Bet You Didn't Know!

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Is an Autonomous car in your Future???

How many of you have seen the movie Demolition Man? This 1993 movie featured Sylvester Stallone as a police officer who wakes up in the future.  When I first saw the movie I thought the technology of a self-driving car was far-fetched.  Well according to an article in the Wall Street Journal, this technology could be offered up in the middle years of this decade.

The term for these cars is autonomous which essentially means the cars can drive themselves.  The technology that will go in to these cars will focus on the following components: Electronic Steering, Traffic jam Assist, Enhanced navigation systems, Adaptive Cruise control & blind spot detection.  Each of these components will help you be a little more relaxed in the driver’s seat or maybe more nervous, depending on your trust in technology.  As a side note, cars are not the only autonomous vehicles being considered. My husband Eric was part of an experiment exploring the idea of an autonomous snow cat (snow groomer) back in 2000 and they even have an autonomous snow plow competition.

For a lot of people this would take the fun out of driving but for others, imagine what you could do with your commute time if you didn’t have to keep your eyes on the road.  Would this lower or raise your blood pressure not to mention your insurance premiums?  It could lower both  by reducing the risk of accidents.  Think about the drunk driver behind the wheel, would this car make him safer to be around?  You bet it would because he is less likely to be swerving or crossing the middle lines or running a red light.  What about the lady on her way to work putting on her makeup?  No questions, it would make her a safer driver. Who would be responsible if your vehicle is involved in a crash? This is a question that a law professor is asking because if the human is not in control of the car and a computer is should the driver carry the liability insurance or should the manufacturer?  It is suggested that there would have to be legislation shielding auto makers from state liability claims. 

Google already has a fleet of about eight cars testing early versions of this technology.  They use sophisticated sensors and mapping data to locate the car and plot a route. Cadillac is developing a feature called “Super Cruise” which allows a vehicle to drive itself on the highway by adjusting speed, staying in a lane and avoiding other cars.  While this is not currently available, they are offering a driver assist feature called full range adaptive cruise control.  This cruise control will slow the car to a stop if a vehicle ahead stops. 

For every 70 million miles driven by humans there is one fatality. Google’s test cars have only logged about 200,000 miles.  Given the low amount of test miles, it makes me wonder if it is really a reality that this could happen in the next 2-5 years.  Nevada thinks so, because they have already passed laws allowing autonomous vehicles to operate on their roads, and California is considering similar laws.

In closing, for those that love driving like I do, Audi’s product planning manager for the US says that the “self-driving technology it to keep the driver from the humdrum of driving . If you want to have fun and take the wheel then you can.”  I can see great merit in this hybrid approach.



Stress and How You Handle It

Since 1992, April has been designated as Stress Awareness month.  As we are only a few days into April, I thought this would be a great topic to get your month started in the right direction.

According to, “stress is a normal physical response to events that make you feel threatened or upset your balance”.  How we handle stress is just as important as figuring out the cause, and relieving it.  Like most things in life there are good and bad stresses.  The good ones are the ones that keep us on our toes during work, while driving or while competing in sports.  The bad stress is caused when you are feeling overwhelmed and depressed.  You know that feeling where if just one more thing goes wrong you’re going to break, well those emotions(stressors) will be what causes the most  mental and physical harm. 

Learning how to recognize and then controlling your stress levels is a key element to your mental & physical well-being.  Stress has a tendency to slowly creep up on us as we keep handling and handling until each step just starts to seem more normal and part of a daily routine.  Here are some examples of symptoms of stress: memory problems,  poor judgment, constant worrying, moodiness, agitation or an inability to relax, sense of loneliness, nausea, dizziness, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, eating more or less, isolating yourself  from others, using alcohol or drugs to relax.  Each one of these symptoms can cause further health issues.  Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body.

One thing I found out in my research was that some of the happiest events in our lives are also the most stressful,  for example high school or college graduation, planning a wedding, having a baby, buying a new car or house and even receiving that promotion you have been working toward.

Now that we know some of the causes, what do we do about them and how do we calm ourselves?  If you are aware of your stress levels, then you probably have ways of dealing with them. For me, I tend to take a walk or turn on music, during my high school years living in Ventura CA; the beach was always my go to place. Just sitting and listening to the waves would calm most everyone. A quick survey of my co-workers’ stress busters   reveals everything from a warm bath to exercise to yoga & deep breathing practices as well as gardening and playing with pets.

