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Easy Alternative Energy With Windsource

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I don’t get back to my hometown in Iowa very often but last year I headed back for my 20 year high school reunion (WHAT??!!). The landscape of Iowa, which is typically cornfield after cornfield was suddenly dotted with wind farms. And I gotta say. They were beautiful. It got me super curious about wind farms. Then I recently read that Michigan has several of their own. Wind power is the new cool kid in town.

I am not quite a hippy tree hugger, but I definitely think we should continue to pursue renewable energy sources. And I am happy to live in a state that is committed to alternative energy. Xcel Energy is the #1 top provider of wind power solutions in Colorado, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and New Mexico.

 

1399903216000-xcel-energyThrough Windsource, Xcel Energy’s electric customers can purchase renewable energy, generated above and beyond the renewable energy in our standard energy supply. For as little as $1.20 per month, in addition to the electricity charges you would otherwise pay, you can enjoy the benefits of wind power. As a consumer of energy, I get to feel good that I am making a choice that is good for the environment. Business customers can use their Windsource participation toward LEED certification points, as well as displaying an overall green sensibility and respect for the environment.

The best part is I can choose exactly how much energy I want to get from Windsource. You can start with one block per month, which is the equivalent of 100 kilowatt-hours of electricity, or about enough electricity to power the lights in a typical home for a month. You can even choose to get 100% of your energy from Windsource. The best part? The wind power energy that you purchase is generated above and beyond what they are already doing in each state so your purchase directly increases the amount of renewable energy in each state.

Xcel Energy understands that our future is in renewable energy services. Wind is in abundance and it is time to harness its power. Not only that but wind farms increase local economic development for rural communities including jobs, tax revenue and income for landowners. It is really a win for everyone involved. I’m grateful that Windsource makes it so easy for me to make a difference.

If you’re in Colorado, Minnesota, New Mexico, Wisconsin, or Michigan you can call Xcel Energy at 1-800-895-4999 or visit ResponsibleByNature.com/Windsource to enroll.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Xcel Energy. The opinions and text are all mine.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor

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We have lived in the same house since 2005 and really don’t have any plans to move anytime soon. We live in an older neighborhood filled with all ages of families. It is near shopping, dining, and downtown. We can get to several major highways and interstates relatively quickly. The sidewalks are very walkable, lined by beautiful mature trees. It is simply home.

But one thing that has always bugged me about our neighbood, is that while everyone is very friendly, everyone definitely keeps to themselves. We are usually the only people out in the yard, biking up and down the sidewalks and making a general ruckus. Many of the people on our street grew up in this neighborhood and must like that it isn’t a new subdivision with block parties and progressive dinners. So while I would like a bit more of a social neighborhood, we have gradually adapted to the “keeping to yourself” model over the years.

Lately though, I have been feeling more and more like it is time for that to change. I have been on the lookout for ways to get to know and serve the people in my neighborhood. I long for the neighborhoods like the ones of my youth. Where borrowing a cup of sugar was the norm. All the kids played in the streets until dinner. We all knew each other and knew what was going on in each other’s lives. I know that still exists, but it often comes with a side of HOA rules and cookie cutter houses and treeless lots stuck out in mass suburbia.

A new family moved in two doors down late this summer and I kept meaning to get over to meet them and welcome them to the neighborhood. Then our end of the summer was crazy and then the beginning of the school year was crazy and then it just seemed awkward and excuses, excuses, excuses.

Sometimes God really wants to get my attention when I am slacking off in listening to those seeds he plants in my brain. So in my inbox lands a campaign from the Fred Rogers Company celebrating being a good neighbor. I love Mr. Rogers so much. He was such a huge part of my childhood. He began every show asking us to be his neighbor. And now his legacy lives on over at WontYouBeMyNeighbor.org, an amazing destination that celebrates neighborliness all across the country.

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We decided to have a day of neighborliness. The day after Halloween, the kids and I made up a double batch of my Post Halloween cookies and set out to “be a good neighbor.” First stop was our new neighbor. Lo and behold, when we welcomed her we found out her best friend is another mom from school and she also knows Hannah’s second grade teacher really well. I have a feeling we will be able to see much more of each other this summer when it is safe to go outside again. I hope to continue to be intentional with her.

Next we took a plate of cookies to our elderly neighbor. She has not been in good health for about a year and her daughter and grandson have had to move in to help care for her and her adult daughter who has Down’s syndrome. We actually interact with them a fair amount, but don’t get enough chances to serve them with all they have on their plate. It was an easy way to bless them.

After that we walked down to the end of our street to the local fire department. Our kids have all gone there on field trips at one time or another and I knew the firemen would appreciate some home baked cookies. Plus my kids thought it was pretty cool that we got to talk to real firemen. Finally we dropped off a plate to the people who serve Lily in youth group and to her youth group leader who is a college student. She assured me that she and her roomates were very excited about the delivery.

