Thursday, November 19, 2015

Cultivating Gratitude

Nine ways to cultivate gratitude:
  1. Notice your day-to-day world from a point of gratitude and be amazed at all the goodness we take for granted.
  2. Keep a gratitude journal. All it requires is noting one or more things you are grateful for on a daily basis. No fancy notebook or computer program required.
  3. If you identify someone or something with a negative trait (the cold conference room), switch it in your mind to a positive trait (the conference room with the great view).
  4. Gratitude requires humility, which the dictionary defines as "modest and respectful". Explore where it fits in your life.
  5. Give at least one compliment daily. It can be to a person, or it can be asking someone to share your appreciation of something else ("I love how quiet it is in the morning, don't you?).
  6. When you find yourself in a bad situation, ask "What can I learn? When I look back on this, without emotion, what will I be grateful for?"
  7. Vow not to complain, criticize or gossip for 10 days. If you slip, rally your willpower and keep going. Notice the amount of energy you were spending on negative thoughts and actions.
  8. Sound genuinely happy to hear from the people who call you on the phone. Whether the caller reacts with surprise or delight, he'll know you value speaking with him.
  9. Become involved in a cause that is important to you. Donate money or time or talent. By joining in, you'll gain greater appreciation for the organization, and it will appreciate you more too.

Always Learning

As life learners, we must be pro-active in seeking out ways to never stop learning. Instead of waiting around for opportunities to teach us the intricacies of life, we can try doing some of the following:

1. Take Online Courses
To further expand your knowledge of your chosen field or know more about subjects not included in your college curriculum, it's a good idea to take online courses. There's a wide range of classes you can enroll in. You can also take refresher courses on topics you have long forgotten. It may be a great way to learn more about a hobby, which wasn't part of what you trained for in college. You may have been an Engineering major, and online courses can finally let you learn more about creative writing.

2. Explore Other Cultures

Spend time traveling outside your comfort zone. It's essential that you have a wider world perspective to be more understanding of people's differences. Meeting people of different nationalities is a great way to widen your horizons as an individual. Try to leave the bounds of your country from time to time to explore what the world has to offer. Traveling doesn't come cheap, but you'll end up gaining experiences that you won't be able to learn or buy anywhere else.

3. Collect Life Skills

In college, we can be so busy learning about our field that we neglect everything else. Life skills sound so basic that you can think you don't need to spend time learning them. Life skills are called such because they are essential in our everyday lives. We don't always have to call the plumber when the sink is broken. We can't call our father every time the roof starts leaking. These skills might seem elementary, but they can help us save money and make us more dependable individuals.

4. Learn From Others' Mistakes

Any sensible person knows that one of the steps of growing up is learning from one's own mistakes. Take all the lessons you've acquired in all your years on earth, and use them as wisdom to discern what you can learn from other people's experiences. Life is really too short to only depend on what we can learn from what we go through. Sometimes, we also need to observe other people's daily lives and take every nugget of wisdom we can get from them.

As humans, we must move forward and learn every lesson we can with an open mind. There's no better way to live than to take and create opportunities and turn them into learning experiences.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Successful Workers: 10 Things The Best Employees Do Differently

from the Huffington Post . . .

Every office has employees who are, simply put, more successful than everyone else. Sometimes we love them, sometimes we hate them, but for the most part, we all hope we can be just like them.
Being successful and productive at your job doesn't only make you happier, but it also helps motivate others around you. And while we may get annoyed at employees who seem to have everything go their way, often their success reflects their characteristics.
"There was a time when success was measured by the title you held at work, the size of your home or the make of your car," says Sheryl Connelly, expert on global consumer trends and futuring for Ford Motor Company in Canada.  "But it seems society has been moving away from these traditional markers of success and making way for much more individual expressions of success."

Connelly says these days it doesn't matter how much money you have in your bank account (which for most part is still the biggest determinant of success), but rather what makes employees proud or happy, connected to others and the feeling of having work life balance.
While some may argue that a work-life balance does not exist, Connelly says this can be measured by work, play and loving what you do on a personal level.

