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U.S. charitable giving map: How and where Americans donate

Tracking donations and volunteer time is an inexact science. There are millions of donations and volunteer hours that go unnoticed and uncounted in every community. That being said, large nonprofits and charity events track hours, and now nearly one-third of U.S. citizens itemize their tax returns to reflect their charitable giving amounts.

So let’s dive into the overall health of charitable giving in the United States of America. How does your state stack up?

The formula

For many charities, cash giving from individuals supplies the vast majority of their operating costs. And with 1.5 million registered nonprofits in the U.S, it can get competitive. The Chronicle of Philanthropy calculated out the ratio of adjusted gross income given to charity per household in every U.S. county. The “adjusted” qualifier means they’ve taken out certain necessities such as business and medical expenses and contributions to retirement plans. This is as close a metric to get a sense of where each state stands relative to each other and the nation cumulatively. It eliminated any skewing due to population size or income level.

However, there certainly are some flaws. This metric, and any other credible statistic, only takes into account legally claimed and itemized cash contributions. If you are one of the around 68% of Americans who never itemize donations on your tax return, then you are not included in this study. That disproportionately leaves out many low income families and families that do not have access to a professional tax professional. So undoubtedly these metrics will skew higher for wealthier states with smaller and more educated populations.

The charitable giving map

Who guessed Utah? The western state is %1.5 higher than the second most charitable state, Mississippi. A closer look at Utah is in order. A possible explanation for Utah’s large giving ratio is found in Utah’s large Mormon population. Many Mormons follow a strict tithing policy of 10% annually. That would certainly drive up the percentage of adjusted income. Utah is also a Republican-leaning state, and according to a study from WalletHub, Republican-leaning states raise more funds for non-profits.

And at a measly 1.85% is New Hampshire. New Hampshire trends in all the opposite directions. It has a low percentage of church-going residents, a smaller per capita median income, and is a Democratic stronghold. Al of these could very well be just a coincidence, but the Northeast states in general did not fair well in The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s report.

Trends and interesting findings

New England, overall, fared very poorly. Rounding out the bottom five are New Jersey, Maine, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. The only state from the Northeast to make the top 30 was New York.

Southern hospitality takes the crown in the study. Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Georgia, South Carolina, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Texas are all in the top 15 for giving ratio. Many of these Southeast states have a large majority of blue collar families. Families with incomes of $50,000 to $100,000 a year donate roughly 40% more than those with larger, upper middle class incomes.

Trusting a charity

Often times people are suspicious of donating to charities with fears of being scammed. Reputable charitable organizations will work diligently to achieve your trust. Recently nine charities within Northeast Wisconsin received the highest rating possible on Charity Navigator, a recognized independent resource and evaluator of charitable organizations. Rawhide Boys Ranch is honored to be recognized as a top charity and thank our donors for their continued support.

Volunteering vs donations

Utah also takes the top spot in annual time spent volunteering per capita, nearly doubling up second place Wisconsin in volunteer hours per capita. It’s a bit of a hodge-podge at the top of the volunteer rankings with states representing every geographical region of the US. In the top 10 is South Dakota, Virginia, New York, Wyoming, Nebraska, Washington, and Oklahoma.

Kentucky, Arkansas, and Rhode Island barely broke one-fourth of the hours Utah donated to helping charities. At 47 is Mississippi, who apparently prefer to give money over their time. Alabama, Texas, and Georgia also landed in the bottom 20 despite large giving ratios.

The state of U.S. charitable giving is strong

Overall these maps are extremely positive and inspirational. We have a gluttony of dedicated, passionate Americans accomplishing great things through nonprofits and other charity. To all who have sacrificed and supported a nonprofit through either your time or money, thank you! It takes a lot of hands to lift up even one charitable cause, and in the U.S. we have nonprofits representing an uncountable number of causes. United States nonprofits contribute over $878 billion to the economy each year (over 5% of our GDP), employ 11.4 million people, and impact the lives millions of people in every state.

A day spent serving hungry folks at your local shelter is crucial. A morning picking up trash on the side of the highway is vital. An afternoon reading to children at the library is transformative. A night taking some local kids to a basketball game is life-altering. Little sacrifices, a fraction of your week, has the power to positively alter the future of our country and planet.

For more info…Check out our volunteering series.

17 community service ideas to make your teen love volunteering

Volunteer opportunities for teens on the rise

Cyberbullying and teen suicide. When online harassment kills.


Cyberbullying and Teen Suicide Infographic

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“I still don’t believe it. I still think that it’s a bigger dream. Some bad dream, and I will wake up, and she will text me.”

“We didn’t think that our son would ever do something like this.”

Two heartbreaking statements from parents who lost children to suicide, both from a once hidden and overlooked danger: online harassment and cyberbullying. The risk is immense, but parents face an uphill battle keeping their children safe from online bullies. The average teen spends 7 hours per day on electronic devices, and 52% of teens admit to being harassed online.

In short, roughly one-half of a teen’s waking hours are spent exposed to online harassment.

Bullying delivered to your phone

Cyberbullying is the use of internet or technology to cause harm (most often emotional and psychological) to another person.

You may have heard of online trolling, stalking, and impersonation. They all involve intentionally aggravating and annoying someone repetitively. Impersonation can also take the form of catfishing, making a fake profile to start a relationship. Online gaming comes with its own forms of cyberbullying. The game Minecraft popularized the acts of griefing and ganging up. Players will harass and bend game rules to frustrate other players in the hopes of making them angry or stop playing. What makes these acts unique to other types of bullying is the unlimited audience. Many of these episodes are recorded and posted on YouTube or other gaming-centered sites. Instead of just a few witnessing your embarrassment, your friends, coworkers, family, and the entire online world can see. The bullies remain anonymous and do not face the consequences a playground bully does. The victim cannot go home or run away; the harassment will always follow.

A typical bully is fueled by at least one of the following: revenge, power, lack of empathy. The first two are relatively common emotional responses for developing teens, but a bully never learned to control their actions. The latter can have far more dangerous outcomes for both victims and the bully. A lack of empathy opens the door to violence, depression, poor social skills, and the inability to develop successful relationships.

The cyberbullying victim is everyone

It’s easy, but flawed and dangerous to identify an archetype of a bullying victim.  Victims aren’t only quiet, quirky students; not merely the shy and reserved. Cyberbullying shatters any preconceptions you may have. 20% of teens report being bullied online, but that figure falls short of cyberbullying’s reach. Over 52% of teens admit to enduring harassment online and nearly half of all victims never tell their parents. With so many stats showing how passive we all are about bullying, the number of unreported victims is immense. One study hypothesized that only 17% of parents know their child is cyberbullied.

The bullies themselves face “long-term negative consequences.” They grow accustomed to having the upper hand in all their relationship and lack the empathy that cultivates meaningful relationships. But the bullied children face an uphill battle overcoming the trauma inflicted upon them by bullies. They are at an increased risk of depression, low self-esteem, and poor school performance. Bullies and victims are both 10 times more likely to have suicidal thoughts at some point in their life.