This was NOT a hard or inconvenient thing to do. It probably took a few hours of a Saturday from start to finish. But it also involved a lot of great time with my kids cooking and scheming up who we could bless with cookies. It was so much fun seeing them get excited about giving and blessing our neighbors. I am hoping it is just the start of something that sticks.

The Fred Rogers Company would love it if you would share your stories of being a good neighbor on social media. You can share a special story about yourself or recognize someone else who has demonstrated neighborliness. Simply post your story to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #BeMyNeighbor. Your stories will be shared on the site, inspiring others to do neighborly acts of their own. I love how it could be the start of a movement. Or really just a continuation of a movement Mr. Rogers started so many years ago.

Also don’t miss the #BeMyNeighbor Twitter party this Wednesday, November 19 at 2 p.m. ET.  There will be trivia questions and great Mister Rogers and Daniel Tiger prize packs (another Just Jilly love!!) I will be there and would love to see you there.

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Fred Rogers Company and The Motherhood. All opinions are my own.

 

 

Pour it Forward

Sorry for two “advocacy” posts in a row but tis the time of year when there are a lot of ways to give back. And I love having a platform to share those ideas with you! One topic I will always, ALWAYS be passionate about is childhood hunger. I won’t shut up until we don’t have hungry children anymore, especially in our own communities.

Today my son looked in our fridge and complained it was so full he couldn’t find things in it. Stop for a minute and realize this could probably be a lot of our kids. They don’t even grasp that there are kids with fridges void of any nutritious food. I can berate myself for raising a cluelss child or I can be overwhelmingly grateful that it is just too hard for my 5 year old to possibly understand that kids wouldn’t have food at the ready when their bellies were hungry.

Milk is a staple for many of our children’s diets and brings back fond memories of my own childhood. Whether it was poured over my morning cereal, downed with a sticky PB and J or preceded by one of my mom’s warm chocolate chip cookies straight from the oven, milk seems like a given when it comes to our childhood. And it is such an important part of kid’s diets, providing calcium, potassium, Vitamin D, and is a good source of high quality protein.

But there are a lot of children growing up on sugary sodas and juices instead of milk. Recently I learned that Michigan residents who depend on local food banks for their meals receive an average of just one gallon of milk per person per year. One gallon A YEAR!! The average kid gets around 28 gallons a year.

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I am so excited that for the second year in a row, The United Dairy Industry of Michigan(UDIM) has partnered with The Kroger Co. of Michigan to help relieve this shortage with Pour It Forward. Through Dec. 16th, Kroger customers are invited to purchase paper gallon slips for $3 each. Kroger and UDIM will contribute a minimum of one gallon of milk to local food banks for every paper gallon purchased.

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Last year Pour It Forward raised over 30,000 gallons of milk for Forgotten Harvest and the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan. This year they want to do even better so they have set an ambitious goal of 50,000 gallons benefitting six mid-Michigan food banks in 2014, including Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, Food Bank of South Central Michigan, Food Gatherers, Forgotten Harvest, Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan, and Greater Lansing Food Bank. Even if you aren’t local to Michigan, you should know that the Pour It Forward campaign is part of the Great American Milk Drive, the first national program to help deliver nutrient-rich gallons of milk to hungry families.

I know this time of year a lot of us are looking for ways to give back. And I love that my kids are likely with me at the grocery store when I am donating so we can continue our dialogue about gratitude and the realities of lots of kids who don’t have the resources they have. I love that Kroger and UDIM are providing me with a way to easily make a difference! So head out and Pour It Forward!!

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Michigan’s dairy farm families, Milk Means More and Kroger

Let’s End Alzheimer’s Together

For some reason, lately I have been acutely aware of the passage of time. My kids are growing up at an insane pace. Although I still feel 22, apparently I am quite rapidly bearing down on 40. And my parents and in-laws are inching up toward the age when I lost my grandparents. It is weird to think of them as “late in life” because they are all quite active and healthy, but the reality is my parents are aging and may someday require my care.

I have been thinking about my grandparents a lot lately and how 3/4 of them really kept their mental faculties until their deaths. Their bodies gave out long before their minds. While that often makes it feel like they were taken way too soon, I am blessed that I don’t have any memories of my grandparents not knowing who I was or what was going on around them.

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I know many of us are not so lucky. Alzheimer’s disease is an all too real reality in many of our lives. It has touched so many of my friends and readers as they watch their grandparents, or even parents, start to slip away. It is incurable, devastating and far too common. Did you know that more than 5 million Americans are currently suffering from Alzheimer’s? It is the 6th leading cause of death and the ONLY top ten cause of death that can not be treated, prevented or cured.