Whether you're a full-time worker, part-time worker, intern or a volunteer at an organization, showing initiative and passion for what you do will help you in the long run — from getting a promotion to landing a full-time job.
So what is it that makes successful people stand out? Why does it seem like everything always goes in their favor? Here are Connelly's 10 rules on how to be more successful at what you do.
They Are Introspective 

Successful employees know how to be introspective. It can be easy to see the strengths and weaknesses of other people you work with, but it's always harder to critique ourselves. If you're having trouble figuring out how you can improve at your workplace, ask a close co-worker or your manager for an honest review.

They Are Open-Minded 

You may sit in a closed-off cubicle all day, but don't let this stop you from meeting and mingling with people in your office. Employees who are successful at what they do are more likely to have work-related and non-work related conversations with people around them.

They Are Proactive 

This may be a given, but people who excel in their workplace know how to get things done. Instead of just doing the day-to-day tasks, they often go above and beyond of what they're asked to do.

They Are Aware Of The Outside World 

Not only do they keep up with local and national trends related to their careers, they're also tapped into global trends. Grab a global trend magazine and do a little bit of reading or research over the weekend.

They're Always On

Ask them a question or their thoughts on an issue at the office and they'll give you an answer right on the spot. Because they're fully invested in their jobs, they know both the pros and cons.

They're Advocates 

Often, people who are successful at the office don't just speak up for themselves, but act as advocates for others as well. Raises, benefits or even parental leaves are all issues they can advise you on.

They Are Genuine 

They understand the importance of keeping their managers and customers happy. When it comes to getting work done, successful people are always honest.

They Are Passionate 

They love what they do. Period. Successful employees wake up every morning loving what they do more and more. These people not only value their jobs, but realize how much they love doing them.

They Are Bold 

Successful employees understand the meaning of being bold at the office. To be bold at your office, try writing down a list of things you could accomplish if failing didn't exist and take a jab at them.

They Know How To Motivate Others 

They may seem like they have everything together and for the most part, they do. Not only are they great at their own jobs but they use their skills to help motivate their fellow colleagues.

Financial Building Blocks

from the US Financial Literacy and Education Commission

Making the most of your money starts with five building blocks for managing and growing your money -- The MyMoney Five. Keep these five principles in mind as you make day-to-day decisions and plan your financial goals.


The Earn principle is about more than the amount you are paid through work.  This principle is about knowing the fine print and details about your paycheck, including deductions and withholdings.  To put it another way:  In order to make the most of what you earn, it helps to understand your pay and benefits. 

Actions You Can Take

·         Learn about the details of your paycheck, including any deductions.
·         Review the taxes that are withheld, including Social Security and Medicare taxes.
·         Explore and sign up for workplace benefits.
·         Invest in your future – with education and training.

Save and Invest

Saving is a key principle. People who make a habit of saving regularly, even saving small amounts, are well on their way to success.  It’s important to open a bank or credit union account so it will be simple and easy for you to save regularly.   Then, use your savings to plan for life events and to be ready for unplanned or emergency needs.
Actions You Can Take

·         Start saving, form a savings habit, and pay yourself first!
·         Open and keep an account at a bank or credit union that meets your needs.
·         Track your savings and investments, and monitor what you own.
·         Plan for short-term and long-term goals.
·         Build up emergency savings for unexpected events.
·         Consult with a qualified professional on investments and other key financial matters.
·         Save for retirement, children’s education and other major items.


The Protect principle means taking precautions about your financial situation. It stresses the importance of accumulating savings in case of an emergency, and buying insurance. Be vigilant about identity theft, and keep aware of your credit record and the credit score.

Actions You Can Take

·         Keep your financial records in order.
·         Watch out for fraud and scams, and protect your identity.
·         Choose insurance to meet your needs, including health care insurance.


The fundamental concept of Spend is: make a budget or a plan for using your money wisely. It’s helpful to set short and long-term financial goals and manage your money to meet them. 

Actions You Can Take

·         Live within your means.
·         Be a smart shopper, and compare prices and quality.
·         Track your spending habits and develop a budget or spending plan.
·         Plan for short-term and long-term financial goals.


