What’s your story?

Or better yet, what would you like it to be? As the new year approaches, many of us reflect on where we’ve been; where we are and where we want to be. We look at the new year as a chance for a do-over; a clean slate; a blank page in a new chapter: we resolve to change.

About half of us make at least one resolution for the new year. Maybe it’s losing weight and getting healthier; getting our financial ducks in a row; starting a new career; or maybe it’s just being a better person. Six months into the year, only half of the original half will still be on track. Why?

Could be the resolution isn’t really the “right” one; it’s too vague, it’s not being done for the right reasons; it’s not measurable or realistic. Maybe expectations are too high or maybe we just give up too easily.

January 1 starts a new chapter in the book of your life. What’s your story going to be? A mystery? Action packed? A romance? A comedy? The comeback of the year? Fame and fortune? It’s yours to write, so make sure it’s a good one.

Best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous new year!

Posted by MJ Thomas

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Do you believe?

I do. After all these years, I still believe in the magic of Christmas. That magic is a beautiful thing. Why? Because it lies in the heart. It’s not in the gifts or material things; it can’t be bought. It doesn’t come from someone or somewhere; it comes from within. It’s patience and tolerance and forgiveness; the willingness to see the good in people. It’s caring and compassion and goodwill. It’s friends and family and loved ones near and far. It’s about being in the moment; being thankful; knowing that if there were no gifts, no decorations, no lights, no parties – you would still believe in the spirit of Christmas.

Christmas is more than a day; it’s a frame of mind. And in these times, there are a lot of things that can mess with your frame of mind. The stress, the money, illness, family and friends who are no longer with us; the holidays seem to magnify the intensity and really test our beliefs. Maybe that’s the time we need to believe the most. Believing brings with it hope; a sense that it will be okay. At least it does for me. And that keeps the magic alive.

Norman Vincent Peale said, “I truly believe that if we keep telling the Christmas story, singing the Christmas songs, and living the Christmas spirit, we can bring joy and happiness and peace to the world.”

Choose to believe in the magic and remember the true spirit lies in the heart. Wishing you happiness, health, peace and prosperity in the true spirit of Christmas now and always.

Posted by MJ Thomas

Friday, December 15, 2017

A little whimsy for the holidays

“A little nonsense every now and then, is relished by the wisest men.” Ah, the words of Willy Wonka ringing out so true in these days leading up to Christmas 2017.

Typically, this is the time when the stress that comes with the holidays rears its ugly head. There’s a lot to do and time’s ticking away – last minute shopping, baking, mailing packages, preparing to travel, crowds, lines, the endless search for a parking space that isn’t in the next city, concerts, parties and so much more.

Sometimes, you just need something to take your mind off things for a while, sit back, relax and smile. So, today’s blog focuses on something that many turn to in time of stress – CHOCOLATE! In fact, the four basic food groups are defined by some as milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate and chocolate truffles. Works for me.

And, much to my surprise, guess what tomorrow is? It is National Chocolate Covered Anything Day. Who knew? Celebrate it. Drizzle, pour, spread that chocolate on whatever suits your fancy. Indulge, binge; make an event out of it. Chocolate strawberries, marshmallows, pretzels, chips, bacon, coffee beans, bananas, raisins – go for it. Get creative. Make up your own delicacy.

Here’s the best part. Chocolate is good for you! It contains nutrients that include potassium, calcium and iron and it contains the B-vitamin riboflavin. Studies in the past have shown that people who consumed cocoa regularly had lower blood pressure than those that didn’t, were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and had better peripheral blood flow. It’s also been noted that chocolate has an antibacterial effect on the mouth and protects against tooth decay! How about this? When it comes to coughs, chocolate is more effective that codeine; it’s a natural pain killer and it can contribute to brain health.

