•At least one business to open in the outparcel section near Walmart. It’s been flat and barren long enough. A few days ago one of our employees thought they saw Sam Elliott riding bareback out there as two lonely tumbleweeds drifted across his path.
•More support of local art and a more cohesive art scene. Right now Pickens’ art community is like an archipelago – a string of islands clustered together but not strongly intertwined with each other or with the community. We’d like to see stronger working relationships among art galleries, art non-profits and individual artists, and more support of local visual and performance arts by the public to keep these groups strong and viable.
•A satirical take on Pickens County similar to The Colbert Report, The Onion or The Daily Show. Sample headline, “Pickens woman says ‘Well, bless your heart,’ a record-breaking 50 times in one day.”
•A few unique shops on Main Street. With two new restaurants opening in downtown Jasper in early 2014, we’d like to see a couple of quirky, independent shops open up too. The restaurants will bring more foot traffic to support businesses in downtown.
• Take off at the airport tech park. For at least a decade, there has been a belief that if we built it, businesses would come seeking sites near a runway. While there has been some success with the individual hangars, as far as we know, nothing has located here because of our airport.
• Completion and heavy use of the city’s Hood Road park walking trails. We applaud the idea of connecting various points around Jasper to a large wooded parcel owned by the city with trails suitable for foot traffic or golf carts. It looks like the wooded trails are nearly complete. Now all we need is a public excited to get out and enjoy them.
• Spaying and neutering. And lots of it. There are way too many dogs and cats and puppies and kittens at our animal shelter. So many that go in never come out and there’s only one real solution to this devastating problem – spaying and neutering. Between 3 and 4 million adoptable animals are euthanized in animal shelters each year and these high numbers are the result of unplanned litters that could have been prevented.
• Another movie shoot. It doesn’t have to be Clint Eastwood; heck, the movie he made here wasn’t any Fistful of Dollars by a long stretch. But the movie production right in town livened things up for a few days.
• The 13 in 2013 was all too apropos for our Georgia sports teams – Dawgs, Tech, Falcons, Braves and Hawks ranged from miserable to unlucky. None produced anything worth celebrating. Somebody make a serious run in the post-season this year, please.
• Some normal weather. No floods, no freak winter tornadoes, no unusually heavy snowfalls or droughts or heat waves.
In the days before DVDs and Netflix, some of us can remember anxiously waiting on Saturday evenings leading up to the holidays for the Charlie Brown TV specials at Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. After the premiere of A Charlie Brown Christmas on December 9, 1965, our understanding of Christmas may forever be intertwined with Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus and Snoopy.
Jack Frost has already been nipping at our noses this week but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t bite back and get outside for a walk, jog or just poking around in the yard.
It may be hard to leave the warm comforts of home for a jaunt outside but that’s exactly what we should do for both our mental and physical health.
Make “bundle up and go” your winter mantra.
Especially for those who spend most of our time indoors and in offices, getting some outdoor time will do wonders for your mood – not to mention your waistline. [For those of you who work outdoors, be satisfied that this doesn’t apply to you.]
But for many of us, our time outdoors when winter hits drops to a quick dash from the car to the office and this isn’t good. The benefits to your mood of braving the elements trumps the momentary discomfort and possibility of later sniffles any time.
When we head outside and breathe in fresh air – regardless of how cold – and on sunny days gather up some vitamin D into our systems - it’s like taking a happy pill. No Zoloft required. We may want to stay buried under those covers or curled up on the couch next to a fire because we think it will make us happy and relaxed but in reality the cold stimulates our parasympathetic system – aka our “relax and renew” system. These endorphins can trigger the release of dopamine and serotonin, neurotransmitters that keep us happy and feeling good.
People who exercise outdoors, especially in cold, brisk weather, have more energy than those who exercise inside on treadmills or ellipticals. Nothing wakes us up like a brisk walk on a cool morning.
The saying “like a breath of fresh air” to describe something invigorating is both appropriate and literally true.
Grandma may have said going outside in chilly weather can make us “catch” a cold but, according to doctors, that simply isn’t true. Sorry Grandma, going outside is one of the best things you can do to prevent catching a cold. Viruses or bacteria are more often spread in the winter because of close contact from everyone being indoors.
One of the great things about living in Georgia is that it’s rarely too hot, cold, windy or rainy to keep you from getting outside. There are exceptions, but bear in mind this Friday and Saturday during our Christmas parades in Jasper and Ball Ground that fans go outside and watch football games in Chicago, Green Bay and Pittsburgh in ridiculous weather. Surely we can handle the 40s and some drizzle.
It’s all a matter of being prepared for the weather. A good winter coat and hat makes all the difference. Consider it an investment in time – more time outside.
According to the Mayo Clinic, one of the biggest mistakes you can make while exercising in cold weather is to dress too warmly. In The Christmas Story, the mom bundles Ralphie’s little brother up before sending him off to walk to school. With laborious dedication, he tries to keep up with his older brother but finds himself unable to walk because he’s so bundled up. He ends up lying in the snow as he’s so over-dressed he can’t get up when he falls.
With the way the season is starting, there will be days that are only fit for sitting indoors, but there won’t be many if you are committed to bundling up and going for at least a few minutes. Foul weather can discourage even the most motivated among us.
Don’t let this winter keep you stuck inside.
