Monday, October 27, 2014

A Tale of Headaches, Insomnia, Jitteriness, and Irritability: No More Caffeine for Me

by A.L. Woods, Staff Writer

I finally have to concede defeat. I've made up my mind -- no more caffeine for me. I love my morning cup of tea, no matter which blend I choose, but the subsequent headaches and bouts of insomnia that materialize are just too much for my constitution.

A little about caffeine

According to WebMD, not only is caffeine a chemical, but it is found in many products, not the least of which are coffee, tea, guarana, mate, and cola. People consume caffeine for many reasons: to increase mental alertness, help with low blood pressure, and, unbelievably, even to treat attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), just to name a few.

Side effects

Even with my self-defined conservative dosage of one cup a day of tea my body just doesn't seem to be able to withstand the side effects. Many people report no problems at this level, but I can always tell when the caffeine is leaving my system and I'm going through withdrawal because I then get terrible headaches, sometimes just common ones and other times blinding migraines. While I am under its influence I can without fail always count on being jittery and irritable. In addition, my one cup of tea early in the a.m. can cause me to lie awake, staring at the ceiling all night long.

Not a good choice

Even the Mayo Clinic acknowledges that caffeine may not be the best of choices for folks who are caffeine sensitive or who take certain medications which may interact negatively with it. If you have no ill effects from a moderate caffeine use, then I'm sincerely happy for you. My mileage though has unhappily varied, so after this last ceremonious cup I'm done with it forever.

I scoured the Web to see if there might be a workaround that would allow me to still have my beloved tea (aside from choosing a decaffeinated variety, of course), but though hope may spring eternal, none was found.

At this point, I've come to the conclusion that the healthiest energy boost is that which comes from clean eating and exercise. And a natural consequence of these two good habits is more restful sleep, no headaches, and a natural elevation of mood.

Good night, good night, my dear sweet cup of tea. Parting is such sweet sorrow.

Now on to find my new morning beverage replacement …

Personal experience

*Photo: Raheel Shahid via Flickr

[Originally published on Yahoo! Voices on 06/06/2014 (no longer published there).]

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Tips for Owning a Turtle

5 Ways to Keep Your Turtle Healthy and Happy

by A.L. Woods, Staff Writer

Congratulations, new turtle owner! Turtles have walked the earth for over 200 million years. Who would have thought that a reptile with such ancient lineage would be considered one of the most popular known pets today? According to Petsmart, a major retailer specializing in the sale and care of pets, turtles have sharp eyesight, an acute sense of smell, and they make fascinating four-legged companions.

As your turtle settles in, there are five ways that you can ensure that he lives a long and happy life:
  1. Keep him fed. Turtles are omnivores, which means they eat both plant and animal food. As most humans like veggies, salads, and steak, turtles enjoy green leafy vegetables and bugs, most notably crickets and worms. Veterinary experts also recommend that you add commercially prepared turtle pellets. These can be easily purchased at any reputable pet store. Feed them and make sure that you remove any uneaten food daily. Also consider asking your pet retailer about any supplements that your turtle might need.
  2. Make sure he gets plenty of water. All living organisms known to man need water to survive. Always make sure that your turtle has lots of fresh clean water, both for swimming and to drink.
  3. Keep his habitat clean. Do a full thorough cleaning of your turtle tank and change the filter every two to three weeks minimum. Do periodic checks for rotting food and feces and remove them promptly.
  4. Ensure that he has good heating and lighting sources. As reptiles, turtles need consistent lighting sources to thrive and heating elements to help them maintain their body temperature. Your pet supply store will offer you many options for this. Take your time and choose the best bulbs and heating sources for the habitat that you're constructing for your pet. Avoid direct sunlight.
  5. Make certain that his environment is free of predators at all times. Turtles have many natural predators, i.e. cats, dogs, raccoons, some types of birds, snakes, etc. Never leave your turtle unsupervised in an area where these types of predators may lurk.
Turtles typically tend to have long life spans, so accidents withstanding, If you follow the above tips your turtle should provide you many years of entertainment and fun. You might even be tempted to expand your turtle family as you become more of an expert at providing your pet's necessary love and care.

*Photo: Henry Tseng via Flickr

[Originally published on Yahoo! Voices on 05/07/2014 (no longer published there).]

Friday, October 24, 2014

Shirley Temple: How She Impacted My Life as a Young Child

by A.L. Woods, Staff Writer

I know that I'm dating myself here, but folks of my era grew up watching -- and loving -- Shirley Temple, the bubbly child actress famously known for her signature baby-doll curls. You can still find a rerun or two of movies in which she starred from time to time, and in them you can plainly see why she was considered a national treasure.