Sometimes it’s necessary to borrow for major purchases like an education , a car, a house, or maybe even to meet unexpected expenses. Your ability to get a loan generally depends on your credit history, and that depends largely on your track record at repaying what you’ve borrowed in the past and paying your bills on time.  So, be careful to keep your credit history strong.

Actions You Can Take

·         Track your borrowing habits.
·         Pay your bills on time.
·         When you need to borrow, be sure to plan, understand and shop around for a loan with a low Annual Percentage Rate (APR).
·         Learn about credit and how to use it effectively.
·         Pay attention to your credit history, as reflected by your credit score and on your credit report. 

For more information, visit

Sunday, July 19, 2015

4 Steps to a Healthy Lifestyle

By Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD 

Think you're leading a healthy lifestyle? Aside from occasionally veering off the path, most of us think we do a fair job of maintaining our health with good (or at least OK) eating habits and physical activity whenever we manage to fit it in. But is that enough to be considered "healthy?"

According to a recent study, very few adults actually meet the criteria for a healthy lifestyle. The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, showed that only 3% of American adults got a perfect score on what the authors say are the four basic criteria for healthy living. Just 13.8% met three of the criteria; 34.2% met only two criteria. Women scored slightly better than men.

See how well you measure up on the researchers' four keys to healthfulness:
·         Do you smoke?
·         Are you able to maintain a health weight (a BMI of 18-25), or are you successfully losing weight to attain a healthy weight?
·         Do you eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily?
·         Do you exercise 30 minutes or more, 5 times a week?

4 Steps and More
While those four habits are indisputably important for a healthy lifestyle, some may argue that more factors should be taken into consideration. What would be on your list?
Just for fun, I came up with my own personal top 10 list of healthy behaviors (beyond the four basics) that contribute to wellness and satisfaction with one's lifestyle:
·         Brush and floss daily to keep your teeth and gums healthy and free of disease.
·         Get a good night's rest. Well-rested people not only cope better with stress, but may also have better control of their appetites. Research has shown that a lack of sleep can put our "hunger hormones" out of balance -- and possibly trigger overeating.
·         Enjoy regular family meals. This allows parents to serve as good role models, can promote more nutritious eating, and sets the stage for lively conversations. Being connected to family and/or friends is a powerful aspect of a healthy life.
·         Smile and laugh out loud several times a day. It keeps you grounded, and helps you cope with situations that would otherwise make you crazy. Read the comics, watch a sitcom, or tell jokes to bring out those happy feelings.
·         Meditate, pray, or otherwise find solace for at least 10-20 minutes each day. Contemplation is good for your soul, helps you cope with the demands of daily life, and may even help lower your blood pressure.
·         Get a pedometer and let it motivate you to walk, walk, walk. Forget about how many minutes of activity you need; just do everything you can to fit more steps into your day. No matter how you get it, physical activity can help defuse stress, burn calories, and boost self-esteem.
·         Stand up straight. You'll look 5 pounds lighter if you stand tall and tighten your abdominal muscles. Whenever you walk, think "tall and tight" to get the most out of the movement.
·         Try yoga. The poses help increase strength and flexibility and improve balance. These are critical areas for older folks especially, and both men and women can benefit.
·         Power up the protein. This nutrient is an essential part of your eating plan, and can make up anywhere from 10%-35% of your total calories. Protein lasts a long time in your belly; combine it with high-fiber foods and you'll feel full on fewer calories. Enjoy small portions of nuts, low-fat dairy, beans, lean meat, poultry, or fish.
·         Last but not least, have a positive attitude. Do your best to look at life as if "the glass is half full." You must believe in yourself, have good support systems, and think positively ("I think I can, I think I can…") to succeed.

It's All about You

Your list of healthy lifestyle behaviors may be different from mine. The most important thing to remember is that you can make a difference in your health and well-being. Take charge of your life, and be mindful of small behavior changes that can make your lifestyle a healthier one.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

10 Steps to Growing a Productive Vegetable Garden

Few gardening endeavors are as enjoyable or rewarding as growing your own vegetables. The pure pleasure of strolling through your garden as you harvest tomatoes, beans, cucumbers and the like for that day’s meal is only heightened by the knowledge that you’re experiencing the freshest, most flavorful and nutritious produce nature can create.

