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JJ Watt Gives Back to Soldiers

(shot, edited & written by Madeline Pena)

JJ Watt


JJ Watt Gives Back to Soldiers  (click link to watch story on KPRC’s website)

Dangers of Distracted Driving

Texting & Driving How often do you reach for your cell phone while driving? We all know we shouldn’t but when we hear our phones, we can’t help but look. During ABS’ Health and Safety Fair in Houston, ABS employees learned about the dangers of texting and driving through a distracted driving simulator.

Anthony Lawrence, a representative from the Distracted Driving program tested the driving skills of ABS employees. Here is how it works: the driver gets into the car, complete with a dashboard, steering wheel and seat belt. The only difference between the simulator and a real car is the simulator is stationary and instead of a windshield, there is a monitor displaying a virtual road.

It doesn’t seem that hard when you first get in and start driving. In fact, some might have taken the driving test to prove texting and driving isn’t a big danger. However, within the first ten minutes, the drivers started to swerve off the road, run numerous red lights and stop signs and at some points nearly crashed into other cars.

Statistics show the majority of people that text and drive are between the ages of 15 and 19; however, this behavior isn’t limited to that age group. While a quarter of teens respond to a text message once or more every time they drive, 10 percent of adults admit they have extended, multi-message text conversations while driving

Lawrence says, “Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent of driving 100 yards (91.4 meters) at 55mph. Also, reaching for your phone, dialing and texting increases the risk of getting into a crash by three times.”

The Distracted Driving simulation proved successful during Houston’s ABS’ Health and Safety Fair. Hopefully everyone who participated in the event and even those of you reading this right now, will keep the dangers of distracted driving in mind next time you get behind the wheel. Remember, waiting to respond can save your life!

Rodeo: What to Wear and Where to Get it

rodeo_logo_completeIt’s almost rodeo time and if you’re desperately trying to find the perfect rodeo outfit then look no further because I have the list of the 8 shops with the best deals around town. This list has it all from belts to boots and accessories! Get ready, get set, let’s go shopping!

  1. Texas Junk Company: The name sounds like all you might find there is junk but you know what they say, “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” I went there this past weekend and found some great stuff. The store which is located in the Montrose area is only open Fridays and Saturday from 11am to 6pm. Boots start at $30, denim wear at $10 and shirts at $5. You can’t beat those prices.
  2. Buffalo Exchange: This is a great place to find more modern styled boots. They have cute ankle booties for about $25. They have two Houston locations one on Westheimer Rd. and Bissonnet St.
  3. D’Dazzled Resale Boutique: I have heard many great things about this boutique. First off, their selection is endless when it comes to dresses, tops and boots. They are located on W. Gray St. near Waugh Dr.
  4. WISH Houston: This is also one of my favorite places to visit. They have great dresses to pair with cowgirl boots. Their dresses start at $20 unless you catch one of their many sidewalk sales. I’ve scored several dresses for $10 each! You definitely can’t beat that.
  5. Retropolis: The store is more retro but if you go on a good day, you’ll be able to get a groovy deal some great accessories like a bangin bangle, or even some nice shades to protect your face from that Texas heat.
  6. Jubilee: It will cost you a couple of hundred bucks for the boots but their prices on tops and jazzed up jeans are great! Plus their accessories are just what you need to put that extra sparkle in your outfit.
  7. Value Village: Located in the Heights, at this place you will get major bang for your buck. According to their website, their women’s department has over 40,000 pieces with prices starting at $0.49! I mean, it just doesn’t get any better than that.
  8. Duo: Located on the corner of Westheimer and Dunlavy is one of my favorite places to hit up. Their clothes are so unique, stylish and funky. You can bet that you will WOW that cowboy in your life with one of their outfits. Prices are $15 and up but if you catch them during one of their sales, you’ll be sure to leave with a smile on your face and extra cash in your wallet from all the money you saved!

Check out my slideshow of some of my favorite rodeo outfits. Use this as a guide to help you when you hit the stores on my list. Remember, it’s all about big and colorful accessories, well-fitting jeans, a cute top and classic boots.  Tweet me or Instagram your rodeo outfit at with the hashtag #YHMRodeoPick. Click HERE for a list of all the events happening at this year’s Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Happy shopping!