Watching Shirley Temple movies got me through a difficult stage of my childhood. I was skinny beyond belief, had bad skin, and wore braces. Yep, the struggle was real. Lol. I felt awkward around my peers and lacked self-confidence. When I watched one of her movies though I let my imagination take me back to a different time period and would lose myself in her singing and dance routines. I could see and hear myself singing "On a Good Ship Lollipop" and everything would be alright.

I loved Shirley Temple so much that for many years I insisted that my Mother style my hair just like hers for each Sunday service and especially on Easter.

For the few of you who might not have been as enmeshed in television movies as I was, Shirley Temple was born in 1928 and was the most famous and highest paid child star of her time with multiple movie credits on her resume. She reached the height of her acting career during the Great Depression and she was frequently used as an icon for positivity and hope during the challenges of that period.

Temple won an Academy award for her rendition of the aforementioned "On a Good Ship Lollipop" in the 1930s.

The young actress took on additional acting roles as a young adult, none of which were as popular as the roles which she played as a child.

Unlike many child stars, Temple went on to live a full and productive life. She later married and became known as Shirley Temple Black.

In an unforeseen twist, the actress entered politics later in her adulthood and was appointed a United States diplomat to the United Nations. Her career in public service stretched across a significant span of her life.

Temple was a natural dancer as a child and most of her movies showcased her singing and dancing abilities.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt nicknamed her "Little Miss Miracle," unofficially dubbing her as the country's primary morale booster during the Great Depression, even going so far as to say that as long as we had Shirley Temple that we would be all right.

Black died of natural causes on February 10, 2014 at the ripe old age of 85. She left an impressive legacy of achievements in both her personal and professional life to carry on her name.

For as long as I live I'll always remember how second only to reading her movies were the vehicle through which my imagination grew as I pretended that I was living the life of the many characters that she played.


*Photo: Michael L. Kaufmann via Flickr

[Originally published on Yahoo! Voices on 06/08/2014 (no longer published there).]

Thursday, October 23, 2014

What is the Peace Corps? And Five Facts You May or May Not Know

by A.L. Woods, Staff Writer

You've probably seen them on TV and in the movies, but what do you really know about the Peace Corps? These volunteers are truly unsung heroes, giving sacrificial service on behalf of their country, fostering good will, and promoting understanding wherever they go. As previously implied, most folks don't have an accurate understanding of the scope of what they're all about.

Here are a few facts that you may or may not know:


The Peace Corps was founded in the early 1960s as the result of a challenge made by Senator John F. Kennedy to students at the University of Michigan to rise to a mission of service by living and working in developing countries.


According to, the organization has a three-fold mission which has remained in place since the very beginning of its history:

"1. To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
2. To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
3. To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans."


The Peace Corps is a federal agency. Their primary focus is on "world peace and friendship," according to official statements published by the agency.


Peace Corps volunteers work for sustainable change in the host countries which request their technical assistance in seven major areas: Education, health, environment, community economic development, youth in development, and other areas as needed/identified. Peace Corps volunteers are the United States' unofficial ambassadors to the world abroad. Through their service to other countries they build lasting and significant relationships, foster a positive image of America, and create global understanding between residents of their host country and the United States.


Peace Corps volunteers generally serve for two years following their initial training. During the span of the organization's history volunteers have served in the Philippines more than in any other country.

Although the Peace Corps rarely receives a lot of publicity, the quiet work that it does behind the scenes is an essential service that not only benefits the host countries that it serves, but the home country-the United States of America-that it represents.

Kudos to the many volunteers who have made their time of service to the Corps not just about carrying out a job well done, but about a lifestyle of working to ensure that the world is constantly evolving into a better place.

*Photo: Todd via

[Originally published on Yahoo! Voices on 05/20/2014 (no longer published there).]

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Infused Water

Good for Your Health

by A.L. Woods, Staff Writer

Infused water, or detox water, as it's sometimes commonly called, is all the rage now, and for good reason. It's delicious, easy to make, and has wonderful nutritive benefits.

Simply put, infused water is made by slicing select fruits and veggies (and sometimes herbs) into water and letting it stand, or infuse, anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight. Much of the vitamin content of the fruits and veggies seeps into the water and you receive the health value when you drink it.

There are many recipes available for making infused water, and you're only limited by your creativity in terms of the fruit and veggie combinations that you put together. Some choose their ingredients based on the nutritional value of each fruit and vegetable; others choose based on the taste that they're seeking to achieve.

The most popular infused water recipes use lemons as a staple ingredient. The very first well-publicized notion of infused water was promoted by Prevention Magazine as a component of the Flat Belly Diet. Branded as "Sassy Water," the recipe for Sassy Water quickly went viral all over the Web.

