One of my most vivid childhood memories of the holidays was the year I knocked over the tree. I didn’t mean to, it just happened. I was maybe four or five years old and went after a toy that had rolled behind the tree. Not knowing any better, I went after it and in the course of my diligent toy retrieval efforts, managed to knock the tree down.
Unfortunately, I broke several ornaments that had a lot of sentimental meaning to my parents, spilled the water in the tree stand and broke a few light bulbs as well. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but it scared the heck out of me.
Fast forward several years to when I had children of my own. Not wanting history to repeat itself, I always made sure our tree was secure. In addition to being solidly in the stand, I also used clear fishing line to secure the tree to the handles on the windows behind it. I also kept a close watch on my kids whenever they got to close.
In the years since, I’ve picked up a few other tips to help my family safely enjoy the holidays and not be afraid that someone will get sick or hurt. Some of these also apply to families with dogs or cats.
I’m sure there are things you do around your home to keep children and pets safe. Here are a few of the tips I’ve picked up that may help this holiday season.
- Avoid decorations that look like food and could tempt little ones (or pets) to try to eahc.
- Limit rich, fatty holiday foods which can easily lead to an upset stomach.
- Holiday plants like holly, mistletoe, lilies and poinsettias are poisonous.
- Keep lit candles away from little hands and wagging tails.
- Keep hot pots and pans on back burners to prevent them from being accidentally knocked over and causing a burn.
- Make sure toys are age and ability appropriate and don’t contain small parts that could be a choking hazard.
If you haven’t seen it, there’s also a great article in this month’s @dvisor with additional holiday safety tips for children and pets.
From my home to yours, I wish you all a happy, healthy, joyous – and safe – holiday season!
I grew up in the insurance business and have a dad who’s been an agent with another company for 30 years. I started in the business when I was 22 and joined American Family last year. My dad taught me the true role of an insurance professional.
As a kid, I would watch him interact with customers after school, and I even tagged along with him to funerals. At the time, I was often bored, but as I got older I started to see and understand things differently. He was, and remains, a trusted adviser in the community.
I grew up in a small town, so my sister and I would walk to his office after school and do our homework in his conference room. I was about 10 or 11 years old at the time – old enough to have a very basic understanding of what insurance is (mostly auto insurance -- when there’s a car accident, an insurance company pays to fix it).
One day, I got a very real and emotional understanding of what my dad did for a living. My sister and I walked down the hall to his conference room and passed his office on the way. The office door was closed, but I could hear voices of adults and small children. My sister and I could hear muffled sounds coming from his office. It sounded like a woman crying and little kids whimpering.
When his office door opened, I peeked down the hallway to see who was in there with him. It was a woman and her two children (3 and 5 years old). The woman was very emotional and you could tell she was crying. Her kids were holding onto her pant leg, while my dad gave the woman a big hug.
After they left, I went into dad’s office and asked him why the woman was crying. My dad had his back to me in his chair and as he turned around I realized he was pretty upset as well. He looked at me (I’ll never forget the emotion in his face) and said, “Son, that woman and her children lost their husband and dad in a car accident last week. I just told them that the mortgage was paid off, the cars were paid off, the kids’ college was paid for and mom could stay home and raise the children.”
Dad later told me the man who died hadn’t told his wife he had purchased such a large life insurance policy. Apparently, Dad greeted the woman at the funeral and told her she needed to come by his office when she was ready. She thought her husband had enough life insurance for the burial and maybe a little more. She had no idea there would be enough to pay off the mortgage, cover the kids’ college educations and supplement her income.
That experience has always stayed with me. It’s not only a reminder of how precious life is, but how important life insurance is. I believe it’s my job to bring up the subject with all my customers, educate them about life and provide life insurance options to meet their needs.
I still get a little emotional telling this story – even though I’ve told it a thousand times!
If a tornado, blizzard, earthquake or fire threatened your town or home, protecting your family is your No. 1 priority.
A question to ask yourself is, do you know what to do and will you be prepared? If you’re not sure, September’s National Preparedness Month is for you.
Beginning in 2004, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declared September as “National Preparedness Month.” The idea is to encourage people to prepare and plan in advance what to do to protect their family and survive if a large-scale disaster strikes their town.
National Preparedness Month is an educational event and encourages people to have a plan and resources set aside to be self-reliant for at least three days during an emergency where there might not be access to utilities, food, water, fuel or other local services.
This year alone we’ve seen floods, wildfires, blizzards, tornadoes and hurricanes affect entire regions of the country. When an event like this hits your home town, knowing what to do before, during and after may make all the difference as to how well you and your family survive.
