Save Money with DIY HVAC Care

Being a homeowner requires a fair amount of maintenance to keep your home in tip-top shape. And one of the most important systems in your house is the HVAC, the heating and cooling system that keeps your home warm in winter and cool in summer. While there are certain times you should use a professional to help with upkeep for your HVAC system, there are also many easy tasks you can manage yourself, helping to save a few bucks and keeping your system running for years to come.

Clean Out Debris

According to DIY Network, regular care of your HVAC system will save you money and energy as well as extend the lifespan of the equipment itself. Whole home air conditioning units located outside your house can collect dust and debris. In order to safely clean out the unit, first be sure to shut off the power using your breaker box. Then use a screwdriver to lift off the fan cage and remove any leaves, mulch or other debris that has accumulated inside the unit. You can also use a hose to rinse off the exterior, but be sure to hose from the inside out. To prevent excess debris, make sure to regularly keep bushes and trees near the unit trimmed.

Replace Your Air Filter

Another important task any homeowner can do to both keep the HVAC running smoothly and improve the quality of air in your home is to regularly change the air filter. The EPA advises that you change your filter every 60-90 days, but if you have pets or smoke, it’s better to change your filter every 30 days. Keep in mind the quality and size of filter is important. The Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, MERV, is based on a national consensus standard and should be used to choose the best air filter. The higher the rating, the more contaminants are being filtered. Most HVACs can support a MERV of 7-12, but it’s best to research your system to find the correct size and highest-rated filter that can be used without restricting the airflow.

Failing to routinely change your air filter can also cause your health to suffer. A dirty air filter can trigger and worsen allergy issues from pollen, dirt and mold. When the air filter is dirty, all the particles that were previously trapped in the filter can now start to circulate through the home. Because most people spend a larger amount of time indoors as opposed to outdoors, exposure is higher and the quality of indoor air is especially important to consider.

When to Call the Professionals

Just as important as knowing DIY tips, it’s equally important to know when it’s time to call in the professionals. If you find your HVAC system unable to properly heat or cool your home, there are a few things you can do to troubleshoot the problem yourself. First check to see if there is power or if a breaker has flipped. If there is power to the unit, make sure that all debris is clear inside and around the outside of your unit. If you run through these tasks and it still doesn’t work, then it may be time to call in the professionals.

While some issues with your HVAC may be out of your area of expertise, frequent and routine cleaning is easy and encouraged to maintain the life of your system. Air filters are inexpensive, and they are easy to purchase and install yourself. Proper care and cleaning will result in money saved, lower energy usage, and cleaner air circulating throughout your home.

Photo credit: pixabay.com

Mindset. Courage. Wisdom. Opportunity. Flourishing.

We are now well into the new year. My year began with these themes top-of-mind:

Mindset. Courage. Wisdom. Opportunity. Flourishing.

I recently read that the three keys to mastery and success in your life and business are; 1) your mindset, 2) your skill-set, and 3) your actions. All three are critical, but none are more important than mindset. Mindset begins with good habits and rituals. This year I have resolved to change my mindset by doing the following:

  • Practice gratitude, daily
  • Exercise consistently
  • Feed my soul with more music
  • Consume more of nature
  • Learn to enjoy reading
  • Experience more adventures
  • Seek people who are good for me
  • Ask for help when needed

Every 90 days, 90% of our bodies go through cell regeneration. The cells in our bodies are constantly dividing, regenerating, and dying…skin, hair, liver, stomach, intestines, bones, etc. In fact, the eye’s cornea can regenerate itself in as little as one day. Some areas of the brain, like the olfactory bulb that helps us smell and the hippocampus that helps us learn, can and do rejuvenate.

So, I ask myself, why am I so fixed, stubborn, and set in my ways? Why does it matter? We, humans, are new creations in more ways than one ?. What’s stopping me? It’s time to shed the bad. Go out and learn, change, and die to self.

What does this have to do with real estate? If I presume to think I can provide the highest level of problem solving, service, and value to you, my clients, I must get my mindset reoriented for success. For me, it starts now.

A Matter of Trust

A recent JD Power survey reported a trend in the real estate industry showing more homebuyers and sellers increasingly going without agents. It would seem that people are looking for cheap, convenient, and paperless transactions through non-conventional means.

However, sit-in at any closing table and you will find a room full of trusted people doing specialized jobs: the seller’s agent, the buyer’s agent, the buyer’s closer, the seller’s closer, attorneys, paralegals, etc. The priority of a cheap, paperless, and stress-free close seems 1,000 miles away.

