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Living and Teaching In the Lone Star State

By Ellen Wilson

If you love kids and you’re interested in an adventure in the U.S., you might consider living and teaching in the Lone Star state.

The Texas Education Agency reports that shortages in the field mean teachers in certain subject areas are in high demand and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the need for 53,000 high school teachers and 188,000 grade school teachers by the year 2022.

Becoming a teacher in the Lone Star state is different than becoming an educator in many other areas of the U.S. Because there is no specific teacher education program in the state, you’ll first need a bachelor’s degree in your chosen subject area.

Then, you’ll go through an education preparation program. If you’re earning a degree in Texas, you can often fulfill this requirement at the same school. If you earned your bachelor’s degree elsewhere, find out more about the education prep program at the state’s website.

After you’ve completed the program, you’ll take a certification test in your subject area, for a particular range of grade levels. When you’ve passed the certification exam, you must still complete another step to become eligible to teach.

As in many other U.S. states, educators in the Lone Star state must complete a state registration process that includes a background check and fingerprinting. When you’re approved for registration, you’re eligible for entry-level teaching positions in Texas.

A teacher in Texas is paid a base minimum salary, mandated by the state legislature. The state legislates a base rate that is keyed to years of experience teaching in Texas. Certified teachers with no experience must be paid a minimum of $27,320. The rate rises as you gain experience so that, when you have 20 years’ teaching experience, your minimum salary will be $44,270.

In most districts, this base is supplemented, usually based on your certification and education, so that you earn a more competitive salary. For example, teachers who hold a master’s degree earn more and those with education beyond the master’s level earn even greater supplements. If your area of certification is one in high demand, you may also earn more.

The supplemented rate varies from district to district. For example, if you’re a first-year teacher in Dallas, you’ll earn $45,100, while a beginning teacher in Lubbock will earn $37,750. Newly-minted teachers in Fort Worth earn $50,544, while in Planto, they earn $49, 442.

In rural districts and smaller districts, you’ll earn less, but you’ll also find the cost of living to be much less than in larger Texas districts.

In any case, salaries for teachers in Texas, like those in many U.S. states, don’t equate to those earned by people in other fields who have similar education.

Legislators in the state recognize that attracting quality candidates to teach children who’ll be entering a very different world, by the time they graduate, probably means they should pay a higher salary. Some state lawmakers are pushing for education reforms that include better pay for teachers, so base rates are likely to increase in the next few years.


Giving Education A Helping Hand

Student loans have always been one of the biggest enemies of students as they assess their financial situations. Worse yet is that for many families, the parents take on the brunt of the force that comes from these massive student loans. Education is fantastic; this much has been pounded into our heads every since we were in elementary school, but what we weren’t taught was how expensive it is. Many students are finding out that they have no way to pay off their student loans and having to take deferment on their loans. In some situations, this is really the only option, but it should be highly avoided at all costs.

With that said, there is a smart way to go about student loan deferment, but there’s also a not-smart way to go about it; I highly suggest taking the smart way. Applying for loan forgiveness is a great way to lessen the brunt of the payments, but this really only happens if you find yourself unemployed. Refinancing your student loans is another option. This is when you renegotiate your payment plans with the school so it can fit better for you. More times than not this to minimize your payments and stretch them out over a long period of time; this is very common in low-income households. However, the total amount of interest you will end up paying will increase by doing this rather than just dealing with the slightly larger payments. No matter what decision you go with, I highly suggest getting some advice.

The message that “college is expensive” has been shouted throughout the whole education system, luckily, the government has listened. The government wants to make it known how expensive college is well before anyone enrolls anywhere. Furthermore, financial aid is being increased through American Opportunity Tax Credit which provides up to $2,500 per student to go towards tuition and other expenses. You must not forget that tuition is only one part of the expense of college. There are bundles of fees around every corner as well as course materials (like books) that can be be expensive.

College is after all completely optional and there are many occupations and fields where employees are employed right outside of high school. But if you want to pursue a degree, then you better be ready to pay for it. Even though a degree can potentially land you a very solid jump doing something that you love, it won’t be worth anything if you can’t finish school because you can’t pay tuition or the student loans that follow. If this is you then deferring your student loan payments could be the only option for you.


What Will It Take To Live The Good Life?

