Friday, May 24, 2013

We remember you. Thank you for your Service!

Happy Memorial Weekend:
Memorial Day is about remembering those who have gone before us and especially the courageous men and women who have bravely sacrificed and put their lives on the line to ensure our protection and maintain our freedoms.  Thank you to everyone, past and present, who has served in the armed forces or as a local hero within our police and fire departments.  Today we thank you, pray for you, and applaud your bravery.

If you would like to show a little extra kindness to our soldiers this weekend, here's a couple of easy way to give back.

ADOPT a Soldier:  This kindness mission idea came from  Raise a soldier's spirits and make a friend by adopting a soldier as a pen pal. Showing your encouragement and gratitude for the hard work they do will be appreciated.

Often soldiers don't get enough sleep or food and are dealing with difficult weather and high pressure situations in a foreign country. They are far from the comforts of home and working 24 hours a day. Let them know you care about them and are thankful for all that they are doing.


Your encouraging note or package may be the only mail they receive for weeks or months. While some soldiers to have loved ones back home, others may not have any. They may have become a soldier for a fresh start and may not have a support network to help them through the tough times. You can be the person that makes their day!

Or.. Step It Up: 

Don't just send a letter or card, send a care package. Shop for items that would be hard for a soldier to find in a foreign country--favorite foods or snacks, even some hygiene products. Put together a package and send it on it's way to a lucky soldier. Get your friends, family, co-workers or classmates involved. Have everyone in your family write a letter to include in the care package. Or encourage your entire class to adopt a soldier together. Each day have a different student write a letter, ensuring that your soldier will receive a different letter everyday for a month! If you really want to step it up, think about adopting an entire platoon of soldiers.


You can even use email to express your thanks. Ask your friends and family if they know someone who has served or is serving. Chances are someone will know a soldier. Ask if you can write to them and thank them for their service. If you are not able to consistently write or send care packages you can still help! Make a one-time donation to an organization that adopts soldiers. If that organization is located near you, offer to volunteer to help with filing or making cold calls.

Related Resources:

  • If you live in the US, visit Adopt a Soldier to adopt a soldier as your pen pal.
  • You can adopt an entire platoon as well! A great option for a classroom, church group or athletic team.
  • Maybe you know of a soldier who could use some encouragement. There is a "submit a soldier" feature on the Soldier's Angels website.

A Million Thanks:  A Million Thanks is another great organization working to provide encouragement and support to our troops.  It is a year-round campaign to show our appreciation for our U.S. Military Men and Women, past and present, for their sacrifices, dedication, and service to our country through our letters, emails, cards, and prayers.  

They ask that individuals, schools, churches, businesses, and other organizations to write cards, letters, emails, and prayer messages of appreciation for our military, past and present. It is our goal to see that our military – active, reserve, and veterans – receive these messages, whether they are serving at home, abroad, or are injured in hospitals. To get started, read the guidelines below then find a location nearest you on our Drop-off Location list so your notes of appreciated can be sent to our troops.
If there are not yet drop-off locations near you, letters can also be sent to:
A Million Thanks
17853 Santiago Blvd. #107-355
Villa Park, CA 92861
  1. Do not put letters or cards in individual envelopes or include additional postage. 
  2. Send multiple letters together in the same envelope or box, but please bundle the letters in stacks of no more than 50 with rubberbands to keep them together. Bundle the letters or cards in like sizes.
  3. Do not send edible items or other care package items.
  4. Do not use glitter, confetti, or anything that is not securelyattached to the letter or card.
  5. Only include positive messages. Any negative messages will be discarded.
  6. Be creative! Draw pictures, talk about you, and let them know their service does not go unnoticed.
  7. Include your address or email address if you wish. Most military will write back to you!
  8. *Attention parents and/or teachers of young children: We ask that if children are too young to include a message of thanks, please write one on their behalf so our service members get a message along with a drawing.

If you would like to send themed cards, we ask that you respect the following deadlines:
   1. Thanksgiving cards and letters should be postmarked no later than Nov 1.
   2. Christmas/holiday cards and letters should be postmarked no later than Dec 1.
   3. Valentines cards and letters should be postmarked no later than Jan 15. 
   4. Memorial Day themed cards should be postmarked no later than Apr 15.
   5. Fourth of July themed cards should be postmarked no later than June 1. 
**If any of the above guidelines and deadlines are not followed, please know your letters may not be sent. Thank you!
Visit the website here:

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Disaster Relief: How to Get Involved.. effectively

How to Effectively Get Involved in Disaster Relief:
All of our attention has been focused on the communities affected by the Oklahoma tornadoes, and I think most of us are wondering what can we do to effectively be of help.  Relevant Magazine posted an article that had some really great points to remember when thinking about disaster relief.  I shared a few of them on-air this morning, and I've paraphrased them below.  Click the link above to read the full article.

