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steffanie rivers

The Journal of Steffanie Rivers: Early Voting is A Privilege, Not A Right

Steffanie Rivers

Steffanie Rivers

*When an unarmed Michael Brown was shot multiple times and killed by Ferguson, MO police officer Darren Wilson last August, residents in that area said they were determined to make a change first by civil protests then by electing new leadership in November.

Yet all the talk about showing up in full force to the polls in Ferguson so far has been just that – talk. St. Louis County Board of Elections reported only 128 new people registered to vote between Aug. 9 and Oct.6, the two months between when Brown was killed and the cut off date to register for the November election.

In July 2013 when Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law helped George Zimmerman get away with murdering Trayvon Martin, it wasn’t too long before people in more than twenty other states realized they too, had a version of Stand Your Ground. And incidents with racial overtones were being defended by that same law. Those people vowed to fight the law at the polls come election day.

More than 886,000 Floridians registered to vote in 2012 the year Zimmerman shot and killed Martin, the interest in the political process most likely was fueled by Stand Your Ground. Between 2013 and September of 2014 only half as many new voters registered, an indication that – despite pervasive racial incidents there – the desire to force change might have been short lived.

Even I promised to do my part. I took a class to become a Texas assistant registrar, able to register voters in my county by going door-to-door and setting up registration booths at events. It was my way of doing what I could to inform more people and get them registered for the November general election.

Early voting has begun in the District of Columbia and only 32 states. I cast my early vote last week in Texas. Early voting is the process whereby registered voters can show up to the polls days in advance of the official Election Day and cast their vote. Unlike absentee ballots that are collected via mail, you don’t have to have an excuse to participate in early voting. Why are there some states that don’t have early voting? Or why Florida (of all places) has shortened its early voting from 14 to 8 days should be under investigation. Allowing every registered person the chance to vote should be a fundamental goal of every board of elections. Early voting seems like a no-brainer to me. The twelve hours set aside to vote on Election Day can be a challenge that keeps some away from the polls.

It was early voting in 2008 that helped then Sen. Barack Obama capture a majority of the popular and electoral vote to become America’s first black president. Republicans know this too. Now they claim early voting is too long, too expensive and opens the process to fraud. Never mind the probable millions of voters illegally turned away on Election Day for decades. And what about the hanging chad fiasco and stolen election of 2000? Republicans weren’t concerned enough about the voting process then. At least with early voting, if there’s a legitimate issue with a voter there’s time to address it and still be allowed to participate in the process.

But if people don’t take advantage of early voting, it’s just another reason some states will use to shorten it, end it or never start it. It’s evident some people don’t want you to vote to begin with. Keep the odds in your favor: Take advantage of early voting and tell your friends and family to do the same.

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. Email her at [email protected] to send comments, questions or for speaking inquiries.

steffanie rivers

EUR Columnist Steffanie Rivers Featured on TLC’s ‘Extreme Cheapskates’

steffanie rivers

*When it comes to making a dollar out of fifteen cents some people could learn a few tips from Steffanie Rivers.

Rivers, a self-described cheap skate, says she has become an expert at using other people’s money and resources to pay for her expenses.

And it’s all legal. She’s done such a good job at it, Rivers will be featured in the third season of TLC’s Extreme Cheapskates tonight, Wednesday, Oct. 8 at 9pm Eastern/Pacific.

At a time when social networks such as Face Book, Instagram and Twitter are in the business of putting everybody’s business in cyberspace, Rivers said featuring her cheap skate ways on national television was not at the top of her things to do list when the opportunity presented itself.

“I saw a Craigslist ad in search of cheapskates who were willing to tell their story,” said Rivers. “So I answered the ad, did a video interview with show producers and a few months later they were standing in my living room videotaping me,” she added. Rivers said producers told her it was the best episode of cheapskates in the history of cheapskates!

What cheap skate habits got Rivers the national spotlight? For starters she’s a flight attendant who spends at least four nights a week away from home. All the sample shampoos, lotions and other toiletries she collects from hotels keeps her from having to spend her own money. Those samples also make great gifts, she added. She collects newspapers and magazines that are left behind by passengers on the airplane which saves her from having to pay for those items. And the perfume pages in those popular magazines, she tears out the pages and uses the fragrances to smell expensive without having to pay the expensive prices.

