It’s September, folks. You know what that means? Yes, it means your kids are finally going back to school, but it is also National Pet Insurance month! You may be shocked that pet insurance is prevalent enough to warrant its own month of celebration. According to a recent article in Forbes, there are over eighty million dogs and over sixty million cats in the United States.  

Most companies offer health insurance to their full-time workforce and extend that benefit to significant others and even children. But what about four-legged children and their bills? The more prominent costs, at least for me, include fun toys and tasty treats because my pets are incredibly spoiled. However, the concern that loomed above all others was the pawsibility of one of my fur babies falling victim to serious illness or injury. When my bichon-poo mix Gipsy Danger wasn’t eating and lethargic with a serious cough at 3 months old, it cost over $500 at the emergency veterinary clinic to diagnose and treat her kennel cough. I was, of course, relieved to be able to get her the care she needed, but that bill still stung quite a bit. Had she been insured with Nationwide Pet Insurance at that time, 70% of her total bill would have been reimbursed to me. They even have direct deposit! 

Now, my two cats and pupper are all covered under Nationwide Pet Insurance. Coverage includes a portion of everything from routine visits and vaccines to emergencies. It may be a bit pricier than some of their competitors, but the comprehensive coverage more than makes up for it. Not to mention the easy-to-use app that allows you to access benefits and submit claims within minutes. And did I mention they have direct deposit?! 

A recent study done by Pew Research identified that a staggering 97% of pet owners consider their animals as members of the family – rightly so – with 51% ranking their furry family on the same level as their human ones. If that’s true, it only makes sense to insure your four legged family as much as your two legged ones.  

There are a lot of winter celebrations and holiday cheer this time of the year. As a result, I thought it might be fun to share how cultures throughout the world celebrate during the winter months.

Winter Solstice

  • The shortest day of the year.
  • Falls in mid-December for those in the Northern Hemisphere and June for those in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • At this time, half of the Earth is tilted furthest from the sun at this exact moment.
  • Fun Fact: Did you know that if you stand outside at noon on winter solstice and look at your shadow, it will be the longest shadow you cast the entire year?
  • Other similar celebrations include:
    • The Yalda festival in Iran marking the day when Mithra, an angel of light, was thought to have been born.
    • China’s Dongzhi festival celebrates winter’s darkness beginning to give way to light.
    • Scandinavians gather for Juul, or Yule, a multi-day feast when ancient people would welcome the return of the sun god.


  • A Jewish holiday honoring the Maccabee’s victory over King Antiochus in 165 B.C., a victory seen as a miracle of God.
  • Hanukkah is celebrated for eight nights with prayer, the lighting of the menorah, food, games, sing-a-longs, and gift exchanges.
  • The dates of Hanukkah change due to the lunar cycle but typically occur in late November or early December.


  • A Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ.
  • Traditions around the world include decorating a tree with lights and ornaments, hanging mistletoe, attending church services on Christmas Eve, and waiting for Santa Clause to arrive from the North Pole in time for Christmas morning (December 25th).
  • Fun Fact: Santa’s arrival is different in many cultures: in Hawaii he arrives by boat, in Australia on water skies, and in Ghana he finds his way out of the jungle to leave gifts for children.


  • Commemorates African heritage, during which family and friends gather to exchange gifts and light a series of candles.
  • The candles symbolize the basic values of African American family life: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith
  • Kwanzaa occurs from December 26th through January 1st.

New Years Day

  • Takes place on January 1st each year
  • The count down starts the night before and often fireworks are on display as the clock strikes midnight on the first day of the new year in the Gregorian calendar.
  • Black-eyed peas, collard greens and pork are commonly served on New Years Day in the southern United States.
  • Black-eyed peas are thought to bring luck and prosperity for the new year. Greens are considered a sign of wealth for the new year. Pork is a symbol of moving forward.

Epiphany, or Three Kings Day

  • Celebrated as the day the three wise men first see Jesus, bringing him their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
  • This celebration occurs in many different ways 12 days after Christmas. Examples include:
    • In Puerto Rico, children leave a box with hay under their beds at night so the kings will leave presents.
    • In France, kings’ cakes have hidden toys, jewels, or coins inside. The person who finds the trinket in their cake gets to wear a crown.

