CITYVIEW HOW-TO GUIDE
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We often take for granted how much good sleep affects our health. Getting good, deep sleep is elemental to how we react to ourselves and others and can be a prime marker in identifying problems in our overall physical and mental health.
If your body isn’t getting the rest it needs, it could be because sleep apnea is interrupting your deep sleeping phases, forcing you into more shallow, less restful sleep patterns.
Sleep apnea, a common chronic medical condition that involves frequent pauses in your breathing while you sleep, can have a big impact on your quality of life.
The pauses vary, with some lasting anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes, often occurring many times per hour.
Left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to much more serious health problems.
If you think you or a loved one has sleep apnea, here are some steps to take.
GET A DIAGNOSIS
The first thing to do is get a professional diagnosis from a properly licensed doctor. While your family doctor may be able to recommend a course of action or refer you to a specialist, sleep disorders usually can’t be detected in an ordinary office visit.
It’s a good idea to look for a medical professional who specializes in sleep disorders as soon as you suspect it’s a problem.
Usually this will involve an overnight stay — perhaps several nights — in a sleep center where your body can be carefully monitored to pinpoint the cause of your sleep disorder.
CHOOSING A SLEEP CENTER
If you suspect you might have sleep apnea, you should look for a sleep center that combines two seemingly opposite attributes: an advanced, state-of-the-art medical facility and a comfortable, home-like atmosphere.
You should look for a sleep center that can make you feel as comfortable as possible. To discover the root causes of the sleep problems you’re experiencing at home, it can be a good idea to mimic the routines and comfort you experience in your own bedroom.
OBSTRUCTIVE OR CENTRAL
There are two main categories of sleep apnea — obstructive and central — that have quite different causes.
Obstructive sleep apnea, the most common type, involves the airway becoming blocked or collapsing while you sleep, causing you to take very shallow breaths or even completely stop breathing for a period of time. It can also involve loud snoring in some patients.
Central sleep apnea, in comparison, doesn’t involve any kind of blockage in the airway. It happens because of a problem in your central nervous system where the brain’s signals don’t reach your breathing muscles correctly, causing you to stop breathing at times in your sleep.
Central sleep apnea can occur alone or in conjunction with obstructive sleep apnea.
No matter what the cause, it’s important to get a proper, professional diagnosis for any sleeping disorder you think you’re experiencing.
There are a wide range of treatments available. From simple lifestyle changes to breathing devices like CPAP machines, mouthpieces and surgery, the exact treatment will need to be tailored for your own medical needs as determined by your doctor.
Since the risks of untreated sleep apnea can be serious — including high blood pressure, heart attacks, stroke, heart failure or heart arrhythmias and a higher risk of accidents at work or behind the wheel of a vehicle — it’s important to treat your sleep problems at an early stage.
There are some calls no one wants to make or receive. One of these is: I’m in jail and I need to post bond. Neither you nor anyone you can or are willing to help wants to spend time in custody if bail can be obtained, so understand more about the process and how to choose a bail bondsman can mean the difference between hours or days spent behind bars.
Depending upon the charge or infraction, bail is beyond the financial realm of most — typically 10 percent of the total bail cost. That’s where bail bonds companies come into play. For a fee, a bondsman will arrange for you to pay that portion of bail.
But beware: If the person you are bonding out misses a court appearance or skips town, you will be held responsible. That will mean paying the balance of the bail that was put up by the bondsman. If you do not trust this person to do the right thing, leave them in jail.
Legalities and amount of money required make it essential that you find a trustworthy bail bondsman.
You should choose a bondsman willing to help you understand the procedure by explaining each step of the process. A good bondsman will never make you feel uncomfortable in what is already likely an embarrassing situation.
Becoming a co-signer of a bail bond is a serious responsibility, but securing a bond is not difficult. There shouldn’t be a hassle, provided the conditions of the bond are fulfilled according to the letter of the law.
When you meet with a bail bondsman, you will be asked to provide a partial amount of the total bail, typically 10 percent. Some bail bondsmen may request collateral in the event the person you are bailing out doesn’t fulfill their
Since you will be giving cash to a stranger, it is vital to select a bail bondsman with an excellent reputation. You can feel confident when you are choosing someone with an established presence in your community.
If you have never dealt with a bail bondsman, search the newspaper or the Internet to find them in your area
— you’ll find them plentiful. On the web, you can also see reviews from past clients.
During your search, you will likely find companies that employ bail bondsmen, as well as people operating as individuals. Either choice is fine, as long as they are reputable. A big company doesn’t mean impersonal service, and an individual bondsman doesn’t always mean the best service.
Always ask questions. You may want more information about licensing and fees involved, whether they are licensed to work in the jurisdiction that your loved one will be assigned to and how long they’ve been in business.