Here are five key things to remember when thinking about disaster relief:

1) Get prepared and received proper training, before sending volunteer teams.  The time to prepare to help in a disaster is before a disaster strikes.  Rushing off to a disaster zone without proper training and support doesn't make the situation better; it just adds to the chaos.  So, do this instead.  Contact reputable organizations like Samaritan's Purse or the Redcross who have volunteer networks with a list of specific projects you can help with.  You can also get your church involved by training in disaster relief now.  Ask the trained professionals for suggestions on how your ministry can effectively help in the case of a disaster.  The Lutheran Disaster Response Ministry says, "It is nearly impossible to predict when or where a disaster is going to take place. It is possible, however, for communities to prepare for what may happen. Disaster preparedness readies us for the unexpected, and it allows for a more organized, timely, and efficient response when disaster strikes."

2) Monetary Donations are often more helpful than volunteers. I know that when disaster strikes we want to do something to help.  It's a natural response when you see someone in need, but we need to remember that disaster victims needs are ever changing and monetary donations give Relief organizations like the Red Cross the ability to help with the current needs of victims.

3) Make sure you donate to established reputable relief agencies.  These relief agencies have been at work preparing for potential disasters long before anything happens, and you can trust that your donations are going to be effective and used for the assistance of those affected by disaster.

Here are a few links of some long standing relief agencies:
Red Cross
Samaritan's Purse
Salvation Army
Convoy of Hope

Each of these organizations have opportunities to assist with the relief efforts of the Oklahoma Tornado as well as other resources for you and your ministry.  "By giving to agencies already in place, you minimize inefficiency and get resources to the areas of need."

4) Find out what is actually needed before needed.  "Avoid the temptation to load up a tractor-trailer with supplies unless you are directly connected with someone on the ground.." and they have made a specific request for those items.  Again, we need to keep in mind that our goal is to meet needs and not add to the chaos.  So if you want to do fundraising efforts to support a reputable relief agency, it is better to either donate money or ask the organization for a list of specific items that they need donated.  Disaster zones don't need any unnecessary items piled up and unfortunately that's what happens when well meaning individuals send items that haven't been requested.  Needs will vary with time and depending on location.  So it's better to ask so we can be most effective and get the right resources in the hands of those who need them.

The Red Cross now offers a Tornado App
Prepare YOUR Family:
The Red Cross now has many great resources to help you prepare your family for any scenario.  We are entering severe weather season, and while we put our trust in God we should have an emergency plan.  Make sure your family knows the safest place to go in case of severe weather in different scenarios (home, while driving, in a store, etc).  The Red Cross Website will help you teach your family about severe weather safety.  Here are a few of their suggestions:

The Red Cross urges everyone to pick a safe room in their household where loved ones and pets can gather, such as a basement, storm cellar or interior room on the lowest floor with no windows. Mobile homes are not safe during tornados. If someone is in a mobile home, they should get to the nearest sturdy building or shelter immediately—do not wait until the tornado is visible. People should also:
  • Know your community’s warning system.
  • Prepare for strong winds by removing diseased and damaged limbs from trees.
  • Move or secure lawn furniture, trash cans, hanging plants or anything else that can be picked up by the wind and become a projectile.

  • If someone is caught outdoors, they should seek shelter in a basement, shelter or sturdy building. If that’s not possible, they should take the following steps:

  • Get into a vehicle immediately, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter. If flying debris occurs while driving, pull over and park. They can stay in the car with the seat belt on with their head down below the windows, covering their head with their hands and a blanket if possible.
  • If it is possible to safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, another option is to exit the car and lie in the low area, covering their head with their hands.
  • Your choice should be driven by your specific circumstances.

  • More information on tornado safety, including videos and downloadable checklists, is available in the Preparedness section of

    Tuesday, May 21, 2013

    Ways to Strengthen your Brain

    11 Ways to Strengthen your Brain:  This morning, I shared some ways you can strengthen different areas of your brain.  Some of them are kind of unusual.  I found these great tips on

    1. Volunteer
    Stimulates: The prefrontal cortex, which analyzes, plans, and problem-solves
    Why: A Johns Hopkins study found that older women who tutored kids for six months developed sharper cognitive skills. The social and mental activity required for teaching sends blood rushing to this part of the brain.

    2. Work out
    Stimulates: The hippocampus, which forms memories 
    Why: Arthur Kramer, PhD, a researcher at the University of Illinois, used MRIs to show that exercise actually makes your hippocampus bigger. Physical activity may increase the number of capillaries in the region, which in turn helps new cells grow. Kramer prescribes one-hour sweat sessions three times a week.

