The Danger of Distracted Driving

Highway at nightI recognized the small truck right away. The logo on the vehicle’s door represented a local company that I respected. One that I had done business with in the past. Driving next to the pick-up on a two lane highway outside of town, we were stopped by a red light in adjacent lanes. The sun had set over an hour earlier. Even though it was dark, the light from a cellphone clasped in the hands of a young female driver illuminated the truck’s cab. Her long hair obscured most of her face, because she was glancing down glued to her cellphone screen instead of the road in front of her. Not only that, but when the light turned green, mesmerized by a text or Facebook post, she didn’t move.

After driving about a half mile down the 50 mph highway, I looked in my rearview mirror concerned that she would get hit from behind. The mother in me frantically wanted to warn her to start moving. Thankfully, she finally did. At the next red light, it happened all over again. The distracted girl remained oblivious to her surroundings engrossed in the phone. A second time the truck sat still when the light turned green. This time when I glanced back, the mother in me wanted to take her car keys away.

As a nation, we are justifiably concerned over the possibility of another terrorist attack. Yet in all probability, it’s a driver more interested in their iPhone than safe driving practices that could contribute to our demise. A September Wall Street Journal article reported that traffic fatalities surged 14% (NSC statistics) in the first half of 2015 blamed on more drivers, cheaper gas, catastrophic weather, etc. But famed Berkshire-Hathaway CEO Warren Buffet says that he believes distracted driving could be an “overlooked contributor.”

In reality, we have no idea how many auto collisions occur annually due to our addiction to our phones, especially with the invention of the Smartphone. According to a USA Today article last year, “Cellphone use causes one in four car accidents” by Gabrielle Kratsas. “The [2014 edition] of National Safety Council’s annual injury and fatality report, “Injury Facts,” found that the use of cellphones… [caused] 26% of the nation’s car accidents, a modest increase from the previous year.”Directions

Although this report doesn’t include all the incidents where drivers did not divulge that they were on their phones. For example, can you imagine anyone reporting, “I was on my cellphone not paying any attention when I plowed into your vehicle.” Nor did “Injury Facts” name texting as the primary culprit, since in 95% of the cases investigated, drivers were using hand-held or hand-free cellphones.

Fourteen states currently ban hand-held cellphone use while driving, but Ohio is not one. If we are honest, most of us have difficulty doing more than one task at a time. Especially, when that task involves use of a cellphone while travelling 70 plus miles an hour on the interstate. It’s not just at high rates of speed either. How many times have you been stopped at a red light when you observe a preoccupied motorist like the girl in the company truck? It’s even more frightening to be moving along and spot another driver’s neck in the downward dog yoga position fixated on their phone.

End of Road signNot long ago, driving a car was a privilege that came with weighty societal responsibility. Today, young drivers are at increased risk due to their lack of experience. The CDC reports that “they have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.” But older drivers are guilty too. Distracted driving includes: cellphone use, texting, applying makeup, programming a GPS, eating, arguing with a passenger, etc. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that, “In 2013, 3,154 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver…an additional 424,000 people were injured.” If you’ve ever fought your way back to health following a serious wreck, you realize that those numbers represent countless individuals whose lives have been severely impacted by someone else’s possibly careless behavior.

We all want to use our Smartphones, so many of us are contributing unnecessarily to the problem by looking the other way. There are Ohio laws against texting, but the National Safety Council advises folks who want to be part of the solution to “Support Cellphone distracted driving legislation… for bills banning cell phone use-handheld and [even] hands-free-while driving.” This might seem a little drastic, but what would be a good solution to stop distracted driving?

Christina DrivingChristina Ryan Claypool is an award-winning freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com. 

 

 

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Supporting the American Dream

white wickerIt begins with a dream. Then you add venture capital probably equating to all the money you have, plus borrowing from a host of other sources. You add heart and soul, and more courage than most people could ever imagine. After that you work grueling hours on a daily basis, and finally you end up with a small business. “Forty percent of consumers say they will seek out small businesses to support their community,” wrote David Chaverns, CEO of the Newspaper Association of America in a recent editorial. In my own heart, I have a special place for aspiring entrepreneurs, because I was once one of them. Like approximately 70 percent of small business owners, my former resale store in Lima, Ohio, was a sole proprietorship. “A sole proprietorship is basically an unincorporated business owned and run by one individual (no partners are involved)…,” according to Caron Beesley in a 2013 Small Business Association blog post.

