Healthy Concepts

"Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit."

In my experience with people who have had near-death experiences (people who have been clinically dead and then are revived) who then share their experience of dying, they are commonly asked, "How well did you love?"

That phrase has stuck with me and helps to clarify what I believe our true journey is about while we are here: to expand our capacity to love ourselves and others. It is so easy to get sidetracked in our lives and place so much importance on things that are really not important at all.

So the question for you today is "How well are you loving? Both yourself and other people?

Here are some tips to love even more:

1. Make loving a priority above all else. Is it important to clean your house or to spend some time with your kids or loved ones and just love them? Make love the priority during your day and it will make your heart happy, as well as those around you, too.

2. Before you make a comment back to someone ask yourself, "Is this the most loving thing that I could say right now?" So often we may have a habit of saying something critical, or if someone is critical with us we will want to be critical back. Instead, chose love over anything else.

3. While you are with those you love, feel the love in your heart for them. Look at them and just allow yourself to feel the love. Then let this love come out in your words. Examples include: "I just love you so much." "I am so grateful for you in my life," "Thank you for doing that for me" and "You are so thoughtful. Thank you."

4. What is your intention when you are with those you love? Is it to control them or to get them to do or see things your way, or live their life the way you think they should live it? Or is it to just unconditionally love them? People resist anyone trying to control them and open up to those who are truly loving them. Get clear about your intention and see if you can choose the intention to love rather than control.

5. Are you saying loving things to yourself throughout the day or judging harsh things? It will be easier to be loving with others if you are creating a very loving environment inside of you. Practice loving yourself unconditionally even if you make mistakes.

6. Take risks to love. So many people shut down their hearts to love because of earlier pain they have experienced. Oftentimes they don’t even know it is closed. They just feel lonely in their life. If this is the case for you, you may have people around you but your heart isn’t fully open to them. It can feel scary to open up your heart again. Experiment with opening your heart with people that feel safe for you. Express your appreciation for them, give them an extra hug, feel the love in your heart you have for them even if this may feel uncomfortable to you at first. The more you practice the more comfortable you will be at expressing your love.

When you set this intention to make love a priority in your life and practice opening your heart to others and yourself even more, by the end of your life if you are asked, "How well did you love?" you can smile and respond, "I loved with my whole heart!"

Shelley Riutta MSE, LPC, is a holistic psychotherapist in private practice specializing in transformational individual counseling, presentations, groups and workshops. For more information and to get her free workbook "What Do You Really Want: Finding Purpose and Passion in Your Life" visit http://www.RadiantLifeCounseling.com or call her at 920-265-2627.

The Way of St. James, El Camino de Santiago, is the pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the apostle Saint James are buried. The Camino has existed for more than 1,000 years and was one of the most important Christian pilgrimages during medieval times. The full Camino, from Roncesvalles, France, to Santiago, Spain, is more than 500 km. and takes most people 25-30 days to complete, but the minimum for certification is 100 km. walking. (http://Wikipedia.com)

I arrived in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, for the first time by foot, walking the Camino with a lovely Scandinavian couple I met about 10 km. up the road. Breathe in. Breathe out. Big sigh of gratitude.

When Judy invited me to join her group for two days, I was thrilled for this opportunity to experience at least part of the Camino with a seasoned veteran. (Judy has been guiding trips for the past 15 years. Under her umbrella, I had a place to sleep, maps, camaraderie and advice. But the Camino is truly about losing all of those conveniences and just walking, and talking, and listening, and suffering, and feeling so darn lucky — all at the same time.

My first glimpse of the Camino was really rather staggering. It looked more like Mardi Gras than a spiritual pilgrimage. All kinds of faces and races and shapes and sizes. The Camino is filled with refugios/albergues, where pilgrims can get a bed and a shower for about 5 to 10 euro. But the most unique group was from Lithuania. They were walking from Lourdes, France, to Fatima, Portugal, carrying a life-size wooden cross. It took three men to carry it, and they were lead by women carrying huge statues of the Virgin Mary. Theirs was an overtly spiritual pilgrimage and even if I didn’t share their beliefs, I admired their camaraderie and devotion.