Growth in teen suicide

Suicide rates in the U.S. have been climbing at a steady clip since 2000. The teen population, and in particular female teens, are one of the hardest hit demographics. Since 1999, the suicide rate for teen girls has tripled. Estimates suggest that over 7% of teens attempt suicide.

Of course, this increase is tied to a number of risk factors. There is a correlation with illegal drug use, mental health disorders, a family history of suicide, etc. But cyberbullying has risen to the top of the list of precursors to suicide. As the rate of teen female suicide climbs, we find that 66% of cyberbullying victims are female. And roughly 20% of middle school students contemplate suicide at least once, 17% of middle school students report being cyberbullied. Horrible tales of cyberbullying resulting in suicide made national headlines over the past few years.

Earlier this year, Michelle Carter got handed a 15-month prison sentence for urging her depressed boyfriend to commit suicide. She was under 18 at the time. After months of suggesting that everything would be better if he just ended his life, Michelle Carter’s final text to her boyfriend read, “Okay. You can do this.” She was on the phone with him as he died.

Tysen Benz from Marquette, MI hanged himself in his closet after he was sent text messages, on a phone his parents didn’t know he had, detailing his girlfriend’s suicide. Turns out, it was a prank. His girlfriend and her friends just wanted a good laugh. Some accounts are especially horrific, detailing the offenders complete lack of remorse.

Two girls, aged 12 and 14, taunted and harassed a 12-year-old classmate until she committed suicide. One text message instructed the victim to “drink bleach and die.” After the victim’s suicide, one of the girls posted, “Yes I know I bullied Rebecca and she killed herself, but IDAF (I don’t give a (expletive).”

Online bullies made fake dating profiles of Brandy, saying to call her for free sex, made fake Facebook profiles, and sent her malicious text messages. She shot herself as her parents tried to calm her down. Days after her funeral another fake profile popped up. Some of the comments read, “You finally did it” and “You should have done this a long time ago.”

Suicide glorified

Teens are driven to suicide by cyberbullying and other risk factors, but what makes suicide the most viable alternative? Why don’t these kids tell their parents, talk to a counselor, or just tune out the noise? For one, depression doesn’t play by the rules. Someone in pain will do whatever it takes to get rid of said pain, and for many the way out is to end their life. However, recent cultural trends seem to aggravate the matter. “Depression memes” are increasingly popular, displaying jokes about dying and being depressed. Tumblr and Reddit also have sections and blogs where depression spreads through sharing misery, not confronting it.

Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why has come under fire for creating “triggers” and failing to give “alternatives for cyberbullying.” In the show, a young woman leaves a series of recordings detailing all the people that drove her to commit suicide. There are several graphic scenes of self-harm that some feel are not treated with enough severity.

Another concern for parents and schools is the emergence of “The Blue Whale Challenge.” The depraved game asks prays on depressed and mentally unstable teens. Moderators command participants to complete a series of increasingly self-harmful tasks over the course of 50 days. The final task? Take your own life. If a participant refuses, the moderator will threaten to harm their family members. 16 teenage girls committed suicide as part of a macabre game.

It’s creator, Philipp Budeikin, calls his victims “biological waste.”  He justifies his actions by claiming he is merely “cleansing society.”

An uphill battle for our youth

It’s overwhelming. Children face incredible obstacles navigating life even without bullies and criminals trying to tear them down. We might think that someone will help them out if they see the bullying take place, but studies show that 90% of cyberbullying witnesses do nothing, but watch. You can start to create a healthy online environment for your teen with an open conversation.

Explain. Encourage teens to distance themselves from negativity. Try to understand why a person would bully someone. Bullying is not just part of life.

Get help. Open communication is key to avoiding potential fatal outcomes. Talk with someone if you or your child are experiencing harassment online.

Ignore, block, unfollow. Do not give the bully the satisfaction of knocking you down or frustrating you. This is the reaction they want.

Screenshots and documentation. Collect evidence of the harassment.

Flag and report. Alert social media platforms or local law enforcement about harassment. They should be able to block and penalize bullies.

Take what little comfort you can knowing that you are educated and aware of cyberbullying. And please remember, no one is immune, not the four-sport, honor roll student, not the band kid, not even you. Cyberbullying doesn’t discriminate.

A mind of its own: How your brain is working against you

You know your kids’ names. You did come up with them after all. Michael is Michael, Julia is Julia, etc. It’s simple, just call them by their name. So why is it that when you want Julia you instead ask the dog to pass the salad dressing?

Answer: our brains are a bit overworked and easily confused.

A massive catalog

Your memory is (nearly) completely unreliable. Take for example, cases of confabulation. It occurs when your brain mistakes imagined events with actual memories. A weird thought in 6th grade science becomes a treasured memory. A drawing you saw Alexis create when you were 15 becomes that long lost drawing you made. Another strange phenomenon called “the positivity effect” distorts how we remember past events. Those “good ol’ days” everyone talks about? Yeah, not always so great. Your brain is just better at storing positive memories than negative ones. It’s all a lie!

Another ruse thought up by your brain infiltrates how we view facts from fiction. As a human you understand the difference between real and fake, but your brain doesn’t. Brains judge factualness partly based on how many times the information passes through. See a fake news story over and over, and soon it’s not fake at all.

Our brains even tell us how things taste. Except our brain has an awful palate. A brain will routinely get confused by different colors and textures, interpreting flavors wildly inaccurately.

If that wasn’t enough tomfoolery, your brain actively picks and chooses what it wants to see and remember. Think your daughter or son has selective hearing? If focused on something deemed more important (that blueberry muffin in the case), the barista, in the middle of making your grande Americano, could put on a hat and a fake moustache without you so much as batting an eye.

The great name mix-up

Unless you have identical twins, a parent usually doesn’t have too hard a time deciphering their children apart. Names on the other hand, yikes. Don’t worry. You don’t have early-onset Alzheimer’s and you’re not losing your mind. Your brain is just plucking the wrong name at the wrong time.

Our brains categorize information in groups. Think of it like a giant library. The mystery novels over here, the kids section over there, and the free movie rentals (the only reason anyone still goes) up front. Your brain groups math theorems, literary terms, baseball stats, and the names of your family members in little, separate groups. It’s a remarkable system that allows you to draw on information quickly. But within in these groups, a few mix-ups are inevitable.

Interestingly, family dogs are welcomed into the family name group, but cats and other pets are often excluded. I guess our brains aren’t cat people.

Our brains and technology

“Don’t watch so much TV; you’ll fry your brain.” The imagery of your mind resembling bacon popping on the stove was effective for parents trying to get their kids away from screens. But is there actually any danger in staring at a screen? And even if there is, what can we do about it? At this point in time, limiting screen-time is in a lot of ways detrimental to our learning and professional development.