Just remember that every one of us has it within ourselves to reduce the impact of stress as its happening.  Managing stress is all about taking control and changing the stressful situation when you can, changing your reaction when you can’t, taking care of yourself and making time for rest and relaxation. Also, know that you are not the only one battling stress.  Talking things out or venting can be very beneficial in helping to calm your stress levels.  Letting loose of the reins will also help. No one person can do everything without help and as difficult as it can be to ask for help, know that your health may depend on it.  Keeping children stress free is also important as they do not have the mental fortitude to deal with it in a healthy way.  Symptoms of stress in children are mood swings, acting out, changes in sleep and even bedwetting.  One of the simplest things to help reduce their stress is putting aside yours and just spending time with them.

Hope this has been helpful and remember when you start feeling pressure, recognize it for what it is and deal with it calmly. Take a walk, pet a dog or

 do whatever you have to keep yourself calm and happy.

Keep Smiling




An Early Start to Tick Season

It’s only March, but several states are reporting early sightings of ticks. I know that at my house we have already seen them.  For us this is a full month earlier than normal.  Experts are predicting a more abundant tick season which could lead to a rise in Lyme disease infection.

For pet owners, we are all familiar with the little buggers and know what the risks are should they adhere to either our pets or ourselves.  The biggest risk is Lyme disease. This is often hard to diagnose and tricky to treat.  Physicians aren’t as familiar with the disease as your vet would be, but since your vet can’t treat humans, symptoms of Lyme disease often fall through the cracks.  Symptoms range from headache, muscle aches, to more serious and long term complications affecting our brain, nerves, joints and muscles.  Early diagnosis is essential for any tick borne illness. Lyme is often identified by an expanding rash that looks like a bull’s eye, but there are cases where it has not shown up for weeks. 

The CDC states that between 1992 and 2010 reported cases of Lyme disease doubled, which is alarming enough but they also state that the actual undiagnosed cases may be 3 times higher.  One of the reasons experts are telling us that this season will be worse is due to a lack of the white footed mouse which is caused by a shortage of acorns. This is called a perfect storm of ecological vents. An interesting fact I found while researching this article is that mice and not deer are the more abundant carriers of ticks (this is due to this mouse not being bothered by parasites).  Ticks feed on mice and when the mice aren’t available they will start to feed on other mammals.

The ticks you have to look out for are the nymphs. These usually appear between May through July but due to the mild winter they are obviously showing up to the party early.  These nymphs are the ones responsible for spreading the majority of Lyme disease.

Here are some tips to keeping your pets and your selves tick free:

Avoid tick infested areas. If you are hiking, keep yourself and your pets in the center of the trail.  Ticks can drop unseen off of vegetation, such as shrubs, tall grass, etc. They prefer moist environments near wooded or grassy areas.

Use a repellent with 20% DEET or more.  This can be used not only on skin, but also on clothing including your shoes.  Nymphs live on the forest floor and can climb aboard via your feet.

Perform daily checks of yourself and your pets.  If your pets have access to the outside then each time they come in you should check for ticks.   Using a repellent is the most effective way of keeping these monsters off our pets.  Check with your vet to see which would work best for your family.

If you have to be outside, then once you come in, head for the shower and perform a self-check using a mirror, being sure to check all of your body parts, including the under arms, belly button and ears.  Toss clothes in the dryer on high heat to kill any ticks that might have found their way in.

If you find a tick, use a pair of fine pointed tweezers to remove it at the point of attachment.  It is crucial to not squeeze the tick body as this can inject more potential pathogens to you or your pet.  Wash the area with a mild soap and water. It is recommended that you place the tick in a jar of rubbing alcohol with the date written on the outside in case of future illness. The type of tick and location will be important.

Best of luck to all for a tick free season.




The Stick Horse Lady

While going through a client list I ran across a commercial client who turned a hobby into a successful business. She is Dee Kegley of Dawson Kegley Designs and in the show horse arena, she is known as the “Stick Horse Lady”.  She rightfully earned that moniker for her beautiful work making stick horses. 

These are not the typical stick horses from your childhood, Dee takes great pride in creating beautiful works of art that are commissioned to resemble her clientele’s actual horses.  She has become quite successful and she tells me that when she shows at the Roanoke Valley Horse Show, there are customers putting sold tags on items before she has her booth completely set up. 

