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Ways to Stay Healthy

posted Jan 14, 2017, 6:23 PM by Margo Duesterhaus

... and Keep a Good Work/Life Balance with a Busy Lifestyle

By Julie Morris

Photo via Pixabay by Geralt

Today, social media, texting, and instant messaging have made communicating with each other quicker and easier than ever before. This technology has been very helpful in the workplace, but has also made it possible for work to monopolize our time and focus during off hours, leading to poorer quality of life and burnout.

Maintaining a good balance between work and home life is very important.  Leaving work at the office and optimizing your home will minimize stress and allow you to have the time and personal space needed to focus on family and build relationships in your community.  Making that separation can improve your health as stress can contribute to a multitude of health problems.  Getting that time to recharge will also improve productivity and efficiency at work.

First Priority Should Be to Unplug

Leaving work at the end of the day to head home is usually a relief.  Cell phones and laptops are links to the office that are being brought home with you.  Create some boundaries by turning off notifications from work or ignore them unless it’s a legitimate emergency. 

Don’t set the precedent of being instantly available to coworkers and bosses after hours.  They will definitely take advantage of your time and energy.  You can show them you can be relied upon to get things done and taken care of during your scheduled work period.

Spending time with family and friends is diminished when your attention gets diverted to answering texts and emails that should wait until office hours.  You will nurture relationships by giving your full attention to those non-work activities, and give yourself the much-needed break from work after already putting in the required amount of time. Another great way to unplug is to take a trip.

Set Separate Work and Personal Life Goals

Focus on what you would like to achieve at work, whether it be a promotion or special project, and figure out exactly what it takes to make that happen.  Stay organized and efficient to get closer to achieving those goals. 

With a busy lifestyle, it is important to stay organized at home as well.  Find ways to streamline bill paying, get chores done, and run errands more efficiently.  Technology is really good for these projects- sign up for auto bill pay on their websites, order groceries online, and have them delivered to your home.  This way you will have more time to focus on the important things such as spending quality time with family and friends, taking a class, participating in a sport, or volunteering in your community. 

Managing time better at home and work will cut down on stress and help you keep your mind focused on tasks at hand.  Mental exhaustion and fatigue affects productivity and well-being.

Take Care of Your Health

Mental and emotional health is important to focus on in a busy lifestyle.  How you feel affects all areas of your life.  Being healthy helps you cope with stress, recover from challenges, and build good relationships with others.

Exercise is always a big component in getting and staying healthy.  Make time to run, bike, or do quick exercise routines at home when you are short on time.  You will feel more energized during the day and get better sleep at night.

Improve your diet by eating fresh produce from local farms, or grow your own. Stay away from so much junk or fast food.  Plan out some meals ahead of time and take healthier lunches to work so that you can eat healthier meals.  Eating better will increase energy and focus in all your activities, and you can strengthen your community by shopping or growing locally.

Don’t forget to get plenty of rest.  Your body needs a full night’s sleep to recuperate from stress and your day’s challenges. 

Achieving a better work/life balance is possible with a plan and goals for work and personal time.  Keep reviewing your priorities and you will be successful in your work and life endeavors.



Summer Fun Comes with its Risks - Unless You're Prepared

posted Jul 23, 2016, 9:15 AM by Margo Duesterhaus

Tips for Making Your Home Emergency-ready

by Sean Morris

Making your home emergency-ready might seem like a waste of time; after all, how likely is it that disaster will strike? No matter the odds, preparing your home and your family for worst-case scenarios offers peace of mind knowing that you’re ready to handle whatever comes your way. Here are a few essential emergency-preparedness tips for every homeowner.

Arm Yourself with Backup Lighting

Emergencies are often accompanied by power outages. You might think that you know the layout of your home well enough to navigate in the dark, but it’s much more difficult than many people realize in the heat of the moment.

Always be prepared with battery-powered lighting such as flashlights and lanterns. Periodically check and replace the batteries as needed so that your emergency lighting is ready to go all year long. It’s also a good idea to use rechargeable batteries and store extra in a nearby and easily accessible location. You can even opt for crank-style flashlights so you’ll never have to worry about dead batteries!

