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Mother’s Day

| Canyon Country Magazine | May 8, 2017

My husband says Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are made up holidays, invented by the card companies. While I can agree, it has been a nice thing over the years to have my children recognize my worth at least once a year. When they were younger I cherished the handmade cards, even the one that said, “I love you because you feed me, I don’t always like it but you feed me.” Then there are the ones from their friends — handwritten, thanking me for being their second mother.

Mother’s Day cards from my young children always made the carpool easier, the never-ending laundry a bit less challenging, and especially because I have all boys, the lack of general communication a bit easier. It was a reminder that they did appreciate my efforts when once a year they wrote something special, heartfelt, and personal to me. That means they had to stop and think about their mother and her worth. Even if it was only food they didn’t like.

For me, Mother’s Day notes, cards and words were much more meaningful than gifts. Perhaps that’s because there were very few gifts (did I mention the boys’ father doesn’t believe in the holiday?) but there were always cards, handwritten notes and genuine appreciation.

If nothing else, Mother’s Day is a time to reflect on your mother, your motherhood, and to be appreciative. If you are still blessed to have your mother, call her — or better yet, send her a note.

Drug Abuse Conversation Continued

| Opinion | May 5, 2017

Last week in The Signal newspaper, in response to the multiple heroin overdoses in our valley, Cary Quashen of Action Family Counseling wrote an article directed, in part, to parents. While he brought up excellent parenting tips, such as put down the electronic devices and spend time with your kids, they cannot be construed as bulletproof. Kids from good families fall into addiction — kids who spent their early years going to church, excelled in school, even those with very involved parents, can become addicts. There is not a parental code that ensures your son or daughter will not succumb to drugs or addiction.

We have three sons who are all adults now and all grew up in the same home, with the same parents. Electronic devices were not a huge part of my boys’ lives — they were involved with sports and choir. I can’t say we were perfect, but according to Mr. Quashen, we did everything right. The same can be said for friends of ours who ended up with challenging results similar to ours.

We have a son who became an addict, yet our other two didn’t head in the same direction. One is a business manager and the other son is a pastor. So, I’m not sure — what actions could I have taken to avoid the addiction?

I can tell you one thing for certain. With anything in parenting, especially teens, go with your gut. If you think it might be occurring, it probably is. On this point I agree with Mr. Quashen.

Our son tasted oxycontin when he had his wisdom teeth out, and again after a few surgeries for football injuries. Each time, I kept the medication and left him only the day’s dosage. I can’t tell you why I didn’t trust a 16-year-old with those pills, but I didn’t. This was over 10 years ago, and hopefully, in this more enlightened time oxy is not prescribed for teens. Fast forward to young adulthood and, as we all know, the pills become harder to obtain and heroin is cheaper. Whatever drove him to try again, to feel however oxy had made him feel, I can’t say. But there was the drive to feel that way again.

Action and Mr. Quashen do an amazing work here and are an incredible resource. I simply want parents to know, the best of parenting cannot prevent addiction. Quite honestly, it is likely NOT your fault, or even preventable. I could say that if my son was never introduced to oxy he would never have found heroin, but I don’t know.  Some personalities are more prone to addiction — not everyone who loves food is obese; not everyone who drinks is an alcoholic.

Love your kids, spend time with them, and watch for subtle changes in behavior and friends. Above all, don’t assume that because you do everything right your son or daughter will never try drugs or become addicted. It happens in the best of families.

**The Views and Opinions expressed in these columns are those of the writer, not necessarily those of Valley Publications/Santa Clarita Gazette.**

Santa Clarita Gazette, Week of February 17, 2017, Issue 962

| Print Archives | February 15, 2017

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Tax Issues

| Community | February 10, 2017

By Christopher D. Munchhof

Certainly you’ve heard about how the new Trump administration and GOP have plans to drastically reduce taxes. The majority of those reductions are targeted towards corporations with the hopes that such reductions will spur hiring in the U.S. and boost economic growth nationally. The president and Congress both have plans to simplify and reduce taxes for individuals as well, however those reductions will be less drastic. How will the proposed changes affect us?

The potential changes could result in one of the most dramatic single year transformations to the tax code in history. The Trump plan reduces the number of tax brackets from the cumbersome seven to a simple three and reduces the top rate from 39.6 percent to 33 percent. The adjustment to the brackets raises the rate of the lowest bracket from 10 percent to 12 percent, but also expands it to cover taxable income up to $75,000 for married couples. Currently, taxable income over $18,551 is taxed at 15 percent, so the new brackets would tax more income at a lower rate.