Why? Because closing the sale of a home is such a major deal involving a large lump sum of money and a huge asset, the participants at either end are likely to want to look each other in the eye and verify one another as real, upstanding people. It comes back to trust. People will always pick trust over thrift and convenience when it comes to home sales.

But what if you could combine trust with convenience? Do you now have a complete and satisfying transaction? The future of the real estate industry (and human agents) belongs to those agents (and teams) that are most successful at serving both important attributes.

Why does it matter? Trust is the foundation of all relationships.

What exactly do you mean when you say you don’t trust someone? Do you mean you don’t think they are honest? Or, do you mean you don’t trust they have your best interest in mind? Or, do you mean you don’t think they can do the job? These are all different dimensions of realtor trust.

In a recent indictment of a local Minneapolis realtor husband and wife team, we sadly see another example of a violation of trust. It is alleged that these realtors devised a scheme requiring repair contractors to pay them kickbacks. In return, the couple used their position as realtors for the victim companies to steer housing repair contracts to contractors who paid the kickbacks. The indictment further alleges that they procured and submitted sham bids as part of the scheme to defraud the victim companies. The defendants created a scheme to siphon as much money as they could from these properties, no matter the method, no matter the victim. These scams victimize all of us. Trust is essential. These dishonest and untrustworthy criminals clearly broke the trust covenant that good realtors work hard to earn.

This concept is so important that an entire business model was developed by a popular radio/TV host to address the issues he had experienced in a real estate transaction. He developed a referral process to determine who you can trust and who you can’t…built on a proprietary vetting system. Trust is essential. But how do you define trust in real estate?

The Dimensions of Realtor Trust

Four dimensions of a trusted realtor

Integrity: Are they honest and ethical? The quality of honesty is the most important element and is the foundation of trust. Liars are not trusted. In fact, without integrity, the other dimensions of trust don’t matter.

Is there yes a YES and there no a NO? When your agent tells you something or promises something, do they follow through on those statements? Anyone can promise something, but people with integrity deliver on those promises.

When your agent tells you something and later you learn that it’s not true, how does that make you feel? Trust is like a bank account. You start with a certain amount of trust, and then over time, you add to that account by delivering on promises. And like a bank account, it can be emptied overnight if you’re caught under delivering and lying. Lying is a sure sign of someone who is in it for the paycheck and does not have your best interests in mind.

Does your agent demonstrate an awareness of other people? Are they respectful and courteous to others that are involved in a transaction? Integrity is also the quality of having strong moral principles and moral uprightness in how you treat people.

You can learn about a realtor’s integrity and reputation in several different ways. Start by checking online reviews. There are dozens of websites that allow users to leave reviews about realtors, so you should take the time to read some of their reviews prior to working together. If there is a single bad review and a handful of glowing recommendations, you shouldn’t put too much weight on that review. However, if there are reviews from multiple people that all say basically the same thing, you may see a pattern. With that being said, sometimes online reviews may not be complete or entirely accurate.

You can also ask for references. Better yet, ask people who work with your agent, their peers, or the vendors they associate with. Online reviews are helpful, but you won’t have the opportunity to ask the person who posted them any questions about their experience. If you want to engage in conversation with a former client to learn more about your agent ask him for references.

Competence: Do they know what they’re doing? If you hire someone to represent you, you want to be assured they know what they’re doing and can do the job well. What is their track record of success?

In other industries, a person’s level of success does not always correlate with his trustworthiness, but in real estate, it typically does. Trustworthy realtors have clearly won the trust of other clients and helped them successfully either buy or sell a home.

It’s also important to find a realtor who stays up-to-date with industry news. Does your realtor know what trends buyers are looking for this year? Does he know anything about the current interest rates on home loans? Are home values in your area expected to rise or fall in the next six months? These are areas that he should be familiar with, so if he doesn’t have the answers to these questions, he may not be as trustworthy as he claims to be.

Reliability: Can they be counted on to follow through on their commitments? Will they be there when they’re needed? If they agree to do something, are they dependable? Can they be counted on to complete things on time? Timelines and deadlines are absolutely critical in a real estate transaction. Missing important deadlines can cost you money and/or the possibility of losing your dream home!

Can you depend on your agent? Will they show up when they’re supposed to? Realtors who take a long time to respond to your emails or who say they will follow up with you on a matter but never do are not being professional. Likewise, realtors who are late for appointments or constantly reschedule with you at the last minute are not behaving in a professional manner. This is a sign of an unreliable realtor.