Technology is addicting. It’s why we watch an entire television series in a weekend, and it’s why we read the same Facebook posts three or four times, even though they weren’t that interesting the first time around. Studies show that most teenagers reported feeling uncomfortable when they went over one hour without checking their phone. We are a world addicted to sharing, commenting, and liking. When we get those affirmations delivered directly to our phones, our brains fill with a pleasure-related chemical called dopamine. Once we get a dose, we want more, and more, forever more.

This addiction to our online lives leads to late nights checking memes, sending snaps, and checking up on what our friends are up to (and more importantly, making sure their not doing anything that we weren’t invited to join). So, we sacrifice sleep. Not the worst thing right? Very, very wrong.

Loss of sleep negatively impacts a whole host of social factors. We become irritable, unproductive at work, and unmotivated to exercise or learn. More frightening though are the health risks. Teens who fail to get the recommended 9.5 hours of sleep per night have an increased risk of depression, obesity, and cognitive decline. In short, our brains lose power.

Keep your mind fresh

So with an unreliable brain and modern technology conspiring against us, how can we get the most our of our ever-powerful gelatinous head muscle floating off with a mind of its own? Harvard Medical School lays out a few tips:

  1. Read, study, explore, and challenge yourself daily.
  2. Eat new foods, see new things, listen to new music.
  3. Surround yourself with positivity.
  4. Focus on the important things. Let planners and calendars do the heavy lifting.
  5. Reuse information you want to remember. Use people’s names, dates often to reinforce them.
  6. Do not cram information. Slow, methodical learning is best.

 

No matter how intelligent, hardworking, or socially aware we are, our brains will never operate perfectly. And there’s something beautiful and comforting about that. We strive to be perfect, but by design, cannot.

So, someday when you think back to 2017 and think, “Man, I wish I could go back. Those were the best years of my life,” rest assured, the best is yet to come, your brain doesn’t know what it’s talking about.

 

Sources

https://www.today.com/health/mixing-names-family-friends-common-our-brains-t107364

http://www.cracked.com/pictofacts-627-20-ways-your-brain-tricking-you-every-day/

http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2013/10/21/three_illusions_that_will_destroy_your_brain.html

http://mashable.com/2014/03/14/tech-brains-neuroplasticity/#kOk.dOSPjgq1

Minocqua, a tiny cabin, and my grandpa’s boat in Wisconsin’s Northwoods

My family’s been coming here for as long as I can remember.

Nearly everyone you meet while digging through antiques, punishing your stomach at Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty, or taking a swim off Beer Can Island on Kawaguesaga Lake has a familial connection to Minocqua.

I met a fella in The Beacons of Minocqua’s sauna who travels from his home Palo Alto, California (he is an executive for a software company) every single year, staying in the same room and fishing the same spots (but don’t you dare ask him where those spots are). We shared travel stories, he to all sorts of exotic locales and private islands, me on mind-numbingly slow train trips through France eating crackers and baguettes to ensure enough money for the trip home. He never digressed into his personal wealth, which I can only assume is at least slightly more than minimum wage.

This gentleman could have gone anywhere. He could fly first class to Greece and island hop on a yacht with a private chef on board. But no. He chose a city lacking any Michelin-starred restaurants, without any 5, 4, or 3-star accommodations. He chose to sit in a sauna with a bunch of strangers and fish on a tiny boat because it’s what he’s always done, what he’s always enjoyed. His father took him here and he loves nothing more than sliding a worm on a ½ inch hook for his own son, reliving some of his fondest childhood memories.

The Island City

Minocqua is a tourist city. The main street is occupied by antique stores, specialty t-shirt shops, a candy store, and multiple frozen yogurt stands. You’re standard fare for a Midwestern resort town. Half of Minocqua’s 4,000+ residents are seasonal and resorts compete for lake frontage along nearly 15 billion gallons of freshwater. Perhaps most telling of Minocqua’s resorter culture is the tri-weekly water show put on by the Min-Aqua Bats, complete with a waterskiing clown. But it’s precisely that kitschy vibe that makes Minocqua so endearing, so traditionally vacation-y. It’s those shows and attractions your parents dragged you on in the family’s wood-panel Buick Roadmaster. You tried so hard to not crack a smile, but I think we can all agree; a waterskiing clown is amusing.

Minocqua’s current turn as a Northwoods getaway began in 1887 when loggers hungrily descended upon Northern Wisconsin cutting down every tree in sight. The booming industry attracted railroads and shops to sell goods to the loggers. When the forests were wiped out around 1910, the loggers left, but the shops and railroads remained. With pristine lakes and great transportation Minocqua established itself as THE place to vacation “up north.”

 

 

Much of the downtown was built in the 1910s and 20s, blending the rudimentary feel of a frontier boom town and Germany’s Fachwerk (timber-framing) style. Fittingly, a German-influenced Beer Garden sits next to a corner five-and-dime store, which neighbors an old-school barber shop, which butts up against an antique mall. Mostly, it’s fun, family friendly, and relaxing. It harkens back to a simpler time when you had to visit five, not one, stores to do your shopping. You had to talk to shopkeepers and customer service was more important than ease and speed. The town is easily accessible from the water, the highway, and a 375-foot long walking bridge connecting Minocqua to 26.5 miles of trails. What’s below the bridge is the real reason families flock to Minocqua.

Lake Minocqua, Kawaguesaga, and the chain

We brought my late grandpa’s 1952 fishing boat with his jimmy-rigged 1961 Evinrude motor along on the trip. The steering wheel is connected to a series of pulleys that run alongside the hull (kept in place with zip-ties) which are fastened to an eyelet on the motor. This beauty’s got a blue indoor/outdoor carpet interior and peeling beige paint. We call it the Stormin’ Norman. The Minocqua Chain holds 5,885 acres of fish-infested water. The main draws are musky, bass, walleye, and northern pike. Honestly, you’ll mostly see perch and bluegills, but that’s okay, they’re still delicious. Take two or three cruises across Kawaguesaga Lake and you’ll spot the honey holes. Boats with retirees, families, and locals crowd around certain stretched of shoreline, but don’t ask them if they’re catching any fish. The most you’ll get is a shrug and “It’s alright I guess. I’m probably gonna move soon.”

Fishing is the most popular water activity, but it’s only one of many. Two and three-man sailboats fill the water with their colorful sails, kids rip around on all sorts of crazy water tubes. My uncle rented a couch-style tube called The Big Mable. You’d think it’d be impossible to flip an eight-foot tube; you’d be wrong. Sections of both lakes open into wide, deep areas for water sports, but also tighten up into winding paths of water around islands, breathtaking forest, and endearing little cabins. One of those islands has a large sand-bar. We fired up the Stormin’ Norman (took about 10 pulls), tied up to a rock about 10 yards off the island, set up our food in the boat, blasted the radio, and swam around. I cannot think of a better way to spend a summer.

That Northwoods charm

Bear Skin Bike Trail

 

But what really sets Minocqua apart from other towns and resorts on lakes? Wisconsin has over 15,000 lakes, many much larger with more fish and closer to large populations. I spent my hour-long journey home down Highway 51 searching for the answer. No words came. Then the road went from two lanes to four. The forest faded and viaducts appeared every few miles. I felt a hint of sorrow leaving the tall pines behind, and I had a tiny epiphany.