I’m sure the word “retirement” sounds like something that is far in the distance and doesn’t bother you at all. However, for many, retirement sneaks up on them a lot faster than they expect. Don’t ever let anyone tell you it’s too early to save for retirement because it isn’t. Just wait until you find out how much money you could have when you finally decide to retire as long as you start saving now. Like they say, “the early bird catches the worm”.

Ideally you should start saving for retirement as early as your 20s. You have probably started working and picking up more hours (depending if you’re a full-time student or not) and are getting consistent paychecks. Putting small percentages of this away towards a retirement fund it easily one of the smartest decisions you can make. It may not seem like a great decision at the time; you’re take money away and putting it somewhere that isn’t very liquid (easy to access) for a time in your life that is way down the road. Don’t worry, you will understand when you retire.

Take a look at how much money you can potentially make if you start saving early. Let’s say you start saving at age 25 and put just a few thousand dollars a year, $3,000. This is only $250 a month which can easily be the amount of money one spends at restaurants for a month (it’s a simple sacrifice). You put this money into a tax-deferred retirement account like a 401k. You do this until you’re 35 and then you stop completely. Yes, you quit putting any money into your 401k and get to reap the full benefits of your paychecks. By the time you are 65 (an ideal age for retirement) you will have nearly half a million dollars! That’s right. A simple $30,000 investment over the span of 10 years just turned into $472,000. Now, imagine if you kept investing all the way up to 65. That’s rough, but you can also start even earlier. By saving right at 20 (it doesn’t have to be $250 a month, it can be less) and saving all the way to 35, you can plan on getting up well over half a million dollars. That’s a lot of dough that seemingly came out of nowhere. This is why saving early is so important.


Do You Really Need An Accountant?

If you’re like the majority of people I know then you probably don’t want anything to with math and number crunching. If you’re like this then you are definitely someone who should hire a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) for either your business (if you own one) and/or your taxes. Doing your own taxes definitely has its fair share of advantages, but hiring a CPA can give you access to other resources that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

CPAs, as far as I know, have a very good reputation. They’re personable, sociable, but ultimately they want the best for you and your financial situation. But this is all part of being a CPA; they’re paid to do this. As an accountant, you’re expected to know your way around financial situations, be able to consult, and give advice to your client. Many businesses hire accountants as most business owners have other things to worry about other than crunching numbers, record keeping, and staying up to do date with “boring stuff” like that. From my experience, you can only really gain from hiring an accountant. I’ve heard stories of many business owners who think they have the time and smarts to create budget plans, analyze revenue, expenses, profit margins, etc. They were wrong as they got their numbers wrong and ended up having to pay lots of money. Even though hiring an outsider may not sound like a cheap investment, you will understand that it is when you figure ways that your business can save money.

The same works for taxes. Doing your taxes yourself can save you money as you won’t have to hire anybody, but you run the risk of getting your numbers wrong; not to mention the time it takes to sit down and go through everything. Now, there are some people that do their own taxes and they wouldn’t change it for anything. These people get a strong understanding of the tax code, save money, and actually save time (as long as the taxes are simplified). However, hiring a CPA gives you access to expert advice, ways to save money, and (if your taxes are more complex) can save you a lot of time. It really all depends on what type of person you are. If you don’t trust anyone touching/seeing your financial situation, then you would be better doing it yourself. However, if you’re all about getting the most experienced eyes looking at your taxes, then you should definitely hire a CPA.

Why A Clean Shaven Head Is Always Better Than A Comb-Over

Why A Clean Shaven Head Is Always Better Than A Comb-Over

Certain hair styles have quickly become unanimously agreed upon as being “no-no’s” in the public world. The comb-over has recently been one of those hairstyles. For the longest time, the standard comb-over was a popular technique for men who are quickly balding. There used to be a theme of “cover your head no matter what”, and men would grow there very last few hairs out and attempt to have them cover their whole head. The worst part of comb-overs is the greasy gel used to keep the comb-over fixed. This often made for extremely greasy hair; combine this with a partially covered head and you instantly have someone who likes like he may have some sort of disease.

