My Home Before & After

One year ago this week I closed on my first home.  Here is a little of what I’ve accomplished so far:

KITCHEN – Probably the most dramatic, I basically started with a blank slate. Added a fridge, stove, wall mount microwave and dishwasher. Installed new cabinets on the left side and painted the existing cabinets so that they all matched. With the help of my uncles installed a new counter top, sink, faucet and garbage disposal. I added subway tile back splash and bought a kitchen island for more counter top space.




DOWNSTAIRS BATHROOM – I didn’t have to do as much to update the downstairs bathroom. I gave it a fresh coat of paint, replaced the hardware on the vanity and added a tile back splash.




DINING ROOM – I am still on the hunt for the perfect junk to decorate with.



SUN-ROOM – I painted the walls and added wooden blinds. I also restored the stain glass light.



OFFICE – The smallest room that had the most work put into it. The original wooden floor had carpet on it. I decided that I wanted to have all wooden floors on the main floor. So I got rid of the carpet and started the process of restoring the floor. The finished product was worth it.



LIVING ROOM – This room is mostly complete. I painted the walls, put up blinds, and enjoyed finding places for all of my antiques and furniture. It came together pretty quickly and I am pleased with the finished product.



There are plenty of project that still need to be done. I am excited to continue making this home into the perfect space for me!



Contributed by Contributed by Caitlin Tuohy.

All images are the author’s own & may not be republished without express written permission.

My Time with Oglala Lakota Nation: A Photo Essay

“You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.”
-Winston Churchill

I spent my Fourth of July week volunteering somewhere new this year. Last year I worked in Peru but this year I thought it would be good to help in the states with Re-Member. I took my first solo road trip out to Pine Ridge, South Dakota to work along side the Oglala Lakota Nation. With so much going on in everyone’s day to day lives it can be hard to make the time to be aware of the conditions other humans live in and what we could be doing to help. The best way I can think to celebrate my independence every year is to use that freedom to help others and I strongly encourage anyone else to do the same. It’s not about the money or time you have. There’s always a way to help.

Re-Member shares the following statistic:

“From 1980 to 2000, the counties that make up Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota (home to the Oglala Lakota Nation) comprised the poorest of our nation’s 3,141 counties. The 2000 census found them the third poorest, not because things got better on Pine Ridge, but because things got worse on two other South Dakota Indian Reservations. The poverty on Pine Ridge can be described in no other terms than “third world.” It is common to find homes terribly overcrowded, as those with homes take in anyone in need of a roof over their head. Many homes are without electricity, running water, or sewer.

  • Unemployment rate of 80 – 90%
  • Per capita income of $4,000
  • 8 Times the United States rate of diabetes
  • 5 Times the U.S. rate of cervical cancer
  • Twice the U.S. rate of heart disease
  • 8 Times the U.S. rate of Tuberculosis
  • Alcoholism rate estimated as high as 80%
  • 1 in 4 infants born with fetal alcohol syndrome or effects
  • Suicide rate more than twice the national rate
  • Teen suicide rate 4 times the national rate
  • Infant mortality 3 times the national rate
  • Life expectancy on Pine Ridge is the lowest in the United States and the second lowest in the Western Hemisphere. Only Haiti has a lower rate.”

 I took a series of photos to show how beautifully strong and resilient this oppressed culture still is. If you’re looking to take a volunteer trip solo or with a group, or make a donation feel free to learn more at

IMG_1001 IMG_1020 IMG_1019 IMG_1018 IMG_1017 IMG_1016 IMG_1015 IMG_1014 IMG_1013 IMG_1012 IMG_1011 IMG_1010 IMG_1009 IMG_1008 IMG_1007 IMG_1006 IMG_1005 IMG_1004 IMG_1003 IMG_1002

Contributed by Syd Miles.



All photographs are the author’s own & may not be reprinted or published without express written consent.

What my clients taught me about advertising

There’s an abundance of articles on the internet that will discuss the top 5, 10, or 12 mistakes businesses make with their advertising.  With this article I’m going to take on some of those “mistakes” from the perspective of actual clients that I’ve worked with for many years.

No Commitment

A common attitude of small business owners about advertising is that because they don’t know ahead of time if a particular advertising vehicle will work for them, they want to “try it out”.  They want the opportunity to pull the plug on their advertising quickly and save money if they perceive it’s not working for them in a very short amount of time.  I get it, most business owners are allergic to not wasting money and can’t blame them for feeling that way.

Of all the clients I’ve had in advertising the ones that commit to a long term vision of advertising are almost always more satisfied with their advertising than those who take the short term outlook.  Clients with the long term outlook will talk about how their advertising efforts grew in a positive way and consistently over time.  Clients who “try it out” have come and gone before their prospects even knew they were there and become severely skeptical of advertising their businesses.