“Someday, I’m going to have a store when I grow up,” I absentmindedly told my grandmother when I was a little girl.  I didn’t remember this significant statement, until I was a thirty-something single mom working 12 hour days and up to my eyeballs in debt in my own retail establishment. Grandma, who was the store’s employee of the month every month, because she worked for free, reminded me of my childhood vision on a particularly discouraging day. What I do vividly remember is my first experience with another store proprietor. The middle-aged lady was a family friend who owned an antique shop in my hometown. When I was about 11-years-old, the generous owner allowed me to choose a gift from some of the more moderately priced collectibles in her inventory.

For a couple hours, I walked up and down the crowded aisles of the shop contemplating which treasure to select. At first, she and my grandmother seemed amused by my indecision, but then they both grew impatient. Still, everything looked extraordinarily beautiful, because the colorful glass items sparkled in the sunlight of the store’s windows. To their relief, I finally picked a ruby red vase to take home with me. That vase started what eventually became a collection of ruby red glass, but more importantly, I had been bitten by the small business bug. For me, being a shopkeeper became my idea of the American dream. Besides, I had been raised in a family of small business owners.

Shopping Good FridayIn 2010, to raise awareness American Express came up with the idea to create Small Business Saturday, which has become an annual event celebrated on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. “The 28 million small businesses in America account for 54% of all U.S. sales,” reports the Small Business Association website, but they need our support all year long, not just on one day. Although this column isn’t an indictment of big box stores, because sometimes our budgets necessitate shopping based solely on price or availability.

Yet my version of the American dream was the ability to own and operate a vintage/thrift shop, and I was blessed to fulfill that vision. In 1931, James Truslow wrote that his idea of the American dream was “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” These words are found in his book, “The Epic of America.” The www.investopedia.com definition is “The belief that anyone, regardless of where they were born or what class they were born into, can attain their own version of success…The American dream is achieved through sacrifice, risk-taking and hard work, not by chance.”

At the end of our lives, for most of us there will be opportunities that we will be grateful for, and missed opportunities that we will regret. Although I never became rich owning a resale shop, I will be forever thankful that I was once part of the small business community. My little store started with a leap of faith, and ended almost seven years later with an unceremonious “Going out of Business Sale.” Still, the memories of my wonderful customers, and the countless lessons learned there cause me to never forget the small business owners striving each day to live their own American dream. Whenever financially possible, let’s show these hard-working citizens our support, and keep this dream alive for generations to come.

 

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The Healing Power of an Apology for a Wronged World War II Vet

Whenever Veteran’s Day draws near, I am reminded of the story of Samuel Snow who believed an apology was important enough to wait more than six decades to receive one. In July of 2008, a then 84-year-old Snow traveled across the nation to accept a formal apology and an honorable discharge from the United States Army. According to media reports just hours later, the World War II veteran from Leesburg, Florida, died in a Seattle hospital.

“My dad has been standing in formation all these years, waiting to have his name cleared. With the Army’s honorable discharge, he was at ease…and he went home,” said Ray Snow, son of the late soldier in a released statement after his father’s death.

On American Soil In 1944, Samuel Snow was one of twenty-eight black soldiers wrongly convicted of rioting charges resulting in the death of an Italian prisoner of war. In his book, On American Soil: How Justice Became a Casualty of World War II, author Jack Hamann pointed to “serious flaws” in the prosecution of the case. According to Seattle Times staff reporter, Sandi Doughton, “Hamann championed the cause of the black GIs. His investigation cast suspicion on a white military policeman, now dead, as the prime suspect in the murder of the Italian soldier.”

After Snow’s conviction, he spent 15 months in a military prison and received a dishonorable discharge, which greatly altered his life opportunities. Upon his release, the African American soldier returned to a then segregated Leesburg, and his “dishonorable discharge” became a sort of “death sentence” according to Ray Snow. The senior Snow could only find work as a janitor or handyman following the scandal, but he was a man of deep faith who refused to grow bitter. Although his son who became an elementary teacher in Leesburg said that it became his father’s “mission” to obtain official documentation regarding his innocence.

This tragic tale points to the significance of an apology. Sadly, the ability to admit wrong in life’s lesser matters than the grievous offense Snow suffered has been radically altered by our progressively lawsuit happy world. To explain, blame seems to be readily pronounced in our society, despite motivation or intent in many situations. That’s why fear can keep an individual or organization from assuming responsibility for a mistake or error, because it could result in life-altering financial or professional consequences. Still, a sincere request for forgiveness can be an influential tool in mending any rift. Besides validating the offended party, it can also set the perpetrator free of the guilt that wrongdoing intended or unintended can create. Yet when the words, “I’m sorry,” are said, it appears to matter a great deal how they are delivered.