A simple clean shaven head has now become the better alternative; this provides a few benefits to the comb-over. First of all, clean shaven heads are extremely easy to take care of. There is no gel or grease used. In fact, once you shave your head, you don’t have to even touch it for a few weeks or even months (depending on how fast your hair grows). Even better yet, shaving your head is an easy task that even you can do yourself as long as you have a nice electric shaver. If you want to get really picky with your shaved head, you could even take a manual razor to it and try to clean up some tight edges. This article goes into detail as to how you can shave your head.

The next big reason as to why a clean shaven head is always better than the notorious comb-over is the message it paints. First of all, a clean shaven head is about as simple and natural of a look out there. It’s really nothing but your face and your head; it says “here I am, this is me”. Even if you don’t have the most attractive looking skull, it shows that you have no desire for fancy hair styles. Generally, very straight-forward people prefer clean shaven heads as it directly presents their personality.

Also, a clean shaven head can really change the way you look. A lot of people tend to look way younger with a clean shaven head; this is most likely caused by having a young appearing face. On the other end, a shaved head can make you look a lot older. It all depends on the guy which is better, but a clean shaven head has the potential to do both. No matter how you slice it, a bald look is always better than the out-dated comb-over.

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How To Choose Facial Hairstyles That Match Your Personal Style

How To Choose Facial Hairstyles That Match Your Personal Style

Have you ever stared at yourself in the mirror and pondered the idea that maybe you don’t have the right hair style? It’s very plausible considering many of us change hair styles in search for something that really fits us. Generally you want your hair style to fit the shape of your face, but don’t forget you also want it to fit your personality.

The first place you should start in determining the right hair style for your personality is what you typical day is like. Depending on your work environment and common living style you can really find something that fits you. For instance: if you are in a hot work environment doing lots of physical activity, you probably have short hair on your head which means you should keep it consistent. In hot work environments and/or being very physically active generally doesn’t mesh well with big bushy beards.

Style is everything when it comes to physical appearance. Having no facial hair can say just as much as  having the craziest facial hair out there. If you are a reserved person who doesn’t like lots of attention, then a clean face might be the option for you. Otherwise, something very contempt is the way to go. A simple 5 o-clock shadow that is nicely kept is a very reserved, classy look. Regardless, keeping your facial hair well maintained is probably the most important of all. In order to get your facial hair look neat, sharp, and clean, getting a high quality razor and trimmer are mandatory.  Just remember, the more time you put into your facial hair, the more time will spend looking at it and admiring it. You want that don’t you?

The actual science of facial hair is that it can paint a general picture of your personality before someone even gets to know you. For instance, a bushy black beard and mustache can make you appear aggressive and/or intimidating. This could work for or against you; it all depends on the recipient. On the other hand, a clean-shaven or someone with light stubble might appear sociable, charismatic, and confident. With this said, if it is a ragged looking stubble with patches of gray, one may mistake you for for someone living in poverty who can’t afford a nice razor.

This article on The Huffington Post goes into detail about some of the messages you pass off with your facial hair. Of course, your actual face has a lot to do with it too, but generally your facial hair can really send out a vivid message. You can see that facial hair gives off vibes about your maturity, confidence, and overall life style.

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Stranger Than Fiction

Stranger Than Fiction

Cats around the world tend to look the same, with the only variations being the color or length of their fur. However there are a few of them that are quite unique looking.

The domestic cat or Felis silvestris catus is a carnivorous mammal which became domesticated about 7500 BC, much later than the domestic dog. Some countries revere cats such as Egypt, where they are thought to have first been domesticated. Egyptians even had a cat god known as Bastet, who is the goddess of cats, love, dance, music, joy, and protection. When Egyptians passed into death they took their cats with them, and often archeologists would find mummified cats alongside of their mummified people.

One unusual looking cat is named for the mighty Sphinx in Egypt. The Sphynx is unusual in that it looks to be hairless; it actually has fur which is very short and somewhat fuzzy. They also do not have eyebrows or whiskers, and can work well in families with allergies due to their lack of fur. Another cat with unusual characteristics is the Munchkin, which looks like a cat version of a Dachshund. Due to a spinal malformity it has short stumpy legs and a large head.

The Savannah is a beautiful cat with very unusual markings due to being bred with a wild African cat. They are very intelligent and can be taught to walk on a leash. This cat has a very unusual trait of loving water and can jump up to 10 feet in the air from a standstill!