    3. Learn a skill
    Stimulates: The intraparietal sulcus, which directs hand-eye coordination
    Why: At Oxford University, researchers taught 24 people to juggle and found that after six weeks this region had a higher density of white matter (the fibers that let neurons communicate). Any novel activity that is practiced intently, such as tennis or guitar playing, will likely have this effect, says study author Heidi Johansen-Berg.

    4. Keep the weight off
    As the number on the scale creeps upward, it's hard to imagine that anything's getting smaller, but extra pounds can actually shrink your brain. In a 2009 study, brain scans of older adults revealed that overweight individuals had an average of 4 percent less brain tissue than normal-weight folks. And in obese people the loss of tissue was so significant that their brains appeared 16 years older than those of thinner people. 

    "By eating more calories, you're also consuming more fat," says study author Paul Thompson, PhD, a neurology professor at UCLA School of Medicine. "The fat clogs arteries that feed the brain, which in turn causes brain cells to wither." That loss can impair memory, mood, movement, speech, and more. 

    Aerobic activity will not only help you shed pounds but increase the amount of blood, oxygen, and nutrients flowing north to your neurons. And more nourishment means a faster processor.

    5. Wiggle your eyes
    Can't remember where you stashed your glasses? Try looking from side to side. Rapid horizontal eye movements cause the brain's two hemispheres to interact with each other more efficiently, explains memory researcher Andrew Parker, PhD. In moments of temporary amnesia, that action may help you pull up information.

    6. Take a snooze
    In a University of California, Berkeley, study, participants improved their scores on a memory test by 10 percent when they repeated the test after catching some z's. (Nonnappers saw a 10 percent decline in their scores the second time they took the quiz.) Here's why: New facts enter your brain like e-mails arriving in your in-box. And as your in-box can overflow over the course of a day, so can your brain. During sleep, your brain shuffles recently received data into storage, creating space for fresh info.

    7. Eat brain foods—rich in B12, antioxidants, or essential fatty acid
    • Bananas 
    • Kale 
    • Tomatoes 
    • Blueberries 
    • Swiss cheese
    • Chocolate 
    • Salmon
    • Brussels sprouts
    • Apples 
    • Olive oil 
    • Coffee beans 
    • Oranges 
    Watch out for Memory Stealers:

    8. Thief: Chronic Stress
    The Damage: Prolonged exposure to the fight-or-flight hormone cortisol and other brain chemicals can actually kill neurons by exciting them to death.
    The Fix: Stay connected. A six-year Harvard University study of 16,638 people found that those with the largest social networks had the slowest rate of memory decline. Family and friends can mute the intensity of stress—and the brain's chemical response.

    9. Thief: Cholesterol
    The Damage: If plaque gets lodged inside one of the tiny blood vessels in your brain, it can cause a "silent" stroke (the kind you don't even know you've had). The harm this can do to your brain tissue could slow the speed at which you absorb new information.
    The Fix: In addition to eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise, go nuts for nuts. Eating about 2.4 ounces a day can lower bad cholesterol by ten points. The type of nut doesn't seem to matter, though raw nuts are healthiest.

    10. Thief: Sleep Apnea
    The Damage: In this disorder (marked by loud snoring and exhaustion upon waking), your airway spontaneously closes or becomes blocked for several seconds at a time. The result—a dip in the oxygen level in your blood, which can cause brain cells to starve.
    The Fix: Studies show that losing 10 percent of your body weight is enough to improve symptoms. And your doctor may recommend using a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine while you sleep. It fits over your nose and mouth and generates a steady flow of air to keep the airway open.

    11. Thief: Hypothyroidism
    The Damage: An underactive thyroid slows metabolism, which leads to fatigue, which leads to a foggy brain. One of the symptoms of this disorder, affecting about 17 percent of women 60 and over, is difficulty committing new info to long-term memory.
    The Fix: A common cause of the problem is insufficient levels of iodine, which the body needs in order to produce thyroid hormones, so seek out lots of iodine-rich foods, such as seafood and dairy products.

    Wednesday, May 1, 2013

    Happy May Day

    It's May Day, a worldwide celebration since the Middle Ages that welcomes the end of harsh winters.  It's been celebrated many ways such as by decorating the May Pole.  One of the traditional foods for May Day is actually a type of Funnel Cake which fits perfectly with all of the Festival Foods we have in Louisville each May.  Check out the May Pole Cake Idea Jim pinned on his Pinterest Board!

    May Day Baskets:
    Another May Day tradition that I love is May Day Baskets.  It's a great opportunity to show some random kindness.  All you do is hang a small basket or your own decorative creation on your neighbor or strangers door, then fill it with flowers and treats. I posted a lot of photos and links to give you some ideas for your own May Day Baskets.  You can check them out [here]