Minocqua is special because it’s simple. Walk into town, bike on a trail, go fishing with your father and sister simple. Not once on my trip did I feel rushed nor bored. You can escape daily life’s responsibilities anywhere, but in our little cabin on the Kawaguesaga Lake I found joy and contentedness fishing off the pier, playing cards with my parents, driving my grandpa’s boat. I was surrounded by positivity and laughter. It’s the community, the fellow happy families, and the never-ending entertainment provided by open water and lush forests.

Or maybe I just love it because “I’ve been going there for as long as I can remember.”

 

Part 1: The road trip planner, mapping the perfect Wisconsin travel route.

View the introduction to Wisconsin summer adventures, a travelog.

The road trip planner, mapping the perfect Wisconsin travel route

America lacks the scenic railway and streamlined public transit, but we make up for it with over FOUR MILLION of miles of open road. In Wisconsin, we have access to about 238,000 total lane miles, and no tolls. Looking at you Illinois. With terrain ranging from marshland, to pristine forest, to prairies, to bluffs, Wisconsin roadways zip past a snippet of what makes America such a unique and diverse paradise. But before you repack the family van for the sixth time (only to forget to put the cooler on the bottom, yet again) jot down some notes from our road trip planner.

The mess under the hood

It’s not really a mess; a car’s engine bay is truly a work of art and a masterly feat in engineering. But golly-gee that’s a lot of parts. Luckily, only a few require your attention here: oil level, coolant level, hoses, and drive belts.

Detailed instructions on fluid levels are listed in your handy-dandy owner’s manual. That little binder is actually pretty nifty, and not just designed to make your glove compartment unusable. Check your hoses and belts for and fraying or looseness. If they give way, your road trip will only be fun at least six months later when you put on those rose-colored glasses.

If you’re overdue, or near, for an oil change, schedule one before you leave. Don’t be like my dad and make the family wait in line at the Jiffy Lube for 45 minutes halfway through the journey. You will never live that down. You’re almost ready to load up the car. Check the tire pressure, make sure all lights are functioning, clean out the leftovers still tucked underneath the passenger seat since two weeks ago, and start packing.

Less is more, unless it’s food; then more, a lot more

The most you’re driving here is about 7 hours. That’s from Runaway Bay on the Illinois and Wisconsin border to the Wisconsin ‘burbs of Duluth. The time will fly. Unless you don’t have snacks. It’s an important question: If a road trip doesn’t include snacks, is it a road trip?

So next to the granola bars, cookies, and grapes (keep it healthy folks) what do you need? You have the obvious essentials: toothbrushes, warm and cool clothes, towels, the spare tire. You will, almost without fail, forget one of these items. But that’s okay, you’re never far from a convenience store. This is the stuff you really need: camera, comfortable shoes for walking, and things you need to stay alive (ex. medications). Without a camera, someday you’re going to forget all about that time Sue mistakenly ordered head cheese at that family restaurant. And nothing ruins a trip more than blistered, sore feet.

Seriously, pack light for quick trips. You never know what you might find along the way to bring home, and more room means more comfort for the whole family.

Planning a route

Now with everything sorted out inside the vehicle, you can turn your road trip planner to the fun stuff. Part of the allure of traveling by automobile is the feeling of freedom. You set the pace, stop when you want, go where you want. Take full advantage of your drive and stop at sites along the way. Wisconsin’s full of goofy photo-ops: the world’s largest fish, goats on the roof at Al Johnson’s, and Dr. Evermor’s Forevertron.

If you’re stuck on where to stop, try a themed trip. Narrow that down further. What does everyone love? Food. What’s the best food of all time? Cheese. So what should you do on your trip? Eat cheese? Great idea! Take a peek at this map for a statewide listing of every cheese factory that provides samples and tours (though they are missing a few, don’t ask me how I know that). Trip of a lifetime! Or I guess you could do something like an art museum or botanical gardens.

Downtown Wisconsin

You’ll want to avoid interstates and large cities (Milwaukee and Madison) at peak traffic hours. Stay up to date on traffic incidents and construction works. And if you want to let technology guide you to interesting locations along your way, use Furkot road trip planner or a similar app.

A road trip planner that fits your family

All families are unique and deserve an equally one-of-a-kind road trip plan. Some families are more than content to take country roads, driving through small towns, and stopping for a few meals along the journey while if it were my family, the groans coming from the backseat would be deafening.

Planning not your cup of tea? No worries, some of the best road trips are when you just corral your family in the van and set off on a spontaneous, short trip. Just being with your family, exploring Wisconsin’s hidden and famous gems, is what matters. It’s easy to sit around the house all summer and just relax, but challenge yourself to experience something new this summer. You’ll be glad you did.

 

Up next…

Our first destination from Wisconsin summer adventures, a travelog is a vintage Wisconsin vacation. I’m taking you to a historic lake town in Northern Wisconsin. Fishing, ole’ fashioned candy, and water acrobats make for a magical summer adventure.

View the introduction to Wisconsin summer adventures, a travelog.

Wisconsin summer adventures, a travelog for families

Guy at a Smithfield’s BBQ in North Carolina (G): Wisconsin. That’s the place with all that cheese right? America’s Dairyland, it’s right on your license plate.

Me: Yeah, that’s true. My hometown with population 3,500 has two cheese factories and a butter factory.  And we’re completely surrounded by dairy farms.

G: So not much to do then.

Me: (trying to not feel/appear offended I could only muster the feeblest response) I mean, I like it.

Guy at rest stop gave me a hmmmph and that was it. My defense of my homeland, the land my ancestors have called home since 1825, was utterly (see what I did there) pathetic.

Uncovering Wisconsin summer adventures

I know we shouldn’t care what others think, if you spend your whole life defending things, there will be no time to dive into new experiences. But, still, as I sat in my booth scarfing down hushpuppies, I ruminated on all the beautiful experiences and adventures lying in wait throughout my home state tucked in the Great Lakes.

The forests in the north, housing bears, wolves, and moose nestled against lighthouses shining into Lake Superior; ; the towering bluffs along the mighty Mississippi; Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, and Appleton bustling with markets, live music, and arts; the cherry trees in Door County; Frank Lloyd Wright’s reinvention of what a house could be.

Milwaukee Art Museum

Incredible adventures at every turn. Yet, easily taken for granted, or at the very least, not viewed with the same level of excitement as an out-of-state (or country) vacation. I realize I pondered this all from a BBQ joint on a vacation to the east coast. Long vacations are great too; it’s a balance. So, how do you know where to go, what adventures to seek, how much time should you spend there, are the kids going to be bored? You could look up “things to do in Wisconsin” on Google, but those are mainly written in excruciatingly brief detail by people never traveling within 30 miles of the area.