My Camino journey began in the small town of Arzua. They virtually dropped me along the side of the road with the instructions to follow the yellow arrows painted on stones, walls, and along the path. I walked alone at first, through eucalyptus forests and amidst farms and quaint stone houses. Eventually I came across a few other pilgrims and shared the greeting "Buen Camino," continuing on my way. I love the concept of acknowledging every one along the way with this simple greeting, always in Spanish. They are sweet words of encouragement and recognition, wishing everyone the best on their journey.

About 10 km. in, I stopped to snap a photo of some blue hydrangeas and asked the pilgrim behind me to take my photo. I took his, and we ended up walking the next 13 km. together. Twenty five days on the Camino, walking alone! We immediately dropped into an easy conversation, in Spanish, that wandered from health care, to Obama, the European economic crisis and threat of bankruptcy in Spain, our lives, our kids, our work. I’m sure that it is easier to share difficult truths with a stranger you will never see again, but his sincerity was palpable. Ramón and I shared a beer in Pedrouzo, his destination for the day, and continued with a great conversation about celebrations and traditions. With that, he picked up his backpack. A kiss on each cheek and he was gone. Judy often refers to the Camino as the Grand Confessional, which seems to be an accurate moniker, based on my first day of walking.

On day two I am dropped by the side of the road around 7:30 a.m. It’s cold and I haven’t had my cup of coffee yet. I almost stop at the first restaurant, but see the road un-traveled ahead of me and decide to get a few kilometers under my belt before I sit and enjoy a cup of café con leche. I ended up putting in almost 5 km before stopping, walking alone the whole time, contemplating everything from my parents’ deaths, to the dissolution of my marriage, to my spirituality. The caffeine withdrawal hit around 9 a.m. I followed my nose off course to a café nestled behind the church and proudly announced to the two smiling women working behind the counter, "Yo necesito un café con leche, grande, muy grande." They both laughed and repeated my grandes, and fulfilled my need with a Spanish croissant on the side. Heaven. A table outside. Bliss.

After a second café con leche (also grande, muy grande), I was on my way again. I passed a Nordic looking couple and said the obligatory "Buen Camino." I broke the ice, asking where they were from. "María is from Denmark and I am from Norway", answered the tall white haired man. Immediately conversation was easy and interesting. His name is SigBjorn which means Victory Bear in Norwegian. "No one can pronounce it, he boasts, so I just tell everyone, she’s María and I’m Joseph. They always remember that!" Darling. They have been on the Camino for 30 days, and proudly announce that they haven’t a blister!

We arrive in Santiago at the absolute busiest time of the entire celebration, on the busiest day of the year. It is a zoo. Flags. Music. Crowds and lines everywhere. I wind them through the chaos, pausing reverently at their first glimpse of the cathedral, the destination point for pilgrims coming from all directions. "You made it!" I exclaim, hugging them both, and María sheds a tiny tear of gratitude. We grab the opportunity to snap quick pictures of María and SigBjorn smooching in front of the cathedral. Absolutely priceless. They invite me to share a beer and I suggest Rosalía where my friend Fernando works. Two minutes later we are "skol-ing" with broad smiles and happy hearts. We find a table in the back order octopus, squid and fried chiles. All specialties of Galicia. It’s a lovely meal and best of all we drop deeper into a conversation about consciousness and dimensionalities, and past lives. By the end of our second beer, I am sure these people will be a part of my life forever. We hug, exchange Facebook information, and say goodbye for now. I am invited to Bergen any time and somehow know that it will happen sooner rather than later.

As I walk home, I make a small promise to myself to continue to imagine my new life with as much hope and faith as I feel, right now, in this moment, fresh from the Camino de Santiago.

Namasté. Or, in Spanish, "Buen Camino".

Tina Romenesko is the owner of Trillium Yoga in downtown Appleton. She is presently working on her Master’s degree in Spanish Language and Literature through the University of Northern Iowa, studying at La Universidad de Santiago in Spain. She teaches weekly yoga classes, including Yoga "en Español," and will be taking a group to Asturias Spain for Mindful Yoga and Movement this spring. See her web site: http://www.yogatina.com for details and class times.

