Archive for the ‘Social Security Records’ Category

Sales Tax Holidays, Save Your Medicare BenefitsIt’s almost back to school time, and when you’re a parent, that means it’s back to school shopping time.  I don’t know why, but it always catches me by surprise. I should know better. The kids have grown and they need new clothes, and shoes. Their backpacks are worn to threads so they need new back packs and lunch boxes. It’s warm here now, but soon they’ll even need jackets and sweaters and snow boots!

All of this shopping can get expensive, and some states offer sales tax holidays to make your back to school shopping a little more affordable. Other states offer sales tax holidays to help you buy supplies to prepare for hurricane season, or to help you afford energy-efficient appliances.

So if you want to save a few bucks, learn about sales tax holidays in your state, and plan your shopping to take advantage of the discounts.

Medicare Card As a kid, I was sick a lot and I missed school quite a bit. I seemed to spend a lot of time at the doctor’s office and I was often diagnosed with sinus infections, colds, post-nasal drip, chronic/acute
, or pneumonia. For months at a time, I lived on antibiotics, cough medicine, and cough drops. During my sick times, it was a nightly routine to slather my chest with Vick’s VapoRub and put oven-warmed towels on my chest to help me breathe.

It was a struggle for my folks because my coughing was keeping them awake. I have memories from when I was just an itty-bitty thing struggling to suppress this constant coughing. On occasion I would go sit in the closet in my bedroom coughing into my pillow trying to silence my coughs so everyone could sleep. I would do this until the wee hours of the morning and sometimes I would fall asleep in the closet.

Then, the coughing would suddenly clear up and everything would be fine. My life would return to normal and it would all seem to be just a bad dream… until the next time. This was my pattern for years. It wasn’t until I was in my early 30’s when I ended up seeing an ear, nose, and throat specialist (ENT) for an ear infection, that I finally got a new diagnosis to my sinus and respiratory

While getting treated for an ear infection, I told the ENT my history of coughing, colds, etc. and he examined me. He said he saw evidence of multiple issues. He felt absolutely certain much of my problem was caused by allergies. He
suggested that the chronic wheezing I was experiencing was due to allergic asthma. He also asked me if I was aware that I had a deviated nasal septum. I had no idea what that even was, so he demonstrated it to me. He pushed close one nostril and had me inhale through my nose. The air freely moved into my lungs. Then he held down the other nostril and had me inhale. There was very little, if any, air into my lungs! I was completely shocked by that. How could I have not been aware of this?

He tested me for allergies and sure enough, I had significant allergy issues. I began daily allergy medicines, shots, and using an inhaler for the asthma. I also had a septoplasty to correct the deviated septum. The problems weren’t fixed over night, but bit by bit I began to improve. It has made a huge difference to the quality of my life. I eventually stopped taking allergy medicine and the shots all together. I can’t even tell you the last time I had a sinus infection, cold, or bronchitis.

It’s difficult for me to believe that at one time I thought the misery I was experiencing was a “normal” part of life and just something that I had to live with. When family, friends, or total strangers on a street comment to me about frequent colds or other chronic sinus issues, my first question is always, “Have you been to a specialist to be tested for allergies?”

downed power linesJust a few weeks ago, I wrote a post about not being caught off-guard in summer storms. Sometimes I need to learn to take my own advice.

This past Sunday a wicked thunderstorm tore through the Maryland, DC and Virginia area. There were tornado warnings in some areas and, though I don’t think any funnel clouds were actually spotted, the storm left quite a mess to clean up.

I wasn’t the least bit prepared for it. I had no idea storms were in the forecast. I was busy helping a friend move.

By the time I got back home, I found out my house had been without electricity for eight hours. Traffic lights were out everywhere, creating back-ups while police tried to direct traffic at some of the busiest intersections.

As I stumbled up the stairs by the glow from my cell phone screen, I tried to remember where I’d stashed my flashlight. I knew I had one somewhere, but of course when I found it the batteries were almost dead so the light flickered a lot.

Luckily, my power came back on about a half hour later. Being able to run the fans and the air conditioner helped cool the stuffiness and I was lucky that none of the food in my fridge had gone bad.

Several of my friends and coworkers aren’t expecting to get their power back until the end of the week. They’re getting by on candlelight and flashlights and eating most of their meals at restaurants since all the food in their fridges has gone bad.