Maintain Smoke Alarms and Keep Fire Extinguishers at the Ready 

Keep a fire extinguisher on each floor of your home, along with an extra extinguisher in the kitchen. Fires can start in any area of your home, and the few minutes it may take to retrieve a fire extinguisher from another floor can mean the difference between a near-emergency and an out-of-control, whole-house fire.

Additionally, smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are must-haves on each floor of your home, as well as near every bedroom. This helps to ensure that every member of your family will be awoken by the alarm should disaster strike, allowing you more time to get your loved ones to safety.

Keep First Aid Kits on Hand

When emergencies happen, injuries are also likely. That’s why a first aid kit is an emergency essential for every home. You can build a custom first aid kit that also includes things like medications, incontinence products, or any other items particular to your family’s needs.

Knowing some basic first aid techniques can truly be a lifesaver in the event of an emergency. CPR and basic first aid classes are often held in hospitals and community health clinics in practically every city and town across the U.S. throughout the year, and it only takes a few classes to get certified.

Be Prepared for Flooding with Sump Pump and Water Alarms

Flooding is one of those emergencies that can happen anywhere, and there are a few ways to prepare your home for flood emergencies, as well. For instance, water alarms can alert you to leaks, allowing you to rectify the problem before it becomes a true emergency. Shutoff valves for both your washer and your hot water heater are also essential for minimizing water damage.

Having a sump pump on-hand is also another good idea. Even if your area doesn’t see a lot of rain, earthquakes and strong winds can cause damage that could lead to flooding.

Protect Your Roof from Damage from Falling Trees and Limbs

If your home has surrounding trees, it’s crucial to have a tree care specialist inspect your property periodically. Trees with long limbs overhanging your roof can spell disaster in harsh winds. Tree specialists can identify these potential problems and trim your trees to eliminate the risk of heavy branches causing substantial damage to your home during storms.

Additionally, you can enlist a roofing professional to inspect your roof. These experts can point out areas requiring repair, or they may recommend a full roof replacement. Keeping your roof in good repair reduces the odds of leaks that result in costly damage to your property.

In the midst of an emergency, it’s difficult to think clearly. Preparing your home for possible emergencies before they happen means that you can focus on keeping your loved ones safe should disaster strike, instead of working anxiously to minimize damage that could have been prevented in advance.

 Images via Pixabay by pixeltweaks

Sean Morris is a former social worker turned stay-at-home dad. He knows what it’s like to juggle family and career. He did it for years until deciding to become a stay-at-home dad after the birth of his son. Though he loved his career in social work, he has found this additional time with his kids to be the most rewarding experience of his life. He began writing for to share his experiences and to help guide anyone struggling to find the best path for their life, career, and/or family.

4 Easy Ways to Make Our Homes Greener

posted Aug 29, 2015, 1:47 PM by Mobeena Begum   [ updated Aug 29, 2015, 1:50 PM ]

Via Flickr – by EladeManu

If you don’t think you’re an energy waster, consider these eye-opening statistics:

·         Americans generate 30 percent of the world’s garbage, but only make up 5 percent of the world’s population. (University of Utah’s College of Architecture and Planning)

·         A 2009 McKinsey & Company study found that Americans spend $130 billion per year on wasted energy. (Energy Resource Center)

·         Each day pipe leaks cause the U.S. to lose 7 billion gallons of drinking water. (ThinkProgress)

            Unfortunately, simply by living in the U.S. we all contribute to pollution and energy and water waste. Even an avid recycler and self-proclaimed treehugger like myself knows I could do more to help the environment and to reduce my overall contribution to all that waste.

            If you’re looking to reduce your impact on the environment, here are a few ways you can help by “greening up” your household:

Go green when you clean. The products you use to keep your house clean may actually be polluting the overall environment. As notes in its article on easy tips for making a “green home,” “plant-based products from companies that have a complete list of ingredients on their labels” is the way to go. When you choose greener cleaners, you’ll put less pollutants into the air and reduce your family’s exposure to harmful chemicals.