The dieting industry is notorious for great marketing schemes. Their cut-calorie approach or restrictive calorie dieting has been a staple in our society for decades. You don’t even have to change what you eat, just the amount. How is it possible to eat the same foods that got you to where you are and truly believe that it will be a permanent fix? To be successful with permanent weight loss or better health you must create new habits.

So what’s so wrong with the traditional dieting approach?

When you reduce calories below a level required to maintain lean body mass and meet metabolic demands, you do lose weight, but a good portion of that weight is muscle tissue. The scale is telling you things are going wonderfully, but the scale neglects to point out that if you lose muscle you slow your metabolism. Muscle is calorie-active tissue and fat is simply stored fuel. Remember the scale cannot tell you the difference. Muscle is also the physical location where fat is burned, so if you lose weight and any portion of that is muscle, you’ve just crippled your body’s fat burning machine.

Also valuable to note is that when you are in a calorie deprived state your endocrine system attempts to protect you from starvation. Repeated bouts of this will coax the thyroid gland to make metabolic shifts so your body can survive on fewer calories. This absolutely guarantees that losing weight will become a greater challenge in the future. Now on the flip side, when you go back to your ‘normal’ eating habits you will more than likely gain all the weight you’ve lost back plus 10 or 20 pounds to boot. Yes, your metabolism has been affected with no way to stimulate it. Most will end up becoming yo-yo dieters returning to the same system that had failed you before.

I know many of us hear big name diet plans that say they are ‘sensible’ while others claim to be ‘balanced’ and nearly every one of them play up the idea that they are a healthy lifestyle change. The point they miss is in recognizing that if you want to boost one’s metabolism you cannot starve away metabolically active tissue. What you want to do is protect muscle while dropping body fat so to stimulate increases in your metabolism thus keeping your body more efficient at burning ‘through’ food.

If all your attempts include a form of calorie deprivation, don’t blame yourself; it all boils down to being misinformed. Society has taught this with the many dieting programs, so it’s not your fault. You never really failed. It was the diet that failed you. If you recognize that with each perceived failure you return to the same technology that had failed you before, perhaps with a different twist or name, but the same ‘cut calories’ approach, you will also recognize that you need not a repackaging of the same approach, but a new approach, one that absolutely works.

If you find yourself like the millions of others that have been caught on this continual dieting rollercoaster, chances are your metabolism may need a boost.

Here are 3 simple recommendations to help kick-start your metabolic rate:

Eat an absolute minimum of 1,200 calories per day

While unhealthy and short lived, eating a low-calorie diet will help you take off weight but too few calories will cripple your metabolism. As calorie depravation continues your metabolic rate will slow as it tries to conserve energy. As your metabolism crashes, the weight you take off will eventually creep back on over time. Plus, by restricting your calories you’ll be more likely to crave and binge on junk foods.

Eat every three hours

A regular meal schedule helps keep your body working to digest and absorb foods. Between breakfast and bed, aim to eat a meal or snack every three hours. And try to eat breakfast within 90 minutes of rising. People who regularly eat a healthy breakfast are more likely to control their weight. If you wait to eat until you’re really ravenous, you’re more likely to overeat later in the day. Also breakfast helps fire up your metabolism after a full night of fasting (so break that fast).

Eat protein with every meal

All foods contribute to the thermic effect, which means that all foods — carbohydrates, fats, and proteins — help to give the metabolism a gentle nudge higher when we eat them. But protein has the greatest thermic effect of all. In addition, protein can increase metabolism by helping to maintain and build muscle mass.

Tony Bednarowski is co-owner/publisher of Nature’s Pathways Magazine and founder, developer and nutrition counselor for Getyourleanon.com — Good Food, Better Health! He is an International Sports Science Association (ISSA) board certified Nutrition Specialist & Sports Performance Nutrition Specialist with more than 30 years experience in the health and fitness industry as a trainer, nutrition specialist and competitive bodybuilder. For more information, visit http://www.GetYourLeanOn.com or call 920-850-9983.

 

Bedbugs in hotel mattresses have been in the news. Toxic flame-retardant chemicals in mattresses have been researched and reported. Dr. Mercola, a well-known osteopathic physician, posted another threat in the bedroom: everyday radiation.

