When Gilda invited me to be a guest author I had several topics in mind. I wanted to share something related to the holidays, but because it was so hard to decide, I would like to share two of my writings. My first offering is a poem, “The Gift.” This poem will be included in my poetry book, to be published soon. It reveals a personal side of me and something I am personally grateful for. “The Gift” is a gift I gave to myself, and have hope that those who need it, as I did, will find it somewhere in their own heart. By sharing “the gift” with someone else, I found the best in me. I would like to hear your thoughts on your experiences with “the gift” revealed in the poem. My second offering is an article, “Holiday Season Shopping Safety Tips,” a cautionary reminder to stay safe during the Holiday season. Lastly, Gilda, an exuberant thank you for the opportunity to meet and share with a new audience.
Sharon Rose

The Gift
The time has come for me to breathe free.
I have carried a burden unseen
By those around and entwined with me,
For some things remain reticent between us.

The unhealed damage formed ‘round me
And caused a suffocating crust,
That hardened against any trust
Of love in my life deemed unjust.

The tears, the fears, the searing heat
Of heartburn from loss and defeat.
Abandon, carried out for fun and games,
Left my uncertain path never the same.

To claim my life and escape the sin of hatred,
I prepared a gift wrapped ornately with faith.
To save my soul from the devil’s fiery brew,
Accept, from me, this gift of forgiveness.

Holiday shopping is already underway. Some are already feeling the mad rush and an urgency to get in on the sales. Then, there are others, like myself, who are really looking forward to taking advantage of the sales that will come after Christmas Day. This is the season of shopping! However, not meaning to promote fear or paranoia, it is also the season of higher petty crimes. Unfortunately, Holiday shoppers are prime candidates to be victimized. You can avoid being a victim by planning ahead. So, in the last weeks before Christmas, whether out shopping or just out and about, here are some tips that will help to keep you safe.

Safety Tips:

1. Get an early start. Traffic will tend to be quite dense. Stores open as early as 6:00 A. M. to 10:00 A. M. Some stores will remain open 24 hours. Leaving out early will help you get a relaxed start with more time to shop. Drive safe; don’t rush on the road.
2. Shop during the day, whenever possible. If you find that you cannot avoid shopping at night, be sure to take a buddy with you.

3. Park in a well lit area and as close to the store as possible. If a parking valet service is offered, this is a great time to take advantage of it. An example of valet parking service for shoppers is at Riverchase Galleria, a mall in Hoover, Alabama, a suburb of Birmingham.

4. If your children are shopping with you, keep them in view at all times. Don’t use toy stores, toy departments, toy aisles, or game arcades as a babysitter. The reality is predators may be looking for unattended children to prey upon. Don’t take the risk.

5. Provide teen children, who are more independent, with a cell phone so that you can keep in contact with them while you are shopping in different areas of a store or mall. Check in, intermittently, to make sure they are safe. Arrange in advance to meet them back at a designated place at an agreed upon time.

6. Ladies, take a purse that has a long strap and can be put over your head and across your body. This leaves your hands free to better carry packages and keeps your purse safe. Guys, it is suggested you find another place to carry your wallet instead of your back pocket. Discourage pick-pockets and purse snatchers. They do exist and this kind of crime is on the rise during the holiday season.

7. Avoid wearing expensive and excessive jewelry. This makes you vulnerable and attractive to thieves as a target.

8. Be wary of strangers who approach you and ask for donations or for any other reason. To avoid guilt feelings give at the office, church, or community charities early in the season. It is the season of giving and caring, but choose to do it in a safe environment. Taking out your wallet and flashing cash can make you vulnerable to crime.

9. Be cautious when using your cell phone. Cell phones are being snatched from user’s ears as they walk aimlessly along. Be observant of your surroundings while using your cell phone. During this season when thievery is taking place in some of the most unusual ways, cell phones are best used in a safe environment.

10. Don’t load yourself down with packages; it makes it difficult for you to carry them. You are more likely to drop things or put them down. If you take a seat to rest, place your packages in your view. When packages leave your hands they are vulnerable to thievery. You are also more likely to leave something behind.

11. Before you leave the store or mall to return to your car check to see if you have all of your belongings. Take your car keys out before going outside. Have them ready to open your car door, quickly. Put packages in your car and lock your door. Forgo placing and arranging packages in your trunk, which makes you vulnerable, unless absolutely necessary.

12. Cash Alerts: Avoid ATMs for cash and make transactions inside the bank during the Holiday Season. If you must use the ATM, make sure you are in a well lit and safe area, observe those around you, and/or conduct the transaction at a drive-up machine which allows you to stay in your car. Be cautious of counterfeit bills, usually distributed in forms of 20 dollar bills or 100 dollar bills. They are hard to detect, so examine cash carefully when receiving cash from transactions.

13. Do not leave packages or any other item visible in your car. Thieves are attracted to items visible on car seats or floor of the car, regardless of the size or value of an item. Thieves will break the windows of unattended vehicles to steal the smallest of items. Don’t risk it! Place items that you are not planning to take with you when you leave your car to shop, in the trunk of your car before you arrive at your shopping destination, or leave the items at home. If you place packages in the trunk of your car while shopping and need to continue shopping, move to another parking space. Thieves may have been watching and will break into your car when you walk away.

14. Shop online and take advantage of the competitive internet prices and discounts. Use codes and the printable coupons offered to get price breaks. Some or all of your shopping done from your computer, at home, will keep you out of the hustle and bustle.

Again, planning and being aware of safety is not paranoia, just plain common sense, especially during the holiday season. Let us remember, to keep our season festive and filled with peace and goodwill, we should all practice safety.

About the Author
Sharon Rose is a writer, speaker, teacher, and parent of three adult children. A long-time parenting advocate, her education, career path, and real-life journey raising her own three children has strengthened her ability and her passion to support other parents. Varied and interesting, her career path has included the following: Language Arts/ English teacher in public, private, and Christian school settings; school social worker; counselor of juvenile offenders and their families; and entrepreneur in the areas of educational and marketing consulting. With certifications in Parent Education and Reality Therapy, she has counseled both youths and adults in a therapeutic setting. It was Sharon Rose’s passion for empowering other parents that led her to create Parents Want to Know 101. On the right track to support other parents, in less than a year, Parents Want to Know 101 is gaining popularity with those interested in parenting issues. Parents Want to Know 101 is shared by many across Facebook, Digg, Twitter, and is a Motherhood contributor for Jane.TV. Sharon Rose is preparing a poetry book and a book on parenting for publication. To contact her, see more articles and blog posts, leave comments, and “Like” her fan page go here:

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Copyright, Holiday Season Shopping Safety Tips, Sharon Rose, Parents Want to Know 101, November 16, 2012. All rights reserved.