We’re setting out to capture more than just “what is there to do in Wisconsin.” We are collecting the feelings, the atmosphere, the culture of destinations and adventures across America’s favorite state (I made that up) by harnessing our inner (family-friendly version) Anthony Bourdain, the endearingly churlish travel writer.

We pondered actively avoiding common tropes and stereotypical interests and activities in our Wisconsin Summer Adventures travelog, but that would mean admitting experiences involving cheese and brats aren’t part of what makes Wisconsin a culturally rich state. We all also really, really, really like cheese: that salty, creamy, beautiful creation.

 

Wisconsin Barn

 

Our slogan might be: Wisconsin, it’s not just farms and cheese, but if it was, we wouldn’t complain.

Summer and Wisconsin, a love story

But, why Wisconsin Summer Adventures? Shouldn’t we focus on Wisconsin’s wonderful winter paradise? The eighth coldest state surely has more to offer in the way of skiing and ice fishing, but Wisconsinites truly adore summer. Even that phrasing somehow feels inadequate. In a climate that only gives you truly three months of hot, sunny weather; Wisconsin’s managed to house the 10th most golf courses of any state, four of the best beaches in the Midwest, and America’s largest water park, Noah’s Ark. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but geez Louise that’s some kind of summer love.

Here’s a telling statistic. In the forty-seven years of their existence, the Milwaukee Brewers have only made the postseason four times (FOUR!). Yet they rank in the top half of MLB attendance rankings nearly every year. You can’t tell me tailgating and enjoying a warm summer day with hot dogs and bean bags (and maybe an Anthony Bourdain approved beverage, not condoning, just saying) isn’t the main draw for many fans.

The kids are out of school, and everyone could use a vacation right about now. So if you’re looking for new Wisconsin summer adventures or want to explore Wisconsin from the comfort of your home, join us, and bring the family. These adventures are for all ages to enjoy, guaranteed to leave you with cherished memories that bring a family together. An adventure means nothing if you can’t share it.

Up next…

Look for part one of our Wisconsin Summer Adventures, a travelog: The road trip planner, a look at the nuts and bolts of carting your family across the state, beating the heat, and preparing your vehicle. You don’t want the adventure to start on the shoulder of the interstate.

 

A dustup is brewing on the ranch

It’s high time for a little contest. We’re looking for the meanest, foulest, rinky-dink vehicles to compete with the pristine and truly fetching rides. Is your car so bad it’s good? Does your engine know your back seat more intimately than the motor mounts? That’s ok. At Rawhide, your car donation not only helps at risk youth overcome their pasts, it will create a future.

And if your donation is a Porsche 911, well, that works too (a guy can dream, right?).

The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.

Our donors are the fuel to the incredible flames we have nurtured in not only our guys on the ranch, but also the people we treat in outpatient counseling, the students who attend Starr Academy, and the families who attend our weekend retreats. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and that’s right. Our village is a corporate sponsor, the person who donated a Camry in 1998, a volunteer at a fish fry, and you! To say thanks, we’ve got a little something extra for our donors this summer. Every car donation from May 19th through July 15th will be followed by an invitation to enter a photo contest. All vehicles accepted*: The good, the bad, and the ugly. After your donation form is received, or completed over the phone, you will get an invitation to submit a photo of your car donation. Complete your photo upload steps and voila!

You are entered to win a $500 vacation voucher to Wisconsin Dells.

All photo submissions will be viewable here for everyone to vote. The photo with the most votes wins the vacation voucher. For the best chance to win, share your photo with family and friends to vote. We want to hear the good, and not so good, times you’ve had with the vehicle you donated. Maybe it’s the time you drove up through Door County for your honeymoon, or when you miscalculated the amount of fun you would have on a family road trip to the Grand Canyon in July without A/C. It might not be the best car that wins but rather, the best story. And you don’t’ have to “win” to be a winner. Every completed vehicle donation and photo submission (one photo submission per donation) grants you one free fish dinner at a Rawhide Fish Fry Night of your choice.

Rawhide’s Famous Fish Fry Nights

Rawhide Fish Fry Nights

 

This is the real prize. We hold our traditional Wisconsin fish fry nights on Rawhide grounds, over 600 acres of serene woods, streams, and ponds, with musical performances and a chance to mingle with other Rawhide supporters. But the real treat is not the gourmet fried lake perch or the fresh gulf shrimp; it’s taking the opportunity to experience the mission of Rawhide Boys Ranch. Our guys in the residential program work in the kitchen and wait on tables, so both the guys and our supporters get a chance to talk and offer a glimpse into what Rawhide means to them. The resident youth receive any and all tips. 
If you haven’t yet made it out to the ranch, there is no better time.

Rawhide is a mission. It’s not easy continually lifting up fallen youth, when you yourself hardly have the strength to raise your own head. So, we need our village. We need our donors, our supporters, the people who write us on Facebook, those who tell us in the grocery store, “I really respect what you guys do at Rawhide.” Our fish fry nights are a way to meet and form friendships with people passionate about helping Wisconsin’s kids and families in their darkest hours.

If you are interested in learning more about Rawhide, seeing our operations firsthand, or want to see the premiere of Rawhide’s very own Spaghetti Western join us May 19th on the ranch (and every 3rd Friday throughout the summer).

*Boats, RVs, campers, snowmobiles, ATV, and other recreational vehicles are not eligible for this promotion, but are always accepted and appreciated

Media violence, the effects on youth and guide to media ratings

Managing the content your children view, and any subsequent exposure to media violence, is a daunting task. Are you ready for some absurd numbers? From birth to death, a human will watch TV for 7.5 years and spend over 5 years on social media. Evan Asano helps put that into context. If you used those 5+ years away from social media you could:

Fly to the moon and back 32 times!

Climb Mt. Everest 32 times!

What’s the problem?

Not all media is bad. It holds the potential to teach a wide audience a great deal of information and present views previously misunderstood by viewers. But the wrong content at the wrong time can dramatically change who we are. And kids view a lot of content. Compounding on that, teens are highly susceptible to media’s influence. WebMD found that teens who view sexual content are vastly more likely to have sexual intercourse at a young age, and a Medical News Today study conclusively deduced that movies are a high influencer in teens choosing to drink alcohol.

By their 18th birthday an average person in the U.S. witnesses over 40,000 murders on TV. That’s just fatalities, not assault, aggression, or other violent behaviors.  Overall, 60% of all television shows have violent scenes. It’s nearly unavoidable, and even children’s shows aren’t safe. 73% of shows designed for children under the age of 7 (TV-Y7) have at least one violent act. Certain episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants and The Fairly OddParents (seen on Nickelodeon) show more violence than many shows for mature audiences (TV-MA).  It’s easy to think: kids know what they see on TV isn’t real, but unless a parent actively sits down and spells that out, a child could form their own version of what is real and what’s not.

More than one thousand scientific studies and reviews conclude that significant exposure to media violence increases the risk of aggressive behavior in certain children, desensitizes them to violence and makes them believe that the world is a ‘meaner and scarier’ place than it is.