Buy local produce. It’s probably not something you’ve thought much about, but the foods you buy have to travel thousands of miles to reach your table. As this article notes, these miles traveled require tons of crude oil and lead to green-house gasses being “spewed” into our air. It explains that when you buy locally your food doesn’t have to travel as far, which means less pollution.

Maintain your pool. There’s nothing more refreshing than a dip in the pool, but what isn’t so refreshing is how much a poorly maintained pool can contribute to water waste. As this article on reducing pool water use notes, when you fix leaks quickly, use a pool cover to reduce evaporation, and take other measures, you’ll decrease the overall amount of water your pool uses.

Use power strips. Here’s a great tip for reducing your monthly power bill: use more power strips. In its list of 70 green living tips, explains that even when your iPhone isn’t plugged into its charger, the charger is still “sucking energy from outlets.” By using power strips, you can turn the power supply on and off as needed.

            We could all do more to help keep the planet clean and green for years to come. Thankfully, many of the ways we can reduce our own individual energy and water waste are very easy to implement. By following these and other tips, we can play a vital role in protecting the environment.

Jasmine Dyoco is a fan of crossword puzzles, gardening, books on tape, learning (anything!) and fencing. She truly enjoys the work she does with Educator Labs and hopes you’ll stop by the site to learn more!



Happy 3rd Anniversary!

posted Jan 3, 2015, 8:54 AM by Margo Duesterhaus

Transition Howard County continues to grow and change the world through local action!  In this past year we have accomplished the following:
  • We had our 3rd successful Green Homes Now Tour with visitors from all over Maryland, DC and Virginia.
  • Our Changing Landscapes forum with Howard Community College and NASA featured fantastic speakers on topics including
    • Climate, Ecosystems, and Food 
    • Monitoring Ecosystems from Space: from global deforestation to local urbanization 
    • Urban Growth and Water Quality in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed   
  • We co-sponsored Howard County’s first BioBlitz with Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks, Howard County Living Farm Heritage Museum, the Maryland Biodiversity Project and the Howard County Bird Club.  We had 13 teams specializing in birds, fish, amphibians, butterflies, dragonflies, ants, wetland plants, herbaceous plants, trees, and fungi!
  • We co-sponsored a gluten free food event with the Columbia Community Exchange, Howard County’s Time Bank which filled the Barn at the Oakland Mills Village Center.
  • We hosted the Food in Film group at the Earth Forum of Howard County, where we showed several documentaries on food including Nourish and Dirt! The Movie.
  • We showed the film "Bringing Nature Home" at the Miller Library, which features a one-hour lecture by Douglas Tallamy on the critical need for Ecosystem Landscaping as a method for preserving biodiversity.
  • We continue to partner with HoCo Climate Change, Howard County's Local Health Improvement Coalition (LHIC), and the Legacy Leadership Environmental Institute.
  • We now have an active Inner Transition group that meets twice per month.
  • We joined the Mid-Atlantic Regional Transition Hub (MATH), which brings together transition groups in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia.
  • We continued our outreach at events like Greenfest and the 50+ Expo.
  • Our email list continues to grow and now has over 550 people.
Join the fun of building sustainable and resilient communities!

Happy 2nd Anniversary!

posted Jan 5, 2014, 9:52 AM by Margo Duesterhaus

Our group continues to grow and work towards creating more sustainable and resilient communities in Howard County.  In our second year, our group has accomplished the following: 
  • We received the Community Earth Care Innovator award from the Earth Forum of Howard County in recognition of our
    • Outstanding leadership in developing a new and engaging community earth care program
    • Organizing and presenting community environmental educational programs
    • Establishing partnerships with other environmental groups
    • Developing an effective community communications network
  • We were invited to speak to the Frederick County Sustainability Commission
  • We continue to partner with HoCo Climate Change, Earth Forum of Howard County, Howard County's Local Health Improvement Coalition (LHIC), and the Columbia Community Exchange, Howard County’s Time Bank.
  • We worked with Watershed Stewards to put in a woodland and watershed conservation garden and promote talks on “Slow the Flow” of stormwater.
  • We continued our outreach at events like Greenfest and the 50+ Expo.
  • We sponsored a discussion circle on the Moneyless Manifesto.
  • We sponsored talks and movies including Climate Reality and the Triple Divide.
  • Our All Hands bimonthly newsletter got a major facelift.  Our average open rate of 35% is well above the industry average.  
  • Our email list has almost TRIPLED in size from 140 to 405.
  • Our web site continues to grow 
    • over 1500 unique visitors this year
    • several blog posts on ecosystem landscaping and resilience
    • new newsletter archive
Thank you to everyone who has been a part of Transition Howard County.  Encourage your friends and neighbors to join in the fun of building sustainable and resilient communities!