Growing vegetables isn’t all that different from other types of gardening. However, there is less room for mistakes. Successful vegetable gardening is about consistency – making sure growing conditions are properly maintained for the entire growing season. Let plants go dry just for a little while, or forget to fertilize, and you may sacrifice a large portion of your harvest.

Follow these 10 steps to help you enjoy the bounty of a productive vegetable garden:

1. Choose locally adapted varieties. Not all vegetable varieties grow well in all areas. Ask your local nursery or cooperative extension office which varieties are best for where you live. There may be varieties that resist diseases specific to your area, or that produce better crops under your climate conditions.

2. Plant at the right time of year. Seed packets generally state the proper time to plant. In some areas planting windows are very narrow and you must hit them fairly precisely for a bountiful harvest. In other areas, you can plant several times over the summer and maintain a longer harvest season. Your local nursery or cooperative extension office is the best source for local planting dates.

3. Prepare the soil properly before planting. Work in generous amounts of organic matter such as compost or composted manure. If you don’t use composted manure, which already contains nitrogen, also work in a complete fertilizer.

4. Plant properly. Sow seed at the proper depth and space, following directions on seed packets. Vegetables planted too closely together will produce poorly. If you’re planting transplants, take care not to set them too deeply or the stems may rot – use your trowel to dig a hole just deep enough so that the top of the root ball is level with the surface of the ground.

5. Water consistently. Maintain even soil moisture so plants do not dry out, but don’t over-water. Water deeply, then give the soil time to dry partially before watering again. Inconsistent watering will reduce yields in most vegetables, and make others – like cucumbers and lettuce – taste bitter. Installing a drip irrigation system connected to an automatic timer is your best bet.

6. Fertilize regularly. Maintaining vigorous growth is very important with almost all vegetables. Most should be fed with a nitrogen fertilizer at least every 4 to 6 weeks. However, be careful not to over-fertilize, which can cause some vegetables, especially tomatoes, to produce less.

7. Mulch. A 2- to 3-inch layer of organic matter applied over the roots of your vegetable plants will cool the soil, reduce weeds, and help prevent soil moisture fluctuations that ruin quality.

8. Eliminate weeds. Weeds compete with vegetables for water, nutrients and sunlight, thus reducing yields. Pull weeds by hand and cultivate the soil frequently to keep them to a minimum.

9. Harvest often. Many vegetables, especially beans, squash, peppers and cucumbers, will stop producing if not harvested frequently. Pick every few days. If you can’t eat all you gather, share with friends or neighbors.

10. Control insect pests. Many insects enjoy fresh vegetables as much as you do. Always keep an eye open for insect damage, and protect your plants with a solution labeled for use on vegetables.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