Breast cancer

Mercola posted on Aug. 18, 2010, that the rate of breast cancer in Western countries is 10 percent higher in the left breast than the right. In Japan, however, there is no left-side prevalence in the disease. The difference may be in the sleeping habits of Japan and Western countries. In Western countries, the most common type of mattress is an elevated box spring that contains metal coils, while in Japan, people typically sleep on futon mattresses, which contain cotton or wool placed directly on the floor. It is the metal that seems to be the clue, for researchers have found that the metal box springs in Western bedrooms actually act as antennas, attracting and amplifying whatever radiation might be zipping through your bedroom.

Research has shown that people generally prefer to sleep on their right side, possibly as a way of reducing weight stress on the heart. "When sleeping on the right side, the body’s left side will thereby be exposed to field strength (of ambient radiation) about twice as strong as what the right side absorbs." (Scientific American, July 2010-Mercola) This may help explain the 10 percent increased rate of cancer in the left breast in Western countries.

What radiation?

Consider the connection between breast cancer and the digital clock or cordless phone you may have next to your bed. It is known that melatonin (hormone) suppression occurs at frequencies not far above those of the common household ranges of 60 hertz. If you sleep next to a cordless phone, cell phone charger or digital clock, there’ll be enough continuous electromagnetic radiation (EMR) exposure to suppress night-time melatonin production. Reduced melatonin levels from EMR have been shown to cause a number of cancers including, breast, prostate, colorectal, melanoma, ovarian malignancies and childhood leukemia. (Nexus Magazine-Sherrill Sellman 2007)

Your body electric

The human body has its own internal electric system. These weak electric impulses are used for intracellular communication. Unfortunately, your body can literally act like a tuning fork. Any external electrical influence (amplified by your box springs) can disrupt your body’s normal frequency. In the typical bedroom, electrical exposure from external sources (modern electrical wiring in ceilings, walls and floors) is thousands of times stronger than your body’s own electric system. Long-term exposure to these high level electric fields can impair the body’s intracellular communication, which can impact health in a number of ways, including cancer.

A 3-tier solution

Maybe you’ll want to change mattresses, but you’ll still be exposed to ever-present electromagnetic radiation from appliances, wiring and towers. Protection from EMR involves a three-tiered approach. The primary intervention is to reduce exposure as much as possible. The second tier is to minimize the effect. The third tier of intervention is directed at strengthening the body system.

Experience the scientifically-tested GIA Wellness products to address all three levels of protection in our wired and wireless world. Please refer to accompanying ad for list of GIA Wellness consultants in the area.

When was the last time you felt satisfied with yourself for the healthy meal you savored while dining out? While most Americans feel as though they should feel "stuffed" after a satisfying meal (even needing to "unbutton"), the Japanese know otherwise. It’s no wonder they are considered the healthiest people on Earth, with the highest life expectancy.

An Appleton culinary landmark, Nakashima of Japan, has offered traditional Japanese cuisine since the 1980s. The original owner, Hiro Nakashima, joined this friend, Seigo, here in Wisconsin in the mid-1980s directly from Japan. Hiro managed Seigo’s Steakhouse for a couple of years before introducing the sushi bar and changing the name to Nakashima’s in 1988. Thanks to some careful planning, the Nakashimas now have Katsu-Ya of Japan, also in Appleton, and Nakashima of Japan in Green Bay. Hiro and his family have much to be proud of.

Entering Nakashima’s Appleton location is much like walking into a spa. You are welcomed with a friendly greeting, and immediately appreciate the relaxing atmosphere. The lighting is subdued, the music is quiet and the décor is rich and traditional.

With the option of hibachi or sushi dining, our diners chose to explore the traditional Japanese sushi bar. A common misconception among Americans is that raw fish may not be safe. This has never been an issue for the sushi chefs at Nakashima’s. Often, Hiro himself makes the twice-weekly drive to Chicago to choose the high-grade fish they will serve their loyal customers. They have used the same trusted vendor for years.