For every one of those 5 million, there is a family that loves them, cares for them and desperately wants to catch a glimpse of who they used to be. One in TEN adults cares for someone with Alzheimer’s. And it is estimated that the hours providing care for family members is costing our economy over 220 BILLION dollars. This disease is having a HUGE impact on all of us.

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Yet while October was filled with pink ribbons (a cause that has greatly impacted my family), and in November men are growing spotty beards to bring attention to prostate cancer, Alzheimer’s isn’t talked about near as much. There almost seems to be a shame associated with it. For all the good and bad that has come with breast cancer being “pinkified”, one of the best things about bringing this disease to the public’s attention is that there has been a tremendous amount of money and research done towards its prevention and treatment.

To do medical research you need one main thing (besides money). You need people. Sadly, one of the biggest barriers to Alzheimer’s research is that they simply don’t have enough participants. And it isn’t just that they need people currently suffering from Alzheimer’s, but they need healthy people as well to learn more about how our brains work and what precursors there are to the disease. 80% of research studies simply can’t get enough participants to continue.

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The Banner Alzheimer’s Institute has started a registry of over 44,000 people who are passionate about seeing an end to this disease. They are provided with updates on the latest research about the disease and are provided with opportunities to participate in studies to help scientists learn more about preventing and treating this awful disease.

Here is the thing: I have not personally been touched by Alzheimer’s like I have cancer (seriously, name a cancer and I have likely had a family member who has survived it or died from it). But Alzheimer’s is all around me and there is NOTHING that can be done to prevent it striking someone I love, or even me. So if I can do something that basically requires very little of me, but might lead to something that stops this disease, I am all about signing up.

And that is what the Alzheimer’s registry is about. It is so easy to sign up and your privacy is very important to them. They need people of all ages (over 18), all ethnicities, those of us who have a family history of the disease and those who don’t. You are not obligated to participate in anything by signing up, but you do give them a bigger pool in which to chose participants from. And this is key to finding ways to prevent and cure this terrible disease.

November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. I don’t think it is a coincidence that it is also Family Caregivers Month. I can’t think of an easier way to lend my support to this cause than signing up. So I have. Will you?

How has your life been touched by Alzheimer’s Disease?

Disclosure: Banner Alzheimer’s Institute provided an incentive for this post. When I heard about the work they are doing, it seemed like a no brainer to spread the word. I was not required to sign up for the registry to post, that is simply my way of putting my money where my mouth is. 

Give Kids the World

I have been pitiful in telling you about our trip to Orlando with Family Forward and Universal Studios. One measly post telling you about the gorgeous Loews Portofino Bay. But I wanted to make sure too much time didn’t pass before I shared with you one of the most meaninful parts of our family trip.

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Before Family Forward, I had never heard of Give Kids The World. But they were hosting a “blogger bash” and pool party and when I read about their purpose I knew we had to go. Give Kids The World is a 70-acre resort complete with over 144 Villa accommodations, entertainment attractions, whimsical venues, and fun specifically designed for children with special needs. They partner with wish-granting organizations to help fulfill the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses who want to see the many theme parks that central Florida has to offer. Their mission is to never turn a child away.

As we toured the resort, I loved how everything was made with kids in mind. There were train rides, princess chairs, a carousel and a huge pool and splash pad. My favorite part? An ice cream parlor where kids are allowed to choose ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner. At Give Kids the World, the staff is trained to never say no to a child’s wish. It is created to be a place where families can forget about doctors and diagnosis and focus completely on the fun.

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One of the most impactful parts of our tour was going in the Star Tower and seeing the stars on the ceiling that represents every child that stays at Give Kids The World. This is just a sliver of the ceiling because they have served over 130,000 kids. And they said that each kid knows exactly where their personal star is.

My pictures all stunk but this video of their “Extreme Village Makeover” gives you a really good picture of their facilities. It is truly amazing.

How can you help Give Kids The World? Well obviously you can donate money. They are EXTREMELY fiscally responsible with 91.7 cents on every dollar going directly to help children enjoy their vacations. You can also volunteer at their central Florida location. They rely heavily on volunteers. You can even plan your Orlando vacation around volunteering with Universal’s Vacation Like You Mean It package. I always feel like Orlando vacations are so over the top with my kids spoiled to death so I love combining our trip with a way to give back. Mostly I just think it is important to be aware such an amazing place exists.

Our final pool party was a celebration with families that were staying at the resort. As I looked around the pool and splashpad you truly couldn’t tell who was a blogger and who was a mom of a child with a terminal illness. We were all just families who wanted to enjoy our time together. That really stuck with me. I am so thankful a place like Give Kids The World exists and so thankful to Family Forward for putting it on my radar.