Concern: Are they genuinely concerned for your well-being? When we believe someone genuinely cares about our well-being, we are willing to open our hearts and become vulnerable. This is the deepest level of trust and is not to be taken lightly.

Part of showing concern for clients is having great listening skills. Trustworthy realtors are dedicated to finding you the home of your dreams. How do they know what your dreams are? During the first meeting with your realtor, he should ask you to describe some of the must-haves in your new home. If you mention that you absolutely must have a fenced yard for your three large dogs, but the realtor continues to send you listings for homes without a fence, he was clearly not paying attention during your conversation. This indicates he is more concerned with making a sale than he is with finding you a home that meets your needs. You shouldn’t trust a realtor who cannot demonstrate that he is able to listen to you and put your needs first.


Conclusion; does your realtor have your best interest in mind? Do they see you as an individual, and do they really care about your well-being? If they don’t, they may need to evaluate their mission statement or rethink their career choice. When you start to wonder whether you can trust someone or not, that is when you already know you don’t. Move on. Find a trustworthy realtor.
The sale of a home is a major deal. Don’t take shortcuts. Choose individuals with character, who are capable, and that you can depend on. It’s a matter of trust.

Super Bowl LII - Where's the Party?

Super Bowl LII events officially kick off this week, and there is a lot to do in Minneapolis, St. Paul and the suburbs. Expect to see some of the biggest stars walking around downtown and going to some of the biggest parties of the year. I found an excellent resource. Click below for an extensive list and map of where all the action will be taking place during the 10 days leading up to the big game Feb. 4.

You can also see a high resolution PDF version of this map and event list so you can print and read it. (Download alert: It’s pretty big. Click link below)

Super Bowl LII – Where’s the Party?


(Courtesy of Mark Reilly, Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal).

 

The Top Eleven Songs of the Season

One of the great delights of my life is finding and enjoying wide varieties of lyric and melody. However, in the midst of my unquenchable hunt of the latest and great music on the market there comes a moment for an annual and welcome interruption. It’s a pause, a rest, a moment of serious thought and consideration. Put away the normal pursuit and consumption of music, industry news, artist commentary, critical reviews, etc.

At least, …for now.

It’s the morning after Thanksgiving. The family bundles up – scarves and mittens in hand. We fuel up at a local eatery. We head out on our way to seek that imperfect “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree. The family rejoices as we spot the halo-like glow beaming off the perfectly imperfect tree ahead in the distance. We rush to capture it before others might beat us to it. We found it! The Speich family Christmas tree!

As we mount the tree atop the Jeep and begin our journey back home one tradition returns. Thanksgiving is over. It’s Christmas time! And, with that, it is officially Christmas music season! We get 30 days to redirect our musical affections toward Christmas songs that directly or indirectly honor and adore Emmanuel Jesus. Yes!

What is it about Christmas music that accelerates you into the Christmas spirit? Afterall, there are only about a dozen songs that are original. Most Christmas music is a variation, cover, or rendition of a handful of songs. That’s okay. I still get excited about this annual musical pause, sort of a musical “Selah.”

Selah is thought to come from the Hebrew word salah, “to pause.” From salah comes the belief that Selah is a musical notation signifying a rest to the singers and/or instrumentalists who performed the psalms. If this is true, then each time selah appears in a psalm, the musicians paused, perhaps to take a breath or to sing a cappella or let the instruments play alone. Perhaps they were pausing to praise the One about whom the song was speaking, perhaps even lifting their hands in worship. This theory would encompass all these meanings—“praise,” “lift up,” and “pause.” Christmas music inspires the listener to pause and praise God for His mercy, power, sustaining grace, and sufficiency. Ultimately, Christmas music inspires us to praise Him for sending His son Jesus. When we enjoy music this holiday season, we should pause to carefully weigh the meaning of what we have just heard, lifting up our hearts in praise to God.

Through the years, I have found my favorites. We all have our favorites…to be sure. And, I’m certain that we all don’t agree. I decided it’s time to compile my “go-to” list of all-time christmas songs.

How did I compile this list? As you can imagine, this is a difficult task. Narrowing down the list was painful. There is such an abundance of amazing recordings. There are many genres that can, and do, fall into the “holiday music” sector. And, I suppose many of you will have your own favorites and think mine are crazy. Plus, I think a person’s music taste is allowed to evolve over time. Some of us may have even dipped into years of the ridiculous…a sort of lapse away from reasonable thinking. Can you say, Wham! Last Christmas,” or Cheetah Girls “Cheetah-licious Christmas“? Each season of life brings new favorites. I tried to avoid including brand new releases. The true “best” need to marinate and endure the test of time. They also need to have wide appeal. There are so many songs I like that lean toward obscure – even bizarre (Mistletoe Mambo). I’ve excluded those selections.