Too Fast for Gas By Tim Foresman

posted Dec 10, 2013, 1:23 PM by Daniel Duesterhaus   [ updated Dec 10, 2013, 4:57 PM ]

Transition Howard County is about assisting each other to chart better pathways to a healthy and sustainable world. When it comes to fossil fuels and the corporate infrastructure that mines and markets the Earth’s energy resources, we are witnessing a fast approaching and unprecedented collision course with our goals and aspirations. Our Earth’s climate is not slowly changing. It is changing more rapidly than any known or conjectured shift in climate swings outside the catastrophic asteroid impacts last witnessed at the Cretaceous extinction event over 65 million years ago.

The human brain is wired to view things in day-to-day perceptions; we really don’t grasp the exponential shifts that are occurring all around us. Fossil fuel companies are dedicated, with expressed promises to their investors and stockholders to burning the maximum amount of fossil fuel in their inventories until they run out. The only chance to slow down this self-imposed house-burning is probably behind us. Many of us have been telling, perhaps yelling, that we need to kick the oil and coal habits, engage in transformative conservation behaviors and go full throttle on renewable energy regardless of the short-term costs because we know we cannot afford the long-term costs. Bill McKibben’s recent book, Oil and Honey, provides a poignant review of how the largest mobilization of environmental activists may have hit the streets 25 years too late. The Earth is heating up faster and the ice is melting faster than our best Earth scientists calculated or predicted just a couple years ago. We stand at an important crossroads looking at our own moral compasses and contemplating what should we do and how fast should we push.

It seems for many who have been waist-deep in the Earth and climate science arena that the past years' events are happening way too fast to continue with business as usual. If the Earth’s systems are changing too fast for gas, then what should we do? Like those brave citizens who made the moral and ethical decisions to cut all economic ties with the Apartheid governance infrastructure of South Africa, in response to the clarion call for racial equality from the late great Nelson Mandela, we are faced with probably the greatest social and moral dilemma of our adult lives. How can we continue to sponsor or be part of an economic system based on fossil fuel? How can we remain tethered to a complex and powerful fossil fuel energy system that will guarantee unprecedented damage to the Earth systems bringing destruction and trauma for the majority of the planet’s most vulnerable citizens? Transition Howard County is taking initial steps to educate and engage within our communities. Soon we will need to yell “fire” in our theaters of influence to promote the requisite stampede for change. Or else we can simply ride out the most rapid shift in climate over the last few million years.

Stormy weather

posted Sep 14, 2013, 4:47 PM by CCIHC

We are overdue for the Big One.

Not an earthquake, but a devastating inland hurricane, according to Rick Schwartz, author of Hurricanes and the Middle Atlantic States. Over the last 400 years, these inland hurricanes have hit this region every 57 or 58 years, and the last such storm, Hazel, hit 59 years ago.

“Hurricane history is repetitive. Events of the past will be events of the future,” said Schwartz, who spoke at the quarterly meeting of the Local Emergency Planning Committee in Ellicott City Friday. He mentioned global warming only in answer to a question and didn’t seem to have factored it into his calculations. “Up to 2 years ago, I would have said there was no evidence” of global warming, he said. But after Irene, Lee, Sandy, the derecho and the snowstorms, “I’m thinking it is beginning to have an effect,” he said.