Chinese New Year

  • Considered the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays.
  • This holiday falls between January 21st and February 20th.
  • Family and friends celebrate together during this time to usher out the old year and bring forth the luck and prosperity of the new year.
  • Legend has it that thousands of years ago, a monster named Nian would attack villages at the beginning of each year. Loud noises, bright lights, and the color red scare the monster away. Today, the celebration uses fireworks, red clothes, and red decorations.

Las Posadas

  • Primarily celebrated in Mexico, Guatemala, and parts of the southwestern United States, Las Posadas is a 9-day celebration.
  • During this celebration, a procession of people moves from home to home with a candle inside a paper lamp, stopping at each home to sing and pray.
  • Eventually, the procession ends but the celebration continues with more singing, delicious food, and the breaking of a piñata.


  • Celebrated worldwide in honor of the willingness of the prophet Abraham to sacrifice his first-born at God’s command.
  • Celebrated near the end of the calendar year but dates vary based on the Islamic lunar calendar.
  • Families gather together in a large congregation, dressed in their finest, and sacrifice their best halal domestic animals as a symbol of Abraham’s sacrifice. Friends, neighbors, and the poor share the meat to ensure no one goes without during the holiday feast.


  • A five-day Hindu festival and official holiday in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar.
  • Diwali celebrates the attainment of nirvana by Mahavira (an Indian Sage), as well as the death of Swami Dayanand (a Hindu religious leader).
  • The holiday involves the lighting of small clay lamps to symbolize the victory of good over evil.

For visuals of these holidays, check out the following video:

This list doesn’t come close to covering all of the winter holidays celebrated around the world. There are others such as Boxing Day, Omisoka, St. Lucia Day, St. Nicholas Day, Ramadan, etc. However, we hope that no matter how you celebrate this winter, you’re able to safely celebrate with the people that matter most to you and remember the traditions that keep your spirit up from year to year.

Happy Holidays from your friends at FlexTrades! 

Summer is just beginning to turn to fall, but many people around the country are already starting to think about colder weather. Maintenance managers aren’t any different than the rest of us when it comes to considering the needs of their HVAC/R equipment and facilities. They don’t want to be caught unprepared when the weather is at its worst. Creating and following a winter checklist can greatly simplify maintenance of an industrial or commercial facility. Here’s a checklist that can help you prepare your facilities for the cold weather ahead.

Energy Savings

Steps that take advantage of the changing weather for savings.

  • Regular system checks, throughout the year, ensure major (and costly) overhauls or repairs are rarely needed. They also ensure that HVAC/R equipment is operating at it’s most efficient (and cost-effective) capacity regardless of the season.
  • Thermostats and/or zone controls can result in greatly reduced energy consumption (and increased savings). Production machinery in a shop will produce enough heat on its own to have much different requirements for warming than conference rooms or shared office spaces. Having the proper controls to take advantage of this will not only result in savings but a much more comfortable, and productive, workforce.
  • Drain and winterize non-essential chillers and cooling towers. They don’t need to be a focus of maintenance until preparing to bring back online for warmer weather. This allows manpower to be redirected to more seasonally essential tasks. It also decreases weather-related wear and tear on HVAC/R system equipment.

Operational Efficiency

Steps that make sure things work best when the weather is at its worst.

  • Preventative maintenance on outdoor assets and equipment is essential BEFORE cold weather hits. A plow or snowblower isn’t much good to anyone if it doesn’t start the first time it’s cold enough to snow.
  • Heat pumps and boilers need to be operating at optimum levels when they’re most needed. HVAC/R and water systems work harder during severe weather. It’s also important they work efficiently to reduce system strain and energy consumption as much as possible.
  • Test emergency generators/systems and fuel supplies regularly. A blizzard knocking out heat or a storm knocking out fire prevention can be catastrophic for a company. This makes backup systems one of the most imperative checks a facility maintenance manager can perform.