If the answers make you uncomfortable, move on. There are plenty of bail bondsmen to choose from, and finding one you can trust will give you some peace of mind.
Don’t bond out someone you have just met or anyone you don’t trust. Only use a bail bondsman if you think the person in jail will truly benefit from your assistance and is willing to do the right thing. ♦
Back pain is one of the most common and uncomfortable medical issues in the U.S. today. Worldwide, back pain is the leading cause of disability and can prevent you from performing even the simplest of tasks, according to the
American Chiropractic Association. Back pain also knows no age demographic. Even the youngest of us can suffer from debilitating pain from injury or nonorganic causes, such as infection, inflammation or underlying issues, and will affect almost 80 percent of the population, according the the ACA. Different back conditions require different methods of treatment.
PREVENTION: ALWAYS THE BEST MEDICINE
Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising moderately on a regular basis and building muscle strength in your abdomen will help you avoid back pain. Getting proper rest can also help. People often don’t realize that strong stomach muscles provide support for back muscles. If you are overweight or obese, losing weight may cure your back issues. It will also lessen the strain on your joints.
IDENTIFYING THE PROBLEM
Sprains and muscle spasms often cause back and neck pain. In more serious cases, degeneration, deformity, injury and disease may create physical pain. If you strained your back recently, you could take an anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen, apply ice packs and rest. But if the pain doesn’t cease after a few days, consult a doctor. If you are experiencing any of the following seek immediate medical attention:
• Sharp pain
• Loss of bodily functions such as bladder or bowel control
• Shooting pain
• Pain that steadily gets worse
When your body is in pain, it is telling you something is wrong. When your back issue doesn’t lessen within a day, or if the pain is sharp, worsening or accompanied by numbness, you need to address it immediately.
CHOOSING A PHYSICIAN
There are several types of doctors who can help you with your back pain.
• Board certified orthopedists, as recommended by the American Medical Academy. These doctors specialize in conditions relating to bones, ligaments, tendons and joints.
• Spine specialist. If you or your family doctor suspect a problem with the spine, it’s best to consult a spine specialist.
• Spine surgeon. In most cases, spine surgeons attempt less invasive procedures before performing surgery. They might recommend physical therapy, pain relievers, exercise and compresses. Only after these options have been
exhausted will they seriously consider operating.
DO YOU NEED AN MRI?
An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machine will help give an accurate appraisal of soft tissue problems in tendons, ligaments and spinal disks. With an MRI, a doctor can diagnose conditions with hernias, slipped disks, cysts
and tumors. If possible, try to find a back specialist who has access to an MRI machine. It will save you time and effort.
FINDING A SPECIALIST
There are several sources for locating a physician, including:
• Referral from your family doctor
• Referral from friends or family
• Local hospital physician referral services
• Directory of national board-certified doctors
Contact a back specialist as soon as you begin to experience pain that can’t be attributed to simple stress or strain. The earlier you seek treatment, the faster you can start on the road to recovery. ♦
Preschool forms the roots of your child’s education and the beginning of their lives interacting with others outside the comfort of home.
Choosing the right preschool is an important part of preparing your child for life. It’s the foundation for starting a good education, something that can have repercussions for years to come.
With so many options for children, how can you pick the right one? Here are some things to consider.
One of the most important things to consider — and also something that can have a dramatic impact on cost — is the experience, training and qualifications of the preschool’s educational staff.
Some preschools are almost indistinguishable from day care centers, where children will have a safe place to spend time but not necessarily a rigorous academic foundation.
Others focus more on learning specific skills and knowledge taught by fully qualified and certified teachers with college degrees.
Neither philosophy is necessarily wrong, as some parents don’t want to rush their young kids into academic rigors, while other parents are all about giving their kids an early start from educational pros.
The important thing is knowing exactly what training, higher education, experience and certificates are held by your child’s teacher. Only then can you decide if they’re a good match for your expectations.
LENGTH OF DAY
Another aspect that can vary with different preschool programs is the length of the day.
Some schools are designed around just a few hours per day, while others are full-day programs that offer more time for learning and play. Again, neither method is necessarily superior, but you should know the schedule up front and
make sure it meets you and your child’s needs.
The best preschools do a great job giving your child a head start on life, and the curriculum they choose can be a big part of that foundation.
Find out what curriculum materials and teaching style the school uses. Dig into the specifics of what your child will be learning, when and how. From the books they’ll be using to math basics and teaching social skills, know as much as possible about the learning process they use so you can make a better decision.
To think even further down the road, try to find a preschool that uses a recognized curriculum that will dovetail with your plans for their future education, whether in public or private schools as they get older. The schools they’ll be attending may have some good advice about curriculums that would leave your preschooler well prepared.