***This post originally appeared on www.younghoustonmagazine.com where I am a regular contributor.***

2014: Making Resolutions Work For You

Goal SettingWe are in the first week of January 2014 and people everywhere are readily posting their new year’s resolutions on social media. Many of us post about how much we’ll be hitting the gym and following the new diet plan. Others say they will stop cursing or will get a better handle on managing their money, but let’s be honest –We are not REALLY going to do those things are we? I don’t understand why we must fall into the hype of creating a new year’s resolution list when we know deep down that we don’t plan to follow through. Now don’t get me wrong, I know some of you will keep up with your resolutions so this article isn’t for you. This is for the 99% of you that fall into the same pattern of promising yourself to accomplish certain goals only to let yourself down a few weeks later. Ask yourself this question: What resolutions did you tell yourself you would accomplish last year? Did you accomplish them? If the answer is no, how do you feel knowing that you didn’t follow through? Maybe the problem is not you but instead the kind of resolutions that you are making. A tip to make them stick is to make your resolution specific to you and your lifestyle. Just because someone else has the time to hit the gym 5 days a week doesn’t mean you do. So instead of saying I am going to go to the gym more just say I will start working out by running/walking/dancing for 15-30 minutes twice a week . For those of you that want to stop cursing, start a swear jar or tell your friends to help keep you in check. They key is to make your resolutions count and fit into your lifestyle. Here is another idea, have you ever thought of adding to your life instead of taking things away? Maybe it would be a better idea to work at furthering your career by attending mixers and networking events. Listen, my point here is to let you know that a new year is supposed to be a chance for you to be a better than the person you were last year. Words to Live By: “Always try to be a better version of your previous self.”  We can do this together by motivating one another every day. Don’t be intimidated by what others are doing and just focus on you. I believe in you, I believe in me, and I believe in US!

***This post originally appeared on www.younghoustonmagazine.com where I am a regular contributor.***

Father-Daughter Duo Tackle Incredible Challenges

GARYnDEVANWhat does endurance mean? According to Webster’s Dictionary, endurance is the ability to withstand hardship or adversity; especially the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity. Gary Horn, Director of the IACS Hull Panel and member of Corporate Technology and his daughter Devan show they have what it takes to endure things many of us wouldn’t have the guts to.

When he leaves his post at the end of the day, Gary runs—A LOT! In fact, he recently took on a Leadville race in Colorado. The 100 mile race is typically finished in less than 30 hours –with no breaks, sleeping, or rest.

Gary said the race was challenging enough in itself (it took him 28 hours and 20 minutes) but was having a hard time focusing because he kept thinking about his daughter Devan. You see, at that time Devan was just finishing up a race of her own.

At just 20 years old, Devan raced the 650 mile horse race across the epic wilderness of the Mongolian Steppe. “I could say that I was intimidated. It is the longest and hardest endurance race in the world, but more than feeling intimidated or overwhelmed, I think I felt challenged. It was one of those things that I felt the overwhelming need to do. I needed to run this race the minute I heard about it,” Devan explained.

Devan, who had been riding horses since she was six and had watched her father take on competitive racing, knew she could take on the challenge. The one-of-a-kind course is a recreation of Genghis Khan’s ancient postal system—a mammoth network of 25 horse stations across the Mongolian Steppe. Riders change their semi-wild horses at each station. The riders also stay with local nomadic herding families that run the stations and provide the horses.

The race kicked off on August 4th and from the start Devan proved she would be the one to beat. Everyone seemed to be rooting for her, even the local Mongolian residents. She rode a near-perfect race and even crossed the finish line first, making her the first female rider to do so.

However, rules for the Mongol Derby stipulate that each rider’s horse must pass a veterinary inspection at the end of each leg of the race. Devan’s horse’s heart-rate did not recover in the required amount of time. She was issued a two hour penalty and during that time 19-year-old Lara Palmer from Great Britain crossed the finish line, giving her the official title. “I was pretty devastated. It was hard because the penalty wasn’t caused by something I had done. The horse’s heart rate was out of my control and it cost me the title,” said Devan.

One thing is clear, both Gary and Devan are winners in our book. They’ve both endured life’s toughest challenges–without hesitation. To all of you reading this right now, take their commitment to challenges, as a personal challenge and do something to push yourself to the limit. You’d be surprised what you can do with a little motivation, inspiration, and endurance.

Overseas Expat Living

Expat Living

Ever wondered what it would be like to live on the other side of the world? Jake Smith, used to. He recently left Houston’s southern hospitality for a place with a much different way of life – Singapore!

The husband and father of two beautiful girls said the decision to move wasn’t an easy one but he was excited for the opportunity. “I spent my entire career working in the Americas and I wanted to learn about how our company operates in different parts of the world,” Smith states.

Smith moved to Singapore in January, leaving his family in Houston. “The biggest challenge of moving was being away from my family for five months because they didn’t join me until June. Thankfully, we have things like Skype that make it easier to keep up with the kids,” Smith says.

When his daughters first arrived in Singapore, Smith says, “It was like a vacation. Then, after a while they began to miss family and friends. Now school has started and they’re making new friends. With that, both girls even chose to learn Mandarin.”

The biggest challenge Smith says they’ve had to overcome is the cost of everyday living. Everything seems to be much more expensive. “In Singapore you can pretty much get anything you could ever want providing you are willing to pay for it,” Smith states.

Given all of the price increases, Smith has found a way to keep his overall costs down. “Instead of shopping at the large supermarkets that can be very expensive, we go to the wet markets.”

The food in Singapore is one of its best attractions says Smith. “Singapore is such a mixing pot of nationalities and cultures and they all like to show off their culinary abilities. There are amazing food centers with hundreds of local choices along with incredible restaurants.”

If this still hasn’t convinced you to look into an expat assignment, Smith suggests you think about this. “It will help by giving you a new perspective on the world. I’ve expanded my horizons both personally and professionally. I’ve enjoyed learning about the classification industry from outside of the US and meeting many of our clients in this region.”