Nevertheless, here we go, my top eleven, in no particular order…


Top Eleven Christmas Songs

Be sure to click on the song name to sample the song on YouTube.

Josh GarrelsHosanna

On his 2016 holiday album, The Light Came Down, Garrels marries both for a wide sonic expanse for both original and classic Christmas songs. “Gloria” is Light’s spirited centerpiece, bolstered by choirs and brass, destined to become a crowd favorite. Classics like “O Holy Night” and “Silent Night” are given new life through Garrels’ thoughtful, beautiful arrangements. Let’s face it, The Light Came Down is awesome. But, the winning cut off this album is “Hosanna.” The piece forces you to honor Jesus – making him the focus of our affection. Be sure you turn the volume up high and prepare to worship.


Michael Bublé Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

“Your voice is like chocolate,” said one. “This song makes me happy,” said another. The song is too “poppy.” Maybe. So what? No one can deny the pipes on Mr. Buble. He is in the Sinatra league of the best crooners of all time. From the 2011 release of Christmas, this is a must have in your holiday collection and this song takes the blue ribbon, or green & red ribbon, as it were.


Vince Guaraldi TrioChristmas Time is Here

Selecting a single song from this album was tough. All are fantastic. I love “Tannebaum.” However, the winner goes to “Christmas Time is Here.” This song has two versions. The instrumental version is superior. The vocal version leans too cartoonish. One of the most groundbreaking things about the first peanuts TV special is Vince Caroli‘s dazzling score. The San Francisco pianist was a key part of the west coast cool jazz scene, and his grace for piano trio arrangements sound as hip today as they did in 1965. Throughout the album, Guaraldi captures the mixed emotions at the heart of Charles Schultz’s characters.


Jars of ClayWonderful Christmastime

Yes, we are all familiar with Paul McCartney’s version of this song. I do like that version, but the raspy, almost pubescent vocals of Dan Haseltine are so endearing. From the Christmas Songs CD came out in 2007 and I immediately loved it. I haven’t always loved everything Jars of Clay has done, but this album is really different from your standard Christmas CD. They have put a “Jars” twist on the music, and then some. The whole album has a haunting, ethereal quality to it and puts me in a very specific mood as soon as the first few seconds play. Almost all of the songs are either originals or lesser-known Christmas songs. Standout tracks: “Wonderful Christmastime” (a cover of Paul McCartney’s classic song that is actually better than the original), ” Love Came Down at Christmas,” “Evergreen” (a haunting instrumental), and an interesting cover of the classic “Christmastime is Here.” Be sure to check out the live video version of this song here as they performed at the Gospel Music Channel’s Christmas at Union Station. 


George WinstonThanksgiving

Not all great Christmas recordings are by the old crooners. On the 1981 album December, Pianist George Winston captures the stillness of snowy nights with soulful chords and chilled-out melodies. The cut that quickly presses me into the Christmas mood is “Thanksgiving.” I offer one caution, save yourself some money, don’t go see him live. He is dreadful as a live performer. He is brilliant pianist, but has no stage presence whatsoever. In a similar genre, I give honorable mention to the album Majesty and Wonder by Phil Keaggy recorded back in 1999 with the London Festival Orchestra featuring Keaggy’s incredible guitar artistry.


Amy Grant – Breath of Heaven

Amy’s second Christmas album, Home for Christmas, came out around 1992 and somehow sounds incredibly timeless even today. What makes this album so good are the song choices and the arrangements, which are at times sort of orchestral, and other times stripped down.  Standout tracks: “Breath of Heaven,” “Grown Up Christmas List,” “The Night Before Christmas,” ” Emmanuel, God with Us.” The last song, an acoustic/celtic arrangement of “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” is also fantastic. Most surprising are Grant’s two contributions (cowritten with Chris Eaton and Robert Marshal, respectively,) “Breath of Heaven/Mary’s Song” and the powerful and humbling “Emmanuel, God with Us.” Exquisitely produced and arranged, Home for Christmas is a highly rewarding mainstream Christmas masterpiece without flaw or pretense.


