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Lifestyles

    A genealogical organization in New England has announced the launch of the world's first online gallery of Mayflower passenger descendants. The New England Historic Genealogical Society told The Associated Press that the goal is to document the approximately 30 million living descendants of Mayflower passengers and crew. >> Read more trending news MORE: New bill takes on Native American mascots in Mass. schools The website identifies 108 passengers and crew members known to have left descendants, allowing participants to locate their Pilgrim relative. Those who are a known descendant of a Pilgrim can post their story on the website. The new project will help mark the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower's passage, which takes place in 2020, The Associated Press reported. MORE: Native Americans mark Thanksgiving with day of mourning The Associated Press contributed to this report
  • Braving the crowds on Black Friday may be the easiest part of holiday shopping. Shipping packages to gift receivers around the country can be a huge challenge – both in getting the gifts there in one piece and in keeping your budget under control. Here are 10 tips to help you ship your gifts: >> Read more trending news 1. Buy something you can mail easily This seems like you’re buying for you and not them, but odds are there is something on your recipient’s list that is easy to ship through the mail. Even with the right packing precautions, it’s always safer to buy items you know can survive a bumpy trip through the mail. Apparel, shoes and most toys are a safe bet. >> Start planning now for military holiday shipping deadlines 2. Know the rules The United States Postal Service has restrictions on what can be shipped, both internationally and domestically. Some things, such as ammunition, are completely prohibited, while other things, such as nail polish and perfumes, have restrictions. Find out more at usps.com/ship/shipping-restrictions.htm. >> These are the best gift cards of the 2017 holiday season 3. Pay attention to the box Make sure to use a new, sturdy box that’s a few inches larger than your gift on all sides to allow for plenty of packing materials. Using that box that’s been in the basement all year can result in your gifts cascading out at the wrong moment. The Postal Service estimates that a crease can reduce a box’s strength by as much as 70 percent. >> 10 tips for Black Friday shopping 4. Buy good packing material The Postal Service suggests using higher-performing cushioning materials made of polyethylene or polyurethane. Basic polystyrene cushioning can endure only one impact. Using stronger, but thinner cushioning is better because you can use a smaller box and save on shipping costs if the price is based on the package’s dimensions and weight. Newspaper is not a great choice because it flattens, but it’s good for wrapping fragile items and separating them from other items in the box. >> Oprah’s 2017 favorite things list is the ultimate holiday gift guide — Here are our 11 top picks 5. Shake it You want your packing job to result in a tight fit. Use at least 1 inch of cushioning around the item—top, bottom and all four sides — to fill in any air spaces. There should be very little movement when you shake the box. The key point is to keep the gift items as far away from the box’s walls as possible. When you have a very fragile item, use two boxes, and cushion around the inner box with at least 3 inches of packing peanuts. >> Too much Christmas music is bad for your health 6. Know your deadlines The holiday season is the busiest time of year for the Postal Service. These are the dates they recommend shipping items in the contiguous United States to make sure they arrive on time. USPS Retail Ground: Dec. 14 First Class Mail: Dec. 19 (Alaska Dec. 20; Hawaii Dec. 15) Priority Mail: Dec. 20 (Alaska Dec. 20; Hawaii Dec. 15) Priority Mail Express: Dec. 22 (Alaska Dec. 21; Hawaii Dec. 20) For more information on shipping to the rest of the world, visit www.usps.com/holiday. >> 7 tips for buying the best artificial Christmas tree this season 7. Flat-rate is your friend FedEx, UPS and the Postal Service all offer flat-rate boxes, meaning that you can pack as much as you can into a box and ship it for one price. However, these do come with some limits – for example, UPS and the USPS only allows up to 70 pounds, while FedEx only allows 50 pounds. >> PHOTOS: Rockefeller Center Plaza Christmas Tree arrives in New York 8. Look for deals Do a little shopping around before you ship. Some places, such as PostNet stores, will help you compare shipping prices. You can also do this online at sites such as Shipgooder.com. USPS, FedEx and UPS also have tools on their websites to estimate shipping costs. >> 10 ways to save money during the holidays 9. Avoid missed packages If you want to help your recipient avoid unwanted snooping from neighbors or children, consider sending the gift to their workplace. If it’s meant for kids, that’ll help keep it away from prying eyes. It will also help people from missing deliveries at home. Keep your tracking numbers handy so you can pinpoint the package’s destination and lets its recipients know when to look out for it. >> 10 holiday activities that don't have to involve eating 10. Consider insurance Santa’s delivery service isn’t always perfect, so it’s worth considering insurance on whatever you’re shipping. Ask your shipper about insurance or a declared-value option. The post office includes $100 of insurance in its Priority Mail Express shipping and offers options for declaring a higher value, for a fee. If your package ends up being damaged in transit, but the shipping company determines that you packed it improperly, or did not follow proper packing procedures, they may have grounds to deny your claim.