Anecdotal evidence reveals that infused water encourages:

  • Increased water consumption, thereby keeping one more hydrated
  • Helps with detox
  • Decreases stomach bloating and
  • Facilitates weight loss in general

Some of my favorite infused water combinations are:


In terms of proportions, I just eyeball the amounts of each fruit and vegetable used based on the size of the pitcher, again, using lemon as the predominant ingredient.

Dr. Oz has promoted infused water in the past and believes strongly that it offers multiple health benefits to all who drink it. He also has a number of recipes with specific nutritional benefits associated with each fruit or vegetable used.

With the increase in popularity of infused water also comes an increase in the manufacture and sales of a variety of infusion pitchers and infusion water bottles. These items have a small vented cylinder that attaches to the top of the container in which the user can place her chosen fruits and vegetables for infusion. The advantage to using infusion pitchers and water bottles is that the fruits and vegetables can easily be removed from the container simply by removing the cylinder so that they don't overinfuse into the water, causing bitterness.

As summertime approaches, I heartily recommend that you try infused water for yourself. It's a great alternative to the sugary, expensive, and chemical-laden vitamin waters that you buy from the supermarket and it's a great way to stay hydrated with a minimal amount of fuss.

*Photo: Rachel B. Lane

[Originally published on Yahoo! Voices on 05/18/2014 (no longer published there).]

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Seven Groomsmen Gift Ideas

Last Minute Tips

by A.L. Woods, Staff Writer

So your wedding day is fast approaching. The hall has been reserved, the caterer has been booked, and your bride has purchased the gown of her dreams. The only problem is that you still haven't chosen the gifts for your groomsmen.

No need to panic. A quick search on reveals seven great gift ideas in a wide price range that may help you take your stress level down a notch and earn you the reputation of the groom of the year:
  1. Stainless Steel Groomsman Flask. Price: Around $40. This has an 8-oz. capacity and can be engraved. It's elegant, understated, and sensible. A great gift for the man about town.
  2. Credit Card Wallet-Sized Bottle Opener. Price: Around $6. This item is priced for the prudent wedding budget and is sure to make a hit. It's practical and can be used in a variety of settings.
  3. Engravable Pocket Knife with 9 Tools. Price: Around $13. What man doesn't appreciate a functional pocket knife? It's not just the dream of male childhood, but the ready utensil of he-man manhood.
  4. Stainless Steel Blocking RFID Travel Wallet. Price: Around $20. Do any of your groomsmen travel? With the rise in identity theft it's more important than ever to protect the contents of one's wallet, and this one easily fits the bill. Holds both credit cards and business cards. Comes with a lifetime guarantee.
  5. Personalized Engraved Silver-Plated Money Clip. Price: Around $2.99. Another item priced just right that still makes a great functional gift.
  6. Invicta 18-K Rose Gold-Plated and Stainless Steel Watch. Price: Around $70. Elegant, sophisticated, and sure to create a long-lasting memory of your special day. Second, minute, and hour subdials and even shows the date.
  7. Iron Man Gold Tone Cuff Links. Price: Around $30. Comes in a variety of styles, so you can tailor each set to each groomsman's personality. Very stylish and sure to impress.
By using to make your purchases you won't have to leave your home or office or fight insane shopping crowds. With Prime shipping your gifts can arrive at your doorstep in two days or less, and you can even elect to have Amazon wrap them for you. It can't get any easier than this.

Now that you've crossed this very important item from your To-Do List you can sit back, breathe a little, and anticipate the great memories that will be created on your wedding day.


*Photo: Andrew Turner via Flickr

[Originally published on Yahoo! Voices on 05/01/2014 (no longer published there).]

Monday, October 20, 2014

How to Use Glide to Keep in Contact with Family and Friends

by A.L. Woods, Staff Writer

I love technology! The more it evolves, the more developers find creative ways to use it to enable us to stay connected with those that we love. One of my favorite apps is Glide. Glide is a great app to use to stay in contact with family and friends through the use of video messages.

Glide is very simple to install. iPhone users can download it from iTunes and Android users, like me, can get it straight from the Play Store. It can be downloaded on both smartphones and tablets, depending on your preference.

Since starting to use Glide I've been able to do a better job of staying connected with those that I love. As a freelance writer, my hours can sometimes make it difficult for me to stay in contact as I prefer staying up late at night to write and create. This means that by far and large I keep 'vampire hours' -- sleeping during the day. With Glide I can just open the app, hit the Record button, and it will video record the message that I want to send.

You can use Glide to record messages for either individuals or groups. My family members and I have been able to plan entire family get-togethers efficiently just by using this app despite how busy each of us are.

I also use Glide to send little thinking of you messages to my nieces, nephews, and godchildren. I like to send them consistent words of encouragement to help them stay on track with their studies and just to let them know that they are loved and thought about.