Michael W. Smith Christmastime

Backed by the American Boy Choir, this song is magical. Christmastime, the 1998 holiday album release, Michael W. Smith plays more the role of a classic orchestral arranger in a movie soundtrack than Christian pop artist. The release’s finest moments come in more contemporary style with the Chris Rice-penned “Welcome to Our World,” Smitty’s title track, and the Phil Keaggy-enriched instrumental duet “O Christmas Tree.”


Leon Redbone & Zooey DeschanelBaby It’s Cold Outside

This is probably one of the most painfully overdone holiday remakes of all time. However, Zooey Deschanel is great in this version. The song becomes a classic with the accompaniment of the gravelly baritone, neo-vaudeville crooner Leon Redbone. If you’ve seen the movie Elf you can’t help but giggle when Buddy (Will Farrell) surprises Jovie (Zooey Deschanel) while in the employee shower. The song has a close second place with Dean Martin and Martina McBride  appearing on the album White Christmas (1998). Any list that doesn’t have Dean Martin on it is an incomplete list.


Nat “King” Cole The Christmas Song

If Christmas were a country, “The Christmas Song” would be the national anthem. When his crooning lays out the song’s vivid yuletide imagery, the hardest heart will feel a sentimental twinge. The Magic of Christmas is a 1960 album by Nat King Cole, arranged and conducted by Ralph Carmichael. This was Cole’s only full album of Christmas songs, although he had recorded several holiday singles earlier in his career. One of these, “The Christmas Song”, written by Mel Torme and originally recorded in 1946, was re-recorded for the 1961 album The Nat King Cole Story. In 1963, The Magic of Christmas was reissued under the title The Christmas Song.


Justin Bieber Under the Mistletoe

Keep in mind, I live in a household of all females. Cut me some slack. At the peak of his success as one of the top teen pop stars, Justin Bieber released a Christmas album titled “Under the Mistletoe.” It debuted at #1 on the album chart and became a smash hit. The song peaked at #2 on the adult contemporary chart, and in a rare occurrence for Christmas music, climbed into the top 40 at mainstream pop radio. Think what you want about J-Biebs, this song is catchy and fun. I have only one thing to say to you…”shotty with you.”


PentatonixLittle Drummer Boy

The a cappella vocal group Pentatonix released their version of the classic Christmas tune “Little Drummer Boy” in 2013 and it become a smash hit.  It is safe to say that Pentatonix can sound good on anything they sing. This is one of the best versions of the Christmas classic “Little Drummer Boy” that I have heard. Their beat-box backed harmonies blend fluidly making this cover true artform. “That’s Christmas to Me” is also a solid contender.


Dawn breaks on day 26 of December…pack up the holiday CD’s, the Spotify playlists, and the iTunes curations…it’s time to resume our musical journey. Good night Christmas music. We’ll see you again next year.

Love That Olive

Experience the taste of Italy at home

Love That Olive in Maple Grove is the place to find inspiration for all your cooking needs. Whether for your own family dinner table or the big holiday bash, we can help. We’ve been the source of fabulous gourmet extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars for great cooks and newbies alike since 2010. Our wonderful producer in Italy delivers to us the gift of true full flavored olive oils. The balsamics are so delicious and versatile, from salads to marinades to desserts, you’ll soon have your very own favorite can’t live without it private stash. We find many of our customers have shared their love of our products in their own homes, at pot-lucks and even in our store while shopping. Our community of great food lover’s reach all groups.

Throughout the year Love That Olive hosts many Tasting Events. Booking a private event for your special group is easy. We are currently accepting new bookings for January. We also hold Open Tasting Events for those times you can’t get everyone on the same schedule. During the holiday season and typically around other special holidays we have Tasting Weekends to sample new products, give you ideas for gift-giving or highlight new products. There is always something good happening here!

Love That Olive is the year-round Gift Giving Headquarters! Our Mini Boxed Set is extremely popular. Unique Holiday Gifts include Olive Oil skin care, kitchenware, Italian Pastas, flavorful sea salts and seasonings, gluten-free and salt free soup mixes, serving vessels, custom gift baskets and so much more. Need a quick Thank You gift for a special teacher or a Secret Santa gift? You’ll find it here. Who doesn’t love great food or a fun kitchen gadget? And when you just can’t decide, a Love That Olive Gift Card is a perfect choice.

 

Here at Love That Olive we understand, life is busy! We aim to educate on how easy it is to drizzle your way to a great, quick, delicious meal. Tips, recipes and classes will assist you in your fear of “I can’t cook!”. Be sure to check our website at www.LoveThatOlive.com for recipes, pairing suggestions, and gift ideas. Follow us on Facebook for current events, recipes and fun ideas in your cooking adventures. Our Facebook community is always coming up with delicious ideas for our wide assortment of products. Especially within our Weekly Feature Product post.