The Scottish Fold has very unusual ears in that they do not stand up as all other cats do. Rather they fold forward due to a genetic mutation in the ear cartilage. They also have a strange habit of sitting “Budda like” in a chair; that is straight up with their legs stuck out in front of them.

Another feline with the unusual trait of chirping is the Pixie-Bob. These cats look remarkably like a wild Bobcat, with a distinctive stubby tail. This cat does not usually meow but instead emits a sound much like chirping. They are an intelligent breed that loves to learn and can even be taught to play fetch. These cats can grow to be very large compared with the size of other cats.

One trait that is common in all cats is the ability to purr. Researchers are still uncertain exactly what causes purring in a cat, but they and all cat owners can ascertain that it means all is well. Kittens while they are nursing cannot meow, but they can purr which alerts the mother that everything is OK. When a person strokes a cat the purring will begin almost immediately, if it is being done right. Touch a cat in a way they do not like and you won’t get a purr, but a swipe from the paw instead!

Cats are not the only creatures who purr; raccoons, hyenas, and relatives to the cat such as civets and mongooses can purr as well.

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Fruits: For Healthy Happy Dogs

Fruits: For Healthy Happy Dogs

Pet owners may not like to hear it, but it’s a proven fact; some pets are smarter than others. There are particular breeds of dogs that are more easily trainable, and other dogs that are obstinate and headstrong. It does not mean the other dogs are stupid, it just means that they would do better with an experienced dog owner who knows how to train rather than someone with their first dog.

Take for example the German Shepherd; they are well known as a police dog and for their service in the military. They are trainable for a wide variety of tasks, and are dependable and very loyal.

The Bloodhound is another dog that is very intelligent. They are often used to trail suspects who are on the run, and their ability to track people is so great that evidence found can be used in a courtroom.

Beagles are another dog whose intelligence is used for tracking, but what they tracked is very unusual. When the United States came under attack of the bedbug the Beagles incredible sniffing abilities were used by business owners and exterminators to sniff out the critters hiding places so the bedbugs could be eliminated.

Intelligent dogs are also the dogs who love to play games and use their natural instincts, such as smaller dogs being trained for Earthdog trials. Summertime is perfect for humans and dogs alike as we can all get outdoors to run and play in the sunshine.

Summertime is traditionally the time of year when eating habits lighten up for humans and for animals as well. When the days start getting longer our hormones change along with them; we start taking more time to complete  our outdoor tasks as it starts to get hot and our bodies require less food as a result of our slowing metabolisms.

The same can be said for our animals; as it starts heating up outside our pets will tend to stay indoors more often preferring the air conditioning to muggy hot air. You may notice your dog will start eating less for the same reasons humans do; their metabolisms slow down as well.

With all of the great fruits and vegetables available during the summertime, and the benefits of the vitamins and minerals contained within it’s a good time of year for a bit of sharing. Feeding people food to animals is not always a great idea, as some foods such as dairy products can cause diarrhea. But feeding your pooch a piece of strawberry for example, can be a tasty and healthy snack for them. Foods such as cantaloupe, watermelon, and green beans are all healthy snacks for a dog. However as with any food, care should be taken when feeding a dog anything new as pets can have food sensitivities.

There are also many foods that are toxic to dogs and should be avoided at all costs such as chocolate, macadamia nuts, grapes and raisins, garlic and onions, and avocados. Anyone who is contemplating feeding their dog people foods should do their research first to ensure they are not giving their pet something that will make them sick. No one wants to visit the vet for a stomach pump!

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For You: Chocolate, For Your Dog: Poison!

For You: Chocolate, For Your Dog: Poison!

While having a conversation with my mother one day I was shocked to learn that her man feeds their dogs a tootsie roll every night as a treat. After explaining to her that chocolate can be poison to a dog and why, she simply shrugged and said that they had been doing it for years. I was a bit confused until I looked up the ingredients in a tootsie roll and found out that it has small trace amounts of cocoa, but is mainly made up of skim milk and corn syrup.

