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Thomas Skiffington, CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
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Tom's Blog

I Hate My Job, but What Can I Do about It?’: Expert Reveals How to Change Your Career

November 18, 2011 4:32 pm

The late comedian George Carlin once said, “Do you hate your job? Sorry to hear that. There’s a support group for that. It’s called EVERYBODY, and they meet at the bar!”

As a consultant on employee engagement to major healthcare companies, Melissa Evans understands that feeling well. Her solution to it, however, is a little “uncorporate.”

“It’s a fact that most people don’t like their jobs,” said Evans, also author of Sole to Soul: How to Identify Your Soul Purpose and Monetize It. “According to a recent survey published by Time Magazine, fewer than half of American workers—45 percent—are satisfied with their jobs. This is the lowest percentage since 1987. Gallup reported that this phenomenon also hurt businesses in a significant way. Companies with large numbers of dissatisfied workers experience greater absenteeism and lower productivity. These workers create a turnover rate of 51 percent. Can you imagine working at a company, or trying to run one, that loses half its staff every year?”

That turnover isn’t just from firing or layoffs. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of people who quit their jobs from June 2010 through October 2010 was actually larger than the number of people who lost their jobs. Gallup says all these disengaged employees cost the U.S. economy upwards of $370 billion annually. Evans believes that one key way to turn this around is for employees to look inward before they look outward.

Her solution is for workers to get in tune with potential careers and job choices that plug into their passions as a person. She suggests people ask themselves the following questions:
• What do you want? – In an economy that is dicey at best, it seems like it’s a luxury to only consider the jobs you really want, even if they are in a field in which you may have to start over from the bottom. However, consider the alternative: bouncing from bad job to bad job, hoping the next one will be better than the last, when the real problem may be that you just aren’t doing anything you’re passionate about.
• How do you want to feel? – There is a vast difference between getting up in the morning excited about the day and waking up in the morning with a knot in the pit of your belly, anxious about having to go back to a workplace you can’t stand anymore.
• Why should you change course? – If what you’ve been doing hasn’t worked so far, logic dictates you change what you’re doing. My best advice is to find something that drives your spirit and your intellect and pursue that, before it becomes too late for you to fulfill your dreams. 

“The first thing most people do when they don’t like their job is to look for another one,” she said. “While that’s valid, I have to question the wisdom of running from a bad job as opposed to pursuing a good one. The problem is, most dissatisfied employees identify a good job as one that simply pays a little more and is not where they currently work. A good job, a good career, is far more than that.” 

For more information, visit www.soletosoulbook.com.
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Word of the Day

November 18, 2011 4:32 pm

Qualification. Act of determining a potential buyer’s needs, abilities, and urgency to buy and matching these with available properties.
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Question of the Day

November 18, 2011 4:32 pm

Q: How does a lease option work?

A: A landlord agrees to give a renter an exclusive option to purchase the property. The option price is usually determined at the outset, but not always, and the agreement states when the purchase should take place – whether, say, six months, or a year or two down the road.

A portion of the rent is used to make the future down payment. Most lenders will accept the down payment if the rental payments exceed the market rent and a valid lease-purchase agreement is in effect.

Before you opt to do a lease option, find out as much as possible about how they work. Talk to real estate agents, read published materials, and, in the end, have an attorney review any paperwork before you sign on the dotted line.
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Holiday Home Fire Safety Tips

November 18, 2011 4:32 pm

Family gatherings, entertaining and festive decorations are among the highlights of the holiday season. According to the United States Fire Administration, during the Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s season, there is an elevated risk for home fires due to extensive cooking, decorations, home heating and open flames. 

Paul Davis Emergency Services, a provider of fire damage and water damage clean up and restoration services for residential and commercial properties offers the following tips to make the holidays safe for you and your family. 

Holiday Decorations: Decorate with non-combustible or flame-resistant materials. Never use lighted candles on a tree, evergreens or other flammable materials. Don’t place candles near children, pets or gift wrapping.

Lights: Make sure there are no frayed wires, broken sockets or loose connections. Check labels to be sure about the proper use of indoor and outdoor lights. Don’t overload electrical outlets.

Trees: Cut a few inches off the trunk of a live tree and fill the stand with water to keep it from drying out and becoming a fire hazard. An artificial tree should be labeled "Fire Resistant." Place trees away from fireplaces, radiators or portable heaters.

Fire Escape Plan: Make sure everyone understands the escape routes and where to meet once outside.

Smoke Alarms: Make sure your smoke alarms are in proper working order and change the batteries at least twice a year.

Fire Extinguishers: Make sure there is a working fire extinguisher in the kitchen, laundry room, and garage. Learn how to use the fire extinguisher.

Fireplace/Chimney: Have your fireplace and chimney inspected and cleaned by a professional chimney sweep. Never burn greens, boughs, papers, or other decorations in the fireplace. Check to see that the flue is open before starting a fire.

Keep a list with important emergency phone numbers: Include police and fire departments, doctors and the national poison help line. 