– The Academy of Pediatrics

So who makes these ratings? Are they reliable? Maybe. The individual networks place ratings on their own shows and the TV Parental Guidelines board oversees them. But that’s just TV. What about movies, video games, and music? What about apps? It’s more than a little complicated, but we’re going to break it down for you.

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Illicit Drug Use in United States

Making sense of media ratings

Television content ratings

Kids watch a lot of tube. In over half of American households a TV is on nearly all of the time. Combining messages and meanings from sitcoms, sports, movies, cartoons, talk shows, and commercials: that’s a lot of influential information filtering through a child’s mind. The typical child gets plenty of information they probably should not.

54% parents of children aged two to six allowed them to see adult programs.

Violence occurs in 70% of episodes overall.

53% of all episodes contain sexual content or language.

 

TV ratings

 

We’re not suggesting you take a sledgehammer to your tube (though could be fun). Just take some precautions and familiarize yourself with the television content ratings guide. When a show starts, a little white set of letters and numbers pops up in the top left corner. It might say TV-MA or TV-G or something similar. That’s the rating. Perfect or not, it’s a great start to sorting through what you want your child to watch and avoiding media violence.

Movie ratings and the MPAA

What about the big screen? Violence is in 90% of movies, a 20% increase from what we thought was an already outrageous prevalence of violence on television programming. Most major films, or at least the ones we spend the most money going to see, are rated PG-13 or R and consequently, not suitable for children under that age of 13. PG-13 and R rated movies own 74% of all revenue since 1995 (cinema ticket sales, DVD rentals and sales, etc.). For every $100 consumers spent on movies, only $4 went to G-rated films. Does that even matter? What’s really the difference between G and PG?

 

Movie Ratings

 

Movie ratings are set by the MPAA (Motion Picture Associate of America) for partner members only. The studio members are 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Studios, Walt Disney Studios, and Warner Bros. Entertainment. So any movie made by a nonmember studio is not regulated by these ratings.

Video games

Do video games encourage violence? It’s certainly a hotly debated topic with over 90% of children in the US regularly playing video games, and 90% of the games they play containing violence and other mature content. Certainly some games are very beneficial. Puzzles and other logical problem-based games can increase memory, problem solving skills, and hand-eye coordination. But a classic shoot-em-up may do more harm than good. Recent studies found that excessive exposure to violent video games lowers attention span, emotion control, and increased likelihood of racist actions. So maybe the next time you’re shopping for a video game, check the little box in the bottom right corner.

Watching violent television, watching violent films, or playing violent video games increases the likelihood for aggressive behavior.

– Media Violence Commission of the International Society for Research on Aggression (ISRA)

 

Video Game Ratings

 

All video games are rated by the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board). While not an exact science, it’s easy to use and beneficial for weeding out inappropriate content. Moving onto a new and unregulated rating system for something most of us use hourly (and that’s on the low end)…

App age ratings

Seemingly after a child begins to crawl they are constantly in front of a screen. If it’s not TV then it’s a computer or smartphone. By the age of 8, 72% of children have used a smartphone or tablet. 10 years ago this wouldn’t really be a problem. Most internet browsers make it pretty painless to up parental controls, but who uses a browser on their phone? We have apps for nearly every single website or social media network. And while they are far more intuitive and pleasant to use, they require a bit more investigative research on the part of the parent.

 

App Ratings

 

From Tinder to Snapchat to Surgeon Simulator, the app store is filled with racy and violent content that can make a parent want to move the family 100 miles from the nearest cellular tower. But before you head off to Saskatchewan, it is possible to monitor the content on your child’s phone or tablet. Every app has a detailed list of potential mature content and an age rating. This list should always be the first thing you check before allowing your teen to sign up. Or you can fight apps with apps.

Music and the Parental Advisory Label

Unlike apps, music predates any other technology. We’re talking thousands of years, before writing, drawing, and automatic pancake makers at the Comfort Inn (pure magic). While music has certainly come a long way, any parental ratings or labels are still rudimental. The Parental Advisory Label is the best we’ve got, but it’s optional and only used by a few record labels, though they do make up the majority of music releases. Unfortunately, the absence of this label doesn’t guarantee explicit-free content. Roughly 33% of songs on pop and county radio contain drug or alcohol references, and the average teen listens to over 2.5 hours of music every day. That’s a ton of explicit or at least suggestive content.

Ease the influence media violence has on your child

So, you see your child sitting on the couch. The TV is on, phone in hand, earbuds inserted, and you think: “I’m in trouble.” You are going to be ok. If you read through these ratings you are in good shape. Most parents are either unaware of media ratings or uninterested; both are troublesome in combating exposure to media violence among our youngest generation. But even setting strict media guidelines for your children will not keep out everything. So before all else, talk to your children about important issues and beliefs you want them to understand without media’s influence.

 

As they get older

 

No more information, I promise. You’ll thank me the next time a cartoon pops up on the TV with TV-Y7 (L, D, S). And I don’t want to freak you out here with all these doom-inducing stats. A little fight or chase will most likely be alright. We’ve all grown up with Tom and Jerry or Sylvester and Tweety fighting each other, and we’re fine. Right? Right?!

Binge drinking in Wisconsin and United States

How many drinks does it take to merit a binge drinking distinction? Is it four drinks in an hour? Ten in one night? According to the CDC, binge drinking is four drinks in the course of two hours for women and five drinks in a two hour period for men. Are you surprised? For one in six adults binge drinking is just a typical Friday night.

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Illicit Drug Use in United States

The science behind a binge

Binging is not exclusive to alcohol. The most common adult eating disorder is binge eating, and compulsive buying disorder is at an all-time high. Much of the problem is tied to sociocultural and psychological factors.

We’re always being told that you’re not worth anything if you’re not thin, if you don’t drink, if you don’t own certain things.

–Dr. Michael Mantell

You might think, “Oh I’m just having fun. This is what we do to blow off steam.” And the science behind biological reactions to consuming alcohol does confirm the onset of a certain buzz or loss of anxiety. But it’s the consequences of that buzz of a loss of inhibitions that can land us in trouble.

Dire consequences

Binge drinking invariably leads to drunkenness. Drunkenness contributes to erratic, unusual, and uncontrolled behavior. Uncontrolled behavior can lead to dangerous situations and decisions. Here’s a sobering stat: Roughly 40% of prisoners convicted of violent crimes were under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crime. And those are only the immediate effects. Binge drinking is associated with an increased risk for a litany of ill health concerns:

Alcohol Poisoning | STIs | Colon Cancer

Unintended Pregnancy | Liver Disease

When your drinking habits begin to negatively impact your life, or the lives of those close to you, binge drinking may no longer be an apt description.

Binge drinking vs alcoholism

All binge drinkers are not alcoholics. But that doesn’t mean binge drinkers are in the clear: Minors who binge drink are 3 times more likely to become alcoholics. Binge drinking turns into an alcohol use disorder when it interrupts daily responsibilities and life in general. Alcoholism means you physically cannot resist alcohol or you find yourself consistently drinking more than you want.