The thing that sets Glide apart from other video chatting apps is that the other party doesn't have to be present in real time for you to record and send your message. It follows the same basic principle as texting, only you're sending a video message instead of a text. The receiving party can view and respond at their leisure. No pressure. No trying to coordinate times to meet online.

I'm also trying to come up with a way to use Glide in my business to keep in touch with my clients or provide updates to them. The only challenge is that in working from home I'm not always dressed at my best, and I'm sure that clients don't consider PJs and head scarves professional business attire.

If you love technology too and are looking for new and creative ways to stay in contact with your own family and friends, then give Glide a try. I guarantee that you'll be hooked from your very first recording.

Google Play Store
Personal experience

[Originally published on Yahoo! Voices on 06/22/2014 (no longer published there).]

Friday, October 17, 2014

7 Tips to Prepare for a Road Trip

by A.L. Woods, Staff Writer

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of the times that my family and I took road trips together. These were experiences that promoted bonding, fun, and adventure. My favorite mode of travel is by car, and I'd like to share my top seven tips for preparing for a road trip.
  1. Take steps in advance to ensure that your car is road worthy. If you take your car to your dealership or one of the national chain auto shops, such as Firestone or Pep Boys, and tell them that you're about to take a long-distance trip and want the car checked they will do a comprehensive diagnostic of the vehicle for a nominal fee. In some cases, they won't charge you anything at all. They will tell you exactly what the car needs to raise the odds that you won't experience any mechanical issues during your trip.
  2. Pack an emergency kit in the vehicle. Make sure that you have items like a tire jack, jumper cables, a gas can, and water stowed away so that you can handle minor emergencies on your own. Be sure that your auto club membership is paid and active. This one tip alone saved my husband and I on an overnight trip that we took that ended up with our vehicle blowing a tire on a dark deserted road.
  3. Plan your trip in advance. Map out your route on Google Maps and print it out. Send turn-by-turn directions to your phone, if you have a smartphone, or tablet. Google Maps will guide you to your destination just as well as any high-end subscription navigation service. Make sure that your phone or tablet has a working GPS or that your in-car navigation unit is fully functional.
  4. Make sure that you have all of your important driver documents on hand. Check to see that your driver's license, car registration, insurance card and/or rental papers, if you're renting a vehicle for the trip, are within easy access.
  5. Pack a few treats to save on food expenses. Eating on the road can be expensive, and if you're not careful this area of expense will eat into the majority of your trip's budget. Fill a cooler with bottled water, sodas, fruit, and sandwiches. Purchase cookies, chips, and other snack items from the grocery store in advance.
  6. Take a working cell phone, and be sure that you have a way to charge it. This is your number one defense against road trip mayhem. Nine times out of ten, if you have a cell phone you're never more than a call away from assistance if disaster strikes. Make sure that you don't forget your charger.
  7. Bring entertainment items for the kids. Nothing will drive you more crazy than the constant queries from children asking if you are "there yet." Bring books, tablets with movies downloaded, games, coloring books, and video games. Whatever keeps them entertained at home will keep them entertained on the road.
These are just a few of my tips to make your road trip fun, enjoyable, and stress free. Any roadie vets out there? If so, chime in and share your own tips with us.

Happy traveling!

Sources: Preparing Your Car for a Road Trip Road Trip Tips: Plan a Fun and Safe Drive RoadTrip! What to Do to Prepare
Google Maps
Personal experience

*Photo: Jak Sie Masz via Flickr

[Originally published on Yahoo! Voices on 07/01/2014 (no longer published there).]

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Craisins: A Favorite Bunny Treat

by A.L. Woods, Staff Writer

Of all of the pets that I've had over the years, my absolute favorites have been bunny rabbits. I loved each and every one of them as if they were my own children. One of the things that I particularly enjoyed was giving them treats. If at any time they were cool and aloof in their behavior, just a rattle of the treat bag would spur them into an affectionate frenzy. One of their very favorite bunny treats was Craisins.

As you may or may not know, Craisins are dried cranberries. The very best place, I've found, to purchase them is at your local grocer. They're easy to find and relatively inexpensive.

While it's important not to indulge your bunny too frequently with treats (obesity can be fatal to their health more so than with any other animal), it doesn't hurt to allow them to enjoy them every now and then, either as a reward or as part of a bonding opportunity.

The brand that I prefer is Ocean Spray. According to their website, their Craisins are made with real fruit, are fat and cholesterol free, and are a good source of fiber.

Rabbits have a natural sweet tooth, so this is a good way to satisfy that without adding a lot of synthetic chemicals and commercial sugar to their diet.