Dee’s love of horses began when her grandfather introduced her to a Shetland pony named Midget. That love transformed into showing saddlebreds and a fondness for Friesian horses.  These


beautiful black horses are the mainstay of her business today. She will be showcasing her talent in the Blue Ridge Classic in July when she and her favorite Friesian will be showing in handmade costumes.

It seems that Dee’s creative skills were honed when she began to make clothes for herself because she could not find a bathing suit that she liked. , that turned into making resort wear and outfits for the Virginia pageant circuit and runway shows and over the years as trends have changed, she has made everything from t shirts to wooden purses.  Based on her skills, one of her contacts at the Roanoke Valley Horse show asked her to make 2 custom stick horses based on real horses and from that moment, the current passion was born. From the time she is contacted about creating a stick horse to completion it takes about 3 months.  One of the things that make her product so unique is that she will mail several swatches to her client for them to match to their horses coloring and send back the one that is the closest. She will also take or have someone else take very detailed pictures of the horse so that she can match their markings exactly.  In her inventory I was able to see several examples of this detailed work. 

Stick horses are not her only product. She also makes hand puppets, purses, dog bandannas, horse spirit masks (which are used to teach children), and Christmas tree ornaments. She also crafts the stands for the horses, which are picket fences (see pictures). After having talked to her, who knows what she will come up with next but with her commercial grade embroidery machine, I think the sky is the limit. 

Every year Dee will make things for only two shows, the aforementioned Roanoke Valley Horse Show and the Roy’s Folks Craft Fair at Oak Hollow mall in High Point.  Dee herself has been one of Roy’s Folks and she enjoys being able to give back.  Her booth name for both shows is The Little Shop of Horses. 

So if you have a love of horses or had a horse you want remembered, contact Dee and she will create for you a one of a kind stick horse.  Her website is and she can also be found on Facebook  @


Travelling With Pets

As the summer travel season approaches, many pet owners are asking themselves what to do with the family “pet” while on vacation.  Many owners will take their pets with them, depending upon their mode of transportation and their destinations policy on pets.  This blog is going to address both taking your pets with you and leaving them at “home”.  As an owner of 2 beagles, my husband and I address this same issue when we plan our yearly vacation.  We are fortunate enough to have a reliable pet sitter who can stay at our home with them and they love when Grammy comes to visit.

If you need to take your pets with you, then the next question is how are you getting to your destination?  If driving, preparation is pretty straight forward. Using a
harness or a cage will keep your dog or cat from roaming the car and will keep them safer if you are in an accident. Frequent stops to let your pet run will make them less likely to be fidgety while travelling.  Keep in mind that their eating habits once you reach your destination may be disrupted so it is a good idea to take along their favorite toy or even their bed to help them acclimate to new surroundings.  Of course, travelling using public transportation is quite a different story.   The main thing you need to remember is that all pets need to be current on their shots and most companies will require a health certificate dated within 30 days of travel and signed by your veterinarian.   Also required is that your animal be in a crate.  If you have never put your pet in a crate and are planning to, it helps to get the animal used to it before you leave. This way being locked in will be a little less traumatic for both you and your pet. One thing to make sure of is that your dog or cat has ample room to move around and stand up in their crate. Before booking travel for your pet on any airline, call to make sure what the fees are and what their specific requirements are. Some airlines allow small dogs to travel on board with their owners rather than in the cargo hold.  Most veterinarians do not recommend medicating your pet before travel due to there not being an attendant on board with the animals.  Also keep in mind that some states, i.e. Hawaii, require your pet to be quarantined for a specific amount of time regardless of having a health certificate.

If you have decided to leave your pet at home, make sure that they are looked in on each and every day and that they are given fresh food and water.  Access to the outside is important for dogs as you don't want to clean up their mess when you get home.  If they are kept outside on a permanent basis, try to have a section of their dog run under a tree or covered with a tarp or other artificial roof.  This way they have somewhere to lie down out of the sun.  Again having plenty of fresh water and food is a must.

There is also the option of boarding your pets.  If you choose this option, most kennels or boarders will also require that your pet be up to date on their shots.  There are things to look at when choosing a boarding kennel such at exercise time, food (if your dog is finicky will they allow you to bring in your own pet food) do they have water available at all times.  You will also need to ask about emergency services and vet care.  The website I found some great information on is

I hope you have enjoyed this and that you will remember this when planning what to do with your pets when you travel.