PLAY TIME PHILOSOPHY
Studies show that play time serves an important role in your child’s mental and social development. You should make sure the preschool’s philosophy about play time is a good fit for your expectations.
When structured properly, a lot of education can take place during play time when children are free to learn and explore in their own, individual ways. Ask about techniques the preschool uses to help children learn important things while having fun at the same time.
The best schools are adept at blurring that line between play time and school time, letting kids have fun but always with an eye on their development. In the end, by finding a school with the right schedule, curriculum, staff and philosophy, you’ll be giving your child a great start toward living a happy, healthy, productive life. ♦
Obtaining a mortgage is serious, sometimes lifetime responsibility. So choosing a mortgage lender is nothing to rush into. Before you make this important decision, you’ll want to engage in deep research.
You’ll learn a great deal in your initial few meetings with a mortgage lender. Lenders with excellent customer service can make things go smoothly for years to come. But if your lender is only concerned with his or her bottom line or
making extra money on selling loan products, use caution.
Good mortgage professionals are knowledgeable about their loan products. They are willing to spend as much time as possible to explain them to you. They take pride in guiding you through what could be a confusing process.
They keep your best interests and financial priorities in mind.
Do some advance research on your loan options prior to meeting a mortgage professional. It will help you determine whether he or she is truly concerned about your needs.
Basic knowledge about the financing process will help you make a sound assessment about a mortgage lender’s skills and abilities.
The mountain of forms, declarations and even financial terminology can be daunting to inexperienced homebuyers. It is always smart to exercise care during the home-buying process. Understand what you are signing and any
obligations you are assuming.
A signature is a permanent commitment. Some buyers may have a very short time to back out. Otherwise, they are liable for what is in the document. Even if you back out during that short period, you will likely forfeit deposits
because you broke the deal. You might also owe an additional amount based on the total of the initial mortgage payment.
Extra costs can be avoided if you take time when signing all agreements. If a lender is rushing you through paperwork and pressuring you to sign the form, he is not doing his job properly. Your best interests will likely be
The best mortgage lenders will focus on understanding your long-range financial goals.
They will ask you how long you intend to remain in this new home. Your answers will help him find the best mortgage products to suit your needs. It is a red flag if a lender fails to ask you this type of question.
Seeking out a mortgage lender in your community is the best option. Interest rates vary on a daily basis. A local lender will know the rapid changes happening in the community’s housing market. They will understand how these changes may affect you.
Local lenders can monitor your loan application closely, and will be more accessible to answer any questions you may have.
Ask your friends and family about their experience with mortgage lenders. They may be comfortable recommending the same professionals they used for their home loans.
Pregnancy and the birth of a child is a life-changing experience for any woman. So choosing the best in maternity care is essential for mother and child. There are so many things to consider after pregnancy begins, especially if this is your first baby. Depending on whether your gynecologist is also an obstetrician, meaning she can deliver babies and perform a C-section if needed, she may be able to handle your entire pregnancy. If not, you’ll need to find an obstetrician to deliver your baby.
Ask your family and friends who have been through the birthing process for suggestions. Inquire about their experiences. Most people will have strong opinions about the quality of their care. In particular, seek out people who have had complicated pregnancies or births. Your primary care physician should also have recommendations for you. Compile the list of names and check your insurance to see if those doctors are covered by your policy.
Narrow your list of potential providers and make appointments to see the top two or three. This first appointment is like an audition or interview. Observe everything. How does the staff treat patients? Is there a long wait? Is the office clean? Do you have a good feeling about this doctor? Sometimes doctors have a reputation for performing C-sections when they are not needed. Ask to see the doctor’s C-section rate.
A doctor isn’t your only option for prenatal care. Many women are choosing to use a midwife. Midwives are specially trained in pregnancy and childbirth. These caregivers provide more personalized attention. Some women feel more comfortable with a midwife. If you prefer minimal medical intervention, a midwife can be a great choice. In some cases, you can even give birth at home. Just remember that a midwife is not a doctor. If your pregnancy or childbirth runs into complications, you will still need to go to a local hospital.
DELIVERING THE BABY
Your maternity care provider needs to be available when it is time for you to give birth. Your chosen caregiver should have no vacations scheduled near your due date. Find out what happens if she is unavailable when you go into labor. Some ob/gyns work at a practice with other doctors. They may rotate being on delivery duty. If this is the case with your doctor, schedule some of your prenatal checkups with the other practitioners so you can get to know them better.