Okay, point made. If all this doesn’t convince you to ease the stress of holiday preparations with chocolate, consider this line of thinking. According to an article posted on mentalfloss.com, chocolate is a vegetable – sort of. Chocolate comes from the cacao bean which grows on the cacao tree, an evergreen. This makes the most important part of the sweet treat a vegetable. And we all know that eating vegetables is good for you.

That’s it for the whimsy today. Hope it makes you smile a little. The holidays are supposed to be fun. Don’t get caught up in all the “stuff.” Enjoy and have some chocolate.

Posted by MJ Thomas

Friday, December 8, 2017

‘Tis the season to be jolly…

…Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la la, la. Let the decorating begin. Pull out those tangled strands of lights and boxes of ornaments passed down through the years. Set up the tree, roll out the ribbon, light up the candles. Most of all? BE SAFE. The hidden dangers of holiday decorating can take quite a toll and that’s not jolly.

These statistics from both the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Electrical Safety Foundation International give some food for thought. It is estimated that 76 percent of Americans decorate their homes during the holiday season. And, each year, hospital emergency rooms treat about 12,500 people for injuries such as falls, cuts, and shocks related to holiday lights, electrical decorations and Christmas trees. Hmmm.

Before you set out to replicate Clark Griswold’s display of 25,000 twinkling lights, here are some safety reminders to consider. Check everything prior to use. Check lights for frayed cords, broken bulbs and bad plugs. Indoor bulbs are for indoor use and outdoor bulbs are for outdoor use. Seems simple enough, right? Avoid electrical overload – no more than three standard-size sets of lights per extension cord. Use only lights tested by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. Before climbing up on that ladder, make sure it is on secure and level footing. Always have a buddy system; use caution. Falls do not a jolly experience make.

Live trees should be fresh – green, with needles hard to pull for the branches and the bottom of the tree should be sticky with resin. Monitor water levels, keep out of high traffic areas and away from any heat source – fireplaces, vents, radiators. Artificial trees should be labeled “fire resistant”. Keep children and pets safe. Small pieces and parts ornaments can be choking hazards. Holly, mistletoe, poinsettias and other seasonal plants can be toxic if ingested.

Did you know that Christmas, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day are the top three days of the year for candle fires? Never leave a burning candle unattended, keep them on stable, heat-resistant surfaces and away from items that can easily catch fire.

These are just a few tips to consider for a safer holiday. Now go deck those halls! Happy Holidays!

Posted by MJ Thomas

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Here’s the thing

Unless you’ve been hiding on a remote island, you are more than aware that the holiday shopping season has officially begun. Forget the fact that most stores had Christmas decorations on the shelves before Halloween was over. Now it’s official – Black Friday, Cyber Monday – whatever they want to label all of it – the frenzy is here.

I always thought it should be a fun experience. The truth is, it doesn’t bring out the best in everybody. Go figure. Here’s my take on things. Before you head out to experience the wonders of holiday shopping – be prepared. It’s safer that way.

Be prepared to stand in long lines, with agitated people who are holding armfuls of stuff and invading your personal space to the point where you can feel their breath on the back of your neck. For some reason, the closer they get to you makes them feel farther ahead in the line.

Be prepared for the person in front of you to have a return – without a receipt – for something they bought months ago but now need that money for the holidays.

Be prepared to get cut off numerous times in the parking lot by drivers trying to beat you to the nearest parking space. It’s not worth an accident or a confrontation. Be prepared for the noise – the yelling, the crying, the screaming, the never-ending din of the crowd and of course, the Christmas music.

Be prepared for items to be out of stock, coupons to be invalid, and that person who pushes you aside to grab the last one of something off the shelf. Be prepared for snarky people, stressed out store personnel and don’t expect any of it to make sense.

Notice I said, “Be prepared.” Will you experience all the things mentioned above? Probably – hopefully – not. But, if you prepare for it, it’s easier to handle, there are no surprises and you won’t take it personally. Ho-ho-ho.

It comes around once a year. Have fun with it and enjoy it.

Posted by MJ Thomas