With firm resolve

Happy New Year! For many of us, preparations are underway for dinners, celebrations and resolutions. Yep, it’s that time again; when about 45 percent of us make at least one New Year’s resolution. What does that mean? Well, resolution, by definition, is a firm decision to do or not do something; the quality of being determined or resolved. The most common resolutions include eating less, exercising more, spending less, saving more, stop smoking, stop drinking, find a new career, spend more time with family and the list goes on.

The reality? By the end of six months about half of the 45 percent will have maintained their resolution(s). In fact, a mere 8 percent of resolutions made will actually be achieved.

Why? Maybe expectations are too high, maybe the resolutions just aren’t the right ones, or maybe we give up too easily. Or, maybe there’s no game plan, we have the wrong perspective, or we really don’t believe in ourselves enough to make it happen. Maybe we make resolutions for the wrong reasons.

This year, I am resolving to make mistakes! Why? Because of this quote that I found a few years ago from Neil Gaiman.

“I hope that in the year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something. So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make new mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or isn’t perfect, whatever it is” art, or love, or work or family or life. Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”

Works for me. Wishing you all a very happy, health and prosperous New Year!

Posted by MJ Thomas

Believe in the magic

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

Tis the season to be jolly…

…Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la la, la. Oh, the joys of holiday decorating. 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 a fact.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Electrical Safety Foundation International estimate 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 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 tips 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 use the buddy system; use caution. Falls do not a jolly experience make.

Make sure live trees are fresh – green, with needles hard to pull from the branches and the bottom of the tree 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.

Just a few things to think about. Now go deck those halls – SAFELY! Happy Holidays!

Posted by MJ Thomas

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month

Sunday, November 11 is Veterans Day – a day set aside to honor America’s military veterans for their services, their patriotism and the sacrifices they have made to protect our nation and preserve our freedoms.

Formerly known as Armistice Day, the Veterans Day celebration falls on November 11 for a very profound reason. It was at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918 that an armistice went into effect stopping the fighting between allied nations and Germany, ending World War I.

Each of us in some way is connected to someone in military service; fathers, mothers, siblings, co-workers, neighbors, clergy, family and friends. Let’s all make a special effort to say thanks on this day. To the more than 18 million veterans in the United States and their families – “thank you.”

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

Happy Veterans Day

Posted by MJ Thomas

It's just a little hocus pocus - or is it?

It’s Halloween and that means Trick-or-Treaters start running amok in the neighborhood. Here at Sentry, were all about safety, so let’s look at some things that can help make your Halloween safe.

Halloween is listed as second in popularity only to Christmas. Didn’t see that one coming, did you? It’s a night of costumes, candy, parties, ghosts and goblins, haunted houses and magical fun. At least it should be and it can be if safety is top of mind.

Halloween is one of the deadliest days of the year for child pedestrian accidents. Sadly, it’s true and per one report, over 60% of the accidents occurred between 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. – prime time for trick-or-treaters. Think about it. It’s dark, the kids are excited, they’re quick and can dart in and out of traffic if not supervised. Basically, the children’s presence on the road and even around houses requires extra caution. Motorists need to be on the lookout for children on roadways, medians and curbs: remember that they don’t always wait to get to the intersection before crossing. Enter and exit driveways and parking lots with caution. Go slow.

Don't let young children go unsupervised and only go to houses with porch lights lit. Do not let them eat any of their candy until they get home and then make sure you check it carefully for any irregularities. Reflective tape is a great way to “light up” costumes for high visibility.

If you love to decorate for the holiday, make sure you keep safety in mind as well. Burning candles are a mainstay for Halloween décor. They can also be extremely dangerous and lead to unexpected damage to your home or worse. Battery-operated candles are a great alternative. Make sure the placement of your holiday decor doesn’t lend itself to being knocked over, tripped over or otherwise causing damage or injury.

Keep pets safe too. Candy is for the kids, not for your pets. Candy can be toxic to your pets so make sure it is out of reach. The constant arrivals at the front door can be scary for them too. Keep them calm and always keep pets inside. If you are absolutely compelled to dress up your pet for Halloween, make sure it doesn’t stress them out; make sure the costume fits properly and doesn’t restrict their movement or breathing.

Seems like a lot to think about to keep Halloween safe. It’s not; just a little extra caution and a lot of common sense.

Trick or Treat

Posted by MJ Thomas

Here's to the fruits of our labors

This weekend is Labor Day Weekend, culminating in the celebration of Labor Day on Monday. For some, it signals a three-day weekend, barbecues, golf outings and family reunions. For others, it’s the end of summer, the start of a new school year and the start of the football season. For retailers it’s probably one of the biggest sales weekends of the year.

That’s great, but it’s also important to remember why Labor Day came to be. It was originally established to celebrate the achievements of workers and to recognize their contributions – no matter what industry – to the strength and welfare of this country; to celebrate workers and their commitment to the past, present and future.

So, while we enjoy this weekend and all its celebrations, let’s take some time to celebrate the hard work, accomplishments and contributions that make our country a better place.

Wishing you a safe and happy Labor Day!

Posted by MJ Thomas

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

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