Find out about the reputation of the maternity wing at your local hospital. Check to make sure the doctor you choose has credentials to deliver at the hospital of your choice. It is always best to choose a hospital with a good
neonatal care unit in case your baby is born prematurely. Get a tour of facilities. While you are visiting, ask them which incidentals will be provided and which items you should pack in your hospital bag. You will need a comfortable robe, a change of clothes and other toiletries. Also, look at the postpartum recovery rooms. It may be a private or shared room. Make sure it fits your preference.
Find the hospital’s policy regarding having your newborn stay in the room with you. Looking at all of these aspects will help reduce your anxiety. Giving birth is a thrilling yet tumultuous time in a woman’s life. Choosing a good
maternity care provider will go a long way toward easing the process. ♦
Should I get LASIK eye surgery? This may be the question you have been asking yourself for years. Especially after what feels like a lifetime of dealing with glasses or contacts. Or maybe, you just stumbled upon the term during a coffee date with a friend who’s loving their results. Regardless, you are curious about LASIK eye surgery and are probably wondering where should you start. Most importantly, do your research and focus on finding an experienced specialty eye clinic and LASIK surgeon to perform the procedure. Here are 5 things to consider:
Ask your regular eye doctor for a referral to an ophthalmologist they recommend who can perform LASIK eye surgery. If you have family members or friends who have had the procedure, talk to them. In addition, you can find
credible LASIK resources by reviewing the listings on professional directories such as the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery.
2. REPUTATION, EXPERIENCE AND EDUCATION
Find an eye clinic and surgeon who is known for performing successful refractive eye surgeries with a 5% or lower enhancement rate and has experienced, highly trained surgeons on staff. Reputation matters. A clinic with an outstanding reputation is the one you want. Online reviews for clinics may not be as personal of a referral source, but they certainly are another helpful source in your search. Look for fellowship-trained and board-certified surgeons. This means surgeons perform training in addition to the standard required years of schooling needed to practice as a doctor of ophthalmology.
Advances are always being made in technology, and LASIK is no exception. Make sure your surgeon is experienced in using the latest techniques and equipment, such as blade-free, laser created flap technology which offers greater control in flap creation for a more precise procedure. For example, the Wavelight EX500 Excimer Laser offers the widest treatment approval range ever granted to a laser as well as quicker treatment time reducing the risk of dry eye. Not all providers have or use this technology. Specialty clinics who have a temperature controlled LASIK suite where their equipment does not travel is your best bet.
4. MULTI-LEVEL CARE
Schedule an initial consultation to meet your surgeon and his or her team and determine if you are a good candidate for LASIK eye surgery. It’s important to feel comfortable and confident in your choice.
Your surgeon should be willing to educate you about the LASIK procedure and answer any questions you have, including possible complications and post-operative care. The staff at the eye clinic should be friendly, accessible and helpful.
Many ophthalmologists will work with your regular eye doctor for follow-up appointments if you prefer and these are most times covered in the cost of the procedure. Be sure to ask those questions if you’d prefer to have follow-ups with your doctor.
Investigate how much the procedure will cost and if there are any additional charges for enhancements, revisions, or post-operative care. LASIK is not covered by insurance so make sure to inquire about health savings account,
financing and billing options.
Tattoos were once the exclusive province of the dark and edgy, the mark of an outsider. But look around these days and you’re likely to notice more and more people have chosen body art to express themselves.
Tattoos and tattoo parlors have gone mainstream, and it’s safer and easier than ever to wear your passions on your sleeve.
If you’ve been considering a new tattoo, read these important steps to choosing the right place for the work.
The most obvious thing you need to look for is whether the studio is clean, and you can tell a lot about that just by looking around.
See if the studio looks sanitary and well-organized. Any furniture in the tattoo area that comes into direct contact with a client being tattooed should have a disposable cover that is changed between each client visit.
The tattoo artist should use a clean needle for every customer, too. To be certain, you can ask them to open the needle in front of you before using it. They should also use a separate source of ink for each client to avoid
spreading infections, too.
Every state has different rules and regulations for tattoo studios, and you need to do your homework to find out what those regulations are where you live.
Believe it or not, there are some studios that will open up without a license and without doing the proper training to ensure a sanitary environment. Check whether the studio has the proper license and ask about any training the tattoo artist has gone through to do their job in a sterile, safe way.
Once you’ve ensured the studio is safe and licensed, then comes the fun part: choosing a tattoo design.
There can be a wide variation in talent between different studios and even different artists working within the same studio. Check out the portfolios in the studio to see what kind of designs you can expect and make sure it’s up to your expectations.
The best tattoo artists are exactly that — real artists — and can take your idea and turn it into a gorgeous piece of body art that you can enjoy for the rest of your life. Look for true creativity and originality in the designs they offer.
It’s not a good idea to pick the cheapest tattoo studio. Like anything else in life, you get what you pay for, and low-cost studios are bound to be cutting corners somewhere. Whether by employing low-time, low-talent artists or skimping on sanitation steps, you just don’t want to use a studio that’s known for being the cheapest in town.