How to Choose a Water Filter

There are many reasons that you may want to filter your water. Maybe you don’t like the chemicals used by municipal treatment plants. Perhaps you want a back-up plan in case of an emergency.
Regardless of WHY you want to filter your water, knowing how to choose a water filter before you invest your hard-earned money just makes sense.
Why Filter Water?
Even the clearest stream may be full of invisible protozoa, bacteria and viruses that can make you sick or even kill you. Never assume that any water source is safe just because it looks clean; most of the contaminants in water are too small to see with your eyes.
Even if it comes straight from your tap, your water may still contain harmful contaminants. Many water treatment facilities were built so long ago that they’re just not equipped to filter water properly. Pipes get old and leak and the sheer mass of pollution produced by a large city can overwhelm an aging system.
Also, many cities add fluoride to your water. The potential dangers of fluoride are a source of controversy, so many people don’t want to drink fluoridated water.
If disaster should strike, water services may go down or something may happen to make your tap water unsafe. You may even have to depend upon other sources of water to survive.
In the event of a radioactive event, the water won’t be safe to drink. In these cases you absolutely MUST filter and purify your water before you drink it.
What’s the Difference Between Water Filtration and Water Purification?
You need to understand the difference here because it’s critical to your decision. There are three types of disease-causing pathogens in water, not counting minerals and pharmaceuticals:
  • Bacteria: Some examples that you’ve probably heard of are E. coli and salmonella. There are many more and, so that you know what filter to look for, they can be as small as 0.1 microns, though a 1-micron filter will capture 99.9% of bacteria.
  • Protozoan Cysts: these are hardy little “eggs” that have an extremely hard shell. The only way to kill them is by boiling them but they can be filtered out. Examples include Giardia and Cryptosporidium. They range in size from 1-300 microns.
  • Viruses: Right now, these are rarely found in American or Canadian waters but that could change quickly in case of a disaster. Viruses include hepatitis A and rotavirus and range in size from 0.005-1 micron. Only purification by some means can remove these from the water; filters won’t work because the viruses are so small.
Here are the different water filtration units commonly available:
  • Standard water filters filter out sediment, Giardia and other large protozoa and some bacteria that may be in the water.
  • Micro filters remove most microorganisms including bacteria and protozoa. You’ll still need to add a disinfectant to kill viruses. They also often remove most toxic heavy metals such as lead and fluoride.
  • Water purifiers remove all microorganisms from the water, including viruses but they may not remove debris such as dirt. They may come in the form of tablets or liquid such as iodine or bleach. Distillation, boiling and desalination processes also purify water.
As you can see, there’s a big difference here. Most water filters nowadays are micro filters. Just read the micron size on the box or in the advertisement to make sure that the filter is made of material that will filter the water based upon your needs.
Thanks to modern technology and good old fashioned common sense, there are many different types of water filters and purifiers on the market.
You should consider, at the very least, using a micro filter that’s no larger than 1 micron: that will eliminate about 99.9% of the bacteria in the water. Many micro filters start at .2 microns. Of course, viruses are still an issue but there are other alternatives to that.
What Type Of Water Filtration are You Looking For?
This is a major factor in deciding what type of filter is best.
Home Filtration Units
If you want to filter water for your entire house, we recommend using a point-of-entry system or a point-of-delivery system. The latter is going to be much cheaper and just as effective. We recommend using a reverse osmosis (RO) or distillation system if you want to filter out everything.
You can pick a really good RO system up for under the sink for about $200. The filters are about $20 but you’ll also see a hike in your water bill.
Reverse osmosis filters out the clean water and pours the excess water, or brine, down the drain. Most systems lose about 3 gallons of brine to get one gallon of fresh water.
Many people adjust for this by re-routing the brine to a bucket that they use for watering plants or other uses that don’t require purified water.
You can also get standard carbon or ceramic filter units that are just about as good as reverse osmosis, though they don’t filter out viruses and some heavy metals. Some do come with chemical components that take care of the viral worries, though.
Refrigeration Units
You probably already know about these and may even have one in your fridge. It’s a carbon or ceramic filtration unit that holds anywhere from a quart to several gallons of filtered water. They’re great for improving the taste of your water and removing particulates, bacteria, heavy metals and most protozoa.
Portable Units
These consist of water bottles and survival pieces such as straws that allow you to drink directly from the water source because they filter out impurities, bacteria and some heavy metals as you drink. Most don’t filter out viruses though. 
There are also portable bags that purify by using the UV rays in sunlight. They’re light and take up very little space; in fact, the Life Sack, currently used to purify water in 3rd world countries, doubles as a grain delivery package that is then used as a water purifier. It even has a 15nm water filtration unit at the point of exit.
Desalination Units
These units turn salt water into drinkable water while also removing bacteria, protozoa, heavy metals, most prescription meds and even viruses.
Basically, the type of water filter that you need depends upon what you need it for. Before starting your search, ask yourself these questions:
  • Do you want a system for your house or one that’s portable?
  • What do you want to use the filter for (whole house, drinking/cooking, survival)?
  • If you want a portable one, how much space and weight can you allow?
  • Compare what the filter removes to what you want it to remove (what is the micron rating?)
  • How long does the filter last?
  • Can you clean or easily replace the filter?
  • How much clean water does the filter produce daily compared to what you need?
  • How much water does the filter waste?
  • How difficult is the filter to use or install?
  • How much are you willing or able to spend?
Once you answer these questions, you’ll have a better idea of what type of water filter or purifier that you need.