Disaster Prevention

Prepare your facility for the most extreme weather.

  • Preparing high traffic and communal use areas like entryways, parking lots, and loading docks for cold (and often ICY) weather is a necessity. They can often be slip/trip/fall hazards in even mild conditions. Simple steps like the use of deicer, gravel, safety mats, and proper signage can go a long way to reducing the frequency of worst-case scenarios occurring.
  • A burst pipe due to freezing is one of the worst things that can happen to a facility. Such an occurrence can result in both water damage (flooding) to the physical facility and equipment damage to HVAC/R and water systems. Properly insulate pipes and valves to keep water and building temperature at proper levels.
  • Snow and ice can be a great hazard for the roof of any facility. Freezing and melting can cause ice dams in gutters that result in leaks and other water damage. Meanwhile, snow load can result in structural damage or even cause roofs to collapse when improperly anticipated. Regularly clearing drainage or ventilation systems is paramount for winter weather prep due to these hazards.

These aren’t the only steps required to prepare a facility for winter, but they are some of the most important ones. If you’re swamped and need help checking some items off your building’s list, contact our Client Solutions team to see if our HVAC/R or Facility Maintenance techs can help you out. If you’re experienced preparing industrial and commercial properties for seasonal changes, send your resume to our Technical Solutions team to learn more about our projects. Either way, all of us at FlexTrades hope all of you stay safe, productive, and warm this winter.

Deploying Niche Skillsets

Our client was located in the land of Oil & Gas. Their remote location combined with a lot of competition in the market, made it extremely difficult for their team to find highly skilled Plastics Process Technicians. Their HR team had been searching for two process technicians for over a year before coming to FlexTrades for support. Within weeks, we were able to provide them with several skilled Technician from our bench who fit the skillsets and experience they were seeking. Our technicians will be supporting them for 6+ months to give the internal hiring team the space and time to find the right permanent solution in their area. The VP of Operations at the facility recently shared that our Technicians are “setting the bar for performance in this position”.

The winter season up north may conjure images of icy roads and cold temperatures, but for FlexTrades’ Technicians, it presents a unique set of advantages. These advantages stem from the increased demand for winter-related products and the specialized skills required to meet the needs of the season. In this article, we’ll explore why FlexTrades Technicians should consider going on assignment up north during the winter months.

Increased Demand for Winter Products

Winter brings a surge in demand for items such as snowmobiles, winter clothing, and heating equipment. Manufacturing facilities up north ramp up production to meet this demand, creating numerous opportunities for FlexTrades Technicians.

Seasonal Spikes & Overtime Pay

Orders and demand tend to spike during the winter months for many manufacturing employers in northern regions. Generally, these spikes result in increased opportunities to work overtime hours (at increased payrates). This can substantially boost your per-project income, making it an economically advantageous choice for FlexTrades Technicians.

Stable Employment

Industries like agriculture or tourism often experience significant seasonal variation, but the manufacturing sector in northern regions tends to maintain more stable employment throughout the year. FlexTrades Technicians can rely on manufacturing jobs as a consistent source of income during the winter months.

Comfortable Indoor Facilities

Modern manufacturing facilities up north are equipped with well-insulated and heated indoor environments. This means that FlexTrades Technicians can work comfortably and safely, even in harsh winter conditions.

Skills Development

Winter manufacturing jobs often require specialized skills, such as working with cold-weather materials or winterizing products. FlexTrades Technicians can gain valuable experience and expertise in these areas, thus enhancing their skillset and gearing them up for future projects.

Networking Opportunities

Working up north during the winter season provides FlexTrades Technicians with opportunities to connect with industry professionals specializing in cold-weather manufacturing. These connections can be valuable for future projects and collaborations.

Adventure & Exploration

For those who enjoy winter sports and outdoor activities, working up north during the winter can be an opportunity to explore and experience the region’s unique winter culture and recreational opportunities during downtime.

Personal Growth

FlexTrades Technicians who embrace the challenges of working up north during the winter can develop valuable personal attributes such as resilience, adaptability, and the ability to thrive in diverse environments. These skills can be beneficial for both personal and professional growth.