Ultimately, because tattoos are designed to be permanent, you want to pick the best artist you can find — even if it’s expensive.
They should run their business in a clean, sterile way — almost with the cleanliness of a surgeon — but also have true artistic talent. That’s a rare combination to find, but it’s worth it to do your research and shop around until you find it. ♦
After “location, location, location,” the element a home is most in need of is a foundation. For without a strong and solid foundation, you don’t have a home. It is truly the basis for all that is your home.
So when your foundation needs repair, it is essential that you choose an experienced, high-quality contractor to get the job done right.
Your foundation may consist of cement blocks or granite slabs depending on the location and time your home was built. More modern foundations consist of poured concrete slab. The structure of your foundation and the type of work required will determine which contractor is best for you.
In addition, you will need to know if the problem is related to cracking or leaking, as these problems require different repair work.
Some foundation repair companies specialize in fixing leaky foundations. They typically will install pumps and drains. Other companies fix architectural aspects of the damage. They perform repairs by pouring concrete, replacing blocks and installing jacks.
Choose a company that will help you with your foundational needs. If your foundation has several issues, then select a company that will provide various services.
Another thing to consider is whether your home has a basement. If your basement is finished, you may need additional services after the job is completed. You may require a contractor to help with floor laying, carpentry and finishing. If the basement is rough or unfinished, then the level of work will be substantially less.
Contact contractors to inspect the damage and give you a written estimate. You should receive estimates from at least three different companies in order to compare prices. During these meetings, make sure the contractor understands the required repairs and the time frame it will take to complete the work.
You may not always want to go with the lowest estimate. The low cost may be due to poor quality of materials or lack of experience by the contractor. Ask the contractor about the types of materials he will be using and whether those materials are long-lasting.
If you know anyone in your social network who has had foundation work done, ask them about contractors. Were they happy with the service? Is the work holding up? Would they use the contractor again? Referrals will help you determine which contractors are best. If your friends give rave reviews to a company, then look closely at their
Before any work starts, the contractor should provide you with a current insurance certification. You need to verify that the contractor is covered for any accidents involving workers or damage caused to your home. Otherwise, you may be liable. If the contractor cannot provide you with this certification, check with their insurance company to find
out what they cover. If the contractor is uninsured, begin searching again. Professional contractors are always covered by insurance.
It takes time and effort to research contractors but it will save you time and money in the long run. You will feel comfortable with the knowledge that your foundation is in good shape, and the rest of your home or office will be stronger. ♦
If you’re considering plastic surgery to improve or alter your physical appearance, it’s not a decision to take lightly. While there may be many benefits to plastic surgery, all surgery carries risks so you’ll want to search for the best qualified surgeon to explain the process to you.
If you’ve set your mind on having a cosmetic procedure, it’s vital that you have it performed by a well-qualified plastic surgeon.
Here are the main things to consider while searching for the right doctor to give you that perfect look.
Choosing a board-certified plastic surgeon is an important first step. While many state medical boards will certify doctors for general surgery, the American Board of Professional Surgeons specifically requires training and
experience in plastic surgery — including two years devoted entirely to plastic surgery — which can lead to better outcomes for patients than doctors with less experience in the field.
Ask whether your surgeon is board certified and what training they’ve had in the specific procedure you’re considering.
Some plastic surgeons are generalists, performing a wide range of procedures, others specialize in one particular subsection of the field and can perfect their skills over many years performing that one type of procedure.
Some surgeons specialize in body procedures, for example, while others might spend most of their time doing facial surgery or breast augmentation.
Ask how long the surgeon has been performing your particular procedure and how many times they have performed it. That information can help guide your decision.
In the plastic surgery field, some doctors have better reputations than others, and it can be tricky to find the best ones. After all, some of the best cosmetic surgery work is the kind that no one can tell was done. It’s subtle.
If you know someone who has undergone a cosmetic surgery procedure before, though, you can try to find out what they thought about their experience. First-person references about doctors are always insightful.
In addition, you can look at before-and-after photos that show the surgeon’s work. Ideally, you’ll want to look for patients who have a similar facial structure, breast shape or body shape to yours so you can see what to expect for your personal results.
While it’s less important than their medical background, it’s nonetheless worth mentioning that you should look for a doctor that you connect well with personally.
Communication is a big part of the plastic surgery process, and you should try to find a doctor with whom you can clearly communicate your wants and expectations for the procedure. You should be confident that they understand how you want to look and can deliver the right results for you.
Trust is a big part of that relationship. You should be able to trust the surgeon’s recommendations and be comfortable discussing your detailed medical history and habits with them.
