Urban Affairs & New Nontraditional Programs October-December 2010 Volume 10, No. 1 Metro News The Art of Listening By Donna Gullatte, Urban Regional Extension Agent … Making Extension Connections $aving Make$ Cent$ By Metara Austin, Urban Regional Extension Agent Did you hear me? A lot of times I hear my own voice saying these resounding words to my husband, my children, and other bystanders. Perhaps not having a loud voice contributes to the silence. Moreover, I think listening is a learned skill you have to practice in order to be considered a “good listener.” So often our attention is focused on many things like family, work, or running errands that true listening is not a part of our daily habits. We may hear others around us, but are we really listening? Real listening involves a three-step process: Step 1: Hearing that involves listening just enough to hear what the speaker is saying. Step 2: Understanding means taking what you heard and understanding it in your own way. Step 3: Judging involves taking what you heard and determining if it makes sense. If it does not make sense, then you may have to repeat the process and/or ask questions. Marriage and family life expert Dr. Gary Chapman states that conflict is nothing more than evidence that two people have different opinions and each one feels strongly about his or her own opinion. However, along with every conflict comes a flag waving in the wind that reads, "Take time to listen." Conflicts cannot be resolved without empathetic listening. I use the word empathetic because most couples believe they are listening to each other when in fact they are just loading their verbal guns. Empathetic listening means seeking to understand what another person is thinking and feeling. It is putting yourself in their shoes and trying to look at the world through their eyes. Empathetic listening also means that verbal guns have been laid aside in favor of truly understanding the other person's point of view. Instead of focusing on how we are going to respond to what the other person is saying, we focus entirely on hearing what the other person is saying. (continued on page 3) Saving money is more important than ever during these tough economic times, but it is not impossible. Are you prepared for unexpected bills, emergencies, or retirement? Are you saving for college, a home, a car, or a vacation? Let’s explore some ways to save! Pay yourself first! This doesn’t mean running out to buy that new pair of shoes, a new gadget, or a new music CD. It means putting some of the money from your paycheck in a savings account before you pay your bills or buy the things you want. Try a savings account or (piggy) bank! Savings accounts or piggy banks are great ways to save extra money for just about anything. Can you spare some change? Of course you can, so change those bad spending habits by putting that loose change to good use. Clip coupons to save money! Clipping coupons is an easy way to cut costs and double or triple your savings. No time to clip, then simply click and print. There are several online coupon sites that make coupon clipping a breeze. Don’t forget coupon codes if you shop online because they provide additional savings just like traditional coupons. Buy in Bulk! Buying in bulk can save big bucks. Purchasing items your household uses in large quantities is a surefire way to keep your grocery bill low and to watch your cash flow. Buy generic products! Buying generic products is an inexpensive way to get the items you want and need for less. While all products are not created equal, a lot of them are so do your homework and enjoy the savings. By saving your money you can improve your money management skills, prepare for unexpected expenses, and secure your financial future. Page 2 Metro News … Making Extension Connections Volume 10, No. 1 Reliable Resources When Facing Foreclosures By Elizabeth Phillips, Urban Regional Extension Agent As millions of Americans struggle in the economic downturn, homeowners who are at risk for foreclosure should be aware that scam artists and predatory organizations can make a bad situation worse. Reaching for any type of assistance without scrutinizing the source could lead to additional financial losses and greater stress for the homeowner. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) provides online help for consumers who face foreclosure at www.fdic.gov/foreclosureprevention. For homeowners who do not have access to the Internet, the FDIC offers foreclosure prevention assistance at (877) ASKFDIC or (877) 275-3342. Typical advice includes warnings for homeowners about mortgage foreclosure scams. Contact your state attorney general if you become a victim of a foreclosure scam. According to the FDIC, consumers should avoid any company that requires upfront fees. Any fee demanded during the course of mortgage foreclosure advising should serve as a signal to the consumer that something is not right about the assistance. Other warning signs about fraudulent offers include: Advice to sever any contact with lender or foreclosure prevention counselor. Offer to transfer ownership of your property. Advice to stop making mortgage payments or to reroute your payments to another source. Verbal promises and the insistence you sign documents with blank lines or spaces should alert consumers that something is wrong. Homeowners should contact their lenders to obtain reliable assistance to avoid a foreclosure. Lenders can recommend honest consumer credit counseling services to assist homeowners in rectifying their financial problems. FDIC also offers other resources to find legitimate foreclosure mitigation assistance including: United States Department of Housing & Urban Development www.hud.gov or (800) 569-4287 Homeownership Preservation Foundation www.995hope.org or (888)995-HOPE NeighborhoodWorks America www.findaforeclosurecounselor.org/ or http://www.nw.org/network/foreclosure/default.asp If you become a victim of a foreclosure prevention scam, report it to: Federal Trade Commission www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/ or (877) FTC-HELP State Attorney General (Complaint List) www.naag.org/attorneys_general.php Lenders can recommend honest consumer credit counseling services to assist homeowners in rectifying their financial problems. Consumer Protection Offices www.consumeraction.gov/state.shtml Page 3 Metro News … Making Extension Connections Volume 10, No. 1 The Art of Listening (continued from page 1) Affirming the importance of your relationship through empathetic listening begins by affirming the importance of your marriage relationship. When conflicts arise, set the stage for resolution by carefully stating your objective, such as “I want to hear what you are saying because I know it’s important to you and I value our relationship." I suggest you write this sentence on an index card and read it out loud to yourself once a day until you memorize it. Then when conflict arises, you will be ready to state your objective and be on the road to hearing completely. The latter sounds easier, but won’t mulched leaves hurt your turf? Nah! Studies at major universities, including Rutgers and Cornell, have confirmed that leaving chopped-up, mowed-down leaves on the lawn doesn’t hurt healthy turf. The crumbly leaf mold actually improves the soil, but do all things in moderation. For example, don’t wait until the leaves are six inches deep before you mow them. If the debris gets so deep that you can’t find your grass then it may be time to compost some of the leaves. Here are a few other listening tips to get you started: Leaves also make a great amendment for the soil in your vegetable garden. Leaves can be used to cover and protect bare soil in your vegetable garden during the winter, and they’ll help to protect any vegetables you have growing from the bitter cold too. You can chop and spread the leaves as you get them, or collect and “bake” the leaves in a temporary composting bin such as one made from poultry wire. You’ll want to till them in when spring comes around again. Look at your partner intently because sometimes the eyes speak loud and clear. Repeat back what your partner has stated in a calm and clear voice. For example, say, “So what you are saying is….” Express your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions in a calm and clear voice by saying, “I really like it when you help the dishes.” Don’t interrupt while your partner is talking. Allow him or her to share their thoughts completely and you should be given the same respect. What to do with those Awful Leaves? By Jerry Chenault, Urban Regional Extension Agent What will you do when autumn falls upon us and leaves cover us over? The leaves look beautiful for awhile and perhaps conjure up thoughts of cartoon character Charlie Brown kicking a football and crashing into a leaf pile. But after awhile, we start to wish those leaves were gone! What shall we do? I have been guilty at times of just letting the leaves fall and stay. Leaves will naturally decompose on your lawn over time, but an inch or more of fallen leaves can turn into a thick, wet, slimy, soggy, suffocating mess when the rainfalls of fall and winter come in. If you’d like to turn your lawn into a mud pit, go ahead and leave them. But if you want the grass to grow, the leaves have to go! What can you do with the fallen leaves? You could: Rake and bag them. Put them into a compost pile. Chop them up with the lawnmower. Shredded leaves can also be used as flower bed mulch. Shredding helps keep them from matting up or blowing away. The leaves will gradually decompose and enrich your soil as they protect from weeds and moisture