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Everyday Miracles C hristmas has always been a huge deal for my family. I can still remember how exciting it was to go to sleep on Christmas Eve, knowing the next day my whole family would be together. I was 19 the first time I was away from my family on Christmas morning. I had spent Christmas Eve with my grandmother, and the plan was for me to fly out early and be home in time for Christmas dinner. But as my plane approached the airport, the pilot came on the intercom to make an announcement. “Folks, we have good news and bad news,” he said. “The bad news is the fog is so bad, no planes can take off or land today. The good news is there’s another little airport where we can land. However, it’s Christmas, and there are no ground transports. We’ll be stuck there all day.” This news broke my heart, and I started to think about everything I would miss. My parents, my brother, and my aunt were already together. Mom would have already made her special dishes. Everyone would be eating dinner and opening presents soon. I was going to miss all of it. It was about to be the worst Christmas ever when something extraordinary happened: We landed! The fog was so thick, you couldn’t see anything until the plane touched down, but we made it safe and sound. We were the only plane able to land that day. I got a ride from the airport and got to be with my family on Christmas Day after all. I have always called this story my Christmas miracle. What Makes the Holidays Magical?
“There is something about the holidays that makes miracles seem possible.”
and wonder of the season. There is something about the holidays that makes it easier to look at the world with hope in our eyes. With this attitude, we can find deep, meaningful experiences in everyday occurrences. Jon Bon Jovi once said, “Miracles happen everyday. Change your perception of what a miracle is and you’ll see them all around you.” Planes land all the time, but in the light of Christmas, that landing was a miracle to me. What if we walked into the world with the intention to be kind to one another? What if we kept that hope and holiday spirit with us all year long? What if we treated every day like Christmas? How many more miracles would we see then? Happy holidays from all of us at Visiting Angels. We wish you and your loved ones a holiday filled with everyday miracles.
There is something about the holidays that makes miracles seem possible. Close your eyes and recall your favorite holiday memory. Think of the comforting smells, the sounds of laughter, and the warmth you felt in your heart. This joy encourages us to open ourselves up to the magic
Cindy Saunders, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
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Stop Donating to Scammers How to Spot Fraud This Holiday Season
Feeling Pressured? Walk Away. A lot of charities set goals they want to reach before the new year, but even groups that are hoping to raise a certain amount of money know better than to pressure donors into giving. Donations should always come from the heart, and it’s a bad sign if someone insists there’s a deadline for giving. As the Better Business Bureau says, “Responsible organizations will welcome your gift tomorrow as much as they do today.” Only Give to Reputable Charities. Do some research before donating to charities. Look up any prospective charity on Charity Navigator at CharityNavigator. org. This service flags “high concern” organizations suspected of fraud and ranks how reliable established charities are. Even legitimate organizations can be misleading about how they spend their donations. A good rule of thumb is to avoid organizations that spend more than 25 percent of donations on salaries or administrative costs. There are many amazing charities and organizations that do good work. Stay vigilant to make sure you are bringing joy to the world and not falling for a criminal looking to make a quick buck. why Jean Setzfand, a senior vice president at AARP, refers to them as a last resort. Scams and Identity Theft Sadly, many identity thieves and cybercriminals target the elderly. While your credit report can be corrected after such an event, many seniors are unequipped to deal with the process. The best defense is to check your statements often to ensure that any foul behavior is caught as early as possible. Confusion Regarding Fees Many seniors reported charges they didn’t understand to the CFPB. Often, they were signed up for subscriptions they didn’t use or weren’t sure how interest was being calculated. As with identity theft, monitoring your statements for unusual charges is the best way to avoid this source of stress. Loss of a Spouse The loss of a spouse presents challenges much greater than the financial burden, but that is often a major part of navigating the death of your partner. Accessing bank accounts and other assets can prove difficult, especially if was the deceased who primarily managed the finances. Working with a financial planner or elder law attorney can help make this process less daunting
During the season of giving, charities receive a much-
needed rush of donations as people open their hearts to others. Unfortunately, criminals are all too willing to abuse this goodwill.
According to a report from the Justice Department, Americans over the age of 60 lose over $3 billion a year to scams and fraudsters. As charity scams reach their peak, here’s what you need to do to ensure your donations aren’t lining the pockets of criminals. Never Give by Phone or Email. Charities regularly reach out to past and potential donors through traditional mail, email, phone calls, or text messages. This means fraudsters will mimic their approach with less noble intentions. Because it’s impossible to determine who is on the other end of a call or email, you should never hand over your credit card information to strangers. If you really are speaking to a representative from a legitimate charity, they will direct you to a secure avenue where you can give without worry. Planning for and navigating retirement is the most pressing financial concern for older adults. While understanding how to budget and spend as you approach and enter retirement is crucial, it’s far from the only issue that seniors face. Last year, a report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) investigated the most commonly reported complaints the organization had received from adults age 62 and older. Aside from retirement savings, here are the five major issues reported by seniors. Debt The number of seniors and retirees with debt is at an all-time high. Many seniors carry excessive debt in order to ease the burden on their children and grandchildren. Some still have student debt from their college years or other outstanding loans. Others turn to credit cards to defray a surprise cost like a medical emergency. If you’re in danger of falling behind on payments, contact your lenders before opening a new credit account. Reverse Mortgages Many seniors have reverse mortgages, which allow them to buy into home equity provided they repay it when the property is sold. In this mortgage structure, however, people still need to pay property taxes and homeowner’s insurance. These mortgages can end up being a trap for seniors, which is
5 Common Financial Struggles for Seniors
Whether You’re Retired or Not
A TRUE MIRACLE Christmas Stories That Will Leave You Amazed
The holidays are a time for wonder, and you don’t have to look far to see why. Here are a few amazing holiday stories that are nothing short of miraculous.