 

Enroll in our Email Club for even more ideas, tips and event announcements. Do you have a birthday? We a have a Club for that as well! Enroll on our website for a special treat from us in your birthday month.

Are you always looking for great recipes? Check in-store for featured recipes, on our website (with a search feature) or our brand new cookbook, The Art of the Olive, filled with tasty dishes for any occasion. Pre-orders are being accepted, with expected delivery right before Christmas.
We hope you will visit us in person or online and experience the taste of Italy and all thing good from Love That Olive. We make food fun!


Learn about the health benefits of:


Terri Chaffer has a passion for olives. She also has a passion for her community. She and her husband, Ron, own and operate Love That Olive in Maple Grove. Their business has grown exponentially by providing products and services around the lifestyle, baking, skin, nutritional, and health benefits of olive, balsamic, and nut oils.  Find their store at 13551 Grove Drive in Maple Grove across from JC Penny.

If you want to learn a ton more listen to the podcast Still Growing with Jennifer Ebling by clicking the audio below. Jennifer sits down with Terri to talk about her experience as an “Oil Bar” owner and her passion for introducing quality oils and balsamics into our everyday cooking. They cover the noble history of the olive tree, how olive oil is processed and marketed, as well as the many varieties Terri sells in her shop.

 


 

App of the Month

 

This month we begin a regular new feature called App of the Month. We will look at the popular apps that seek to help make our lives a little better in some way, shape, or form.  So many apps come out every day that it’s difficult to keep track of them all. It’s difficult to determine the best of the best but if you’re getting bored with what you’ve got and want to try something new, check out this regular app feature. This month, the blue ribbon goes to a maps & navigation app called Waze.


Waze, is a GPS navigation software that works on smartphones and tablets with GPS support and provides turn-by-turn navigation information and user-submitted travel times and route details, while downloading location-dependent information over a mobile telephone network. Waze describes its app as a community-driven GPS navigation app, which is free to download and use. The app was first developed and popularized by Waze Mobile, an Israeli company founded by Ehud Shabtai, Amir Shinar and Uri Levine, funded by two Israeli venture capital firms, Magma and Vertex, and an early-stage American venture capital firm Bluerun Ventures. Waze Mobile was acquired in 2013 by Google.

Cool Features
  • Wazers share real-time road information to bypass traffic and saves precious time off their daily commutes.
  • Waze analyzes traffic in real-time to find you the quickest detours and shortcuts.
  • Simply driving with Waze helps other drivers. You can also actively report on incidents like crashes, hazards, police and more.
  • Customized voice navigation is fun! I like the “boy band” voice. He sings navigation to you as you drive…hilarious!
  • Gas prices – in honor of my father who will drive 5 extra miles to save $.03/gallon this feature is awesome. It will show you the current prices at all the gas stations on or near your route.
Waze vs. Google Maps

When evaluating Google Maps vs Waze, there are a few key differences:

Waze is community-based, Google Maps is more data-based
Waze is pretty much just for cars, Google Maps offers walking, driving, and biking options.
Waze requires a data connection, Google Maps is available offline.
Google Maps includes business data such as menus, hours, and phone numbers, while Waze does not.
Google Maps is fairly basic, Waze offers a high level of customization (including celebrity voiceovers!)

If it is any indication of usefulness, Uber or Lyft drivers overwhelmingly use Waze. My personal take is that Waze is more useful, given the sheer amount of data that the app collects through it’s massive user base. The collaborators are the the key to real-time data. Whenever possible, I don’t want to stop for traffic, hit potholes, or get a speeding ticket.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Google Maps, and I use it when I am driving. I don’t always need to avoid traffic, or don’t necessarily care about avoiding traffic when I have nothing to do.

In summary, it really depends on what you’re looking for. If you want to just get to your destination, Google Maps is probably good enough. But if you’re looking to supercharge your navigation, give Waze a try.


Download the free app by clicking on either of these two platforms:

 

 

Storytelling: My Car Lessons, by Tamara Schierkolk

Applying makeup. Putting in contact lenses. Knitting. Hanging one’s leg out the window. Watching a movie. Shaving. Picking one’s nose.

My eyes widened as I read the online list of things people do while they’re driving. Were humans coordinated enough to pull all this off in traffic? I understood multitasking and seizing the time, but what had become of us? And what would Karl Benz think of how we used his invention?