Financial Security

The combination of higher pay rates, bonuses, and the potential for year-round employment can provide FlexTrades Technicians with financial security. This stability allows them to save, invest, or plan for their future with confidence.

The winter season up north offers FlexTrades Technicians a range of advantages, from increased income and job stability to skill development and personal growth. While it’s important to consider personal preferences and family commitments, working up north during the winter can be a rewarding choice for those seeking unique career opportunities and experiences in the world of manufacturing.

In recent years, the Clean Slate Initiative has emerged as a growing movement towards a policy shift in the United States. It aims to address the challenges faced by individuals with criminal records. This groundbreaking initiative offers both opportunities and challenges not only for those seeking a fresh start but also for employers. Let’s explore what the Clean Slate Initiative entails, its implications for both employers and employees, and how it varies from state to state.

What is the Clean Slate Initiative?

The Clean Slate Initiative is a progressive legal movement that seeks to automate the process of expunging certain criminal records and convictions. Its primary goal is to help people with past convictions reenter society as productive, law-abiding citizens. While the specifics vary by state, the initiative typically involves the automatic sealing or expungement of arrest and conviction records for minor, non-violent offenses after a predetermined period of good behavior.

What Does the Clean Slate Initiative Mean for Employees?

This initiative creates both challenges and opportunities for workers.


  1. Increased Employment Prospects: The Clean Slate Initiative removes barriers to employment for individuals with past convictions, expanding their job opportunities.
  2. Economic Benefits: Gainful employment not only reduces recidivism rates but also boosts the economy by increasing tax revenue and decreasing reliance on social welfare programs.
  3. Rehabilitation and Reintegration: The initiative supports the rehabilitation and reintegration of formerly incarcerated individuals into society, reducing the cycle of crime.


  1. Stigma and Bias: Despite legal changes, societal stigma may still affect job prospects and opportunities for those with criminal records.
  2. Variations in Implementation: The initiative’s effectiveness depends on state-specific laws and resources, leading to disparities in outcomes for individuals.

What Does the Clean Slate Initiative Mean for Employers?

Companies hiring individuals will have their own opportunities and challenges to address too.


  1. Diverse Talent Pool: Employers can tap into a previously underutilized talent pool, potentially finding skilled workers.
  2. Legal Protections: In some states, employers who hire individuals with expunged records may receive legal protections against liability related to their employees’ past convictions.


  1. Risk Assessment: Employers must navigate the complexity of assessing the potential risks associated with hiring individuals with criminal histories.
  2. Legal Compliance: The initiative’s legal requirements and implications can vary significantly from state to state, posing compliance challenges for businesses.

How Does the Clean Slate Initiative Differ by State?

  1. Legislation and Eligibility: The Clean Slate Initiative’s implementation differs from state to state regarding the types of offenses eligible for expungement and the waiting periods required. Currently, 12 states across America have passed Clean Slate legislation.
  2. Resources and Support: Some states allocate more resources to support individuals seeking record expungement, making the process more accessible and efficient.

The Clean Slate Initiative represents a transformative approach to criminal justice and rehabilitation in the United States. While it offers numerous opportunities for both employees and employers, it also presents its fair share of challenges. These opportunities and challenges vary significantly depending on the state, highlighting the importance of staying informed about local legislation and resources. As the Clean Slate Initiative continues to evolve, its impact on the lives of millions of Americans and the workforce as a whole remains a subject of great interest and importance.

We’ve all heard the joke regarding the Fitbit app where it’s like a Tamagotchi but the creature you’re trying to keep alive is yourself. In that same vein, I bring to you list of free self-care apps that are designed to help you thrive and live your best life in as fun and engaging a way as possible.


I downloaded Finch because I was going through a rough period and needed to focus on something else. I created an account and my finch, Ophelia, was born. As you complete and log various tasks like housework or self-care, you earn Rainbow Stones. These, in turn, can be used to purchase clothing for your finch to wear or furniture to decorate their home. Once you’ve fully evolved into an adult you can even travel outside of Finchie Forest to destinations like Bali, Paris, or Maui. Not to mention the adorable pets your finch is able to obtain.  There is both a free and paid version of this app and, while I have the paid version, the free iteration of Finch is a full experience. Overall, this app was able to bring a semblance of order and routine to my work-from-home lifestyle while constantly bringing a smile to my face.