“I believe in phantom power,” so when I leave town I turn off all the power at the circuit breaker to help save money,” Rivers said. And when she’s not working Rivers uses the free wi-fi service at local retail establishments in her neighborhood. So she saves the cost of monthly ISP fees.

Most people think the life of a flight attendant is glamorous, flying to exotic locations and different countries. Rivers said she loves her job and earns a good living, but she said the key is saving what she earns to make her money go even further, and she’s not embarrassed one bit when co-workers and neighbors notice her cheap skate ways. Overall Rivers saves at least $500 a month as a penny-pincher.

“Most people waste money and resources everyday on things that could save them tons of money,” said Rivers, adding that “I choose to keep my money and still live a comfortable lifestyle.”

Producers liked the episode featuring Rivers so much there are talks about doing a followup show or other show opportunities in the future. In the meantime Rivers will reveal more of her cheap skate ways on Extreme Cheapskates on TLC tonight (10-08-14). Check your local listings for viewing time(s) in your area. You can comment on the episode #ExtremeCheapskates and @tcbstef on Twitter during the show.

By the way, if you’ve never seen “Extreme Cheapskates,” all we’ll say is that you are in for a very interesting experience. Just check out the trailer for an upcoming episode:

 

(EUR’s Steffanie Rivers On TLC’s Extreme Cheapskates)
Steffanie Rivers

The Journal of Steffanie Rivers: The Best Defense is Soap and Water

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*A mysterious virus has entered the United States via a commercial airline flight.

Passengers on the international flight unknowingly carried the virus to their friends, family and anybody else who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The virus turns people into vampires (yes, vampires) who sleep during the day and prey on victims at night. A few employees who work at the Center for Disease Control and some other people in the know are the last line of defense against this plague.

I’m not talking about the Ebola virus of west Africa. I’m talking about The Strain, a television show on the FX Channel. Yet when I learned about the Liberian man who is the first confirmed case of Ebola in the United States and how he might have spread the deadly disease to more than 100 people in Dallas, I couldn’t help but recognize the parallel between fiction and real life – except the part about vampires. Add to that the fact that I’m a flight attendant who lives in Dallas and my science-fiction imagination has been working overtime. But enough about my imagination.

American health officials say even though Ebola has found its way into the United States it’s not an airborne virus. So even if I happened to be one of the flight attendant’s on Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan’s flight into Dallas – which I wasn’t – it doesn’t mean I should be quarantined. Especially since Duncan didn’t show signs of the illness until after he arrived in my city. But just like on The Strain, government officials oftentimes are the last to know the truth and sometimes when they find out the truth they’re not inclined to share.

As much as I like a good sci-fi mystery, the facts are that more people die every year from common illnesses such as the flu than have died from Ebola. Precautions against the flu virus are easy to take. But as with most things that are easy to do, its also easy not to do.

Simple precaution number one: Wash your hands often, especially before eating, after using the bathroom and in between sneezing or putting your fingers to your eyes and mouth. I grew up in a family where it was mandatory that we wash our hands before going into the refrigerator, let alone preparing food. I wish you would go into my grandmother’s refrigerator touching on stuff without washing your hands. Adrian Peterson ain’t got nothing on my grandmother and her switches. And washing your hands after using the bathroom was non-negotiable.

So imagine my surprise when, while on vacation, I headed to the bathroom at a restaurant to wash my hands after ordering my food and I was told the bathroom was out of order.

Now I’m no restauranteur, but even I know having a functioning bathroom with running water in a restaurant is a health code mandatory rule. So there I was sliding out of my booth with my finger on the keypad about to sound the alarm. But when I pressed the staff about it, the manager allowed me to wash my hands in a sink accessible to employees only. It turned out there was running water, but the commode had stopped working a few hours earlier so they closed down the bathroom. And the manager already had called maintenance.

Okay, my hands were clean and those of the staff (so they claimed). But why wasn’t there a line of patrons at the sink? Apparently nobody else cared enough about simple precaution number one to inquire. Or maybe everybody else used hand sanitizer. Or maybe their hands were a petri dish of germs and they were okay with that.