In case of emergency property damage, contact a licensed, professional fire damage clean up and restoration company. 

For more information, visit www.pdrestoration.com.
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Big Ideas for Less Party Waste

November 18, 2011 4:32 pm

Whether you're hosting a tailgate party at the stadium or a child's party at home, you know that a paper plate here and an empty can there quickly add up to a lot of trash. Eco-friendly actress and mom Ali Larter knows it too, and is here to share innovative and eco-friendly party planning ideas, so you can increase the fun, while decreasing your environmental impact. 

Larter believes tackling this problem is as simple as taking small steps to waste less, which is why she co-hosted a tailgate at the University of Southern California (USC) earlier this year. With an estimated 80,000 fans in attendance, Larter teamed up with The Glad Products Company to help tailgaters learn how to take steps to go "One Bag," working toward the ultimate goal of sending just one bag of trash to the landfill, with the rest being diverted to recycling and compost. 

"Being green is something I strive for in my daily life, which is why I've teamed up with Glad," says Larter. "My goal is to inspire others to go one bag, no matter the occasion. Whether I'm hosting a family reunion or a birthday party for my son, it just takes a little bit of planning to cut down on waste. Before long, planning an eco-friendly gathering becomes second nature." 

With that spirit in mind, Larter suggests these tips for hosting your own One Bag event:
Send Electronic Invitations: Rather than mailing a printed invitation for your next party, use online invitations such as Paperless Post, or Facebook. 

Buy in Bulk: A large package of hot dogs for a tailgate uses less plastic than four or five packages from the super market for the same amount of food. 

Ditch the Disposables: While it's tempting to break out paper plates and plastic cutlery, most dining disposables end up in the landfill rather than the recycling stream. Instead, use real cutlery and plates or look for options that are compostable. I'm a fan of mixing and matching vintage china patterns for a shabby chic look. 

Turn T-Shirts into Tablecloths: Recycle gently used clothing or logo-wear to create party-themed tableware. For example, old college t-shirts or jerseys make the perfect tablecloths for your next tailgate. If sewing is a challenge, try cutting clothes to create napkins instead. 

Use Better Bags: Glad recently unveiled a new tall kitchen trash bag that is stronger, yet uses less plastic. This innovation saves 6.5 million pounds of plastic per year—that's the equivalent of keeping 140 million extra trash bags out of landfills annually. Recycling and compost bags are also available from this family of products. 

Save Your Skewers: Kabobs are one of the easiest party appetizers to make, especially if you're grilling out for a tailgate. Instead of using disposable wooden skewers, purchase reusable stainless steel or wire ones that are dishwasher safe and better for the environment. 

For more information, visit www.GladtoWasteLess.com.
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5 Modern Twists on the Time-Honored Tradition of Giving Thanks for Food

November 18, 2011 4:32 pm

While celebrating the end of harvest season is a tradition that can be traced back for centuries, modern-day twists on the custom have evolved since the 1621 Plymouth Colony fall feast. Just as pilgrims rejoiced in their first good harvest, Americans today have found meaningful ways to honor the bounty, and express gratitude: 

1. Give #foodthanks. Farmers long ago traded in their oxen for tractors and other technologies to raise nutritious, great-tasting food. This year, a group of farmers and ranchers is cultivating a social media campaign to initiate meaningful conversations about food with Americans on Twitter, Facebook, blogs and beyond, says Kansas farmer Darin Grimm of the AgChat Foundation. "For farmers on the go, social media is a great way to connect with consumers," he says. "We're hoping to see everyone from chefs to foodies to farmers using the #foodthanks hashtag." Check out www.foodthanks.com, then tweet what you eat, using the #foodthanks hashtag, now through Thanksgiving. 

2. Plan your meal with an app. New recipe and meal-planning applications are a bounty in their own right. Try the Thanksgiving Menu Maker from Fine Cooking, which allows you to "tap your way to a customized holiday menu," offering more than 75 of the magazine's all-time favorite Thanksgiving recipes, along with a shopping list and schedule. 

3. Preserve the flavors of fall. Early American settlers would salivate over modern-day canning equipment. Once dismissed as a bygone art, canning has attracted a growing number of enthusiasts in recent years, according to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, which provides tips on canning, pickling, freezing and more. To really make a food statement, create your own labels at www.myownlabels.com. 

4. Host your own tasting party. The holiday table inspires us to create treasured traditions at home, including exploring new foods in the company of friends and family. Home entertaining expert Domenica Marchetti suggests a trend-worthy twist on the wine and cheese tasting party. The author of Big Night In (Chronicle Books, 2008) says, "Embrace the season's bounty and host an apple tasting party!" 

5. Share in the bounty. Thanksgiving is a great time to talk with your family about helping others in need, whether it's a family down the street or a hungry child on the other side of the world. Charitable organizations like Farmers Feeding the World and Heifer International believe that giving families a source of food, rather than short-term relief, is a more sustainable way to lift them out of poverty and hunger. 