A few tips
  • Don't allow your bunny to have more than two to three Craisins a week. Although natural, they are still high in sugar, and a high-sugar diet is not conducive to a bunny's best health.
  • Use the Craisins to reward them or as part of a bonding opportunity between you and your bunny. Make rattling the Craisins bag a signal that a "special time" is coming.
  • Bunnies are master beggars. Don't let that cute little face manipulate you into giving them more of their treats than recommended.
  • Visit the House Rabbit Society's website for more tips on optimum foods for your bunny's diet and more suggestions for healthy treat options.

If you haven't tried it before, give your bunny a Craisin and see how much he enjoys it. I haven't met a bunny yet who didn't consider them to be their favorite bunny treat once they tried them. My last bunny Sherman, a 20-pound Californian, liked his so much the first time that he jumped straight up in the air and did a 180-degree turn before he hit the ground!

Please comment below and let me know how much your bunny enjoys his craisin.

House Rabbit Society
Personal experience of owning three bunny rabbits from infancy to death over the years.

*Photo: luagh45 via Flickr

[Originally published on Yahoo! Voices on 06/10/2014 (no longer published there).]

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

An Infused Water Recipe That Everyone Will Love

by A.L. Woods, Staff Writer

Infused water continues to be a popular choice for health enthusiasts right now because of its many nutritive benefits, ease of preparation, and taste. It's also a wonderful substitute for the commercially prepared, sugar-laden vitamin waters that are available in the grocery stores. Infused water is great for hydration, helping with weight loss, and increasing your energy level. It also tends to promote increased water intake, always a major value add.
Here's my own personal recipe for my favorite mix that gets rave reviews every time it's served.
What You'll Need
A 3-quart glass pitcher (either an infusion pitcher or a plain one)
Purified water (either bottled or filtered)
3 large lemons
1 large cucumber
1 medium lime (optional)
3 sprigs of mint
3-5 large strawberries
1 large apple

How to Prepare
Wash all produce thoroughly and slice.
Rinse mint sprigs well.
Drop all produce in pitcher starting with the softest first (in this order: Lemons, cucumbers, limes, strawberries, apple, and mint).
Fill pitcher with water, cover, and allow to sit overnight.
Final Results
The resulting infusion is both delicious and beautiful, and the strawberries lend a lovely pink blush to the water.
Sip on this all day. Most people find that it encourages restroom runs due to its detox effect, so take this into account as you go about your day. If you tend to suffer from stomach bloat, the increased tinkling will help with that.
With your increased water intake, you'll be better hydrated. I'd always heard that the better hydrated you are, the better you sleep and the more energy that you have. I've found this to be true with my own experimentation with infused water.
Since I've started drinking infused water I've lost my taste for sodas and sugary drinks. Seriously, even without any sweetener (either natural or artificial) I've found this recipe to be absolutely delicious-and that's a lot to say coming from a self-avowed sugar addict.
  • Use a natural veggie wash. You can find a variety of these either online or in the store.
  • Buy organic whenever possible. Yes, it will increase your preparation costs a bit, but the health benefits are well worth the increase in price.
  • Always be careful to choose the freshest produce that you can. Be sure that there are no blemishes or spots.
  • Add a little ginger to the water for added digestive effect.
  • Buy a pretty glass to use to drink your infused water throughout the day. I even use a glass straw to sip mine with. They add to the beauty of the presentation and the water tastes really clean going through it.

I hope that you enjoy this recipe as much as I do and that it adds an added boost to your health and fitness journey.

Drink up!

Personal experience

*Photo: (c) A.L. Woods

[Originally published on Yahoo! Voices on 05/20/2014 (no longer published there).]