In the end, if you can find a plastic surgeon with the right training, plenty of experience in your procedure and a good connection with you, you’ll be more likely to have the best outcome from your procedure. ♦
Credit unions are cooperatives in the truest sense of the word. They have existed for more than 100 years, springing from the idea that serving a group of unserved or underserved people as a group could prove
economically feasible and offer an alternative to traditional banks. Today, they rank among the best micro-finance organizations available to large swaths of the population.
Unlike big banks, which are owned by shareholders or conglomerates, credit unions are typically nonprofit operations owned by their members. Credit unions charge fewer and lower fees than for-profit banks. And any dividends go to the members instead of shareholders.
In short, credit unions are a good deal.
They usually offer better interest rates on savings accounts and competitive rates on various loans. You might get a fantastic rate on a student loan, mortgage, auto loan or credit card.
And, like bigger banks, the federal government ensures credit union deposits up to $250,000.
The first step in selecting a credit union is to research those in your community and their membership requirements. Some credit unions are available to employees of specific companies, groups of public service or school employees. But offers extend eligibility to anyone willing to follow their membership requirements. You may be asked to join a food co-op or other organization in order to qualify for membership.
A simple internet search is an excellent starting point. Develop a list of credit unions in your area. Then narrow your possibilities by researching eligibility, services offered and fees charged by each credit union.
Verify the current interest rates on their accounts. If you can’t find the rates online, call and ask them for the percentages.
Find out if there are any fees associated with the accounts you want to open. As with traditional savings and loan banks, you might be required to pay a fee if you fall below a minimum balance.
Check about other requirements. You might need to use your debit card a certain amount of times each month.
If you are in the market for a specific loan, research to see if the loan is issued by the credit union. Once you have found several credit unions offering that type of loan, compare interest rates and specials to see who has the best deal.
Of course, convenience is something to keep in mind. Check for availability of online services, weekday and weekend hours, where branches and ATMs are located.
You should also understand any fees associated with ATM or debit card usage. If you use ATMs frequently, those charges can add up fast.
Some credit unions belong to a national network of credit unions for shared services. It might mean more access to ATMs and other services in case you move or go on vacation. If you have children attending college in other cities, this can be useful.
Once you have completed your research, make a list of the advantages and disadvantages of each credit union. You can easily compare them.
Whether you’re in need of furnishing an entire room or home or just replacing a piece that has seen better days, choosing new furniture is a decision that involves quality, style and, not least, comfort.
You see and use the furniture in your home every day, so you want to be sure that it suits your taste and is both comfortable and quality built. One way to ensure that you’ll pick the best furniture for your home is to select a
good furniture retailer.
Here are some things to look for in a quality furniture store.
QUALITY THAT LASTS
Look for a store that sells quality, long-lasting furniture.
While inexpensive accessories can be bought cheaply and changed often, big furniture investments — sofas, dining tables, and the like — need to be purchased for the long term.
That means putting solid construction before a pretty style.
Solid construction isn’t always apparent at first glance. It should feel solid, not flimsy, of course. Beyond that, find out as much information as possible about the frame, materials, and what kind of warranty it comes with.
A well-trained staff can inform you about their furniture, how they’re built and why the construction matters. The best stores have employees who act as guides and teachers, not pushy salespeople.
VALUE, NOT JUST PRICE
It is best to pay more for a quality piece than to try to save money on something that will not last in the long term. The bigger the investment, the more important the design and build quality become.
Concentrate on finding the best value. An inexpensive sofa will not be a good value if it is built with cheap and weak materials. Likewise, the most expensive love seat will not be a wise investment if the frame is not built solidly.
It’s best to look for brands with a long track record and good reputation.
SERVICE AND DELIVERY
Every store has a different customer service policy. Choose a store that is well known for being loyal to its customers.
Inquire about return policies. Some furniture stores will allow you to exchange an item within a certain time limit if it doesn’t meet your expectations. Learn what fees are involved if you have to return an item — if that is allowed at all.
As well, ask about the store’s delivery policy, including how much it costs, how far they’ll deliver and how quickly your furniture will arrive.
If you are comparison shopping, factor the delivery cost when considering different stores. A low-priced couch will not save you money if it comes with an expensive delivery fee. It may be worth it to pay a little more for the couch
if free or reduced cost delivery is available.
The bottom line is that there are only two things that matter: the quality of the furniture you are purchasing, and the level of service you receive. Once you discover them both, furniture shopping can be a fun experience that will
beautify your home for many years. And you can be happy and comfortable with the furniture for generations to come. ♦
Becoming a collector is a process that begins with a fascination or obsession with certain items, so it’s no mistake that collecting coins is one of the world’s most popular hobbies. It is also a great way to make a profit, particularly in dealing with rare and valuable coins.