By the way, the same concept applies when I talk with prospects. I can always tell when they say they’ve tried everything or think advertising doesn’t work, it’s because they always just dipped their toe in and never reaped the rewards.

When the phone rings

One of the ways that advertising can be tracked is with a dedicated tracking phone number.  With this tool business owners can definitively know from which advertisement the call came from.

An interesting thing my clients taught me about the value of a tracking phone number is that it went way beyond being able to see which ad the call came from.  Neither one of us knew in the beginning a tracking number would turn out to be more than a tracking tool.

We learned that many times (more than they might like to admit) that the initial call was handled badly and likely gave a bad impression of the business as well.  Most owners have one person dedicated to answering incoming calls.  After setting up this system the business owner makes no effort at monitoring those calls or overseeing how those calls are handled.  Even I was surprised at how aloof, un-friendly, or unhelpful those who answer phones can be.  It can be a very awkward conversation at the time to point out how badly their calls are being handled, but ironically it helps solidify the value of the ad in the first place.

Get used to talking

Small business owners typically wear many hats in running their businesses.  In many cases the owners’ business is based upon a talent the owner has to offer their clients.  On the flip side owners are not always good at the business side of the business.  That means that they may not be very good at selling their product or service or may not be comfortable in working with other people.

This usually shows up in communicating with their clients after the initial sale.  Their clients have an expectation of how things should go after the sale.  Communicating with their client is essential, and keeping them in the loop will go a long way in handling expectations when the unexpected occurs.

In the owners mind the project is going good and will look fabulous when it’s finished but the client is thinking something different.  I’ve learned those that communicate well have much happier clients than those who don’t.

Keep it simple

Clients whose message is short and sweet typically express more satisfaction in their marketing.  They have trained their prospects to focus on a small number of products or services they have to offer and in turn prospects will do just that. There’s a nice side effect to this too.  Most of the time those few products or services offered allow the business owner to showcase his or her highest quality and typically have higher margins. On the other hand, it’s unnecessary to throw everything and the kitchen sink in an advertisement.  It confuses the message and leads the prospect to believe that the business is just a jack of all trades and master of none.

Once the business has the attention of the prospect and has generated the initial call, that’s when the business owner will have the opportunity discuss additional options or services.  It turns out talking about other options or services you have to offer at that time usually goes really well.  I’ve even had clients tell me that their clients will add on services after the job has started because of the open communication, which not only led to more revenue but better client relationships.

Know your limits

One last thing my clients taught me about advertising.  Leave the artwork and design up to the professional designers.  I learned that one the hard way.  I am not good at the layout and design aspect and that is the case for many business owners as well.

Submitted by Jeff Vice


Lessons From My Grandfather

“Relationships are everything.” My grandfather has told me this thousands of times, ever since I first understood what it meant to be personable. When it comes to doing business, my grandfather has bestowed in me valuable lessons about how two people should conduct themselves and find success in what they are trying to achieve. Whether it is a formal meeting behind a desk, or a lunch meeting on a Friday, the way you present and handle yourself is everything. My grandfather, who is now in his 90’s spent his whole life since he was 16 doing business with others and building great relationships on top of it.

Being 22 & fresh out of college, there is nothing I appreciate more than wisdom from a man who has seen life from not only a different generation’s perspective, but also from a different world. He was born and raised in Vienna, Austria until he and his family immigrated the United States – but not before living through the Nazi invasion. While his family was not Jewish by religion, they were by blood, which prevented my grandfather from ever graduating from high school. Starting at age 15, he worked at a service station until one day the owner told him that he was taking a job elsewhere & gave my grandfather full responsibility for operating the station. Even at such a young age, my grandfather took over the service station, and managed it until he came over to the United States in 1939, when he began working at a lamp factory in Cleveland.

This was only the next opportunity for my grandfather, and while working at the factory in his new land, he began to learn English – and even found love. Only two weeks later, fate led him to my grandmother. A short time after that, he enlisted in the U.S. army and became a member of a mysterious, elite team that was so secretive in its mission, it was known only as PO Box 1142. My grandfather’s team was responsible for listening in on conversations of German Prisoners of War who were stationed there. No one else knew what PO Box 1142 did – it was all highly confidential because the work was very important to the war effort.

After leaving the army, my grandfather worked for the Motch & Merryweather Machinery Company and then left to join Pesco Products, a division of Borg Warner Corporation as a Senior Buyer. Ultimately, Picker X Ray asked him to provide non-magnetic stainless steel tools for the MRI. He and a German business acquaintance went into business together and became the sole importers of such products; 2 years later, his partner developed the only titanium tool line available, and they successfully sold that product for 15 years.

