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4 purr-fectly fun toys for cats

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Whether you want to encourage your cats to get more exercise or simply keep them occupied, here are four toys they’re sure to love.

1. Treat dispenser
A ball filled with kitty snacks can help keep cats entertained and active. This is a great toy if your feline friends need to lose some weight as they’ll have to exert energy to free the treats.

2. Cardboard box

Next time you receive a package, leave the empty box lying around. It won’t be long before it becomes a hideout for your cats.

3. Laser pointer
This simple device can keep cats entertained for hours. Your ferocious hunters will get plenty of exercise stalking the dot of light around the floor, over furniture, and along the walls.

4. Tunnel
Since cats love to be stealthy, buy them a pop-up tunnel to crawl through or simply tape a bunch of narrow boxes together.

In addition to these options, your local pet store will have an array of affordable cat toys such as a ball with a bell, a vibrating mouse, or a feathered tube. Any of these can make great toys for your cats.

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9 safety tips for walking in winter

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Freezing rain and hard-packed snow create icy conditions that make walking a hazard in winter. Before you venture outside this season, be sure to follow these nine safety tips to avoid falls and injuries.

1. Maintain a wide stance with your feet about a foot apart

2. Keep your knees slightly bent to lower your center of gravity

3. Walk slowly and take small steps, even if you’re in a hurry

4. Place your whole foot down at once, rather than leading with your toes or heel

5. Opt for lightweight boots with non-slip soles, and avoid wearing high heels

6. If you wear ice cleats, remove them before walking on smooth, hard surfaces

7. Use a cane adjusted to your height, and attach a retractable ice pick to the end

8. Dress warmly to avoid shaking, which can make it harder to keep your balance

9. Wear padded underwear or hip protectors to reduce the risk of injury if you fall

While these precautions can help keep you safe, be sure to take advantage of delivery services offered by grocery stores and pharmacies to limit your need to go out in bad weather.

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Everything you need to throw an outdoor winter party

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If you’re tired of being cooped up inside this winter, consider hosting an outdoor party. Here are a few things you’ll need to make the event a success.

Decorations
To create an inviting atmosphere, string paper lanterns or fairy lights from trees and line walkways with tealights in Mason jars. Vibrant streamers and balloons will contrast beautifully with a snow-covered yard, or you can opt for natural decors like pine cones and evergreen branches.

Heating

Even if the weather is mild during the day, you’ll want to make sure your guests can remain warm once the sun begins to set. Patio heaters are the perfect solution, and they come in a variety of sizes and styles. Alternatively, you can gather around a backyard fire pit. You should also ask every-one to dress warmly and encourage them to bring their own blankets.

Activities
If you want to keep your guests entertained, plan an assortment of activities. For example, you could:

• Organize a snow sculpture contest

• Build a backyard skating rink

• Gather around a campfire for a sing-along

• Set up a dance floor and play lively music

• Rent a projector for an outdoor movie screening

Finally, make sure you have plenty of hot beverages to offer your guests including coffee, tea, and hot chocolate.

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How to get your finances in order if you’re diagnosed with a long-term illness

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If you’ve been diagnosed with a serious illness or disability, money may be the last thing on your mind. However, as soon as you’re able to, you should give some thought to your finances. If you can no longer work as a result of your condition, you’ll probably need to take some steps to ensure your financial situation is stable.

Determine which benefits you’re eligible for
Speak with your employer to find out how much paid sick leave you’re entitled to. If you have some form of disability coverage, also reach out to your insurer. Additionally, you may be eligible for unemployment insurance. Contact your state’s unemployment insurance program as soon as possible to apply.

If you’re going to have trouble making your mortgage payments, you should also contact your mortgage company. Some lenders offer foreclosure prevention programs to help homeowners who are dealing with a crisis.

Make a budget and manage your money carefully
Determine how much money you require each month by making a list of living expenses including groceries, rent/mortgage, utilities, insurance, car payments, and other recurring fees. Compare this with what you have coming in from various revenue sources. You may need to cut back on certain frills or unnecessary expenses to make ends meet.

To manage your finances more effectively when facing an illness, consider enlisting the help of a financial adviser, debt counselor, or other industry professional.