Coin collecting is not a simple hobby, though. Coins can be a great investment, but there are several factors that affect a coin’s ability to go up in value, including its history, quality and scarcity.
If you are considering starting a coin collection, here are some things to keep in mind.
KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE
Research is key. There are a lot of resources that can help you understand what you are buying or selling.
It is important to discover everything you can about a coin before purchasing it. If you have inherited coins, or have received them as gifts, educate yourself on their background and value.
Coin shops likely have books that can help you get started. You can also find information at the local library and Internet.
Once you have completed your research, you can start buying and selling with confidence.
UNDERSTAND COIN GRADES
Knowing coin grades is essential if you collect coins. This system assigns a value based on the coin’s condition.
The grading process is pivotal. You could have the same two coins — same year, same mint, same design — and they could be worth drastically different prices based on the score they received when being graded. Coins in near-perfect condition are very rare and are more valuable than modified or damaged coins.
DON’T CLEAN COINS
Never clean your coin collection. Novices are often tempted to give their coins a polish. Shinier coins must be worth more, right?
Cleaning or polishing a coin can destroy its worth. It removes some of the original finish, rendering the coin far less valuable as a result. Real collectors prize coins that are in their original condition.
Ask questions, no matter how trivial you think they might be. It is the only way you will learn and grow as a collector.
Look for more experienced collectors in your area. You can find them at coin shows and shops. There may even be clubs in your community.
Ask them about the best coins to buy. Find how about their successes and failures. It will help you avoid pitfalls. It is hard to know what is reputable online. That’s why networking in your area and finding people with great
reputations is a better way to get your questions answered.
SPEND TIME AT A COIN SHOP
Develop a relationship with your favorite coin shop. Hanging out there can be a fun way to spend an afternoon. It will also help build your collection.
Once a dealer knows your interests, he can alert you with information about the coins you are seeking. Networking with employees may also help you develop new friendships that come out of common interests.
Doing these things will help you avoid wasting time and money on bad purchases. It will also pass the time, as you accumulate more knowledge. Soon you will be on your way toward becoming a seasoned collector.
If you are choosing a doctor for the first time, or are changing physicians due to a move or other circumstances, your selection requires real scrutiny and research. For your best health, you need to have a good relationship with your doctor. And if you want to have a good relationship with your doctor, you’ll need to begin by choosing a physician who is an excellent listener and who takes patient concerns seriously. But there are some other things you need to consider when feeling out a new doctor’s office.
Insurance companies have contracts with individuals or group practices. It is likely that you cannot go outside of your insurer’s provider network without paying an additional fee.
Your primary care doctor should be able to understand your medical needs, as well as offer you appropriate referrals should you need a specialist.
It is possible that using a doctor outside your insurer’s primary care network may subject you to out-of-pocket expenses.
Some insurance carriers do not impose restrictions on your choice of physicians. If you have this kind of policy, look to your local newspaper or online advertisements to find potential doctors in your area.
MEETING YOUR NEEDS
Experts recommend selecting a general practitioner to serve as your primary care physician. This professional might be an internal medicine doctor or a member of a family practice.
Under some circumstances, it is better to select a doctor practicing within a particular specialty.
Women might feel more comfortable with an obstetrician/gynecologist as a primary care physician. A pediatrician might be the primary care physician for children. Seniors could even have a geriatric specialist for their primary care
ASK FOR REFERRALS
Friends, family and other trusted sources are the best way to find a new doctor. People will gladly give referrals when they have had positive experiences with their health care providers. They will also provide feedback when the
experience was not to their liking.
The American Medical Association or other professional physicians’ organizations in your area will be another useful resource.
Prior to making a final decision, always confirm that your physician has a current license to practice with the state medical board. This licensing body will also tell you if he has any pending disciplinary action or complaints.
Not every doctor accepts new patients. Once you have collected a list of possible physicians, contact them to make sure they will accept new patients, as well as the insurance you carry. Ideally, your first visit will include a routine
physical examination and documentation of your medical history. But sometimes insurance carriers will decline payment for routine exams.
Convenience is another important factor when choosing a physician. His or her office should be easily accessible from your home or workplace. Ensure the doctor has admitting privileges at your preferred hospital in the event you
need treatment. Ask where your physician can perform diagnostic tests and procedures. Some doctors might use a separate facility rather than their own offices. Finally, inquire how long it usually takes to book an appointment. When an emergency arises, you will want to know that your new doctor can meet you quickly. ♦
Natural birthing has come a long way. Modern birthing centers are designed to offer a warm, comforting atmosphere for healthy women with low-risk pregnancies to bring their children to life without the sterile confines of
Birth centers treat pregnancy as a family event, encouraging the mother and members of her family to participate in celebrating new life. But they’re also certified and maintain emergency medical expertise and equipment should it be required.