My grandfather’s valuable knowledge and wisdom that he shares with me to this day helps me strive for great relationships with everyone that I do business with now and in the future. I owe much of my personal and professional demeanor to my grandparents and one day I will be able to pass that along to my own children. I personally believe you cannot do good business without showing others your own commitment to and strong belief in what you are selling. Even today my grandfather takes me with him when he meets with different people, just to prove how right his statement is. Relationships in business may start with a simple handshake but end with a partnership for years to come.

ethan gpa

Me & my grandfather at my recent college graduation.

Contributed by Ethan Tanney. All photos are the author’s own & may not be reproduced without permission.


Listen Up! A Message from Your Body

I have an important statement to make: you need to listen to your body when it tries to tell you something. Got an ache? A pain? A wheeze? Listen. Because I didn’t & it knocked me flat on my back for over a week!

It started as an annoying cough a few Sundays ago, around the time we started making dinner. I didn’t think much of it; I’d recently switched allergy medications & figured my body was still adapting to Claritin after taking Zyrtec for so long. But then I started to feel stuffy as we loaded our dirty dishes into the dish washer. By bedtime that night, I was reaching for the NyQuil. The next day, my eyes were watery, my nose was runny, my ears ached & my voice was somewhere between James Earl Jones & Barry White – and I’m not even a guy!

But did I listen? Nope. I kept up my usual routine of working & running errands & tending to housework. Sure, I felt tired & clammy, but it would pass!

My co-workers were concerned. “Do you need to take the day & go to the doctor?” my supervisor kindly asked. “No, I think I should be OK. I’m taking cough syrup & drinking lots of water,” I said, sounding as optimistic as possible before turning away to reach for the Kleenex. “Hey, why is some guy answering Renee’s phone?” another coworker asked after dialing my line. “Haha. It’s me, Jeff,” I rumbled back in my newly-discovered basso profondo. And if being referred to as “Mr. Pugh” wasn’t annoying enough, I barely slept because I couldn’t stop coughing at night & my nose was so red from constant blowing that I was worried Santa was going to show up & offer me a gig guiding sleighs.


But then he saw my salary requirements & reconsidered.

And I still didn’t listen, even though my cough was getting worse, and the pain in my ears & sinuses was becoming impossible to ignore. It wasn’t until nearly 5 days later that I finally paid attention to what my body was trying to tell me. I was sitting at our breakfast table, feeling like a pack of angry bears mauled me in my sleep. “I feel pretty terrible,” I admitted to my boyfriend – who responded with honesty: “You look pretty terrible, too.” I called my doctor & set an appointment for the afternoon; I picked my z-pack up from the pharmacy that evening. I spent the entire weekend trying to listen to my body – which meant taking a nap when I felt tired, instead of ignoring the feeling & trying to muddle though it.

It was surprisingly difficult to do! We typically spend our weekends planning meals, making grocery lists & trips, and cleaning the house from top to bottom, so I felt guilty saddling my boyfriend with all the work while I shuffled around wearing PJs & drinking honey tea (I was also more than a little disappointed that I missed out on a Saturday trip to Costco. I am a devotee of the free samples – or as a friend calls them, “Costco Tapas”). Fortunately, feeling physically awful trumped my feelings of guilt, so I got the rest I needed. By Monday – over a week after first feeling sick – I was much better. Maybe not quite back to 100%, but at least up to about 80%. Truth be told, it took until the following weekend for me to feel well enough to tackle cleaning the house & running errands – which means I was out of commission for nearly 2 weeks over a stupid cold.

I am sure my recovery would have been much faster if I’d gone to the doctor earlier, or rested when I first felt ill. But, because I am the person I am, and the person I am is incredibly stubborn, I ended up feeling worse for longer than necessary, all because I refused to pay attention to my body’s distress signals. Learn from my mistakes! If you start to feel unwell, be sure to:

  • REST! Get a good night’s sleep, and if you start to feel tired during the day, take a break. You don’t even need to nap; just sit or lie down somewhere quiet & peaceful for 15 minutes.
  • drink lots of fluids – especially water. It helps flush the grossness out & keep you feeling hydrated.
  • go to the doctor when things get unmanageable – even if you’ve only been under the weather for a short while. If you feel awful to the point it’s impacting your ability to function, it’s better to go to the doctor to find out you have a cold, rather than wait for the cold to become something serious – like pneumonia!
  • and of course, pay attention to how you feel & what it means – don’t ignore what your body tells you!


Submitted by Renee Pugh






Santa picture source:×450.jpg