Whether you’re at home, work or on-the-go, it’s important to have a plan. Planning ahead will ensure that you and your family know what to do, where to go and have the supplies you need to be safe wherever you are. National Preparedness Month encourages families, businesses and communities to prepare and plan by:
- Being informed about emergencies that could impact your community.
- Identifying sources of information that will be helpful before, during and after an emergency.
- Planning what to do in an emergency.
- Building a survival kit.
To help you and your family create a plan, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has teamed up with the American Red Cross to create a website – Emergency Preparedness and You – filled with helpful information about emergency planning for you and your family.
Don’t take a chance. The only thing worse than a disaster hitting your home town is not knowing what to do if it does.
Editor's note: American Family Insurance offers a wide range of information to help proactively protect your family, home, auto and business. Check out the Learning Center on our website for valuable tips to help protect your dreams.
Every year when severe storm warnings are issued, I’m reminded of just how strong some of these storms can be. Back in August 2005, I had a first-hand glimpse of the damage a severe storm can cause when I helped clean up after a tornado hit my town.
On Aug. 18, 2005, an F3 tornado carved a ten-mile long, half-mile-wide swath of destruction across rural subdivisions and farms in Stoughton, Wis. When the winds stopped, 156 homes were destroyed or heavily damaged and another 84 homes were slightly damaged. Countless cars, boats and other vehicles were damaged or destroyed. Damage exceeded $35 million. Tragically, one person was killed.
In the following days, I volunteered to help with the clean-up. Let me tell you, cleaning up after a tornado is a humbling experience. In the damaged part of town, everywhere I looked there were houses reduced to piles of bricks and splintered lumber, and cars condensed into twisted hunks of sheet metal.
During the storm, Mother Nature went out of her way to show how fickle she can be. Amidst the destruction, one house I went to seemed completely undamaged. The dining room table was still set for dinner and there was a neat pile of papers on a desk ready for attention. The kitchen however, was gone. In fact, the entire back half of the house was gone. It was as though someone took a gigantic knife and carved off the back half of the house but left the front intact and undisturbed.
Throughout the day, I overheard many interesting answers to good questions:
Q: “I thought you had brown shingles on your garage?”
A: “I do. But the garage that’s leaning against my house belongs to my neighbor down the street.”
Q: “What happened to your car?”
A: “It’s in that tree over there.”
Despite the impact the tornado made on their lives, I was amazed how some people maintained their sense of humor. One man told me he now regretted spending the extra money for 40-year shingles when he had his house re-roofed the previous year. Another commented, “I hope my wife isn’t mad that I didn’t get the dishes done.”
Before the next severe weather alert hits your area, take a few moments to look around your home and identify where you or your family may be vulnerable. Find your best place for shelter and make sure everyone knows where to go and what to do when severe weather threatens.
One of my favorite summer activities is bike riding. After a long winter, getting back on my bike is a treat.
I’m not training for competition or trying to see how far I can go. I ride to relax and enjoy the scenery. Exercise is an added benefit.
When it comes to riding, I’m lucky. There are nice, rural roads about five blocks from my home with few cars and trucks to worry about. When riding, I can focus on the scenery and fresh air.
Here are a few common-sense tips get ready for the season:
- Take a few moments and get last season’s dirt and crud off your bike and its mechanisms. This helps extend the life of your bike and its components.
- Inspect your brakes. Brakes not only stop you, they prevent you from going too fast for your comfort level. You don’t want to be going down a hill only to discover you can’t slow down or stop.
- Inspect the chain, pedals, gears and derailleur. Make sure everything is clean, properly lubricated and functioning properly.
- Make sure the tires are in good condition, have plenty of tread and don’t show any cracks or other signs of wear. Properly inflate them, too. The last thing you want is to be miles from home with a flat tire.
- Check the brake and gear shift cables. Cables that are clean, in good condition and at the proper tension make changing gears and braking that much smoother.
- Don’t forget your helmet and reflective clothing. Riding isn’t a stealth operation – you want to be seen. There are lots of options for bright, reflective neon colors to increase your visibility. When it comes to a helmet, get a good one. You don’t have a $10 head, so why trust it to a $10 helmet.
- Remember traffic rules. You have the same responsibilities as auto drivers. Obey traffic signals and stop signs. Ride with traffic, use the rightmost lane and signal all turns.
Following these simple tips can give you a summer of great biking. If you’re not comfortable making repairs or adjustments to your bike yourself, most shops offer spring tune-ups by reputable mechanics.
Summer is too short to spend indoors. Give yourself a lift and go for a ride.
Editor's note: Where do you like to ride? Leave a comment and share your dream cycling getaway spot. Enjoy the ride!