A growing number of American women are choosing birth centers for a more intimate childbirth experience. If you or someone you know is pregnant, this increasingly popular option may be worth looking into.
The best birthing centers have a gentle, welcoming atmosphere. Many women who’ve given birth in these centers are comforted by a spa-like atmosphere.
It is common for birthing centers to use whirlpool baths to ease pain during and after labor. There should also be patios and garden spaces to help you relax between contractions. After all, labor can be a long and painful process.
Additional services, such as massages, may be extremely helpful. Ask each center about their services before, during and after labor.
When looking for a birthing center, it’s important to understand your medical needs in addition to the center’s ability to handle the unexpected. Ask how many Caesarian sections they typically perform. Some mothers-to-be worry
about medical providers who might try to rush the process by sending them to the operating room too quickly. A low C-section rate will ease those concerns.
Find out about the medical services and equipment available on-site. A facility may be beautiful and comfortable, but that doesn’t mean they should cut corners around preparation and technology. Ask about services
performed at the center and when you might have to be transported somewhere else.
You should know the nursing staff schedule as well. It is a major advantage if you can interact with the same nurses from the time you have labor pains until the time you go home with your baby.
Finally, check whether your maternity doctor has privileges to work at the center. Ideally, you will want a center that lets your doctor deliver the baby in person at any time of the day or night.
Good centers will understand that childbirth is an extraordinarily personal process.
Look for a facility that will allow you to fulfill your vision of the ideal birth experience. Overly restrictive policies or facilities that can’t fulfill your requests can put a damper on the experience.
It is usually best to stay in one room for the entire birth process. Labor, delivery and recovery should happen in one place, without requiring you to readjust to new surroundings.
If you have children, think about whether you want them to be a part of the childbirth process. Some centers will accommodate your request. Whether you want to give birth alone or among family and friends, the best birthing
centers will work with you to make it happen.
The birthing center you choose should do everything it can to make your experience unforgettable. The birth of a baby is one of the most wonderful, memorable experiences of life. The best birthing centers will go the extra mile
to be a part of that joy. ♦
Unadorned windows are a blank canvas for window treatments. Besides simple shades or blinds, well-designed window treatments add style and ambiance. They also reflect your personal style and, when matched properly with your furnishings and the overall look of a room, create privacy and temperature regulation from the world outside.
Some windows are easier to stylize than others. But most windows share common characteristics which will make your job easier.
Follow these simple guidelines to get the best results when looking for a window treatment store:
Window treatments come in a variety of price ranges. If you are outfitting multiple windows with blinds, valences and drapes, then you will likely pay a significant amount of money.
The best window treatment stores offer quality products at many price points. Don’t expect inexpensive vinyl blinds to look good or last as long as their wooden counterparts.
Each store should also have a large array of fabrics, either in stock or shippable within a few days. It will give you plenty of combinations to consider for your decor.
Look for decorating ideas in magazines, on TV or websites. You will likely find many suggestions that will work in your own home. Keep in mind that large prints and bright colors will overpower smaller spaces.
Sample books in stores will also give you a good idea about the finished products. These publications will also have price charts so you can budget your money.
Anyone who has tight finances should concentrate on rooms that you and your family use the most. Inexpensive treatments will work fine in rooms that are not used often.
Conventional shapes such as square or rectangular shades and blinds are often less costly than specialty shapes. Deluxe fabrics will add to your total cost. But if you need a trapezoid, triangle or semi-circle shape and it works well
with your decor, then investing in that is money well-spent.
Hardware is another factor in the final cost. The materials used for installation need to be durable and made of heavy-duty components. Blinds’ mounting rails, sliders and opening mechanisms will likely be used frequently,
perhaps even several times a day. Drapery rods should consist of heavy-gauge steel, including sliders, hooks and pulls. This construction should withstand years of use without falling apart.
Your product needs to have a warranty against defects, materials and installation. Even high-quality treatments can be damaged if they are installed incorrectly. Familiarize yourself with the terms of the warranties.
You should understand the vendor’s return policy. Excellent return policies mean you can return the products for a refund or exchange. You could be charged a restocking fee. If you had your window coverings custom-made, you
will probably be unable to return it. Ask anyway. You might be surprised.
Professionals should guide you on trends that will remain stylish for years to come. They should also assist you with ideas and recommendations. Let’s face it. There are a huge amount of fabrics, options, sizes, combinations and
manufacturers to consider. Having a knowledgeable and helpful staff will save you time and money.
A quality window treatment store will make a tremendous difference in your final results. Think about all the factors, ask professionals and research your options. After all, you will live with the results for many years. ♦