  • A military widow got some help from her late husband’s comrades in revealing the gender of the couple’s baby. >> Watch the video here Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Ryan Lohrey was killed in a military plane crash in Mississippi. The plane was heading from North Carolina to Arizona for a military training, WECT reports. Ryan had tied the knot with his wife, Cassie, just one month before his death on July 10. >> On HotTopics.TV: Soldiers help with gender reveal for widow of fallen comrade  “Our wedding was June 3,” said Cassie. “Just to think your life had completely turned upside down in 24 hours, just nothing you would ever expect.” Cassie found out she was pregnant just days after Ryan’s July 31 memorial service. Though she was heartbroken over the loss of her husband, Cassie was excited to welcome a baby. >> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news  “I knew Ryan wouldn’t leave me alone,” Cassie told CNN. “He wanted me to have a piece of him forever.” She asked his team members to visit on Veterans Day to help with a gender reveal. “I wanted to honor her daddy on this special day,” Cassie said. “Veterans Day is a big deal for us every year, but this year it’s extra special.” Photos and video shared by SaralynJ Photography on Facebook show at least 17 of Ryan’s comrades surrounding Cassie. >> See the photos here The Marine and Navy corpsmen released tubes of pink confetti, revealing the exciting news that Cassie was expecting a baby girl. “There was a lot of crying, a lot of yelling and a lot of hugging,” said photographer Saralyn Johnson told CNN. >> Read more trending news  CNN reports the baby girl will be named Ryan Jo Lohrey. She will arrive in March 2018. The family has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for the soon-to-be single mom. If you’d like to donate, click here. >> Watch the news report here
  • Residents thought they saw a cheetah running free in the streets of Reading, Pennsylvania. But when authorities responded to the scene recently, they found a rare African serval cat instead. >> Watch the news report here The spotted feline was out for a walk when staffers from the Animal Rescue League of Berks County arrived. The 1- or 2-year-old cat was docile, declawed and friendly, leading the rescuers to think she was a pet. >> Read more trending news It is illegal to own these types of cats in Pennsylvania without a license. A big-cat group is now in possession of the animal.
  • A pair of 4-year-olds who are convinced they’re twins are stealing millions of hearts across the country. Jia Sarnicola and Zuri Copeland of Miami met at school and became fast friends. Their June birthdays are days apart, and this year, they celebrated with a combined party. Now, they proudly proclaim they’re twins. >> On HotTopics.TV: Biracial twins who went viral for their looks celebrate a very big milestone  “They have very strong personalities and are both super outgoing, well-spoken, intelligent and not afraid to tell you what they want. They hit it off right away,” Jia’s mom, Ashley Riggs Sarnicola, told ABC News. Zuri’s mom agreed. >> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news “It is unbelievable. They connected very well immediately,” mom Valencia Copeland said. “It was amazing how they’ve gelled together.” Jia is blonde and white, and Zuri has black hair and is African-American. “They don’t see color. We’ve never talked to them about it, period,” Sarnicola said. Photos shared to Instagram show both girls’ families enjoying outings together, such as concerts and playdates. On Facebook, Sarnicola shared a story about an incident that happened at a recent birthday party that proved the strength of the girls’ bond. Sarnicola explained that Jia started crying because a little girl told her that she and Zuri weren’t really twins. >> Read more trending news Jia quickly told her, “You don’t know anything because we have the same birthday and the same soul,” Sarnicola wrote on Facebook. “When she said that, it took me aback. It was so sweet.”
  • A woman battling stage IV cancer is thanking her ex-husband’s new wife for helping her beat the disease. >> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news  According to The Independent, doctors told Nicola Hitchen, 41, in March that there was nothing else they could do for her. The mother of two from England turned to a pioneering chemotherapy center in Turkey. >> On HotTopics.TV: Photo of blended family goes viral After five 10-day sessions, many of the tumors in Nicola’s body shrank significantly, The Mirror reports. But she was running out of money for treatment. The first round of treatment cost the equivalent of over $100,000. That’s when her ex-husband’s wife, Clare Hitchen, launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money. “I feel this is not an option,” wrote Clare on a crowdfunding page. “The boys need their Mum and she deserves the chance to watch them grow into men and have their own families.” >> Read more trending news  The family is hoping to raise an additional £50,000, or about $66,000, to pay for further treatments. So far, they’re about halfway to their goal. “The support I’ve been given is phenomenal, not just from my family but from complete strangers, too,” Nicola told The Mirror. If you would like to donate, click here.