Monday, October 13, 2014

Writing for the Web: The Four Major Lessons That I've Learned

by A.L. Woods, Staff Writer

As a child, when I dreamed of one day becoming a professional writer, my vision always included writing books, writing for magazines, or writing for newspapers. Little did I know that when the smoke cleared that my primary writing venue of choice would be the Web. Here are four major lessons that I've learned since I started writing for the Web.
  1. Web writing is a whole other animal from offline writing. The biggest thing that surprised me when I first started writing in this genre was how different it was from writing offline. In fact, I needed to reference an industry-specific style guide in order to create effective content. I found that articles needed to be more concise, that it was important that the formatting allowed the reader's eye to flow, and that interactive context, e.g., hyperlinking to information sources, videos, and photos, was essential for the completion of a good article.
  2. Don't get fancy with headlines. I've always been a very creative writer, especially in the area of titling my work. I was very surprised to find that SEO (search engine optimization), i.e., writing headlines that readers could find easily when doing searches through the search engines through the judicious use of keywords, held a slightly higher importance than plays on words to make headlines more interesting. Don't get me wrong; you do want the headline to appeal to the reader. There's just a slight tipping of the scales in the direction of the search engines for your keyword use.
  3. Break it up. Formatting is a very important element in writing for the Web. As a writer, you must always keep in the back of your mind that the text should be broken up in such a manner that the reader doesn't feel like he's looking at a huge chunk of block text. This can be accomplished by utilizing paragraphing, bullet points, numbering, subheadings, etc. Bolding and italics can also help with the visual flow of your piece.
  4. Create original content, but incorporate other ideas. As in offline writing, one of the mantras of online writing is that you should create original content. The additional proviso in web writing is that while creating this content you should incorporate other ideas and sources of information into your piece by hyperlinking to and citing the sources of your thought content.
Even though I initially had a slight learning curve while adjusting to the differences in style between print writing and web writing, I found that with practice and diligent study of online writing style guides, such as the Yahoo Style Guide, that I was able to transition into this area of writing without much difficulty. If you're considering writing for the Web as a career, you should be able to do it too. It's just a matter of adapting what you already know into the documented style that's been found most effective, entertaining, and educational for online readers.

Sources: Writing for the Web 7 Best Practices for Improving Your Website's Usability
Macmillan Publishers: Yahoo! Style Guide
Personal experience
*Photo: Juha Siltala via Flickr

[Originally published on Yahoo! Voices on 06/27/2014 (no longer published there).]

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

How to Recover After a Burglary

by A.L. Woods, Staff Writer

About a year ago my home was burglarized, and to this day I still haven't regained my sense of security. They stole a laptop, a cell phone, a number of precious possessions that can never be replaced, and many other items that they were able to grab and easily stow. I pray that none of you ever have this same experience, but in the event that you do, here are a few tips on how to recover after a burglary.

Security assessment

Have a security assessment done by professionals. I've had good luck with ADT. Take whatever precautionary measures they recommend to either fortify your home or to upgrade the security measures that you already have in place.

Neighborhood watch

Get your neighbors involved with you in a neighborhood watch. Get to know them and let them get to know you. Be familiar with who should, and should not, be going out of the residences around you and phone the police when you're aware of any suspicious activity.

Remove temptation

Take care to keep the delivery of any ultra-valuable items, such as flat-screen TVs, from prying eyes by keeping the delivery low key and the view of the valuables obstructed as much as possible. Instead of disposing of the item packing in your own trash bin, take it to a nearby dump or public disposal area.

Arm yourself

I know that this is a controversial position, but we are living in dangerous times where thieves don't value your life any more than they do that of a bug. Get licensed with your local law enforcement authorities to carry a firearm. Purchase one and learn how to use it. Make sure that it is stored securely in your home when not in use, especially if there are children living with you.

Be aware

Be aware of suspicious phone calls, strangers loitering near your home, and unfamiliar vehicles parked or circling in the area. On the day of my burglary I noted a strange vehicle parked across from my house and had an uneasy feeling about it, but I ignored the feeling, and within the 20 to 30 minutes that it took to run my errand and get back the perpetrator had time to break in and clean me out.

Talk about it

The feeling of violation and loss of security after your home is invaded in this way is something that I can't describe to you in words. Different people process it in different ways, but in all cases it helps to talk about it with someone, be it friends, family, or professionals.

Get a dog

I'm not a dog person, but I can see how a dog - a really big one - could have been an effective deterrent to someone trying to enter my home with evil intent. Have the dog professionally trained on the appropriate way to respond to intruders.

File your insurance

Your insurance company will reimburse a percentage of the value of your stolen items and also is an excellent source of information about security precautions to put in place for the future.
Even though I'm still struggling with the aftermath of my own burglary, I can tell you that with the passing of time that things do indeed get better.

There is no 100% foolproof method to protect yourself from robbers and thieves, but a little bit of proactivity will increase your odds of not having to fall victim to this sort of crime again.

Sources: Helping You to Recover 5 Ways to Cope with the Emotional Aftermath of a Burglary
Personal experience
[Originally published on Yahoo! Voices on 07/01/2014 (no longer published there).]