The Hatbox Baby On Christmas Eve of 1931, Ed and Julia Stewart were driving home when their car broke down in the middle of the Arizona desert, 7 miles from the nearest town. As Ed checked the engine, Julia went for a walk and discovered a black hatbox. Inside was a newborn baby girl. The Stewarts brought the mysterious baby to town, where she was quickly adopted and named Sharon Elliot. Two Miracles When Tracy Hermanstorfer went into labor on Christmas Eve of 2009, she suffered a cardiac arrest at the hospital and stop breathing. The doctors raced to save the baby, but the newborn was weak, and his pulse faded fast. It looked like tragedy was inevitable. Then, despite being clinically dead for four minutes, Tracy’s heart started beating again. Within a few minutes, the baby gasped for breath, and his pulse stabilized. Both Tracy and her son Coltyn made a full recovery and celebrated a happy New Year’s with their family.
A Christmas Letter It was winter of 1917, and Archie Clikeman, who had gone to Europe to fight in World War I, was missing in action and presumed dead. Devastated, the Clikeman family chose not to celebrate Christmas that year. Then, on Christmas Eve, they got a call from the town postmaster. The mail train had come that day, and though the mail wouldn’t be delivered until after Christmas, he had to get a message to the Clikemans right away. A postcard from Archie had just arrived. He was being held as a prisoner of war, but he was alive. That turned out to be the best Christmas ever — until the next year, when Archie came home.
30-Minute Cauliflower Soup
This hearty soup is a quick, easy, healthy addition to your holiday table. It can also be made vegetarian by substituting chicken broth with vegetable broth.
Ingredients • 1 small head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), cored and sliced • 1 leek, chopped • 1 medium onion, chopped • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped Directions 1. In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter into warm oil. Add onion and leek, season with salt and pepper, and cook until tender, about 10–12 minutes.
• 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth • 1/2 cup heavy cream • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil • Salt and pepper, to taste cauliflower is tender, about 15 minutes. 3. Using a blender, purée in batches until smooth. 4. Top servings with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of pepper. Inspired by Good Housekeeping
2. Stir in garlic and cook for 1
minute. Add cauliflower, broth, and cream. Simmer until
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Do You Believe in Miracles?
Scammed for the Holidays
Financial Struggles Older Adults Face
True Christmas Miracles
30-Minute Cauliflower Soup
An Unforgettable Season
Start a New Holiday Tradition
JINGLE SHELLS ART & CRAFT FESTIVAL WHERE: Seymour Marine Discovery Center, Santa Cruz WHEN: Sunday, Dec. 9; 12–5:30 p.m. ADMISSION: Free with museum admission WEBSITE: SeymourCenter.ucsc.edu/visit/calendar Shopping for someone who dreams of life under the sea? Then make plans to attend the Jingle Shells Art & Craft Festival! Grab a hot cider, meet local artists, and discover one-of-a-kind creations inspired by the ocean. You can even take advantage of free gift-wrapping! After you’ve found that perfect gift, visit our undersea friends at the Seymour Center’s aquarium. You won’t find a better craft festival in all seven seas!
Who says holiday treats have to be unhealthy? Join Chef Eric Adema to learn how healthy, raw ingredients can be used to make key lime pie, mini chocolate cream cakes, carrot cake cupcakes, and many more delicious desserts! These tasty treats will be a welcome, guilt-free addition to any holiday party. ‘THE NUTCRACKER’ WITH LIVE ORCHESTRA WHERE: Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, Santa Cruz WHEN: Dec. 21 to Dec. 23 ADMISSION: See website for tickets. WEBSITE: SCBT.org
For generations, the adventures of Clara and her nutcracker prince in the Land of Sweets have delighted audiences around the world. This year, the Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre invites you and your family to be part of this beloved tradition. Over 70 local dancers are joined by a 52-piece orchestra as live music and breathtaking choreography bring the holiday tale to life once again.
RAW VEGAN HOLIDAY DESSERTS WHERE: New Leaf Community Markets, Santa Cruz WHEN: Thursday, Dec. 20; 6–8:30 p.m. ADMISSION: $40–45 WEBSITE: NewLeaf.com
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