That’s why the method we use to apologize can contribute to whether the apology will5 Languages of Apology be accepted according to the classic book, The Five Languages of Apology. Co-authored by Dr. Gary Chapman who also wrote the New York Times bestseller, The Five Love Languages, the book’s cover explains that, “Sometimes, saying, ‘I’m sorry’ just isn’t enough.” Chapman and co-author Dr. Jennifer Thomas believe that there are people who have been wronged who need to hear the offender not only confess regret, but also accept responsibility for their actions. Along with accountability, there is the act of “making restitution” by asking, “What can I do to make it right?” This might also be necessary, if it is the injured individual’s language of apology according Chapman and Thomas.

For Snow, a 2002 verbal apology by an Army major general just wasn’t enough. That’s why the elderly man traveled from his Florida home to Seattle with his son in July 2008 to attend the ceremony honoring him and the 27 other falsely accused GIs posthumously, because all but one other soldier had died. Snow refused to let questionable health prevent him from making the historic trip. Unfortunately, the aged veteran was hospitalized in Seattle and unable to attend. His son went instead. Returning to his dad’s hospital room, Ray presented his father with the framed honorable discharge from the ceremony. Reports say the falsely convicted man held the official plaque in his arms, clutched it to his heart, and smiled. With his dignity finally restored, he died just hours later. Like every dedicated soldier with his mission accomplished, I’m hopeful that Samuel angel grave marker'Snow is now resting in peace enjoying a hero’s reward. But I wish I could extend the same gratitude to him that every military man or woman deserves to hear, “Thank you for your service!”

 

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com

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Keeping Safe at the Cinema

photo (19)The movie theater has historically been a place of mindless escape where one can exchange everyday reality for a dramatic get-away complete with a bucket of buttery pop corn. Lately, it’s not as enjoyable. I’ve been wondering how many other folks feel a little anxious, since James Holmes made history killing 12 people during a shooting rampage in a Colorado theater in 2012. During a midnight viewing of a Batman movie, Holmes opened fire on the defenseless patrons injuring 70 others. Recently, the verdict of life in prison without parole for the infamous shooter was handed down by a jury that failed to agree on the death penalty. There was never any question about Holmes being guilty, because he surrendered at the scene. According to an AP article by reporter Sadie Gurman, “The trial hinged instead on the question of whether a mentally ill person should be held legally and morally culpable of an act of unspeakable violence.”

Don’t feel safe now that Holmes is locked up forever, because just this past July in Lafayette, Louisiana, three people including the gunman were killed at Grand Theater. Nine others were injured during the showing of the movie, Trainwreck. Within three years, the third scene of a theater attack occurred in Antioch, Tennessee, early this August when a man armed with a pellet gun and hatchet went on a rampage. Thankfully, the gunman was the only fatality being killed by the rapidly-responding SWAT team. Three patrons were treated for pepper spray unleashed by the assailant with another victim receiving a minor hatchet injury.  These incidents point to one simple truth: a movie theater like a school, mall, church, or even a military recruiting office can be an easy target for an assault. Yet let’s not permit a few violently inclined perpetrators to close down theaters. Instead let’s do what cutting-edge organizations have done and beef up security measures. First, we could bring law-enforcement and first responders to the table to glean their wisdom about the best safety scenario.Movie 3-D

There are also some common-sense steps a theater could take. For example, patrons would have to allow theater employees to search a purse or any bag carried in. Regal Entertainment Group, the country’s largest theater chain recently announced that this is a procedure they have implemented. According to their Website: http://www.regmovies.com/Theatres/Admittance-Procedures, “Security issues have become a daily part of our lives in America. Regal Entertainment Group wants our customers and staff to feel comfortable and safe when visiting or working in our theatres. To ensure the safety of our guests and employees, backpacks and bags of any kind are subject to inspection prior to admission. We acknowledge that this procedure can cause some inconvenience and that it is not without flaws, but hope these are minor in comparison to increased safety ”