A minor problem

Perhaps no age group experiences the social pressure and expectancy to drink more than minors. We all face certain pressures and can create justifiable reasons to binge drink, but nowhere is drinking for purely the after effects more prevalent than among high school and college students. These kids are not drinking often, but when they do it’s usually to dangerous levels.

90% of the alcohol consumed by people under the age of 21 is through binge drinking.

The economics of binge drinking

The average price of a pint of domestic beer in an American tavern is $3.99. But that’s without reading the fine print. Drinking too much costs the US about $2.05 per drink in crime, health care, lost wages, etc. So that $4 pint just increased by 50%. That’s a culmination of hangovers forcing us to skip our morning meeting, an arrest for a DUI, and taking a trip to the emergency room after twisting an ankle stumbling out of the bar. So where are all these binge drinkers?

At least 10% of the population of every state in the union binge drinks. And in North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Washington D.C. that number rises to nearly a quarter of all state citizens. In some states (looking at you Wisconsin) the amount of alcohol consumed is worn as a badge of honor. They may want to hide that badge when they learn that binge drinking costs the state of Wisconsin roughly $6.8 billion with taxpayers covering nearly 40% of that bill.

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Illicit Drug Use in United States

Some states are starting to realize the unhealthiness, economical and physical, of such a large portion of their populations binge drinking. North Dakota recently began to run ads to eliminate any notion of pride over how much you can drink. Does your state have a plan to educate its citizens on the dangers and costs of binge drinking?

All binge drinking is not created equally, but it all carries risks. If you feel your drinking is out of control please look for assistance now.

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Charitable donations, how to give more with less in 3 steps

Americans donated $373,250,000,000 in 2015. Now, that might seem an obscene number and a bit intimidating for those absent a Rolls Royce or summer home in Nantucket. But a closer look reveals that the average household dedicated less than 6% of their annual income towards charitable donations, and we still set records for the most giving in one year.

So, for all of us who sometimes feel too financially constrained to make an impactful gift: think again. Your time and money, no matter how big or small, is an integral building block positioned to help Americans and those abroad when they need it most.

1. Finding the right place for your donation

Most of us don’t have the means to give to every single charity we come across. And that’s why it’s vital you find the charity, nonprofit, or other organization that will put your hard earned dollars towards the values and missions you hold most dear. Start here. Research charities with Charitynavigator.org or Guidestar.org to see reviews, financial information, and comparisons with similar charities. Then, spend some time spreading out your donations to discover who uses your charitable donations most effectively.

2. Maximizing your charitable donations

More than likely, several missions will meet your criteria. Narrow down your list to charities that let you see what your donation provided. All charities are not created equally. $10 dollars could pay for one meal with a charity down the street, or a whole week’s at the nonprofit two blocks north. A sound charity will advertise the percentages of donations spent on directly helping people, fundraising, and administrative costs. As a general rule, a charity should spend at least 65% of donations on programs and no more than 35% on fundraising.

3. Giving your most valuable asset: Your time

When money is tight, gift your time and energy. Get involved in a mission you value to truly appreciate and understand what the organization provides. Make a personal connection to the people you’re helping and those leading the charge. Your donation, no matter the size, will give you more joy than an automated withdrawal from your back account every month (though that’s great too!).

That’s what I consider true generosity. You give your all, and yet you always feel as if it costs you nothing.

-Simone de Beauvoir

And if free time is something you only vaguely remember having, you can still help.

Skip the rummage sale. Donate gently used electronics, books, clothes, etc. Don’t forget your receipt for tax purposes.

Exercise your heart. The app Charity Miles donates a certain amount per mile you run to a charity of your choice.

Play the match game. Join company matching programs to stretch your donated dollars.

Recruit your friends and family. Set up a fundraiser with GoFundMe or on Facebook to spread the word about your favorite charity.

Follow your heart

Only you know when and where to give your hard earned dollar. Working with donors for over 50 years, we understand the emotional connection between a charity and its supporters. It’s an amazing and transformative relationship. And if you are looking to give, Rawhide dedicates 83% of all donations directly to programs and services. Just a thought, no pressure.

Self harm is not the only way to cope

12-15 year olds are most susceptible to begin self harming.

Self harm is hurting oneself on purpose as a means of coping. It’s difficult to diagnose and even harder to understand as it goes against our biological intuition to avoid pain and injury. Most instances of self harm go unnoticed, but roughly 2 million cases are reported annually in the U.S. While it can be easy to slip into self harming, the road out is lonely, scary, and anything but smooth.

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Self Harm Infographic

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The Break: Trauma or social issues

Self harm is not typically the first step people take to reconcile unrest. You will often hear people who self injure say they started cutting or burning themselves after experiencing a traumatic event or after a long period of numbness or sadness.

When you keep all your problems in, it feels like you’re screaming inside. But when you cut or burn yourself, the pain is more physical. You feel like you’re releasing that scream.

So what are those who self harm dealing with? It’s a laundry list.

Unhealthy relationships | Bullying | Depression

Work stress | Drug, sexual, and domestic abuse

Financial distress | Loss of loved one

And why is self injuring an attractive option for dealing with these struggles? The reasons vary, but the common thoughts that they want attention or want to die are dangerous stereotypes. People who self injure need help, but not necessarily the way you think. They are not crazy or dangerous, just coping with trauma. And while it is certainly not an excuse, self harm is very common:

20% of people in the world self harm

40% of college students admit to trying self harm

17% teenagers have used self harm to cope

60% of those who self harm are female

Many conceal their cuts or bruises so others don’t worry or think differently of them. Very rarely is cutting or self harming a suicide attempt. Most often, they need new outlets to cope with their pain, whether that’s talking to someone or making new friends.

Self harm is not just cutting

Razor blades. Scars on wrists and legs. Commonly seen images of self harm hardly tell the whole story. These images and actions don’t carry the weight of bleeding cuts dripping down an arm, but they can have equally dire consequences. Binge drinking kills 6 people daily in the US. And while not all are related to sadness or coping with emotional pain, many are.This is in no way exhaustive, but below are some other self injurious methods:

Burning | Hitting or banging head

Punching hard objects | Picking scabs

Pulling out hair | Binge drinking

The symptoms and long term concerns

It’s easy to assume someone might be practicing self harm: they wear heavy, dark makeup, wear dark clothing that covers their arms and legs at all times, they listen to slow, gloomy music with lyrics centered on depression and not fitting in. These are based on some semblance of truth, and are possible red flags, but by no means are they a guarantee someone is self harming. Likewise, someone who wears suits or sundresses and loves country western could harbor a desire to self harm. Look for cuts and blood stains, but also isolation, negative self image, and irritability. If you notice someone displaying these symptoms and you believe they are self harming, seek help from a qualified professional or the person’s legal guardian if a minor.