Included in the plan is a proposal to increase the standard deduction and eliminate exemptions. For single filers, the standard deduction would be increased from $6,300 to $15,000, while married filers would see an increase from $12,600 to $30,000. The proposal eliminates the “Head of Household” filing status, which has a standard deduction that falls in between single and married. These are substantial increases to deductions which will allow taxpayers to reduce the amount of income they have subject to tax and is particularly beneficial to those who don’t have a lot of tax deductible expenses.

Some have been critical of the plan because it eliminates personal exemptions, which would mean losing a way to deduct $4,050 for each of the children on your return. However, the Trump proposal includes a new way to deduct the cost of childcare for children aged 13 or younger. This deduction can be taken whether the taxpayer uses the standard deduction or itemizes and counts as a reduction of gross income, not just a reduction in taxable income (this means taxpayers may be more likely to qualify for low-income credits and government aid). The wild part about this deduction is that it is based on the average cost of childcare in your state, not necessarily the amount you actually paid for childcare, and the deduction even applies if the care is provided by the child’s parent. We will have to wait and see what the average cost of child care is determined to be for the purpose of this deduction, but currently stands in California somewhere from $5,000-$10,000 annually.

The average household income for Santa Clarita families is approximately $90,000 annually. Under the Trump proposal, a married couple with two young children who earns $90,000 annually and has no other deductions would pay about $3,500 in federal taxes. Under the current law, that same family would pay about $6,200, or roughly, $3,000 more. Families with young children and married couples with no children at all will mostly see a reduction in their taxes.

It’s not all good news, however. Families with teenaged children could end up paying more, especially in households which have substantial deductible expenses like mortgage interest and property tax. The increased standard deduction won’t help a family that already has a lot of deductions, and the elimination of exemptions could leave more income subject to tax, resulting in a higher tax bill. In addition, the elimination of the Head of Household filing status could result in an increase in taxes to single parents who are average income earners, but hopefully the addition of childcare credits would offset any increase.

Another popular plan from the Republican Congress is the idea of eliminating the deduction for state income taxes, something we are particularly fond of doing here in California. We should also expect the elimination of the ACA penalty to those of us who are still holding out on getting health insurance. Other proposed changes include the creation of a dependent care savings account. This account would allow parents to take a tax deduction on up to $2,000 set aside for child care, after school programs, or school tuition. The accounts could be established once you are expecting a child. Investment growth and withdrawals would be tax-free if used for the specified childcare purposes. If funds from this account are used to pay for child care while the parent is at work, the amounts can also be applied to the dependent care credit. Lower income families who utilize the account would receive matching funds from the federal government. The amounts in these accounts could rollover year to year and are also available for use when paying for the care of a dependent parent.

While there may be a large quantity of tax law changes on the horizon, the result of those changes may not be very significant for us. Overall, most Santa Claritans could expect a modest reduction in taxes. Some, unfortunately, might experience increases. Of course, these are all just proposals at this point and there’s no way to be certain about what exactly is going to happen. What most industry experts agree is that significant changes will occur and those changes will apply to your 2017 tax return.

“Christopher D. Munchhof is a licensed tax professional, investment adviser, life insurance agent and 30-year Santa Clarita resident. You can reach him directly by emailing chris@free-financial.com.”  

The Red Map

| Opinion | January 8, 2017

By Michael Cruz

Does the name Karl Rove ring a bell? In addition to being the chief political strategist for President George W. Bush, Karl Rove is also one of the co-strategists of “Red Map.”

You might be wondering what is Red Map? Is it a sinister plot to take over the world like some spy movie? Nope, not at all. It was a strategy adopted and utilized in 2010 to help the Republican Party become the majority party in Congress and to help solidify their control by focusing on various state races, which would determine what party controlled the redistricting process, based on the 2010 Census, for both state legislative seats and congressional districts.

Karl Rove announced his plan in a Washington Street Journal op-ed in March of 2010. He highlighted some of the gains made by the Republican Party in the 1990s and 2000s. He even stated that “Republican strategists are focused on 107 seats in 16 states. Winning these seats would give them control of drawing district lines for nearly 190 congressional seats.”

Fast forward to 2016 and we are still feeling the effects of Red Map and if Democrats aren’t able to either win gubernatorial races or win the majority in either one of the state houses in a large number of states, we may very well feel Red Map’s effect until 2032. Recently, various federal courts have ruled that the redistricting process is a violation of the Voting Rights Act and have ordered the following states to redraw their respective congressional districts: Wisconsin, North Carolina, Virginia and Texas.

What should Democrats do? They should focus on several gubernatorial races for 2018, which means we need to start working in January 2017. Specifically, Democrats should target the following governors’ races: Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Florida, Virginia and Nevada. This would give Democrats a seat at the table for redistricting congressional and state legislative seats based upon the 2020 census. These districts would go into effect in 2022.