It’s a crappy situation all around, but stuff like this always reminds me of the importance of being prepared in an emergency. FEMA has a great list of things to keep on hand, just in case, as well as advice on how to put a disaster kit together.

I know I need to find some new batteries for my flashlight. What’s one thing you need to do to be prepared for the next big storm?

Farmers MarketI watched the movie Food, Inc last weekend and one of its messages was that if you want the healthiest food, you should strive to buy your produce locally. There’s no better way to do that than shopping at your local farmers market. The Department of Agriculture is promoting farmers markets this week by deeming it National Farmers Market Week.

Farmers markets are a place where farmers can sell their products and develop a personal relationship with their buyers and the community. The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service supports the development of the farmers markets and counts them through the National Farmers Market Directory. This year’s count will be released this week and if it is anything like last year’s, it will demonstrate the rapid growth of farmers markets in the U.S.

Between 1994, the first year of the count, and 2009 the number of farmers markets tripled and there was a 13 percent increase between 2008 and 2009. As of last year, there were 5,274 markets. A survey USDA conducted in 2005 found that farmers markets take in over one billion dollars annually, and 25 percent of the vendors surveyed said the market is their sole source of income. The USDA provides resources on starting and funding farmers markets and most importantly where to find your local ones.

How often do you visit your local farmers market?

Scanning the genomes of more than 100,000 people from all over the world, scientists report the largest set of genes discovered underlying high cholesterol and high triglycerides — the major risk factors for coronary heart disease, the nation’s number one killer. Taken together, the gene variants explain between a quarter and a third of the inherited portions of cholesterol and triglyceride measured in the blood. The research, representing scientists from 17 countries, appears in two papers in the Aug. 5 issue of Nature.

Researchers supported by the National Institutes of Health have for the first time activated mouse egg cells at the earliest stage of their development and brought them to maturity. In a related experiment, the researchers replicated the finding by also bringing human eggs to maturity in the laboratory.

The National Institutes of Health today launched a multidisciplinary network of experts who will explore new approaches to understanding the origins of health disparities, or differences in the burden of disease among population groups. Using state-of-the-science conceptual and computational models, the network’s goal is to identify important areas where interventions or policy changes could have the greatest impact in eliminating health disparities. The Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR), part of NIH, is contracting with the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health, Ann Arbor, to establish the Network on Inequality, Complexity, and Health (NICH).

People with treatment-resistant bipolar disorder experienced relief from symptoms of depression in as little as 40 minutes after an intravenous dose of the anesthetic medication ketamine in a preliminary study; while the patient group was small, this work adds to evidence that compounds in the class to which ketamine belongs have potential as rapid and effective medications for depression, including bipolar depression.

Nobel Prize winner Harold E. Varmus, M.D., today took the oath of office to become the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) 14th director. NCI is one of the 27 Institutes and Centers that comprise the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

I got my first passport when I was fifteen and going on a school trip to England and France. This means I spent the following 10 passportyears flashing a picture of me in braces and with hair styling fresh from basketball practice.

When it was due for renewal I snickered when I realized that renewing my passport actually cost me more than applying for one originally. By this time, they stopped letting you smile in your picture and I couldn’t show off the fruit of my years of orthodontic labor.

As of yesterday, passport fees have gone up once again. An adult will be charged $135 (up from $100) to get a passport. A minor’s passport is $105 (up from $85). For renewals, an adult will be charged $110 (up from $75).

The State Department says the increase in fees are to cover the costs of production of the physical book itself as well as implementing new technology, operating expanded processing facilities and providing aid and emergency services to U.S. citizens overseas.

Will the higher fees deter you from traveling abroad?

kikds playingAlright, confession time: I watch a lot of bad reality TV. Please don’t judge me.

For many reasons, one of my favorite shows is the Biggest Loser. I’m a health nut; I love watching the transformations; and I get a kick out of the trainers screaming their heads off.

But the fact that such a show even exists and that the people on it are getting bigger and bigger each season is kind of a sad commentary on the state of overall health in this country.

A lot of the bad health habits we have now as adults were learned as kids and teenagers. We eat the same foods our moms cooked and we learn about an active or sedentary lifestyle from our parents’ examples. So it seems the way to fix our obesity problem is to start with educating kids and parents, which is exactly what the Let’s Move campaign is trying to do.