It’s easy to downplay the significance of self harm. We see it in movies, online, and even in our music and literature. Certain websites and media glorify self harm as a cool thing to do. But any relief is often short lived. The unintended consequences, however, can last forever. Injuries and cuts can become worse than planned and become habit forming. Self harm is an attractive option for short term relief and as a way to punish yourself for the problems in your life. That’s why the first step is to understand that self harm is dangerous and not a way out from the pain you feel.

Healing and recovering

Self injury serves as a distraction or a way of relieving tension and anxiety. But that merely serves as a reaction to the effects of the problem, not the problem itself. The issue may very well be obvious and infiltrate your day-to-day life, but it could also be a mystery: a heavy cloud that you don’t understand and cannot get out from under. Take some steps towards opening up a conversation about your pain with yourself and someone you trust.

Part of what makes self harm such a dangerous and vacuous situation is that many carry their burdens in secret. There’s no way around it, telling someone about your pain and trauma is scary and uncomfortable. So choose the right person, one who you trust and won’t pass blame or judgment. And if someone comes to you with their self harm experiences, listen and love. Don’t show disgust or panic and ask them to talk through their self harm experience to understand their emotions. If necessary, encourage them to talk to a therapist or trauma specialist. Starting a conversation is the most difficult obstacle for many dealing with self injury and coping with trauma. The voyage to healthy coping isn’t over, but once you start moving, you’ll find the waters a little less choppy.

A lifelong battle with self harm

Much like grappling with any crutch or addiction, fighting against the allure of self harm is a lifelong struggle. Slip-ups and regression back to self harm are common, but certainly not inevitable. Experts tell us to diagnose potential triggers and dangerous situations to avoid and experiment with new coping skills: writing, drawing, or exercise. Always remember, things can get better and you don’t have to carry this burden alone. Release any pain you’re holding onto by sharing your story. Know that others are dealing with similar traumas and social concerns; they could benefit from your path to learning a better way to cope.

If an emergency call 9-1-1 immediately. Talk to someone 24/7 about self harm: 1-800-237-TALK.

Sometimes it’s easier to begin by opening up to a trusted friend or family member. When you’re ready, find a counselor or therapist you feel comfortable talking to.

Spring clean your health and space

Ahh spring! Ride that burst of energy the warm wind and long days provide by opening your home and mind to a fresh start with a spring clean. Spring cleaning can take you further than getting rid of clutter in your house. Take the opportunity to declutter your body and mind. Let the colors of the wind blow through your hair and make some profound transformations with just a few quick spring clean tasks.

Closet-Spring-Clean-Your-Health

Simplify your closet/wardrobe

Lose the stuff that you love, but hate how it makes you look. You don’t need that kind of pressure lurking in your closet. Only wear the articles of clothing that make you feel the most comfortable and confident. Not everyone’s interests lend to the minimalist style, but eliminating the stuff you have just because you feel bad throwing away is counterproductive.

Now that you’ve cleared out some items, reorganize! Put the workout clothes in the front. Make it easy and appealing to work out, even if it’s for just a few minutes.

Raid your pantry and reorganize your treats

Healthy ingredients and treats should be the first thing you see when you go to scour the pantry at 8pm. Don’t battle fighting off the allure of kettle corn and cookies. You won’t win.

Keep the sugary snacks out of sight and out of mind except for a special, rare occasion.

Plan meals for the week or do a full Sunday meal prep

The last thing many want to do after a long Monday (Tuesday, Wednesday, etc.) at work is destroy your kitchen making dinner. And while Taco Bell is delicious, it probably shouldn’t be a staple of your diet. Take a stab at meal prepping on Sundays instead. You might spend a few hours cutting veggies, but your weekday self will thank you later. While you’re at the store gathering supplies for Sunday’s cook-a-thon look for these springtime items:

Fresh, organic, in-season fruits and vegetable | Whole grains | Healthy fats (olive oil, real butter (no typo, you’re welcome)

Clean-your-kitchen-Spring-Clean-Your-Health

Spring clean your kitchen

While regularly wiping down counters and cutting boards is probably your common practice, take it one step further this spring by sanitizing. Deadly germs and bacteria are more likely found in your kitchen than your bathroom and we all sanitize that room. Depending on the size of your kitchen it shouldn’t take you more than 30 minutes.

Cleaning solution: 1 teaspoon of chlorine bleach to 1 quart of water

Schedule annual health appointments

This is really important. It’s easy to forget about an annual physical when you’re feeling fit as a fiddle. It often takes under 15 minutes and will give you a sense of ease knowing you are healthy. Also stay up to date with dentist and eye appointments. These visits can save you a lot of time and money later on.

Discard expired and unneeded medications

If you can’t remember why you have a medication or the pills look discolored, throw it out (or to a community take-back program if required). Not only is it clutter, it can be downright dangerous. Some medications turn rancid or lose their effectiveness over time and can actually make your illness more serious. In fact, storing drugs in your bathroom is the worst place. Moisture and heat contribute to lost effectiveness. Try storing them in a cool and dry place instead.

Spring clean your email

If you’re like millions of other Americans and have over 100 unopened emails sitting in your inbox. BREATHE. DELETE. REPEAT. It’s a pain to actually unsubscribe from email lists, but just take a few minutes each day for a week and you’ll notice a sizable change in your usual morning hatred for opening your mailbox.

Running-Spring-Clean-Your-Health

Get a health app

If you need a boost to get motivated on your workout, or looking to take things a step further, look into the plethora of fitness and health apps. Below are some of the most popular exercise and diet apps available:

    • Sworkit. This app includes video workouts designed to fit around busy schedules with workouts from 5 -120 minutes long.
    • MyFitnessPal. Track your intake and use of calories with MyFitnessPal. You can set goals and note every single thing you eat so you know exactly how healthy your diet and exercise regimen really is.
    • Johnson and Johnson 7 Minute Workout. This one is self-explanatory. It’s quick and gets you moving.
    • Jefit. A workout app designed to motivate and make exercise data easily digestible.
    • Cyclemeter. Designed for runners and cyclists, this app monitors mile times, average speed, and tracks your distance with GPS.
    • Charity Miles. An app that lets you exercise for a charity and has corporate sponsors foot the bill. It’s a win-win.
    • ShopWell. This tool has nearly every product on a grocery store’s shelves in a database. You can fill out a grocery list using ShopWell to make sure it fits within your diet.
    • Zombies, Run. For something a little more goofy, try outrunning zombies with this interactive game. You have missions dependent on how much ground you can cover.

Go-Outside-Spring-Clean-Your-Health

Go outside

Thaw out from the winter grind and breathe some fresh spring air. And it’s not just about getting fresh air. A Harvard study found that spending time outdoors increases memory, fitness, happiness, and reduces inflammation. What are you waiting for? Go play!

Donate to a charity

Nothing feels better than giving. Choose a charity or a volunteer opportunity that will impact your local community. If you have an old car lying around, consider donating it to Rawhide. We use those cars to fund programs that benefit youth in need of their own spring clean fresh start.