Pre-motherhood, I had my ideas about car rides and life. “When I have kids, no refined sugar for them,” I said.

But then I had babies, and they sometimes fussed in the thick of rush hour. My lofty intentions plummeted to their death.

“Here, catch,” I’d say, tossing marshmallows to my little passengers in the back seat. They squealed and gulped down the fluffy treats. And I swallowed my pride.

Back then, there was other excitement in the car too. Before Dicka could articulate her feelings, she had a penchant for carsickness.

“Mama, my mouth feels funny,” the toddler would say, her sentence always followed by two short coughs, then The Big Mess.

I learned to carry a bath towel in the car. And I could ball it up with one hand—the other on the steering wheel, my eyes trained forward—and pitch it back to Dicka before she got to the two coughs part.

But the girls didn’t remain tiny creatures who required marshmallows and towels during travel. They soon had other needs. And that period of time—when they were deeply involved in extra-curricular activities, but not yet old enough to drive—called for a parental chauffeur to simply move out of her home and relocate to the car.

Was anyone hungry? Dairy products were in the cooler; non-perishable foods in the tote bag. Anybody chilly? They could grab a blanket from the stack. Any need for a personal hygiene product, first aid item, or wardrobe remedy? The inventory included (but was not limited to) the following: hand sanitizer, bobby pins, Band-Aids, a lint roller, toothbrush, phone chargers, and even an extra pair of black tights.

The job as chauffeur was lowly but unavoidable. It looked like a necessary distraction on the road to something better. But it stripped away my personality and muted my sense of purpose. Was I created for this? I waited and transported. Transported and waited. Transported. And waited some more. While I frittered away my days behind the wheel, I gazed through the car windows at passersby who appeared to take their freedom for granted. Did they know how those of us on the inside felt? I marked notches on the armrest to count down the hours until my release.

But one day, something inside me switched.

What could I do to redeem my time while I wore down my tires? Spotify, Pandora, Audible, Duolingo, and YouTube entered my waiting. The time lag between points A and B became its own legitimate activity. The car morphed from mode of transportation to counseling office for us to grind out the details of life, work out schedules and futures, and soothe the wounds of the day. The vehicle transformed into a sanctuary where I sang, cried, and prayed. And our ride broke down sometimes too, rubbing the temporary discomfort across my rough edges like sandpaper and reminding me my First World issues only looked like problems.

While not as thrilling as kissing or working on one’s laptop while on the move, maybe character refinement during the long hours running up the odometer counts for something.

And maybe my car lessons could be added to the online list too.


Tamara Schierkolk has a heart for the inner city. She’s also a freelance grant writer, writes contemporary fiction, and since 2012, she and her family have hosted twenty-eight children in crisis through Safe Families for Children. She lives with her husband of twenty-five years, their three teenage daughters, and their beloved pit bull in North Minneapolis, a high-crime, low-income part of the city, because that’s where God called them. She writes about her life and adventures in her blog, My Blonde Life in the Hood.

 

Ken’s Crew: Walk to Defeat ALS

ALS (Lou Gehrigs Disease) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that is 100% fatal. Ultimately it peels away all of your physical abilities to include eating and breathing. Every 90 minutes someone dies or is diagnosed with ALS. The average lifespan of someone diagnosed with ALS is 2-5 years. The estimated average yearly cost of caring for someone with ALS is over $200,000. The ALS association helps to provide services and equipment for those with ALS in addition to supporting research. This year the first drug in 25 years to help slow the progression of ALS was approved.

This Saturday, September 16th, at Lake Phalen Ken’s Crew will be gathering to raise money for the ALS Association. This year it will be especially poignant as Ken died this past July at the age of 54 after being diagnosed with ALS 3 and a half years ago. Please consider walking with Ken’s Crew and/or donating at the following link >> Ken’s Crew


Patti Brown is a clinical nurse specialist at Nystrom & Associates.  She lost her husband Ken Brown from the horrible disease of ALS in July of 2017. She has two children and lives in Champlin, Minnesota.

U2, My Father, Sin, and Redemption

There are some unwritten rules in life. I recently heard this one:

If you are a baseball fanatic, this passion was passed down to you from your father.

This certainly is true for me and my family. My grandfather was a Chicago Cubs fan. My dad is a Cubs fan, so by rule, I had no choice. Baseball is like that. It comes from your dad. It’s a rule.