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

10 Fun Facts About Morrow, Georgia

by A.L. Woods, Staff Writer

I moved to Morrow in 2005, relocating from city of Atlanta proper, and have never looked back. I love the city primarily because the living experience is akin to living in a small town but with access to 'big city' facilities. Here I'd like to share 10 fun facts about Morrow, Georgia.
  1. Morrow is home to Clayton State University. Clayton State has an enrollment of approximately 7000 students and offers a variety of degree programs at both the undergraduate and graduate level.
  2. Morrow is located in Clayton County. Clayton is a suburban county in Georgia. Its county seat is Morrow's sister city, Jonesboro.
  3. Morrow's primary shopping hub is Southlake Mall. Southlake is located approximately 11 miles from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
  4. Morrow has an interconnected pathway of nature trails. Walkers, runners, and bikers find much enjoyment in Morrow Pathway Trails and Reynolds Nature Preserve.
  5. Morrow is the home of both national and state archives. Both the State of Georgia Archives and the National Archives at Atlanta are found here.
  6. Morrow is the location of a School of Excellence. Morrow Elementary School has been awarded the distinguished School of Excellence award for 10 consecutive years.
  7. Morrow is the home of University Station. This is one fact that I didn't know but stumbled across in my research. University Station is a premier live-work-play community that is currently under construction (hmmm, I'm going to have to check this one out in person).
  8. Morrow is the home of the stunningly beautiful Morrow Center. This is an event, meeting, and social space that is perfect for all types of venues, including weddings! My husband and I participated in a conference held there about a year or so ago. The facility was beautiful, and the customer service from the staff was exceptional.
  9. Morrow is the home of Spivey Hall (located at Clayton State University). Referred to as "the small Carnegie Hall of the South," this is yet another beautiful facility. Spivey Hall has an international reputation and is Morrow's primary central hub for the arts. It has exceptional acoustics and a breathtaking design. Musical performances are held here year round. Don't forget to take a peek at its magnificent concert organ. I think that you're going to be blown away!
  10. Despite it being a small town, Morrow is the home of many thriving large business chains and small businesses. Business is booming here in Morrow.
I love living in Morrow and continue to watch with wonder as it evolves into a community that fulfills the needs of almost everyone who resides here yet retains its small-town flavor.

Y'all come through and visit with us! We'd love to have you.

City of Morrow
Clayton State University
Clayton County, Georgia
Personal experience

*Photo: Morrow Tourist Center

[Originally published on Yahoo! Voices on 07/01/2014 (no longer published there).]

Monday, October 6, 2014

10 Tips for Living a Healthier and Happier Life

by A.L. Woods, Staff Writer

As I continue to age, I find that I'm being more proactive about taking steps to ensure more optimal health. To this end, I've compiled 10 tips for living a healthier life. Don't just read them; put them into practice and watch as your energy level goes up and your ailments diminish.
  1. Eat healthier. Food is the body's fuel. It's not just for enjoyment; it's intended as a nutrient source for the body to draw on to nourish blood, body systems, and vital organs. You'll have a greater sense of wellbeing once you start to eat clean.
  2. Drink more water. Every living organism known to man needs water in order to survive. A well-hydrated body just functions more efficiently. Skin takes on a new glow. Hair and nails thrive. You even sleep better.
  3. Get more sleep. Number 2 was a great segue into this one. You must get adequate rest in order for the body to repair and recover from the day's stresses. Everybody's sleep needs are different. Find the amount of rest that's right for you and get that much sleep every day.
  4. Exercise more. Modern day culture makes the issue of exercise much too complicated. What it boils down to is just to get moving more. Walk, bend, jump, run, skip, do housework, whatever. Just get moving. Your body will thank you for it.
  5. Reduce stress. Negative stress causes the body to release toxic hormones throughout the system. These toxic hormones cause us to age faster and impede our body systems from functioning at their maximum efficiency.
  6. Develop relationships. This point is very important. Man was not created to live in isolation. Cultivating friendships and family relationships is essential to optimal health.
  7. Work on personal development. Read, discuss ideas, explore, grow. Be self-aware and correct those issues in your personal being that prevent you from becoming all that you can be.
  8. Tap into the Higher Power. Learn the nature of your Creator and get to know Him. Go to church. Learn how to be a better person. Building strength in this area alone will help sustain you during difficult and challenging times.
  9. Learn sensible financial management. When your money doesn't flow well, life doesn't seem to go well. Learn basic money management principles and reduce the stress in your life.
  10. Live with purpose. Get focused on your vision for life and operate in purpose. What is your primary mission while you are here on the earth? Answer this question and many areas of your life will come together in a way that makes sense.
Implement these 10 tips and see if your life doesn't take on more flavor and if you don't feel more successful. Come back and share in the comments box below how your life has changed.

*Disclaimer: Always be certain to consult a physician about any ongoing or perceived health issues.

WebMD: Healthy Living: 8 Steps to Take Today Health Tips for Healthy Living
USAToday: 7 Tips for Living a Healthier Life
[Originally published on Yahoo! Voices on 07/02/2014 (no longer published there).]

Friday, October 3, 2014

Work at Home Tip: Live on a Budget

by A.L. Woods, Staff Writer

I've been working from home since 1989 and love it with every fiber of my being. It doesn't matter the route: telecommuter, entrepreneur, independent contractor, or freelancer - working at home is a wonderful experience. An essential element to working at home is living on a budget. You wouldn't believe how easy operating in your comfort zone makes it for you to lose track (and control) of your hard-earned dollars.