Regardless, anything with chocolate or cocoa should never be given to a dog which I remind her of every chance I get. Chocolate is a tasty treat for humans and if eating dark chocolate can even be good for you. Dark chocolate contains anti-inflammatory compounds, can improve insulin sensitivity, and research has shown that it can even improve cardiovascular function. Dark chocolate contains flavonoids which boosts the power of vitamin C, protects cells from damage and also protects blood cells.

Chocolate of any kind contains theobromine, which in humans can increase the heartbeat and also decrease blood pressure. Theobromine is also the chemical in chocolate that can kill a dog.

Dogs that ingest chocolate, particularly dark chocolate can experience dehydration, stomach issues such as diarrhea and vomiting, and a slowed heart rate. Dogs that are very sensitive to theobromine can experience seizure like symptoms and even cardiac arrest from just a small amount.  The caffeine in chocolate can cause hyperactivity, and an increased or abnormal heart rate. It can even cause acute pancreatitis which can lead to shock and death.

Any dog that has ingested chocolate should be taken to the nearest veterinarians’ office immediately. What will usually occur is the vet will cause the dog to vomit, to try and eliminate the chocolate from their system before it is digested. They will probably be given activated charcoal to help absorb any trace amounts of chocolate left in their stomach. The term activated charcoal means that the vet will heat the charcoal which will cause the charcoal to become more absorbent. Further treatments will depend on how the dog is behaving but could include heart rate or blood pressure medication, treatment for seizure, and possibly an intravenous drip of fluids.

Rather than taking chances with the health and well being of your pet, it is best to keep them away from the chocolate. Because of a dog’s incredible ability to smell, it is best to keep such things far out of reach. When a dog smells something they want, they will go after it as demonstrated by my Siberian Husky who smelled the barbeque chicken getting ready for the grill that was sitting on my kitchen table. I left to light the fire and within five minutes that dog had climbed onto the kitchen table and eaten two raw chickens covered in barbeque sauce! It would have been funny were it not for the fact that he had eaten raw chicken, which had us at the vet with a stomach pump in action. Thankfully the dog was fine, and I learned my lesson about keeping things high enough that the dog was unable to reach.

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Pampering Your Best Friend!

Pampering Your Best Friend!

It’s a well known fact that Americans love to pamper their pooches; last year over $60 billion dollars was spent dressing them up, giving them treats and treating them better than humans treat themselves.

When most individuals think of pampering their dog or cat, it’s usually the “old-fashioned” idea of giving them a special treat like a bone or some catnip. Today’s pet receives a level of pampering that was unheard of, and still is to some.

How about a leaving your dog at a pet hotel while you are on vacation? They get to lounge around on a full size bed and watch TV all day long if they would like. Is doggy feeling stressed? Maybe they need a Doga day. Doga is yoga for dogs and it’s not just available in the “feel good” west, it’s available in Texas too. Having a bar-b-que this weekend; let you dog in on the fun with a beer made specifically for dogs. Bowser Beer substitutes the alcohol and because it’s made from malt barley it’s actually good for them.

Massage is another thing that dogs are enjoying with doggy massage parlors opening all over the country. It’s actually been proven to relax aggressive dogs; adding some essential oils that the dog can smell will help them to associate the smell with relaxation. Add a couple drops of the oil to a bandana tied around their neck and the dog will remain calm and peaceful. Doggy ice cream, swimsuits for small dogs, and yes, even hair extensions, the choices available for a puppy pamper day are almost endless.

What about their crash pad you may ask? Every dog wants a styling dog house to show their friends. This is another area where people are taking their ideas to the next level. A lot of dog owners will want their canine companions’ house to reflect their own and so will have one built that exactly matches the main house. There are also dog houses that look like mountain log cabins, some that resemble a Swiss ski chalet, and even some with gardens planted on the rooftops. With a dog house a person can get as creative as money will allow. Some have “bling” hot glued all over, some resemble an old west saloon, one was carved out of an old barrel and one was built to look like a stylish townhome.

Decorating a dogs house is only limited to the imagination. Planters can be hung around with real or fake plants (make sure they’re doggy safe), the house can be painted in bright colors, it can have a porch and awnings for rainy weather, the roof can be solar paneled or a box built for herbs to grow, it can even have air conditioning installed!  There can be street signs on poles, fake grass if real grass is too hard to keep, and even a weather vane for stormy days. Decorating the dogs’ house is a great craft idea for children as well.

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