Perceptive individuals will readily understand when they are asked to open their purse or bag for inspection. Already underpaid theater personnel don’t need patrons protesting over their rights to privacy when they are trying to ensure their safety. Metal detectors could also be installed at the entrance, and after purchasing a ticket moviegoers would step through it. If the detector beeps, be ready for a pat down just like at the airport. Some weapons can’t be detected, although anyone suspicious could be reported. Panic buttons could be installed to alert authorities about emergencies, and security personnel could be hired. Sadly, this might increase the already escalating ticket price, but keeping folks safe is worth the cost. A very informative article – https://variety.com/2015/film/news/moviegoers-half-pay-extra-theater-security-study-1201571615/ for Variety by Brent Lang, film and media reporter states that movie goers will be willing to pay more for security, but there’s a catch. “However, their appetite for shouldering the extra costs that come with installing metal detectors and armed security guards lessens as the pricetag grows higher. While 48% are fine with paying $1 or more for the additional measures, only 23% said they would pay $2 or more, according to a new survey by consumer research firm C4,” writes Lang.

Times are changing, and admittedly the world can be a randomly dangerous place. Yet it’s our job to live with awareness, not paranoia. So, let’s not stop going to the movies, let’s just be safer when we do.

 

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The Etiquette of Personal Technology 101

Technology warning small fileIf you are young person today, there are probably a lot of things that annoy you. If you are not young, then you have to understand that over the last decade the word, “annoy” has taken on a whole new meaning. At first, I was intrigued by the way a teenager angry at their parents, teacher, or a peer could say, “They are so annoying,” and make it sound like a degrading profanity. If you listen closely, you will find that some teens find most of life’s frustrating circumstances “annoying” like having to do homework, clean their room, or even a bad hair day.

That’s why I thought the word, “annoy” so aptly describes how I felt some years ago when attending a meeting with hundreds of college students, and one very renowned speaker. This man had traveled countless miles to address the group hoping to impart some of the wisdom that he had learned on his life’s journey. Unfortunately, many undergraduates in attendance that day probably didn’t hear a word he said. After all, they were really busy. Earbuds were everywhere, with most students either engaged with an electronic device, or else frantically texting on their cell phones.

It was like a technology zoo in the auditorium that morning and all the battery powered caged animals were running amuck. The seventy-something speaker initially looked confused as he tried without success to gain the attention of his audience. Then I sensed his frustration and irritation realizing that he was being, “dissed.”

“Dissed,” might have just caused your internal spell check to turn code red, but it’s now accepted in mainstream usage. According to the Urban Dictionary “being dissed is the act of being disconnected, by voice or by modem from another party.” Another definition from the same source, says that “dissing someone is showing disrespect to them.”

Bottom-line, an alarming percentage of the learners gathered had opted to listen to another source of technological input, cutting off the speaker’s ability to be heard. The presenter finally seemed “annoyed” himself, and finished his talk rather abruptly and somewhat disheartened. I wondered what happened to the age-old principle to “listen when someone is speaking.” Or what about the etiquette rule of turning off technology when a meeting begins?

6353664 - CopyI was more than annoyed; I was truly heartbroken, concerned that these bright students were a precursor of the future. This topic is personal for me, because I’ve had to battle ongoing distractions as a public speaker for the past two decades. I’ve talked through screaming babies, women filing their nails, teenagers looking bored to death, and ringing cell phones. It’s difficult to explain away distracting phones, yet I have always comforted myself with the knowledge that the mom of the screaming baby or the woman manicuring her nails might need to hear what I’m saying. Same way, with a seemingly uninterested teen, since many times, hurting adolescents are listening intently but have to act bored for fear of being labeled uncool.

My school administrator husband whom I affectionately refer to as “Mr. Rules,” was visibly disappointed when I reported the technology frenzy of that morning’s event. He mumbled the word, “confiscate,” which I have since learned is what most K-12 public school policy dictates when students are using cell phones or technology inappropriately. Sadly, this policy was obviously not in place in the post-secondary gathering which I attended. Since the most distressing part is that the elderly speaker was African American, and his audience was comprised of about 95 percent Caucasian college kids. This eloquent orator had a culturally diverse message that those young people needed to hear. He might think he was disrespected due to his age or race.

But the truth is that many students were just too obsessed with their electronic devices to pay much attention.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Famous civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem.”

The problem is that the development of technological devices has rapidly exceeded the rules for their use. Maybe universities could create a course entitled, “The Etiquette of Personal Technology 101,” which we all could benefit from.

Christina Ryan Claypool is an award-winning freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her Website at www.christinaaryanclaypool.com

 

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DD Awareness and a post office miracle

post_office_logo_30285Who would ever expect to find a miracle at the post office? About a decade ago, I did. While waiting in line there, it seems common practice to act somewhat aloof, distracted, and hurried. There is also an unspoken etiquette about children staying with their parents and not addressing strangers.