Here are a few work-at-home tips for living on a budget:

Live below your means

When you make a conscious effort to keep your expenses at a level that is drastically less than what you bring in you have the ability to save, give generously, and meet your daily living expenses without strain. Living below your means=living with a reduced level of stress.

Minimize the use of credit cards

Credit cards can be a death knell on a healthy budget. Compound interest rates keep you in debt when you only make minimum payments. Try to pay cash for as many goods and services as you can. You would be surprised at how much money this one tip alone will save you over the long run.

Watch your food expenses

Fast food is expensive and unhealthy. The food budget is one of the largest line items in many families' budgets. Discipline yourself to grocery shop and cook at home. Be on the lookout for sales, specials, and coupons. Take advantage of fresh, and less expensive, produce available at the farmer's market. Prepare meals in advance and freeze them for your own homemade version of 'fast food.'

Avoid car payments if at all possible

Excessively high car payments can put a strain on a frugal household budget. You're not the only one who has found themselves trapped in this area. I, too, have undertaken the monthly payment road before. Everything is well and fine when times are good and money is flowing freely. It's when emergencies arise for which no funds have been set aside and you find yourself financially strapped that car payments can become a problem. Buy used and pay cash, or position yourself financially where you're able to save most of what you make and still pay cash, but buy new, if you so desire.
The key is to get a mindset to pay cash.

Be wary of impulse buys

As much as possible, prepare for purchases, especially major ones, in your budget. Don't take the "I see, I want, I buy" approach. This can lead you down the road to financial disaster. Great peace really can be found in a budget, and once budgeting becomes a habit you'll find that it's difficult to live any other way.

I hope that these few tips will help someone. A work-at-home lifestyle equates to freedom, and if you can keep a reign on your expenses you can enjoy your freedom without stress or worry.

Sources: Eating Healthy on a "Beans and Rice" Budget How Much House Can You Afford?

*Photo: Keith Ramsey via Flickr

[Originally published on Yahoo! Voices on 07/01/2014 (no longer published there).]

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Disadvantages of Being a Web Writer

by A.L. Woods, Staff Writer

Much has been written about the benefits of being a web writer. I should know -- I've written many of those articles. However, there are always two sides of the coin. Let me share a few of the disadvantages of being a web writer with you.


As web writers, we have to be very selective about the clients we accept. There are a plethora of folks out there who want Cadillac-quality writing for hoopty-level pricing. The same work that we do for low pay is the same work that if carried out for premium clients will net premium pay. Always position your mindset so that you're consistently pursuing higher paying markets as your skillset evolves.


As an extension of what I wrote above, there are tons of folks out there who would be happy to allow you to write a 500-word article for $5, or, even worse, for free. Don't do it! If you are confident that you're bringing value-based article creation to your clients, then price yourself accordingly. Be fair, but be fair to both sides of the equation: to both your client(s) and you.


I don't think that it's a stretch to say that most web writers are self-employed. As such, we don't have the luxury of just firing up the computer each morning, finishing up the work that's in our queue, and signing off for the evening. We must constantly be on the lookout for new sources of work. Whether it's new online writing sites, private clients, or even our own blogs and online properties, we must constantly be pitching ourselves in order to acquire new clients and new markets.

If we maintain our own income-producing online properties, we must always be consistently branding and promoting ourselves on a variety of social media in order to not only attract new readers, but to connect on a deeper level with those who already follow our work.


Again, most of us are self-employed, so we don't have an automatic benefits package as part of our work life. We must purchase our benefits, such as health insurance, on our own, and these types of benefits usually are more expensive for self-employed individuals than for those who work as employees.

Because we operate on 1099 income we don't have an employer to deduct money for our taxes out of our paychecks each pay period, so we must be certain that we set aside at least 30% of our income to hedge against the tax bill that is sure to come on April 15th. Along with this, self-employment tax bills out at a higher rate than traditional employment tax.

Finally, we must think of our retirement and have financial vehicles in place to prepare for that season of our life. If we don't take care of this it won't get taken care of and we may find ourselves in an unhappy financial quandary in our old age.


Despite all of the above, if I had to do it over again, I would still choose web writing as one of my primary genres in which to write. The lifestyle associated with it offers a freedom, flexibility, fulfillment, and income potential that I never found in traditional 9-to-5 employment.

Any other web writers out there? What disadvantages have you discovered during your time in the field?

*Photo: Ryan Hyde via Flickr

[Originally published on Yahoo! Voices on 06/26/2014 (no longer published there).]