In addition to focusing on the governors’ races, I propose that the Democrats and their allies focus on getting two ballot measures on the 2018 ballots: raise the minimum wage to at least $10 per hour and a requirement that all congressional and state legislative seats be drawn by an independent commission. In other words, take the politics out of the redrawing process. Presently, the minimum wage in Nevada, Michigan, Ohio and North Carolina are all below $9 an hour.

Seems like a long shot? Hardly. Both propositions are very popular with voters. Just look at the state of Arizona a Republican-dominated state, which just approved a ballot measure to increase the minimum wage to $12 per hour.

This will do two things: give a reason for Democrats to come out and vote, and it will require the Republicans to either support or oppose raising the minimum wage at the state level (which is even popular in red states). Even President-Elect Trump has advocated raising the minimum wage.

SCV Residents Share Their New Year’s Resolutions

| Community | December 29, 2016

For those in need of a little inspiration (in some cases, a good laugh) for their New Year’s resolutions, some Santa Clarita Valley locals shared their resolutions with the Gazette:

Susan – I always try to make my resolutions fun, so that I will keep them. One year was wear more plaid. Another was bake a cake a month. Last year was watch a musical a month. But this year feels a little different. I’m trying to pin down a way that I can make a difference in my little corner of the world- connection and unity is important to me- I am trying to develop a concrete plan of action- something attainable and meaningful. Still thinking… suggestions welcome

Krissy – I do so much for others that I have neglected myself in a big way. My resolution is to be more selfish and say no, to take care of my health (physical and mental), and to just take care of me so that I can live a long life and be around when my children are old and grey, just like me! AND  Spend MUCH LESS time on Facebook

Scott –  Spend less time on Facebook

Christopher – I’ve got a few, some simple, some tough. Read 50 books this year, eat at The Munch Box in Chatsworth(because we share a name and I’ve never been ), go sky diving, and publish a book.

Maggie – Try and get all A’s and B’s in all my college courses

Kiza – My New Years resolution is to donate as much money and volunteer time as I possibly can to Southern California animal shelters and senior centers

Tom – Resolutions Schmezolutions. I’m perfect just the way I am.

Bruce – I’m going to stop making resolutions I forget about on January 2.

Laura –  Save money

Katherine – I lost 20 lbs last year, and my resolution is to lose another 20 this year!

Brian – To read the Gazette more.

Nanette – I’d like Fair and balanced news.

Ryan – Figure out a New Years resolution for 2018

Julie – Going to start a business.

Cari – My resolution is to uncover the Reptilian Overlords that run Santa Clarita politics.

Nick – I’m wanting to find part time work.

Graciela – To find a job!!!! I need one badly!!!!

Rachel – No resolutions for me. I don’t like disappointing myself

Bonnie – I’m just going to try to be a nice person. Because why do anything else if you walk around cursing everyone with your presence?

Jessica – Write and read on a more regular basis.

Celeste –  I don’t make resolutions until Chinese New Year or March 4th. I don’t have my act together until then.

Michelle – This year I helped my clients achieve their health goals…and it was really rewarding  so I plan on helping twice as many people this year!!

Brendie – We don’t outline our goals until new Years eve itself and then divide them into: health, education, family and spiritual. It’s super helpful to have them categorized and written down. I’ll let you know Jan 2nd

Non Profit of the Week – The Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital Foundation

| SC Living | December 2, 2016

Philanthropy is fundamental to meeting the healthcare needs of a thriving community.

The Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital Foundation was established to promote community awareness, cultivate volunteerism and raise vital funds for hospital initiatives to bolster the level of care already available at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital. Our donors’ generosity is transformed into new equipment, technology, programs and services, including: Henry Mayo Center and Simulation Lab; Akbar Hasan Infusion Center; Kim and Steven Ullman Neonatal Intensive Care Unit; Roberta Veloz Cath Lab; Sheila R. Veloz Breast Center; Wayne and Connie Spears Intensive Care Unit; and an expanded Emergency Department.

Since its formation in 1984, the Foundation has raised more than $50 million to provide Santa Clarita Valley residents access to world-class healthcare. The Foundation raises funds through events such as the annual Golf Classic, Home Tour, Auxiliary Events, and the Healthcare Hero Campaign. In addition to special events, there are many giving and naming opportunities and employee giving campaigns. The Foundation has embarked on a three-year campaign to raise funds for the new, six-story Patient Tower, which will provide up to 142 additional patient beds and expanded Maternity Services. The Patient Tower broke ground in October 2016 and is expected to open in 2019 pending state licensing. For more information or to make a donation, please call 661.200.1200 or visit www.henrymayogiving.com.

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