Late one afternoon, a young mom with three small charges was blatantly breaking all these rules by allowing her kids to run free. Well, at least two of them were enjoying freedom as she precariously perched a chubby infant on the counter. Then she spent what seemed like an inordinate amount of time discussing her mailing needs with the postal clerk.

This mom appeared oblivious to the lobby full of customers and to her approximately 4-year-old girl, who was constantly checking on another sibling hiding under one of the mailing tables. When I say, “hiding,” that’s not exactly accurate. From where I was standing, I couldn’t see the young boy, but I could hear his voice beckon to each new customer who would come within range.

“Hi Buddy, how are you?” the boyish voice would call aggressively. Some folks ignored the voice, while others would bend down and answer the child’s question. If they didn’t answer, the voice would become more insistent. I wondered why this mother didn’t tell her son that he was defying post office etiquette, and that he should leave these busy adults to their hectic world of personal thoughts.

As the minutes passed, I drew closer to the table. Although the child still wasn’t visible, I glanced at the burly middle-aged man with soiled coveralls who was about to be the boy’s next victim. I thought to myself, Mom, you really need to intervene. This stoic looking factory worker is in no mood to deal with your ill-mannered child.

Too late. “Hi, Buddy, how are you?” It must have been the 20th time I had heard that statement. The boy’s tone had become so demanding that instinctively the tired laborer bent down to look under the table. The worker’s indifferent face softened into a smile, and an almost tender, “Hello,” came from his lips. He extended his large callused hand to shake the child’s tiny hand. I couldn’t wait to see this kid who could turn a gruff-looking man into an affectionate puppy.

I didn’t have to wait long, since it was now my turn. Eagerly, I peered under the table unprepared for what I was to see. The boy was about six-years-old, but his smile and the look in his eyes were different from that of other children. He was like my nephew, who is almost thirty, going on three. Instantly, I regretted my harsh judgment of his distracted mother.

disability posterDuring March, our nation observes Developmental Disability Awareness Month, where we note the many accomplishments of the folks that I like to refer to as God’s special children. Their achievements are indeed noteworthy, because they have to overcome countless obstacles, and need the support of the community to succeed.

Diverse groups, including lawmakers, educators, and individuals with disabilities themselves, have been pushing for change and heightened awareness for years. According to the U.S. Library of Medicine online, “Developmental disabilities are severe, long-term problems. They may be physical…[or] may affect mental ability…Or the problem can be both physical and mental, such as Down syndrome.”

Besides those with disabilities, we should remember the sacrifices required from their parents, siblings, extended families, and by those who compassionately care for these precious people. After all, unless you are involved firsthand, it’s impossible to fully understand the daily challenges a disability can present. Especially, in a society that values physique, intellect, and success, there is sometimes little empathy for this vulnerable population.

That’s why, even though the progress made in acknowledging the rights and accomplishments of individuals with disabilities is exciting, we can’t forget to applaud the parents and families who devote so much for the betterment of their loved ones. In addition, a hearty societal “thank you” to all of the dedicated workers, educators, and professionals, who spend their lives caring for God’s special children.

For the beautiful song, “Sometimes Miracles Hide” about being the parents of a child with a disability by Christian musician, Bruce Carroll, please click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgZvax0NKSg 

Christina Ryan Claypool is an Amy award-winning journalist. Her Website is www.christinaryanclaypool.com

 

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Poverty Simulation and the Banana Nut Bread Christmas

Christmas Tiny TimThat holiday season three decades ago, “…was the best of times, [and] it was the worst of times…” as Charles Dickens once wrote. The best of times, because we were healthy, the worst, because as a single mom I found myself part of the U.S. poverty statistic.

This memory came flooding back on Wednesday, November 19, 2014, when I participated in the C.O.P.E. (Cost of Poverty Experience) hosted by Edison Community College’s Academy for Community Leadership on the Piqua campus. According to the college’s Website, “C.O.P.E. is a powerful simulation that has been used to help many organizations and communities across the nation work more effectively with low-income families and understand the issues of poverty more comprehensively.”

The U.S. Census Bureau now estimates that “over fifteen percent of the American population lives below the poverty line.”  Since I was once part of this statistic, I was unsure that the simulation would result in a greater personal understanding of the tragic plight of millions of Americans. However, it reminded me that poverty can be really tricky, because the destitution and shame it produces silence you. Once your voice is gone, you can give in to apathy and hopelessness.