The process to create an account in Lumosity is simple, and the games they present you with to assess the areas of your mind you wish to exercise are straightforward. Some of the games were even challenging to the point that I started to get frustrated. This probably means it’s an app I need to keep on my phone!


If you’re on the road, you may be traveling light and not have room for coloring books or pencils. Thankfully, now you don’t have to. Introducing Colorfy, the app designed with you in mind. That is, if you’re the kind of person who finds coloring relaxing. I personally do not, but even I had to admit this app was helping me decompress. There’s a membership option for a fee but the free version was perfectly entertaining on its own.

Goblin Tools

This last one is, to the neurotypical passerby, quite bizarrely named. However, for my fellow ADHD warriors, you know all too well that we are all a bit of a goblin at times. Goblin Tools is an app that I purchased for a onetime fee of $0.99. However, after playing around with it, I would have happily paid ten times that. It takes any task you may be struggling to accomplish and breaks into tasks based on how much ADHD paralysis you are dealing with at the moment with a simple sliding scale. I will never be without this app on my phone and, should it ever be discontinued, I will surely perish.

Tis the season for snow! With that, we thought we’d make our monthly installment of the How It’s Made article about snow. There are two types: natural and man-made. We’ll outline both below.

Natural Snow

The Earth’s atmosphere is filled with water and water droplets. At times, these droplets will combine with dust, bacteria and other items floating in the air. When temperatures in the atmosphere drop to very cold levels, the water/dust/bacteria-combined droplets freeze and become tiny ice crystals. A snowflake is created when 2-200 of these ice crystals bond together. With the help of gravity snowflakes fall from the clouds to the ground, a distance of nearly 20,000 feet and a journey that lasts approximately an hour!

Man-Made Snow

When I say man-made snow, I’m talking about the snow you see at ski resorts. To ensure their success on a seasonal basis resorts must create their own snow. This snow is denser than natural snow and doesn’t melt as soon as  when packed down on the trails and hills. So, how do they make it?

Key Components

  • Snow Guns or Fan Guns
  • Power Connections and Power Pedestals
  • Air Compressors
  • Water Connections Snowmakers

Snow guns and fan guns are the large pieces of equipment that blow the manufactured snow onto the mountains. You can find these on top of poles and at ground level. Although the two types of guns perform the same task, they operate differently.

  • Fan guns require the use of electricity and power connections. As a result, an electrical distribution system is created through the use of power pedestals (electrical boxes) and power cords.
  • Snow guns do not utilize electricity. Rather, this type of gun operates through the use of compressed air. Air compressors create the power that propels the snow out of the guns.

Regardless of gun type, both types require water. Water connections consist of what is essentially a large fire hose that can withstand a high level of water pressure (PSI) in addition to many miles of water pipeline underground and hydrants at each fan gun hookup.

Finally, snowmakers! Yes – you can create a career (at least seasonally) by being a snowmaker. These workers evaluate weather conditions first and foremost. Then, based upon weather conditions, they manipulate, coordinate and control the operations of the making systems. This happens by creating the “just right” mix of water, temperature, and air. These mixes vary on each hill, as well, helping to create the various difficulty levels of each ski run.

Check out the video below to learn how the experts do it.

Other Key Components

  • Snowmaking ponds (water sources)
  • High-powered turbine pumps (for pushing water throughout the systems)
  • Air coolers (cooling the compressed air)
  • Computers (for monitoring and adjusting the making process)
  • Weather stations (sending weather and humidity to the computer)
  • Groomers (for compacting and grooming to ideal conditions)

With all that said, I can’t say I’m signing up to be a snowmaker anytime soon but I might try to be a snowflake maker. Below are links that will bring you to templates and instructions for making paper snowflakes. Try it if you’re ever stuck inside on a snow day!