fluctuations. Remember to avoid piling leaves or other mulch material up on the trunk of a tree or on the base of a shrub as this will surely encourage diseases like rots and pest infestation too. What about leaves or pine needles that fall into your bed areas on their own? Is that good? Up to a point it is; but if they get too thick or begin to cover over your plants, then it’s time to crank up the rake and the blower. Other suggestions on what to do with autumn leaves can be found at doityourself.com, such as: Stuffing a scarecrow. Hot-gluing dozens of leaves to a wreath base, easily obtainable at any craft store. Add a few seed pods for an especially great door decoration. Filling a clear glass lamp base with leaves for a timely, temporary décor. Slipping one special leaf into a child’s Halloween card. Spicing up a BBQ supper. Apple and maple leaves make a flavorful addition to an outdoor cooking fire. Enjoy your autumn! Don’t Believe the Hype: Become an Informed Consumer By Wendi Williams, Editor & Extension Communications Specialist It’s amazing how quickly we believe what we hear on television, radio, or through family, friends, and constituents. Sometimes we even allow our emotions to sweep us out into the Sea of Ignorance. But, I would like to challenge anyone reading this article to make better use of the tools that are literally at your finger tips to become a wiser consumer. Here are some factors to consider. The Internet I don’t think anyone could determine how much the Internet would impact the world. But other than the good ole local library, the Internet is the first place we usually search for information. We cannot depend on every online source, but there are reputable journals, articles, and publications like the ones produced by Cooperative Extension where you can obtain solid research-based information. Government agencies also provide resources the public can easily download. In fact, a quote taken from the Federal Trade Commission’s website says, “Education is the first line of defense against fraud and deception.” Statistics and Polls People can make statistics say and do just about anything. Just remember to view them discriminately. Find out who completed the statistics and if all the data has been collected, how it was collected, and lastly, how it was interpreted. Also, find out about the percentage or margin of error (TWC, 2007). As for polls, the first questions I usually ask about a poll are, “Who conducted the poll and whom did they poll?” Many people don’t like to be polled, which can cause non-response bias (Wikipedia, 2010). In other words, those that completed a poll may have a different viewpoint from those who did not answer a poll. The best way to get a true poll reading is to make sure there is fair representation among diverse populations (Marshall, 2010). Read the Fine Print Reading the fine print is always sound advice since it may keep us from entering into costly agreements later. Many car and credit card companies, for example, promise zero finance charges over a period of time. While that may sound good, it’s wise to find out what happens after that period of time has elapsed. What is the real percentage on the remaining debt balance? Many times reading the fine print may require us to do more homework in order to fully comprehend what we are reading and certainly, before we sign our life away. The bottom line is that it’s time to stop believing everything we hear or read. It’s time to do our homework so that we can make wiser decisions that are based on real facts. In short, it’s time to think for ourselves. Contributors Metara Austin, Urban Regional Extension Agent, Montgomery County Jerry Chenault, Urban Regional Extension Agent, Lawrence County Donna Gullatte, Urban Regional Extension Agent, Madison County Elizabeth Phillips, Urban Regional Extension Agent, Mobile & Baldwin counties Wendi Williams, Editor & Extension Communications Specialist, Alabama A&M University Metro News Editorial Team - Alabama A&M University Jannie Carter, PhD, Extension Assistant Director, Urban Affairs Julio Correa, PhD, Associate Professor & Extension Animal Scientist Jean Dwyer, MS, Extension Communications Specialist (Website Design) Carol Parham, MS, Event Planner Catherine Sabota, PhD, Professor & Extension Horticulturalist Wendi Williams, MS, Editor & Extension Communications Specialist (Newsletter Design) Please visit us online at www.aces.edu/urban/metronews. The online HTML version of this publication contains a complete listing of article references. For inquiries, please contact the editor at 256-372-4953 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Published by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities) in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. An Equal Opportunity Educator and Employer. All rights reserved.