I was also wrong about not needing a refresher course on what scarcity feels like. Through the years, I have been blessed with financial stability, and had forgotten the frantic tension that not having enough money for monthly bills, rent, food, or even diapers can produce within a family unit. It all came rushing back that icy morning, while engaged in the free event which was funded through the CareSource Foundation and conducted by the Think Tank.

I also remembered the daunting challenge of finding sufficient employment, which countless Americans continue to face. Unemployment statistics can be misleading, because there are individuals of all ages who have fallen off the unemployment rolls and are no longer accounted for. In addition, the underemployed are another marginalized group trying to make ends meet on a less than livable income.

Besides, the daily struggle, Christmas is coming for this economically endangered population. Thankfully, many communities take note of the needs of those less fortunate during this season believing the Biblical viewpoint that, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” especially where children are concerned.Christmas Single Mom

Yet even when your financial situation is rocky, Christmas comes with the human expectation that one should celebrate by giving to others. That’s when my mind recalled my own plight as a young single mother on welfare living in a government-subsidized apartment, despite a newly acquired college degree. I was ashamed of betraying my hard-fought dream of becoming a middle-class citizen through higher education. After months of sending out resume after resume during the recession of the early eighties, there was still no career prospect on the horizon.

Wanting to give presents to my loved ones is how the banana nut bread Christmas came to be. Not blessed with much domestic talent, I surprised myself that winter by mastering a recipe for banana nut bread.

I got a couple boxes of Bisquick, nuts, some reduced over-ripe bananas perfect for baking, and a dented box of foil from a food salvage store. Loaf after loaf of golden brown bread baked in my little apartment oven in borrowed loaf pans. Then once the delicious smelling bread cooled, I wrapped it in seasonally appropriate, silver (aluminum) foil and tied a festive red bow around it. Admittedly, the nuts in the nut bread were quite sparse, due to my budget.

Since, “It [really] is more blessed to give than to receive,” giving homemade banana nut bread as presents to family and friends gave me special joy. I had beaten the recession Grinch who had tried to steal Christmas.

When one is able to give something – anything – hope arises in the midst of lack. Hope for a brighter future and better life!

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her Website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com . This column was originally published in the Sidney Daily News and the Piqua Daily Call.

 

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Tips for having a Great Garage Sale!

Garage Sale signHow many garage sale enthusiasts do we have out there? Spring, summer, and early fall, signs advertise them everywhere. Like a lot of folks, I enjoy finding a useful bargain among another individual’s discarded treasures. Take the morning when I snagged a really good deal on a Black & Decker hedge trimmer. No more 20-year-old manual clippers for me.

The friendly gray-haired gentlemen who sold me the bright orange trimmers even gave me a brief tutorial on how to not dismember my digits (cut my fingers off) before I handed him my $10 bill. Honestly though, I thought the electric cord came with them so I was a little dismayed when he unplugged the trimmers and detached the cord after my lesson. I mildly protested but no way was he throwing it in.

As for electrical items, as a buyer, it’s always the best policy to test them before you purchase. I know as a seller, you are probably being impeccably honest when you say you just used your toaster, blow dryer, or TV set lately, and that it works great. Yet sadly, there are unscrupulous people who deceive naïve shoppers everyday. Once this happens, you usually learn to ask to see the electrical item at work. After all, there are no return policies on second-hand bargains.

As for having a garage sale, you can host a successful sale which requires a bit of work, or you can just muddle through. For example, most of us yard sale fanatics really appreciate order and stated prices. When we enter a garage filled with stuff haphazardly heaped on tables or strewn all over the floor without price tags, often we leave without buying much.garage-sale-clip-art-ir5kuc9o

Tip #1  It’s too much work to dig through a pile of junk when one has no idea what’s in that pile or how much the stuff costs. Now, if you make everything one price and group clothing in somewhat of a semblance of size and gender that really helps. Although quality apparel needs to be hung with specific price tags, which will garner a higher price. Even though it takes a lot of time, pricing really is the ticket (pun intended) if you want to sell your discarded treasures. That is unless your prices are too high. No matter how much you paid for something, remember it’s used, and you no longer want it. Depreciation can be well over 90 percent or more, especially on clothing articles.

Tip #2 Some garage sale enthusiasts like to barter a bit. Don’t get angry with them for trying to get the best deal, that’s all part of the game. Other individuals might be too timid to ask if you are willing to take less. So, if you see someone who seems interested in something, you might want to casually say, “We are willing to take offers.” Of course, everyone at your sale at that moment will no longer want to pay full price either, so be prepared.