An inland hurricane typically originates in the Caribbean in September or October, makes landfall as a Category 3 or 4, travels quickly north (faster than 30 mph) and heads in a fairly straight line — straight toward Maryland. The winds, sometimes clocked at 120 mph, are on the east side, rain on the west. “A Category 1 hurricane will do what a category 3 or 4 hurricane will do in Florida,” he said, because our vegetation hasn’t evolved for the higher winds and neither have building codes and other infrastructure. Stoplights in Florida, for example, are built to withstand winds of 100 mph; in this region, they are built to withstand winds of 50 or 60 mph.

Often the “big one” is preceded by a couple other hurricanes that follow a similar straight path north, giving a clue of wind patterns and what might be coming. Schwartz, who researched these storms through diaries, newspaper accounts and other records, said these storms have hit in our area in 1667, 1724, 1769, 1775, 1821, 1878, 1896 and 1954. Because the storms happen so far apart, people tend to forget. “Without the knowledge of hurricane history, it will come as an utter shock,” he said.

A diarist recording the “Great Gust of 1896” wrote of “the abomination of desolation on all sides.” People in Catonsville fled to nearby fields, fearing the imminent collapse of their homes. Two huge gusts from that inland hurricane also destroyed the covered bridge, more than a mile long, in Columbia, Pa. “California has its big earthquakes, [the mid-Atlantic] has its big winds,” he said.

Hurricane Hazel, the last “big one,” brought wind gusts of 98 mph to DC, 84 mph to Baltimore, 90 mph to Annapolis and 112 mph at the Patuxent Naval Air Station. High winds from these storms last for several hours. “Someday, likely soon,” he said, we will have the next Hurricane Hazel.

The region also is affected by other hurricanes, he said, such as Hurricanes Sandy last year and Isabel in 2003. They can bring double-digit rainfall — as with Camille’s 27 inches of rain in 5 hours in Virginia — and tornadoes. They also tend to interact with other weather systems in the area, as Sandy did. Combustible and hazardous materials are a huge threat during these storms. Toxic materials floated from factories into rivers during Agnes, he said. (This is something to keep in mind as the state ponders fracking.)

Hurricanes run in cycles of 25-30 years, he said. We have been in an active cycle since 1995 and probably have 10 more years to go. These cycles can include a quiet year, which might happen this season — although we should not relax yet, he said. Isabel, the closest to an inland hurricane in decades and with wind gusts 50 to 65 mph, left the area with downed trees, power outages and no water in some areas. “This area cannot handle high winds and wet ground,” he said. 

Only two hurricanes have made landfall on the East Coast since 2005. “How much longer can we beat the odds?” he asked. Never have so many people and so much property been at risk in this area. “The next Hurricane Hazel is due, and a period of catch-up seems likely.”

Schwartz also maintains a website:

--elisabeth hoffman

Happy 1st Anniversary Transition Howard County

posted Jan 6, 2013, 9:40 AM by Margo Duesterhaus

On Jan 6, 2012, Transition Howard County was officially launched with a presentation on state banks.  In one short year, our small group has grown and accomplished the following:

·         We formed committees on different transition topics including Health, Knowledge, Energy, Ecosystem Landscaping, Outreach, Water, and Steering

·         We created a display and brochures for tabling at events such as the Climate Change Observations from Space event at Howard Community College and at Greenfest

·         We started Howard County's Green Homes Now Tour

·         We are a partner with the Earth Forum and kicked off the Water Challenge

·         We work with local organizations such as the Climate Change Initiative of Howard County and Howard County's Local Health Improvement Coalition (LHIC)

·         We are a partner with the Columbia Community Exchange, Howard County’s Time Bank

·         We are listed in the Local Environmental Groups on

·         We sponsored presentations on local currency (e.g., Baltimore BNote), the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI), and Climate Reality

·         We hosted movie nights on In Transition 2.0, the Power of Community and FLOW (For the Love of Water)

·         We hosted an aquaponics workshop and a rain garden planting party

·         We have a twitter account

·         We now have 501(c)(3) non-profit status thanks to our fiscal sponsor, Earth Party

·         Our web site has had over 700 unique visitors since August

·         We have a new logo

·         Our email list has grown to over 140 people

It is exciting how much has happened in one year.  But there is still much to do.  And looking ahead can sometimes feel daunting given all of the problems we are currently facing from extreme weather to economic issues.  Buckminster Fuller once said, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”  Transition is that new model.  Not just because it focuses on resilience and sustainability but because it emphasizes the importance of community.  We do not know what specific problems we will face in the future.  But our chances of surviving AND thriving increase when we face them together. 