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Social media: tips to keep your teen safe

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If you have a teenager, they likely spend time on social networking sites like Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube. But do they know the risks? While social media networks help kids keep in touch with friends, it can also expose them to people who intend to hurt them.

From cyberbullying to sextortion and data breaches to inappropriate content, there’s a lot to be wary of on the internet. That’s why it’s important to talk to your teen about how to use social media safely and responsibly. Here are a few ground rules you should establish:

• Don’t share personal information like your address, phone number, or date of birth

• Don’t post photos or videos of another person on social media without their consent

• Don’t go alone (or without an adult) to meet someone you meet online

• Don’t send intimate pictures of yourself to anyone, even if you trust the person

Remind your teen that once words and photos are shared online, they may be impossible to delete and easily misused. Even if a post doesn’t seem like a problem now, many employers use social media to screen candidates. Explain to your teen that they could miss out on their future dream job because of an inappropriate comment or video they post today.

Finally, here’s a tip to help reinforce the notion with your teen that anyone can see what they post online. Before they send or share anything on social media, encourage your teen to ask themself this question: “Would I feel comfortable if my teacher or grandmother saw this?”

The website StompOutBullying.org provides resources for how to recognize, prevent, and deal with cyberbullying and other forms of digital abuse.

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Does your dog need winter clothes?

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All dogs need to spend plenty of time outdoors in order to get enough exercise, enjoy the fresh air, stimulate their senses, and do their business. However, when the temperature drops, you may wonder if it’s safe for your pup to be out in the frigid air.

It’s important to note that, like humans, dogs can suffer from hypothermia. In fact, their ears, nose, tail, and foot pads are susceptible to frostbite. Therefore, it’s advisable to keep your pup’s outings brief if the temperature drops well below freezing.

When you do take your dog for a walk in the winter, you must make sure your canine companion is prepared for the weather. There are several factors that influence whether your dog should wear a winter coat and boots. You should consider:

• The temperature (is the cold tolerable or piercing?)

• The duration of the walk (will you be out for five minutes or an hour?)

• The planned activity (are you going for a hike or stroll around the block?)

• Your dog’s breed (short-haired and short-legged dogs tend to get colder faster)

• Your pet’s age (puppies and older dogs are more vulnerable to cold weather)

• Your dog’s health (sick, injured, or recovering pets should stay inside to keep warm)

If your dog needs to be bundled up for winter walks, visit a local pet shop to find boots and a quality coat that will keep them warm all season.

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4 tips to help kids be kind online

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It’s all too easy to write hurtful comments when you’re looking at a screen rather than a human face. That’s why it’s important to teach your kids how to be kind online. Here are four tips to get you started.

1. Set a good example
Children learn through observation, so show them when you post uplifting comments on social media or reach out to a struggling friend in a private message.

2. Implement the IRL test

Remind your kids that what they post on the internet affects people in real life. If they wouldn’t say the words to someone’s face, they shouldn’t be writing them online.

3. Write reviews together
If you have a good experience at a local shop or restaurant, sit down as a family to write a positive review. This will help your kids practice posting kind messages online.

4. Emphasize empathy
In addition to calling out cyberbullying behavior, encourage your kids to send positive messages to friends or classmates they notice are being bullied online.

If you’re looking for a fun way to teach your kids more about internet kindness and safety, play the action-packed game Interland at beinternetawesome.withgoogle.com.

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Upcoming Events

Jan
20
Wed
9:00 am Free ACEs Training @ Online Event
Free ACEs Training @ Online Event
Jan 20 @ 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Free ACEs Training @ Online Event
The Northwestern Prevention Collaborative and the Prevention Department at Northwestern Community Services Board, in conjunction with community service board prevention departments from across Virginia, will offer a free virtual training on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)[...]
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12:30 pm Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Edu... @ Online Event
Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Edu... @ Online Event
Jan 29 @ 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Education @ Online Event
Save a Life: Free REVIVE! Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Education January 29th The Northwestern Prevention Collaborative and Northwestern Community Services Board will offer a free virtual REVIVE! Training on January 29th from 12:30 pm to[...]