For those who haven’t tried sushi and are a bit hesitant, Nakashima’s offers a few suggestions. First, come open-minded and without expectations. Second, you may want to try the Beginner Sushi Combo, which was developed as a "baby step" for those who’ve never tried sushi. Third, come in for a wine tasting session. Here you are presented with a variety of sushi and are able to try more options, without getting "stuck" always ordering the same menu item. This snacking and drinking is really the Japanese way of dining. They do not have the traditional American courses of appetizer, entrée, dessert. Instead, you have a light meal with drinks, have some fun and leave satisfied.

Our diners started out with the cucumber wrap and steamed gyoza. The smoked salmon (yes, not all sushi is raw fish!) with the cucumber was delicious and a nice mix of crunchy and tender – a very fresh taste. The gyoza, or pork and shrimp dumplings, just melted in their mouths – very rich and flavorful.

Next, the avocado and asparagus salad was met with raves. Even our diner who didn’t otherwise care for avocados loved this salad. The dressing was spectacular! The tuna guacamole with chips was devoured in no time. The blue fin tuna was excellent, and the salty chips gave it a nice kick.

From the veggie sushi menu, our diners tried the sesame aac and veggie curry. These rice rolls were incredible. Adding some soy sauce and wasabi really made them pop. A real treat came next with the scallop ceviche, which is raw scallop marinated in a spicy aji amarillo sauce. Our diners found the hint of lime and spicy kick the perfect combination.

Next, the shrimp and salmon tempura rolls were deemed "supurb" by our diners. Again, this was an option where the fish was not raw. And completing our dining experience was the tuna sashimi, which tasted fantastic with a combination of the light soy sauce and wasabi.

Our diners truly enjoyed sampling the many artfully crafted sushi options along with glasses of wine from Nakashima’s extensive wine list. It was clear why food and drink go hand in hand for the Japanese. The finest ingredients, great pride and many years of expertise combine to show why Nakashima of Japan remains a well-respected, Appleton treasure. Why not plan a dining experience with friends, family or co-workers to try new and healthy sushi options and be treated to the superb customer service offered by all of Nakashima’s dedicated employees today!

NAKASHIMA OF JAPAN

4100 W. Pine St., Appleton

920-739-6057

www.nakashimas.com

Hours: M-F 5-10 pm; Sat 4:30-10 pm; Sun 4-9 pm

Christensen & Wisnet Heating & Cooling started in 1966 as a small heating company that serviced heating equipment for its customers that purchased home heating oil from its parent company, Christensen & Wisnet Oil Co. As the market changed and fuel oil became a less popular choice, owners John Christensen and Joe Wisnet saw an opportunity to grow their heating and cooling business outside their customer base by offering a full spectrum of products to all customers. They would sell the oil company to U.S. Oil and purchase their heating and cooling division. "This venture positioned us as a major player in the residential heating and cooling business in the Valley," says John Christensen. "We were able to buy better and pass those savings to the customer."

Today, Christensen & Wisnet offers heating and cooling products ranging from high-efficiency furnaces, boilers, air conditioners, humidifiers, air filtration, thermostats and much more. "Our products can accommodate the green agenda that our customers are looking for," says John. "We offer free estimates to our customers so they know what they will save, and tailor it to fit their budget."

Our logo, the "Good Guys," came from our customers. We repeatedly heard them comment to us after we serviced, repaired or installed a system that we were very professional and good guys. We thought: why not add it to our name. We also live by our motto, "We won’t let you down, we promise!"

John Christensen is a fourth generation heating and cooling business professional, and has a business degree from the University of Wisconsin La Crosse.

His son, Andrew, is planning on moving into the business and is currently working on his associate’s degree in heating and cooling from Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

His nephew, Dan Christensen, holds a computer degree from Fox Valley Technical College and currently handles marketing, I.T. and customer relations.

"These two guys will insure the future and business ethics that were instilled in my partner and I from our parents," says John, who is on the board of directors for the Northeast Wisconsin Better Business Bureau.

Today Christensen & Wisnet Heating & Cooling is located at 4450 W. Greenville Drive in Appleton just north of the Fox River Mall.

You can see many of the products available in their working showroom. They also encourage "do-it-yourselfers" to stop in for air filters, thermostats, carbon monoxide detectors and HVAC parts at rates that are very competitive.

Current tax credits, rebates and Energy Star rewards make buying in 2010 a great time to update your current heating and cooling system to something more efficient, safe and reliable.