Baseball is not all I got from my father. I also got my turn-around baseline jump shot, my dashing good looks, and my passion for music. My dad grew up in Chicago (the north side, if you’re keeping score) and he frequented the jazz clubs downtown that featured live music and a cheap meal. To this day. If I tell my dad I was in a certain neighborhood in Chicago, he will tell me about a venue that was in that area and how much he once paid for an evening of music and a steak dinner. Usually around $3.

• • •

When I was growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, it was not unusual for me to find my father alone, in the morning, listening to the radio with a cup of coffee and a donut. I see him in a robe and slippers. The radio would be playing WMBI, Chicago’s religious music station or his all-time favorite artist: Frank Sinatra. Let that sink in for a moment. Gospel music and Ol’ Blue Eyes singing about tramps, witchcraft, and sniffing cocaine. Music that celebrates sin. Music that rejoices in redemption. This theme of sin and redemption was not lost on me and it would shape how I relate to music for the rest of my days.

• • •

I was attending Bethel College in the Fall of 1983. A friend of mine, who was very bohemian, gave me a cassette tape of his latest favorite new band. On the spine of the tape was scrawled “U2 War”. All I knew about U2 was that they had a new song called NEW YEARS DAY, but I had never actually heard it. So I put in the tape. My only expectation was to hear that one track.

What I heard that day for the first time is hard to explain in words. I think Bono describes it best in 2014’s, The Miracle (of Joey Ramone):

I woke up at the moment when the miracle occurred
Heard a song that made some sense out of the world
Everything I ever lost, now has been returned
The most beautiful sound I’d ever heard.

It was a miracle. It was the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard. These ten songs were bombastic anthems. Bono’s vocals were passionate. The Edge’s guitars were noisy and jangly. The drums had a snare drum, a rat-a-tat quality that seemed to call me to fall into formation. When I heard the last song, the benediction simply titled “40”, I knew that this music was anointed. I also saw the familiar theme of sin and redemption. I was a pilgrim on my way.

• • •

In 1953, Frank Sinatra’s career was in a slump. That very year he signed a new contract with Capitol records. Capitol decided to pair the newly acquired Sinatra with a young bandleader named Nelson Riddle. Sinatra didn’t like the idea. He had a group of musicians that he was familiar with from his days at Columbia. Since his record sales were down, he finally agreed to work with Riddle. He had nothing to lose. The new duo’s first effort was, I’VE GOT THE WORLD ON A STRING. After hearing it played back for the first time, Sinatra praised Riddle’s work with the exclamation: “I’m back baby. I’m back!”

• • •

Sometimes when my dad was listening to Sinatra tunes he would belt out a line or two in his finest Sinatra voice. Usually, it was the high note that Frank was famous for. Occasionally, I would join him. We were like two bad Sinatra impersonators singing a karaoke duet. After we shared a chuckle, my dad’s face suddenly changed. There was an awkward pregnant pause. He was about to tell me something important.

He said that it was his opinion that Sinatra’s voice together with Nelson Riddle’s band was the perfect convergence of a voice with a band. My dad told me he felt blessed that he was alive to witness this pairing made by the gods, for his enjoyment. It was as if he viewed his specific date of birth as being chosen by God so that he would be alive to witness the pairing of Sinatra and Riddle. A great cosmic timeline, predestined by God, for my father’s musical enjoyment! What a concept. It was one of those moments that a son never forgets.

• • •

There is another rule in life:

All men slowly become their fathers.

My wife and kids notify me when they see this gradual metamorphosis happening. I am becoming more like my father. He felt his life was somehow intertwined on a cosmic level with Frank Sinatra, and I have the same reverence for a foursome from Ireland that I first heard on a borrowed cassette tape in 1983.

Thank you God, for life, love, and music.

• • •

In 1993, near the end of his career, Sinatra actually recorded a duet with Bono for his DUETS project. The song was Cole Porters, I’VE GOT YOU UNDER MY SKIN. It was the only Sinatra album to be classified as Triple Platinum.


Jeff Velasco is a freelance graphic artist/photo art director and lives in Minneapolis, MN. You can follow him and view his work on Instagram @superjv5His father, Alfred Velasco, is retired and still resides in the Chicago suburbs.

 

 

 

U2 are an Irish rock band from Dublin formed in 1976. The group consists of Bono (lead vocals and rhythm guitar), the Edge (lead guitar, keyboards, and backing vocals), Adam Clayton (bass guitar), and Larry Mullen Jr. (drums and percussion). U2 will be performing a sold out show on September 8th at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN.