By now,  most of us are getting ready to celebrate on Monday,  our nation’s birthday – July 4th – Independence Day!  I want to send greetings to all of you from our home, where the grand old flag will be flying, and wish everyone a safe holiday. (Sorry, the flag looks backwards, but the wind was blowing!)

We have already talked about fireworks, so we’ll give that subject a rest!  Many are packing their bags for trips, so let’s talk about travel first.  The main thing is to be packed and ready to get an early start, because you know your friendly State troopers will be there, watching to be sure you don’t speed, and that you are safe.  If you need assistance, you can count on them, as well, to be of help.  Please don’t carry on conversations on your cell phone while driving, and above all, don’t text or drink and drive!

There are many activities that families can plan right at home, and not have to be involved in the hustle and bustle of travel.  One of my favorite memories is going to our best friends’ home every Fourth of July for grilled hamburgers and home-made ice cream!  Now we live miles away, so we had to stop that tradition; however, we make up for it when we visit each other, which is quite often.  Moms and dads can find easy crafts for the kids with some red, white and blue items that they probably can find in the house.  Local parks will be full of folks of all ages, with volleyball games, croquet, barbecues, picnics, baseball games, and many activities.

If you plan to go boating, be sure to have life jackets in the boat for each passenger.  Obey the rules of boating, and do not drink while driving a boat, as the penalty is the same as for driving a car while drinking.  Watch for other boaters, swimmers, and those on jet skis.  Sometimes everyone thinks they own that particular spot on the water, and it just doesn’t work that way!

Swimmers should be prepared with lots of sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat and cover-up when they get out of the water.  Stay in pairs, just in case someone gets in water that is too deep.  Be sure if you are swimming on a beach or lake to check out the water quality for contamination.  There should be signs posted with some type of useful information.

If you are the outdoors type and want to take a hike, be sure you let someone know your plans and when you will be returning.  If you need to build a campfire, build it with sticks no larger than an adult wrist.  (Of course, first, be sure that you are not in an area where campfires are banned.)  Never leave that fire unattended and keep it small.  A fire that is not “dead out” can be rekindled by wind and start a wildfire.  Keep water handy and a shovel for throwing dirt on the fire in case it gets out of control.  Stir the remains and be sure all materials are cooled down.  Drown it with water, even move rocks to see there’s no fire beneath them. Feel all materials with bare hands to be sure that no wood is burning before leaving the campsite.

If you are cooking outdoors, beware of bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses.  Be sure all utensils are clean and that you have a good source of water.  Separate raw meat from cooked meat and poultry.  Keep cold food cold and hot food hot.  Don’t let food set out for more than 1 hour in hot weather.  Keep it in an ice chest once the meal is finished.

Have a great Fourth of July, but don’t overdo it when it comes to food, alcohol, sun, or exercise.  Take along the proper clothing, suncreeen, insect repellent, and other remedies that will make you feel better tomorrow!   Remember why some of us get to be off on this day, and why we observe it.  There are young men and women who don’t have the day off, and are in countries where they can’t celebrate the way we do.  When you see our flag, think of what it stands for, and the sacrifices they make every day.  May God Bless Each One of Them, their families, all of us, and the U.S.A.