They can be reached at (920) 734-1436 or check their web site at http://www.cwgoodguys.com for helpful information.

They won’t let you down. They promise!

At work we are often asked to do more with less — less of a budget and in less time. We juggle several tasks at once, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. We are challenged to think creatively but often not given the tools to do so. This can lead to frustration and ultimately dissatisfaction in our jobs.

So how can we get around these expectations? They’re a part of every job, but don’t you just get tired of the term "think outside the box?" What is actually being asked is for us to be creative, to think the unexpected to achieve an exceptional product. Using creativity and creative exercises at work can assist in meeting such expectations.

The benefits of implementing a creative practice can be achieved as an individual, but when reached as a team, they can be even more powerful. Some benefits of this practice include:

Better teamwork and bonding

Increased engagement and interaction

Increased fun and happiness

Increased retention and recruiting

Increased problem solving and productivity

So what would the boss say if we were all having fun and enjoying life at work? Some objections to a creative program may be due to cost, i.e., "We don’t have the budget." To this I say that it can be realized at little to no cost with very few supplies, depending on the activities chosen.

Another objection may be related to the time employees are away from productive tasks. My response is that creativity will increase one’s energy level and spur a flurry of productive results at any job.

Yet another objection may be related to looking unprofessional on the job. My response here is the evidence speaks for itself. When clients receive products faster and at a higher quality, they will want to know what the secret is. And their colleagues and potential new hires will look at your workplace in awe. For if everyone is engaged in what they are doing, looking forward to being at work and truly happy, you will be able to be highly selective in whom is part of your team.

Teresa Van Lanen is a creativity guide who conducts workshops, retreats and tele-classes that help people reconnect with their creative spirit and move more joy in their life. To learn more about creativity at the workplace, suggested exercises and other creative workshops and tele-classes, contact Teresa Van Lanen at www.makingartoflife.com. Look for November workshops near you!

Natural Healing Solutions, owned and operated by Carol Ann & Carl Sterken, has been providing like-minded health conscious customers with a unique service since 2008. They have created a tranquil and calming atmosphere for your colonic experience with soothing sounds of water coupled with the relaxing and healing sounds of soft music.

Good health is your choice! Natural Healing Solutions believes colon hydro therapy (also referred to as a colonic) is a very important modality in maintaining good health. Carol Ann has experienced the benefits of colon hydro therapy personally and is a big proponent of colonics and regular detoxing. A few years back she had developed several chronic conditions and colon hydro therapy, along with a proper diet of fresh fruits, raw nuts, vegetables and herbs, played a tremendous part in her quest to regain optimal health.

Your colon is the number one method your body eliminates toxins. The build-up of toxic debris weakens the colon muscles and impairs their functioning. If you’re not eliminating regularly, these toxins will stay trapped in your body, lodged in your organs and cells. Over time, this accumulation can cause disease and obesity. Your colon affects all the other organs in your body. When it’s impacted, your liver can’t function properly. When your liver can’t work efficiently, your kidneys will suffer, your lungs will not perform optimally and so on. The colon is where all the waste in our bodies is stored until it is ready for elimination. If you’re not eliminating 2-3 times per day the old feces stores up in your colon and proteins start to decay, fats turn rancid, carbohydrates ferment and all of these toxins are reabsorbed and circulate back to our bloodstream attacking our organs and joints causing diseases.

While your lungs, skin, kidneys and liver also serve to eliminate toxins, people have experienced throughout history that when they make certain their colon is cleansed and rejuvenated, the wellbeing of the whole body is greatly enhanced. Colon hydrotherapy helps to restore the pH balance to the body, stimulates the immune system and allows free passage of nutrients into your blood. Cleansing your colon is a valuable modality in treating disease and promoting wellness. Colonics cannot solve all health problems, but is a very important therapy in the overall quest for vibrant health.

Natural Healing Solutions is located at 345 E. Wisconsin Ave., Suite #6, at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Drew Street in Appleton. The hours of operation are by appointment only Monday – Friday (also offering evening appointments.) Please visit them online at http://www.nhs4you.com, e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., call Natural Healing Solutions at (920) 830-3909 or visit them during their open house on Nov. 16 from 6 to 8 p.m.