  • A 74-year-old man who walked several miles every day searching for a kidney donation for his wife finally got what he was looking for. >> Watch the news report here >> Utah man uses sandwich board to find kidney donor for his wife Wayne Winters, 74, of Farr West, Utah, went viral last month as he desperately searched for a kidney donation for his wife, Deanne, who was diagnosed with stage 5 kidney failure, KSTU reports. >> On HotTopics.TV: Kind strangers help elderly cancer patient who called 911 for food “I didn’t know what to do,” he said. “I felt like I needed to do something.” He decided to strap on a sandwich board and walk along a busy road. Dressed in slacks, a jacket, a hat and his sandwich board pleading for kidney donations, Winters walked several miles hoping to catch just the right person’s eye. Finally, weeks later, Winters’ search has come to an end. He finally got the call he was waiting for, and now his wife is now recovering from transplant surgery. >> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news Although he finally found a match for his wife, Winters says he still plans to take walks with his sign. “I will spend more of my days walking with my sign to see how many I can get,” Winters said. According to the National Kidney Foundation, about 30 million Americans have chronic kidney disease. The two main causes of the disease are high blood pressure and diabetes. Kidney disease causes toxins to build up in the blood, causing people to feel sick. Early detection can cause kidney disease from becoming worse before dialysis or transplants are needed.
  • As First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, faced a tragedy, members of a nearby church quickly jumped in to help. Pastor Paul Buford from neighboring River Oaks Church described to ABC News what happened when his congregation initially heard of the shooting. >> Mass shooting at Texas church: Live updates “We were in the middle of our church service down the road when we got phone calls from friends about this,” he said. “We had some first responders in our church who immediately left and went down there. And then my church went to do what we do: We started praying for everybody and everything that was going on.” >> Watch the interview here According to Buford, it was important that the “professional people [could] deal with what they needed to deal with there.” Buford’s congregation demonstrated the spirit of people jumping into action during a crisis. “We’re all friends and family here, because this is a very small, close-knit community.” >> Read more trending news Twenty-six people were killed in the shooting. The suspected gunman was later identified as 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley of New Braunfels, according to multiple news reports. Kelley died of a gunshot wound after fleeing the scene in a vehicle, according to the Washington Post.
  • On Thursday morning, Brigham Young University announced the university will offer caffeinated soft drinks – including Coca-Cola – on campus and fans couldn’t contain their excitement. The BYU Twitter account posted the news along with a Q&A with BYU director of dining services Dean Wright on the decision to bring caffeinated soft drinks on the Provo, Utah, campus for the first time since the mid-1950s. >> Read more trending news BYU is owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints and requires students to adhere to a strict honor code in line with the church’s beliefs. The honor code enforces a mandated dress code, personal grooming standards as well as abstinence from premarital sex, drugs and alcohol. BYU is the largest religious university and third-largest private university in the United States. >> Click here or scroll down for more
  • A new Boston University study published Tuesday found a single season of youth football can change a child's brain. >> Watch the news report here The findings focused on children 12 and under and, according to the study, those first 12 years of a child's life are critical to brain development. That’s why any damage – no matter how small – could mean health concerns years later. Youth football is a family tradition for many, but this new study out of BU has found the longer a child waits to play football, the better it is for their brain. “There's really something specific about hitting your head over and over again at a young age and it is disrupting normal brain development,” the study’s lead author, Dr. Michael Alosco, said.  >> On Boston25News.com: One youth football game results in five concussions Researchers examined 214 amateur and professional football players and found those who started playing football before they were 12 years old were at higher risk for behavioral and cognitive problems. “That's a critical period of brain development, especially in males,” said Alosco.  According to the study, the risks for behavioral problems doubled and the risk for elevated depression tripled. >> Read more trending news Alosco told WFXT that their findings revealed any injury to a child's brain could result in permanent damage. “We're talking about those tiny hits to the head, over and over repeatedly that don't necessarily result in symptoms, but we think are enough to cause injury to the brain,” he explained.  Just earlier this summer, WFXT investigated the growing trend of youth flag football as many are families opting out of regular football because of health concerns. “I just think it's a little too dangerous at their young age. They're so fragile,” parent Jeanine Hetzel said.  >> On Boston25News.com: Despite new helmets, doctors warn of concussion risk for football players WFXT asked Alosco whether he would recommend parents not let their child play youth football. He said more research needs to be done, but he did say one thing.  “You just have to ask yourself: Do you really want your young kid to go out there and start hitting their head at such a young age – not even just football – in anything?” said Alosco.