The debate over the federal minimum wage has come to the surface lately with several national news items including a strike by fast food workers across the nation, news that workers at large retailers and chain restaurants were being offered advice from their employers on making ends meet and food-drives to help the employed poor, as well as calls from President Obama and others to raise the wage.
The proposals call for hiking the current $7.25 minimum hourly wage to somewhere between $9 and $10.10 from the politicians to as high as $15 a hour from the organizers of the nationwide one-day strike.
Raising the minimum wage a buck or two would certainly help the lowest paid and, despite some misconceptions, not hurt job chances or raise prices significantly on store shelves.
Data from the states that have raised their minimum wage over the federal level, plus many cities and counties, show scant evidence that higher minimum wages cause jobs to dry up. In fact Georgia, allows companies to pay employees as low as $5.15 in some situations while neighboring Florida requires a minimum of $7.79 per hour, yet the employment pictures appears about the same.
This makes sense if you think of how businesses operate with enough employees to get the job done but few superfluous positions. American businesses rarely carry un-needed employees. When they have a need they hire; When they don’t, they cut back. Another buck or two per hour won’t affect this according to empirical evidence.
Politifact.com found 3.6 million Americans or 2.6 percentage of all those employed make at or below the minimum wage. It’s thought that a small rise in their pay would reduce the poverty level numbers among poor families.
So giving them a permanent hike is a sound, but not monumental, decision. One economist estimated that even if they went to full $15 per hour and fast food restaurants wanted to pass the cost along to customers it would cause the price of a $3 menu item to only go to $3.60 – not a devastating jump.
The need to raise the wage is often tied to statistics showing how hard it is to run a household on such low pay, along with the growing economic divide between rich, who are faring well in the current economic environment, while lower-paid positions have seen flat or shrinking pay for many consecutive years.
These arguments are where the minimum wage debate derails.
A better approach is not seeking ways to help heads of households toiling at minimum wage but asking why so many adults can’t find anything but minimum wage jobs?
This goes to the heart of the national economic problem – why aren’t there enough decent-paying jobs to go around? Instead of just giving them a few more bucks, what’s needed is a path to move up to better jobs where the concerns are over benefits not what’s the lowest amount that you can legally be paid.
Entry-level jobs with minimum wage are fine for high school and college students or for anyone wanting temporary cash but they are never going to be a middle-class career path.
For an answer as to why so many people are stuck there, we must look at case by case situations. Some may lack the skills needed to get a better job; others may have seen positions outsourced or automated; while others may be in areas where industries have collapsed leaving few job choices. These problems will take much more effort and creative thinking to address.
In the long run, better jobs and more of them are needed, but that remains a distant goal, so in the meantime hiking the pay of those stuck at the minimum wage is a regrettably appropriate choice.
A is for aunts, lots of them, all telling us how we should have cooked those green beans just a wee bit longer.
B is for all the bread we’re going to consume on Thanksgiving even though we are constantly told in order to be thin we need to stay away from the stuff. That cornbread dressing is calling our name.
C is for cars that carry all those relatives to our homes to gather for the holidays. And then, blessedly, carry them back home.
D is for Dressing. The true centerpiece of a Thanksgiving feast. Turkey? HAH. The bird is just there for looks and leftover sandwiches days later.
E is for everything, as in “I can’t believe I ate everything on my plate.”
F is for family because although lots of things change in life, family is forever. We are thankful for those who have leading roles in our lives and would unconditionally do anything for us – because they sort of have to; it’s a requirement.
G is for grandma’s recipes with lots of butter and fatback and all the stuff we know we shouldn’t eat but can’t help ourselves.
H is for house, as in the one that we’ll be cleaning on for ages after everyone leaves.
I is for “I really am thankful.” Think about it: living in this area, this country, we have a lot that we might take for granted. But don’t. Express your gratitude this year.
J is for jokes, as in the same ones we hear over and over each year at family gatherings. Corny, goofy, embarrassing? Yes, but family gatherings wouldn’t be the same without them.
K is for kiss that diet good-bye, at least until January 1.
L is for the Lions and Packers game we’ll be watching. Not quite like watching the Dawgs, but with Matthew Stafford in Detroit it’s still pretty good. If you aren’t a UGA fan, you can cheer against the Cowboys in one of two other games. Gathering around the TV on a Thanksgiving afternoon, munching on leftovers -- as good as it gets.
M is for memories – as in memories that everyone loves to share as we gather together.
N is for now – As in sit down and eat now, everyone at the same time - a rarity in modern America.
O is for opening the refrigerator door, for the 100th time.
P is for potatoes, as in mashed, smashed AND sweet, all on the same plate.
Q is for all those unending questions from that five-year-old nephew who begins every conversation with “Why?”
R is for running away - which we would like to do by the end of the day- and reading, give thanks for our favorite books.
S is for stretchy pants.
T is for Thank You to our Progress readers and advertisers.
U is for covertly passing those last couple of pieces of casserole to the dog under the table to make room for more dessert.
V is for vacuum cleaners that go a long way to clean up all the dressing and green beans that will likely be spilled by the end of the day.
W is for “Whoa”, the word we wish we’d uttered before the third slice of pie.
X is for the mark you put through the day on the calendar once Thanksgiving is over.
Y is for “You’re inviting Who?”
Z is for ZZZZZ. As in a turkey induced nap.
But most of all, we’re just thankful we aren’t a turkey.