We’re starting to hear more and more about "shop local," "buy local" and "support local" — all of which are interchangeable terms and all are part of the broad definition of living a green lifestyle.

Forget for a moment about treehuggers and environmentalists if you’re exhausted with the word "green." Shopping from local, small, independently-owned businesses just makes sense and can really make a difference for those businesses, especially during these tough economic times.

I recently heard a gentleman on the radio talking about small businesses and how their access to credit has been pinched substantially since the economy went swirling down the toilet about two years ago. He said small businesses don’t need more credit; they need more customers.

I thought about that for a moment, and then I agreed with the simplicity of that statement. More buying customers solve a lot of problems.

We can all do something about it. My family is no different than most Americans right now. Things are tight. Very tight. We don’t spend much on things outside of the necessities. When we do fork out money, we try to give it to local businesses.

One movement that’s trying to get the word out is The 3/50 Project (www.the350project.net), masterminded by Cinda Baxter back in March 2009. Her philosophy is this:

Pick three independently-owned businesses you’d miss if they went away. Go in and buy something.

If half the employed population spent $50 each month in locally-owned, independent businesses, it would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue.

Baxter also adds, "For every $100 spent in locally-owned, independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures. If you spend that on a national chain, only $43 stays here. Spend online and nothing comes home."

The Performing Arts Center in downtown Appleton was fortunate to host Baxter last month, and it was a pleasure to hear her powerful message face-to-face.

The 3/50 Project is one national shop-local movement, but there are others like the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE). BALLE is a fast-growing network of socially-responsible businesses, with more than 80 community networks in 30 U.S. states and Canadian provinces representing 22,000 locally-owned, independent business members.

The Fox Valley currently is not part of this network, but we should be.

To the southwest of the Fox Valley is a little town called Madison. You may have heard of it. Madison is located in Dane County, and they’ve got their act together. With more than 400 independent shops and service members, Buy Dane Local is at the heart of all shopping within that county. It is a model that we in the Fox Cities need to seriously look at.

Remember the days when your parents walked into shops and the owners knew their names? Remember when personal attention was given to you and your needs? Well, this still exists, but unfortunately it is rare. You will typically only find it at small, independent stores and restaurants. We need to get back to that era once again.

Whether you’re buying a routine bar of soap or an extravagant anniversary present, check out your options at the local level
first.

JC Paustian is co-owner of Just Act Natural, an eco-lifestyle store located in downtown Appleton. The store is founded on the principle that the choices we make everyday have a lasting impact on the immediate environment we live in and the greater world around us. For more information, visit www.justactnatural.com.

You are not alone if an increasing number of charities have been asking for your help. According to guidestar.org, there are 1.8 million IRS-recognized tax-exempt organizations. This, of course, does not include the non-tax-exempt organizations and those scammers that may mimic a legitimate non-profit, or create a fake non-profit identity.

Charities need our support and it is tragic when donations go to poorly run organizations or to outright thieves. This dilutes the support to the well-run non-profits. As in all purchases or investments, we need to do our homework before making a donation.

The Better Business Bureau has a division called The Wise Giving Alliance that can help you make some of those decisions. You can check out charities as well as businesses on the BBB web site, www.bbb.org. The BBB evaluates non-profits on the 20 standards that reflect a transparent and well-run charity. These include:

standards that address the governance of the organization (the charity must be governed by an independent and mostly volunteer board of directors who have no conflict of interest)

the charity evaluates its operations on a regular basis

at least 65 percent of all donations must support the charities program activities and not more than 35 percent can be used for fund raising

the charity doesn’t accumulate excess funds

clear financial information and an annual report is readily available to the public; the board approves an annual budget

informational materials are complete, truthful, and accurate

the charity addresses donor privacy concerns

and all consumer complaints have been properly addressed

Other charity evaluators focus on financial ratios and provide valuable information, but the BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance looks at that and much more. Go to bbb.org for more program information and the reports on charities that are asking you for support.

Jo Ellen Wollangk is vice president, northeast regional manager of Wisconsin BBB, 1047 N. Lynndale Drive, Suite 1A, Appleton. For more information call 920.734.4352 or visit www.wisconsin.bbb.org.

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