In Transition! 

Notes from Public Banking talk in DC 12-4-12

posted Dec 4, 2012, 9:33 PM by Ruth W

Tues Dec 4, 2012 - The DC Public Banking Center sponsored a talk at Busboys and Poets on “Web of Debt and Public Banking”  

Marc Armstrong, Director of the Public Banking Institute  , talked  about current campaigns to create public banks, including the campaign here in DC.  And Ellen Brown, author of the highly acclaimed book “The Web of Debt, The Shocking Truth About Our Money System and How to Break Free”  talked about  out the deception of our private money system and how we got to where we are today.  She also gave examples from around the world that have worked better than our current system, including in colonial Pennsylvania.  

The DC Public Banking Center has a dedicated core of folks working to create a public bank in DC.  Gar Alperovitz, and both John Cavanagh and Daphne Wysham of IPS are on their Advisory Committee. I have contact info for the 2 Co-Chairs - Ruth  Caplan and Steve Seuser.  I will not post it to the web without their permission but just contact me  (Ruth Alice)  for info.  You can reach me via CCIHC email - 

See file below (DC Public Banking Center.pdf  for one page of informal notes from Ruth Alice. 

Are you prepared?

posted Dec 2, 2012, 5:27 PM by Margo Duesterhaus   [ updated Dec 2, 2012, 5:34 PM ]

Superstorm Sandy has been a wake-up call on the perils of living on a warming planet.  We have all seen the devastation in New York and New Jersey.  Had Sandy followed a different track, much of that devastation could have occurred in Maryland instead.  We may have missed the brunt of Sandy, but Superstorms and other extreme weather events, such as the derecho we experienced in the summer, will happen more often as we continue to burn fossil fuels. 

So how prepared are you for the next major weather event?  YES! Magazine has an excellent quiz where you can get a sense of your level of resilience. As we enter into winter, let’s take a look at just one of the questions in the quiz:

I have alternative heat and energy sources (such as solar panels or a wood stove) if the power goes out or utilities get expensive.

Many homeowners found themselves without power after Sandy.  While some have bought gas powered generators to deal with the increasing number of power outages, the residents of New York and New Jersey learned that generators do little good if gas stations have no power and no one can pump gas.  And if there is gas shortage, then people have to wait in line for hours to buy gas for a generator.  This would be extremely unpleasant when it is freezing cold outside.  

So what are other solutions?  For home heating, one alternative is wood or pellet stoves.  You can put a wood stove in your fireplace (referred to as a fireplace insert) and convert a very inefficient fireplace into a highly efficient source of heat.  I had a wood stove installed in my fireplace several years, much to the objection of my husband who thought it was a silly idea.  He now concedes that this was one of my better ideas, especially on the few occasions when we have lost power for a day or more in the middle of winter. When Sandy came through we again lost power for a day, but our house was toasty warm thanks to the wood stove. 

Another solution is insulation.  If you want to be more resilient, insulation is critical.  Many homes have insufficient insulation.  A home energy audit can help you determine if/where you need more insulation.  It will also identify places where you can seal leaks so you spend less money heating the great outdoors. You can get a free home energy audit from BGE.  There are also many other companies that conduct home energy audits.  My home was built in the 1950’s and back then insulation in walls was considered optional.  And my house apparently opted out.  I only discovered this fact a couple years but it explained a lot as to why the house didn’t do a good job of retaining heat.  Since then we have added a significant amount of insulation in the walls and attic. The house stays so much warmer and we are saving money on home heating/cooling.

There are many other ways to become more resilient in the area of home heating.  What have you done or what are you planning to do to keep your home warm in the event of a severe winter weather power outage?  Please share your thoughts/comments so we can all learn from each other.

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