Texas Medical Center kicks off National Donate for Life month

Donate For LifeThey are stories of inspiration and hope to help kick off the Texas Medical Center’s fifth-annual celebration of life.

It’s a part of a national month-long awareness campaign that recognizes those who have received, given or continue to wait for life-saving transplants.

Transplant recipients and donors along with their families shared their emotional testimonies in front of The Methodist Hospital on Thursday.

Across the country, 117,000 men, women, and children are waiting for a life-saving transplants. In Houston, more than 3,000 residents are waiting for their second chance.

Every day, 75 lives are saved through organ transplantation across the country.

Shelby Gonzales is a mother who chose to donate her 11-month-old daughter’s organs after she was killed in a tragic accident.

“Although she’s gone physically, she still lives in someone else. Her heart’s still beating,” Gonzales said.

For the first time, on Jan. 26, Gonzales got the chance to meet Braydin McClelland, the little boy who was once dying from an enlarged heart. He received Gonzales’ daughter’s heart, which saved his life.

“Meeting him and seeing him and to see how great he is doing confirmed to us that we made the right choice,” Gonzalez said.

Currently, 3.6 million donors are registered on the Donate Life Texas Registry, the official database of Texans who designate themselves to be organ, eye and tissue donors. When the registry was created in 2006, it generated only 72,000 registrants its first year.

Countless others have their lives renewed through tissue donation and many others have their sight restored through corneal transplants.

Even so, 18 people die every day due to the lack of available transplantable organs. Every 10 minutes, someone receives the overwhelming news that his or her only hope for survival is a transplant.

To become an organ donor, register online at www.donatelifetexas.org or at any Department of Public Safety office or through the Department of Motor Vehicles when renewing vehicle tags.

‘Warrior Weekend’ kicks off in Houston

Hundreds of U.S. Army and Marine veterans who suffered life-altering injuries during combat in Iraq and Afghanistan are being honored in Houston.

Wounded veterans arrived at George Bush Intercontinental Airport on Friday to kick off “Warrior Weekend.”

Houston police officers, the Houston Airport System, the United Service Organization (USO) and U.S. military personnel greeted the veterans after they landed.

HPD officers also helped the veterans, who have special needs, with their baggage.

The sixth-annual “Warrior Weekend” is a project of the Wounded Warrior Organization and MomsUSA in which wounded veterans participate in a deep-sea fishing trip in Port O’Connor.

“Everybody is coming out and having a good time. Nobody complains once they get in the mode and get the fishing going. Everybody is going to have a good time. Everybody is going to have a smile on their face. I guarantee it. It’s awesome,” said veteran Shane Parsons.

Medical students find out where they’ll spend residency

Baylor College of MedicineIt was an emotional day at Baylor College of Medicine as students learned where they will spend the next several years of their lives.

Almost 200 seniors were both excited and nervous about the letter with their names, tucked away inside an envelope .

“I am just ready to know where I am going to be living for the next four years,” said Patrick Smollen.

The students at Baylor competed with schools around the country for spots in residency programs throughout the United States.

For Charity Milles, it was something like winning the lottery.

“I am really excited and thankful that I got my first choice. I am relieved, I probably don’t have as much packing to do as some of my other classmates because I am staying here in Houston,” said Milles.

She’s not the only one who’s happy about her staying at home, her mother said she’s just as excited if not more.

“I am so excited, I prayed really hard that she would match here because she is still my baby,” said Demetria Wallace

Wallace said this has been her daughter’s dream ever since she was a little girl.

“She has known probably since she was 6 years old that she wanted to be a doctor, and now it’s finally all coming together,” Wallace said.

In all, about 42 students will do their residency at Baylor, while the others are headed to programs across the country to begin the next chapter of their medical careers.

Donate suits for soldiers through April 8

Norton DittoAs the war in Afghanistan and Iraq comes to an end and soldiers make their way home, they’re facing the new battle of getting a job. A Houston-area store is helping in the nationwide Hire Our Heroes initiative with a Suits for Soldiers drive, giving them a fresh start on a new life.

Norton Ditto, 2425 West Alabama, is taking donations through April 8 for gently used or new suits and sport coats.

Anyone who donates to the cause will receive a $150 gift certificate towards another purchase.

“We have received approximately 500 suits and/or sport coats in about the last month,” said Roger McMahan, a Norton Ditto manager.

McMahan said they’re not only collecting the clothes, but they are also offering to tailor them free of charge.

Several store employees said they’re overwhelmed by the generosity of Houstonians and say this year, donations more than tripled.

The Suits for Soldiers program is more than just clothes. It also offers job search training and placement assistance for transitioning veterans in the Houston area through staffing specialists.

“There have been probably about 10 soldiers that have been hired through this process,” McMahan said.

Any used suits not selected by veterans will be re-sold at other used clothing stores to raise money for job or educational training for soldiers.

McMahan said, “It has been a phenomenal success. It exceeded our expectations and I just really have to thank the people of Houston for their support.”

Dress for Success Houston has also gotten involved by donating new business suits for female soldiers.

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