Backed by Michelle Obama, Let’s Move teaches kids the importance of getting some kind of activity every day. It uses the approach that something, even if it’s just a little, is always better than nothing.

Take a walk, ride a bike, play tag. It’s all better than guzzling a soda and playing video games.

Parents can learn simple things they can do to encourage their kids to be healthy. Sit down on a weekend and map out dinners for the week together. Involve your kids in the process of choosing healthy foods and, if age appropriate, let them help make dinner. Instead of a candy dish, parents could swap it for a fruit dish. Put easy to grab fruits in your kids’ reach and they might not miss the candy.

Being healthy doesn’t have to mean some extreme diet and exercise plan, it can be little things you do each day to help set a good example for your family.

Check out and share one healthy thing you do each day.

ReadingMy fiance is an elementary school teacher and sometimes I think she gets more excited about summer vacation than her students. This doesn’t mean she doesn’t do anything school-wise during her break; summer reading is a big part of her R&R. In fact, last week she went to the local library, checked out a couple of books and finished reading them within three days. 

It would be great if her students showed that much enthusiasm for reading during the summer. According to, studies have shown that if children don’t read during the summer, they can lose 2-3 months of academic progress. Children who participate in summer reading programs can maintain their academic progress and be better prepared for the new school year. My fellow blogger Joanne is wise to have her children read every day during summer vacation.

When I used to volunteer at the local library, the summer reading programs were always very popular but there are some children who do not have access to books. The "Let’s Read, Let’s Move" initiative, created by, encourages people to volunteer to read to children and even organize book drives in their communities. Along with some other organizations, they are striving to make 2010 a summer of a million books for children everywhere.

Do your children read during the summer?

Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), currently known for its therapeutic benefits against HIV, also reduced the spread of the virus among people with a history of injection drug use, according to a population-based study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a component of the National Institutes of Health. The study was published today in the Lancet.

woman on a cell phoneDid you hear the rumor? Any day now telemarketers will be assaulting your cell phone! The good news is that it’s a rumor and nothing more.

E-mails have been circulating and urging you to register your cell phone number with the special Do Not Call Registry for wireless phones. I just saw one in my e-mail inbox and I was almost fooled. Luckily I work with a small army of dedicated consumer information experts who set me straight!

There is no special Do Not Call Registry for wireless phones. If you want to, you can register your cell phone number on the Do Not Call Registry, but telemarketers are prohibited from calling you on your cell phone whether it’s registered or not.

If you’re receiving unwanted telemarketing calls at home (on your land line), it’s easy to register on the Do Not Call Registry. If you want to file a complaint about unwanted telemarketing calls, you can file online, or call 1-888-382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236).

Today’s older Americans enjoy longer lives and better health than did previous generations. These and other trends are reported in Older Americans 2010: Key Indicators of Well-Being, a unique, comprehensive look at aging in the United States from the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics.

The National Institutes of Health Advisory Committee on Research on Women’s Health announces the appointment of five new members: Francisco Garcia, M.D., M.P.H., Ronda S. Henry-Tillman, M.D., F.A.C.S., Karen E. Kim, M.D., Claire Pomeroy, M.D., and Paul F. Terranova, Ph.D.

Things I wanted to write about today: Certain Hollywood starlets being sent to the slammer, the ending to the movie "Inception", the oil_spill_clean_upPhillies current performance making me lose my appetite.

However, none of these things make the rankings on the FAQ page of the most searched topics by citizens.

In response to the numerous inquiries we have received, today we talk about: the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Each night the news bums me out with reports of how many people and animals are being affected by this crisis, with no real solution to the problem in place. It didn’t surprise me that this was the #1 searched topic in the FAQ database for the month of June. What DID surprise and please me was that the #1 searched issue was not the disaster itself, but how to volunteer to donate to help the relief effort. I’m thrilled that so many people are eager to take action to help, because placing blame ultimately doesn’t do anyone much good.

For state-specific volunteer opportunities check out:

If you have a boat that can be used to help aid in the clean-up effort go to:

If you personally want to volunteer to help, call: 1.866.448.5816

Do you know any other ways to help? What do you think can be done?

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