Tip #3 Then there is the importance of advertising. Since I am a freelance newspaper columnist, it might sound like a self-promoting plug to suggest spending a few bucks on a classified ad in your local newspaper. But without marketing your sale will have little chance of success. Those signs that you see posted on street corners are of paramount importance, too. Place as many out there as possible leading to your sale, especially if your address is difficult to find. Listing on Craigslist is a really good idea, but no substitute for a newspaper ad, since many newspapers advertise sales online and with geographic maps.

My subdivision had a community sale this past May, and I enjoyed being part of it even though the temperatures were unseasonably chilly. I didn’t have a lot of items, which is usually best for having a profitable event, but I did have some nice stuff that needed a new home. During those long hours in my garage, it was fun meeting new people who are yard sale fans like me.

GoodwillTip #4 After it was all over, there were still some great items left behind by the numerous pickers. These overlooked possessions can make worthwhile contributions to the community non-profit of your choice. There are local organizations like Goodwill, The Salvation Army, or local church clothing ministries, etc. who really appreciate donations. But a word of caution, if you think an item may be junk, it probably is, and needs to be pitched, not donated. At the end, I was a couple hundred dollars richer. Not a bad way, to clean out the closets.

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Happy 55th Birthday to Barbie

barbieBarbie will turn 55 on March 9th and this year she’s getting more press than ever. Maybe that’s because the iconic Mattel doll made the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue recently.

Although I wasn’t happy about the magazine cover, I do have wonderful Barbie memories. As a young girl growing up in a large financially-struggling family, there wasn’t any money for Barbie outfits. That’s why I vividly recall the delight I experienced when my mother sewed an entire wardrobe for my blonde Barbie on her old Singer Sewing machine. A silver brocade gown was my favorite.

The timeless doll was originally created in 1959 by Ruth Handler, who along with her husband Elliot founded the Mattel Company in 1945 in their garage. According to www.mattel.com, Barbie quickly propelled Mattel to the “forefront of the toy industry” and by 1965 their sales were more than $100 million. In the meantime, Mattel also created the Ken doll in 1961 to serve as Barbie’s one true love.

The idea for Barbie was birthed through the paper cut-out dolls that Ruth’s daughter, who was named Barbara, enjoyed playing with. Just like Barbie, who was named for the Handler’s daughter, Ken was named for their son. Barbie’s friends, the Midge doll (1963) and Skipper (1965) were also added to the line. In 1968, Christie, Barbie’s African American friend was introduced. The company’s website reports that Christie was the “first of many ethnic friends of Barbie, which …include Theresa (1988) and Kira (1990) Barbie Latina and Asian friends.” Ethnic Barbies

Who would have guessed that fifty-five years after her introduction, Barbie would still be inspiring young girls and adult collectors everywhere? Barbie products have included everything from dolls and accessories to jewelry, eyeglass frames, pillows, backpacks, digital items, and even McDonald’s Happy Meal packaging.

For many of us, Barbie has been part of our own history as women. About five years ago, the Mattel doll became even more personal for me. This was due to an elegant woman named Reggie who I met on a cruise ship. This was my one and only cruise, since I spent the whole time being seasick. The sixty-something female accountant practically gushed when she told me that she once represented Mattel’s Barbie to Toronto stores. I was seated next to the blonde French Canadian every night for supper, a meal which I valiantly tried to keep down. We were from different countries, but Barbie had somehow worked her way into our collective hearts. We giggled like school girls as we discussed the doll’s early days and her unprecedented success in the toy market with both of our husbands looking on in quizzical dismay.

Feeling nostalgic, that Christmas I bought my then four-year-old niece a Barbie to start her own collection. However, when I arrived with the present, I found my little red-haired relative carelessly clutching an already naked Barbie who was having an obviously bad hair day from being drug around.

After all, it hasn’t been smooth sailing for Barbie. For example, some folks are deeply concerned about her unrealistic dimensions. The fashion doll’s measurements vary on Internet websites, but would be an approximate 39/36-18/16-33 if she were a real person. Talk about a catalyst for eating disorders and low self-esteem, since young girls and even older females have a difficult enough time accepting their flawed bodies without being faced with Barbie’s unattainable role model.

