The topic of last week's article was the teen being the "ringmaster" of their life circus. The focus was on helping teens understand the needs to take conscious control of their time and energy, taking on a ringmaster role, planning the circus lineup and being proactive about planning a schedule.

This week, Act II will identify key people and performers with strategies in the teen's daily circus. The ringmaster needs to work with the performers for a successful show. Sample performers are:

* High-trapeze performers: In life, these are key teamwork individuals who work effectively and know that everyone is important. If one performer does not catch the other, he or she will fall. An example would be your parents or sports teammates.

* Animal trainers: In life, these are key individuals who build trust with others; they meet others' needs and look beyond fulfilling their own. An example would be a general manager, teacher or coach.

* Circus clowns: In life, these individuals understand the importance of having fun and a good time. People need to laugh, relax and not take themselves so seriously. An example would be those friends that make you laugh or see the lighter side of a situation.

How are the performers (friends, teachers, parents, coaches) doing to help teens with their circus? Besides working effectively with others, the audience (family, community or school) expects much from the performers and the ringmaster, and they have high expectations of a good show. An example of a "good show" may look like a ringmaster who spent the right amount of time working with the track coach (animal trainer), the track team members (high trapeze performers) and supportive friends (circus clowns) to become the state track champion. Because the ringmaster managed their time with the performers and had a good line-up schedule created, they were able to perform their best to get the community (audience) excited and very proud of the accomplishment. Teens need to reflect on who, in the audience, would be happy with what they are seeing. Who would be disappointed?

By identifying key people and performers, teens can understand how the ringmaster needs to work with others. With the skills for time management, may a teen's days be Circus Days!

Christmas tree tips

If you have never purchased and set up a real, live Christmas tree, but are considering it because you're thinking "green," you are not alone! However, before you buy, you should think about how you are going to set-up and care for that tree and about how you will dispose of it. Here are a few tips to help keep the purchase and set-up process an exciting event that will create memories and traditions that last a lifetime.

Selection and purchase

Real trees are commonly sold by choose-and-cut farms. Procedures vary greatly from farm to farm, but, in general, you'll probably arrive and either walk or ride to the field and select the tree you want. You then cut the tree or an attendant cuts the tree for you and the tree is transported back to the central location. Attendants will then shake the dead needles from the tree.

You can also buy real trees from lots set up just for a few weeks to accommodate seasonal demand. Many full-time retailers such as hardware stores, grocery stores, and big box stores also sell real Christmas trees. These trees are precut, baled and shipped to the point of final sale. Since the trees are precut, take care to make sure your tree is fresh, so that after you set it up, it will last through the holiday season.


A tree that has been cut for more than six to eight hours needs to have one-half inch or so cut off the butt end before you place it in a tree stand and water it. When a tree is cut and the cut left exposed to air, the exposed cells become blocked to water uptake. When recut, the tree is then able to take up water (use cool water).

Tree stands

The main characteristics to look for in a tree stand are: Stability; adequate water capacity (about one quart for each inch of stem diameter); and ease of set-up.

Tree care

If you buy a tree, don't plan to set it up for a few days or longer, store it in a cool location out of the wind and sun. Trees dry out rapidly on warm, windy days with direct sunlight on them.

When setting up a tree, keep it away from direct sources of heat such as warm-air floor vents, operating wood stoves, fireplaces, hot lights, etc.

After you've selected a stand that can hold an ample supply of water, be sure to keep filling it! Trees typically take a lot of water the first week or two, and then slow down.

If the tree runs out of water, it loses its ability to take up water and starts to dry out. At that point, you must take the tree down and make a fresh cut on the base of the stem. To avoid this, be sure to check and water the tree every day.

With a little thought and care, your real Christmas tree can bring you joy over the holidays and create lasting memories. Happy holidays and merry Christmas!

Source: Purdue University, Forestry and Natural Resources

Tips for eBay trading

The holiday shopping season is here. Due to less time for shopping and the growing ease of purchasing online, eBay is one place many consumers turn to to find great gifts.

If you're going to purchase gifts online this holiday season, here are a few tips for eBay buyers that can help ensure a happy shopping holiday:

* Shop as early as possible. Remember, when you bid, auctions take time to close, payments take time to clear, sellers take time to ship and shippers take time to deliver.

* Buy only from reputable sellers. Even if you're normally happy taking buying risks or trying out new sellers when you shop on eBay, the holidays are generally not the right time to do this.

* Don't take the "too good to be true" bait. Every holiday season there are certain items that are hot sellers or that are very expensive and in demand, and given the nature of eBay, there are often a number of fraudulent listings for these items. If an item is sold out everywhere at $1,000, don't even think about bidding on the one listed on eBay at $250.

* Pay attention to the exchange policy. People have become so accustomed to being able to return and exchange retail goods around the holidays, they often forget about such details when it comes to online shopping. Examine a seller's return or exchange policy carefully if it is important to be able to return the item for another, or for cash.

Source: Kansas State Research Extension

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