For more information, visit www.agchat.org.
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9 Tips to Help Someone Grieving during the Holidays

November 18, 2011 4:32 pm

For many people, the holiday season is a special time of year marked by celebrations and gatherings with family and friends. For those struggling with the death of a loved one, the holidays may be a difficult time full of painful reminders that emphasize their sense of loss. 

Often, friends and family members of those affected by a loss are unsure how to act or what to say to support their grieving loved one during the holidays. 

Hospice professionals, who are experienced at helping people deal with grief and loss, offer some suggestions:
1. Be supportive of the way the person chooses to handle the holidays. Some may wish to follow traditions; others may choose to avoid customs of the past and do something new. It's okay to do things differently.
2. Offer to help the person with decorating or holiday baking. Both tasks can be overwhelming for someone who is grieving.
3. Offer to help with holiday shopping. Share catalogs or online shopping sites that may be helpful.
4. Invite the person to join you or your family during the holidays. You might invite them to join you for a religious service or at a holiday meal where they are a guest.
5. Ask the person if he or she is interested in volunteering with you during the holidays. Doing something for someone else, such as helping at a soup kitchen or working with children, may help your loved one feel better about the holidays.
6. Donate a gift or money in memory of the person's loved one. Remind the person that his or her loved one is not forgotten.
7. Never tell someone that he or she should be "over it." Instead, give the person hope that, eventually, he or she will enjoy the holidays again.
8. Be willing to listen. Active listening from friends and family is an important step to helping some cope with grief and heal.
9. Remind the person you are thinking of him or her and the loved one who died. Cards, phone calls and visits are great ways to stay in touch. 

In general, the best way to help those who are grieving during the holidays is to let them know you care and that their loved one is not forgotten. 

Many people are not aware that their community hospice is a valuable resource that can help people who are struggling with grief and loss. 

For more information, visit www.caringinfo.org.
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Word of the Day

November 18, 2011 4:32 pm

Quit-claim deed. A conveyance by which the grantor transfers whatever interest he or she has in the real estate without warranties or obligations.
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Question of the Day

November 18, 2011 4:32 pm

Q: How do you determine how much a home is worth?

A: The short answer: a home is ultimately worth what is paid for it. Everything else is really an estimate of value. Take, for example, a hot seller’s market when demand for housing is high but the inventory of available homes for sale is low. During this time, homes can sell above and beyond the asking price as buyers bid up the price. The fair market value, or worth, is established when “a meeting of the minds” between the buyer and the seller takes place.
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Money-Saving Winter Tips

November 17, 2011 6:30 pm

Rising heating costs will be a concern for many families this winter, so Amica Insurance is offering tips to help homeowners save money while keeping warm. 

“Now is the time to look around your house to make sure it’s as energy efficient as possible,” said Sean Welch, a senior assistant vice president with Amica Insurance. “Even small things—such as making sure doors and windows are tightly closed or turning your thermostat down a few degrees—can help you save money during the winter months ahead.” 

A good place to start is with your thermostat, Welch said. Make sure it’s not near a heating source or drafts of cold air, to help prevent faulty readings. Consider turning it down, even a degree or two, from what you’re used to. That can save quite a bit over the course of a few months. Also, don’t forget to turn it down while you’re not home and while you’re sleeping. Consider installing a programmable thermostat, which can be set to automatically adjust the temperature for you. 

Here are a few more money-saving tips:
• Shut doors and heating vents in rooms that are seldom used.
• Close curtains and draperies at night, to help preserve the heat. And make sure they’re open on sunny days.
• Use plastic sheets to cover windows and doors that aren’t used during the winter to help prevent drafts.
• Check the weather-stripping around all doors and windows. Repair or replace it in any spots that may make your home drafty.
• Keep dampers closed on fireplaces and stove vents shut when they’re not in use.
• Make sure you don’t have any cracks or openings in your foundation. If you do, fill them with caulking.
• Consider increasing the insulation in your attic and ceilings. If possible, cover the attic entrance with plastic. 

“While it’s great to save money by turning down the heat, never let a particular room or area of a house get too cold or you run the risk of having frozen water pipes that can burst and cause tremendous damage,” Welch said. “If possible, inspect all plumbing pipes leading in and through your house. Any pipes that run through unheated areas—such as attics, crawl spaces or outside walls – should be insulated.” 

“Also, if you’ll be using your furnace a lot this winter, make sure it’s ready to run as efficiently as possible,” Welch says. “Have your furnace inspected and cleaned by a professional and make sure you change the furnace filter regularly.” 

Every little bit helps, so before you turn up the heat, prepare your home for cold weather, Welch said. Hopefully you will save money and have a warm and comfortable winter. 

For more information on protecting your home for winter, visit http://www.disastersafety.org.
 
This is the third in a weekly series of tips Amica Insurance is offering during November to help prepare and protect your home and family this winter. To see the first and second installments of the series visit Amica.com.
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