Photo - Stanford University online

Photo – Stanford University online

Adding the plastic doll to the other models being sexually objectified by Sports Illustrated hasn’t helped either. In explanation, “Swimsuits (and unrealistic body images) were never the same after the first doll rolled off the assembly line in 1959 and this is, after all, Sports Illustrated’s 50th anniversary swimsuit issue..,” according to Cindy Boren in a Feb. 18, 2014, Early Lead column in the Washington Post.

 

After fifty-five years, I do wonder if the female race is better for having known her. For more than five decades, our own body images have been sabotaged by a doll, with an unattainable perfect build that never wrinkles. But we can’t blame Barbie for all of this, or can we?

Apparently, last year’s sales statistics portrayed a decline in Barbie’s popularity, too. In a July 2013 AP article by Mae Anderson for the Associated Press the headline read, “Mattel’s Barbie Sales Plummeting While other Girls Brands Climb.” Maybe that’s why, desperate marketers put her on the cover of a men’s magazine last month.

Well anyway, “Happy 55th Birthday, Barbie!  I still love your perfect little self and treasure my memories, but only time will tell, if you’re here to stay.

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and an inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.   

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Warning: Valentine’s Day is on the Way!

With St. Valentine’s Day rapidly approaching, I find myself confident that I won’t be forgotten. Being a hopeless romantic and having spent years of Valentine’s days alone, I know firsthand what it is like to not have any expectations Valentine's Candyfor the holiday. But for a dozen years, I’ve been married to a man who wouldn’t think of forgetting.

Still for over a decade as a single mom, I knew that no bouquet of flowers or balloons, or even a card bearing my name would arrive. Back then, I worked as a reporter at WTLW TV 44. With a videographer’s assistance, I went out into the community and did a “Man on the street” investigating what Valentine’s Day meant to other people.

One 90-year-old gentleman I polled proudly told me that he would definitely have a surprise in store for his wife. When I asked him if he had ever forgotten the day dedicated to lovers, a grim look crossed his countenance. With the camera rolling, he replied hesitantly, “I don’t think I better talk about that.” So he had forgotten once.  I could tell it had been such a painful experience that it had never happened again. After all, a woman scorned can be a formidable foe.

Anyway, other folks freely told me about the cards, chocolates, roses, and teddy bears that they were planning to present to their beloved. Although one honest young man revealed that he couldn’t remember the last time he had received a Valentine’s Day card. The fact that he look like a ski model from the cover of GQ soothed my own wounded ego back then.

My quest for more information about Valentine’s Day led me to investigate its history. There are conflicting stories about the day’s origin. The one that I like the best deals with St. Valentine as a third century priest. At the time, Emperor Claudius II decreed that marriage be outlawed, deciding that single men made the best soldiers. The History Channel website reports that, “Valentine realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret.  When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.”

The demise of Valentine was as melodramatic as any opera one could attend. Coincidently, a decade ago on Valentine’s Day, I surprised my spouse with opera tickets. This was a real sacrifice, because opera is his love, not mine. Still, I thought that I would never outdo the display of undying affection that I assumed my hubby must have planned, since we were still almost newlyweds.

When that fated Valentine’s Day dawned, I awoke with the expectation of a kid on Christmas morning. Despite the fact, there was no breakfast in bed, or even a rose anywhere in sight, I excitedly guessed it was only a matter of time before I would be presented with some token of his enduring love. That Saturday passed quickly in chores, errands, and general weekend routine. By late afternoon, I began to get suspicious that the love of my life might have forgotten. However, being married less than two years I rationalized away that ridiculous fear.

Finally in the car on the way to the opera, Larry confessed that he had overlooked the arrival of Valentine’s Day. Being a bachelor all his life, he tried to find a good excuse for his lapse, but none of them were working. Needless to say, it was a rather subdued evening after that.

Yet when we returned home, there was a small bag hanging on our front door. Inside was a beautiful Valentine’s Day card with a silver bracelet bearing one heart charm. There was also a note from my husband’s best buddy explaining that Larry must have accidentally left these items at his house on an earlier visit.Valentine's Couple

Sounds too good to be true? It was. Something about the card just didn’t seem right. So being a former investigative reporter, I simply asked, “Did you buy me these things?”

Larry’s honest character caused him to immediately blurt out, “I called my friend right before we left for the opera, and told him I needed help.” All I could do was laugh, because I knew that in the future my hubby would understand even “old married” couples should celebrate the gift of love. I guess people like me are born hopelessly romantic, while others become romantic desperate for survival. No matter what kind of romantic you are, Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

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