Simple precaution number two: Avoid direct contact with commonly-used surfaces. A recent study published in the Wall Street Journal revealed that coffee pot handles, bathroom door knobs and light switches were full of germs at one office complex. The non-lethal germ intentionally was left on the keypad used to enter the front door of the secured office complex. Within four hours the germ had been spread to more than fifty percent of the common areas of that office, including on the hands of employees who had not come in direct contact with each other that day.

Using paper towels to open doors, using knuckles and elbows instead of fingers to punch keypads or elevator buttons are ways to get around direct contact with common areas that might be full of germs. And when it comes to shaking hands in the workplace this study suggests bumping fists instead. It’s times such as these when I appreciate the janitorial staff even more.

Since it’s next to impossible to deflect all germs, simple precaution number three is to strengthen your immune system and lower the chance that a virus will reek havoc on your body. Drinking lots of water, eating leafy, green vegetables and making exercise a part of your life will give your body a fighting chance against the most common viruses.

Simple precaution number four is to provide your lungs with plenty of fresh air. It’s been proven that germs, viruses and even cancer can’t survive in a body that’s full of oxygen. Go walking, swimming or do activities that cause you to take deep breathes every day.

Simple precaution number five is to get a flu shot before the flu season. But just because you get a flu shot – a small dose of the virus that is introduced into your body to allow your immune system to create its own antibodies against it – doesn’t mean you should ignore standard hygiene practices, which include the aforementioned.

If we spend more time practicing healthy behaviors every day and teach them to our children there’s a smaller chance that our health will be compromised by the next virus to be discovered.

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metro area. Email her at [email protected] for comments, questions or speaking inquiries.

Steffanie Rivers

The Journal of Steffanie Rivers: Reversal of Fortune

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Being a celebrity is a double-edged sword that comes with popularity and privilege. But to whom much is given much is required.

Some professional athletes are finding out the hard way they can’t expect to get the glory without the scrutiny.

The video of running back Ray Rice punching out his fiance in an elevator last February got him cut from the Baltimore Ravens and an indefinite NFL suspension.

Defensive end Greg Hardy has been deactivated by the Carolina Panthers because he was convicted last July of domestic violence against his girlfriend.

The girlfriend said Hardy choked her, dragged her by her hair and threatened to kill her.

Ray McDonald was charged with domestic violence against his pregnant girlfriend Labor Day weekend. So far he’s still in uniform, but pressure is mounting for the NFL to take action against him. Last week running back Adrian Peterson was indicted on felony child abuse charges in Texas. Now he’s on the Minnesota Vikings inactive list. And even though he’s not in the NFL, let’s not forget about Oscar Pistorius, the South African track star, known as the blade runner, who shot his girlfriend four times and killed her on Valentine’s Day 2013. Pistorius, who claimed he thought she was a burglar in the bathroom so he shot through the door, was found not guilty of murder but (the lesser crime of) manslaughter instead.

With billions of dollars in profits from season tickets to jersey sales and advertising fees every year, the NFL is responsible for paying athletes the million dollar paychecks that allow them to live their elite lifestyles. It helped create these ego maniacs, and therefore should take a more active role in appropriate discipline for off-the-field bad behavior as soon as it happens – not after a video is leaked and there’s a backlash.

Still it’s not just about back-end discipline. Already, the NFL councils rookies during training camp about watching out for people who try to take advantage of their privilege, people who are there just to ride the gravy train that is their million dollar paychecks including groupie girls, hangers-on friends and family. But the NFL should include a lesson about accountability – being a responsible team player even when he thinks nobody is watching.

Most people learn life lessons in accountability through everyday experiences. But if you’re blessed to become one of the 1,696 players who make it in the NFL every year I’m certain some of those lessons get overlooked on the way to becoming an elite athlete. Still it doesn’t excuse those people be they athletes, entertainers or others of privilege and popularity from living by the rules that apply to everybody else. At some point we all get away with something because we are better-looking, smarter, richer than most or have unique skills that others don’t. But when you live your life as if you are an exception to all the rules your reckless behavior is bound to lead to a public fall.

Most bad behavior doesn’t start in adulthood, but is carried over from lessons learned – or the lack thereof – in the formative years. Teaching humility isn’t at the top of the list at Pop Warner little league. And some say humility is counterproductive to having a winner’s mentality. By the time he gets to the NFL a player realizes he is exempt from the rules most people must live by. Regardless, most players have no problem being leaders on and off the field. It’s only a few who give the league a bad name.

As for Janay Rice, Ray’s wife, obviously she knew what she was getting into. The infamous elevator incident happened before they were married. And judging from their NFL pre-season news conference where she apologized for her “role” in the altercation, it seemed to me getting physical with each other wasn’t new for the newlyweds. That doesn’t make it right, but if they choose to stick and stay with each other that’s their business.

The lesson for us, as sports enthusiasts, is to realize no matter how great somebody is on any given Sunday after the game is over he still is an imperfect man.

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. Email her at [email protected] for comments, questions and speaking inquiries.

New Orleans Saints Mark Ingram is stopped by the Green Bay Packers defense on the final play of the game during the second half of their NFL football game in Green Bay

Are You Ready For the Super Bowl? It’s Only Four Months Away

TouchdownRentals.Com Helps Owners Rent Upsacle Homes Condos Super Bowl

*As the summer transitions into the fall season and children settle in at school, football has taken center stage in locker rooms across the country from little league teams to the NFL.

And while the playoffs are far from the minds of football fans, the truth is the Super Bowl is little more than 135 days away – a mere four months. If your company profits from the Super Bowl like TouchdownRentals.com it pays to be in front of the wave.

TouchdownRentals.com was created by Steffanie Rivers in Dallas, Texas. She got the idea for the business after working with another football seasonal company. Rivers said her experience with the other company taught her a lot about what not to do.

“That other company lied to customers, stole their money and left us sales people to deal with the fallout. We were the face of the company, but in the end they stole our commissions too,” Rivers said.

She said some customers and former employees who felt they were wronged by that other company filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission, but heard nothing else about it. Just because the owners of that other company had no ethics, Rivers said it didn’t change the fact the business idea was great.

“From every bad experience I always ask myself what good can come from it. In this case the ‘good’ was an opportunity to improve on a business model and create a win-win situation for everybody.

TouchdownRentals.com, the company that Rivers started, helps homeowners rent their upscale estates and condos during the week of the Super Bowl and get a piece of the million dollar pie. Rivers has built a solid reputation and a referral list that includes entertainers, athletes and corporate clients who prefer to rent a more private setting than any hotel could offer. And they’re willing to pay top dollar for those private upscale accommodations too. Rental prices vary based on location and features of the home. Add-ons such as maid service, limo pickup and party planning are some of the extras Rivers’ company provides.

“We screen our renters and negotiate the best deal, so homeowners can feel comfortable about the people renting their homes. Other websites just list homes for rent with no direction or followup support,” added Rivers. TouchdownRentals.com helps homeowners get a piece of the Super Bowl money pie. And it’s all done legally, Rivers said.

The IRS tax code states homeowners in Arizona (and anywhere in the United States) are allowed to rent their primary residences for up to 14 days consecutively without having to re-classify it as rental property.

“That means there are no IRS tax penalties for renting a private home for the week leading up to the Super Bowl,” said Rivers, adding that “if someone has a rental property that is vacant, renting it during the Super Bowl would be an ideal way to make some quick cash.”

The Super Bowl generates on average $500 million for the host city every year. Phoenix will host this most popular sporting event in February 2015. Profits are generated from sports fans who spend money to book hotel rooms, limos and rental cars. Visitors to the city also eat at local restaurants and pay for entertainment.

The average price of a cheap Super Bowl ticket is $500. On the high-end tickets have sold for more than $1,000 to sit near the end zone. That stadium seats 64,000 and is expandable to more than 72,000. That number doesn’t include 88 luxury boxes with a combination of seats and standing room for private parties. On the low-end ticket sales could generate $30 million for the NFL and owners of the University of Phoenix stadium in Glendale where the Super Bowl will be held. And that’s just game day ticket sales. Concessions are another stream of income, not to mention the affect on local and state sales tax revenues.

Rivers’ company has started its annual promotion in Phoenix. They expect to rent more than 100 homes the week of the Super Bowl. For more information to go TouchdownRentals.com, call (480)382-4580 or email [email protected].

 

(TouchdownRentals.Com Helps Owners Rent Upsacle Homes Condos Super Bowl)
steffanie rivers

The Journal of Steffanie Rivers: Flying the Friendly Skies

steffanie rivers

Stteffanie Rivers

It used to be that people considered flying to be a privilege, an event worth dressing up for. Passengers wore their Sunday best, they were courteous to the flight crew, to each other and they were just glad to get from point A to point B safely and quickly. Clearly things have changed.

These days most people don’t even bother to dress up for church – if they go at all. Instead they show up for Sunday morning service wearing what looks like what they wore to the club the night before. But I digress.

So when I learned about the incidents on board flights involving the Knee Defender, I wasn’t surprised. The Knee Defender is a device that attaches to the arms on a seat back tray table and it prevents the person in front of you from reclining their seat. Most people who are working on lap top computers don’t like when passengers in front of them recline their seats, because it keeps them from fully using the tray table as a work space. The reclined seat also leaves little to no space for a person’s knees, depending on how long the person’s legs are. Thus the name of the product.

The Knee Defender is illegal on most airlines, because its use could block passenger exit in case of an emergency evacuation making it a safety hazard. Still passengers get away with using it if nobody complains or flight crews don’t know they’re being used. Refusing a flight attendant’s request to remove them is against FAA regulations and could be a felony offense.

I’ve been a flight attendant for 14 months. And while I’ve never had an incident occur because of the Knee Defender, that’s just one of the issues flight crews have to deal with when it comes to passenger (mis)behavior. Here are a few others:

  1. Always wipe down the seat back tray table before using it. Passengers frequently change baby diapers, prop their feet on it to cut their toe nails or do other grooming on the tray table.
  2. Some passengers play videos and listen to music on electronic devices loud enough for other passengers to hear. They don’t use ear buds and seem oblivious to the fact that others might be bothered by the noise.
  3. Pets seem to have more rights than people on board airplanes. Some passengers who say they need the emotional support of their pet, are allowed to travel with the pet in their lap. Other pets are required to ride in a portable kennel underneath the seat. But that doesn’t stop pet owners from allowing the pet to ride in the seat next to them, to walk the aisle during the flight or to walk amongst the feet of other passengers. Never mind that some people might have pet allergies, might be afraid of strange pets or just don’t want to be forced to travel alongside somebody’s yapping animal for the duration of a flight.

On one occasion a passenger traveled with a pet monkey. Picture Caesar, the monkey from the Planet of the Apes movie, when he was a baby. There was no cage and no leash. Just a monkey walking down the jetway with other passengers. It must have been his first flight, and after what happened it probably was his last flight. The turbulence upset the monkey and his owner was unable to keep him from running up and down the aisle.

Then there was the pet kitten who was startled and lost control of his bladder on a three-hour flight. Passengers had to suffer through the smell of cat urine for more than an hour before the flight arrived at its destination.

  1. Flights headed to certain destinations such as Orlando are bound to be full of children, but that doesn’t mean parents are excused from showing up to the flight with a game plan to keep their children occupied, and keep other passengers from giving them the evil eye. Still most parents seem clueless. When babies cry uncontrollably in flight it’s probably because the air pressure is causing them pain. Parents should be prepared with a bottle or a pacifier or something to make tykes swallow and relieve ear pressure. Bouncing the baby up and down the aisle only makes matters worse.Also, some parents wait until you’re on the plane to change baby diapers. And they hand off dirty diapers to flight attendants as if giving them to us will make them disappear. We don’t throw them out the window. Diapers and the smell remain on board. If you must, diapers should be changed in the lavatories – not on the tray table. And no, flight attendants don’t have toys or clean diapers or baby formula. We are not Babies R Us.
  2. The number one pet peeve of flight attendants probably is passengers who bring carry-on luggage too heavy for them to lift, but expect us to lift it into the overhead bin. Our motto is: If you pack it, you stack it! Or we can check it for you. And when we’re 30,000 feet in the air and passengers ask questions such as “Where are we right now?” or “What’s that body of water down there,” as they point out the window, the answer is something akin to “I have no idea! I’m on an airplane just like you are.”

In case you might think otherwise, I am a “people person” who likes her job. If I have to work a job there’s nothing else I’d rather do.

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. Email her at [email protected] for comments, questions or speaking inquiries.