Sunday, December 20, 2009

When You Are Separated From Those You Love

"But the Lord stood at my side ...." 2 Timothy 4:17 (NIV)

The Christmas holidays tend to magnify the loneliness we feel when we're separated from the ones we love. Many of us have lost our roots, or never had any to begin with, and that can cause loneliness. We can experience the loneliness of separation because of military service, or a career, or an illness.

But the Bible tells us what we can do about our loneliness --

Focus on the needs of others - Get your eyes off yourself and focus outward. Look at how you can serve other people. The Apostle Paul focused on telling more people about Jesus: "But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it" (2 Timothy 4:17 NIV).

Focus on your purpose - Even when the Apostle Paul was isolated in a prison, he never stopped living out his purpose. He wanted everybody to know about God's love.

When you're lonely - Stop building walls and start building bridges! Instead of saying, "I'm so lonely," say, "Father, help me be a friend to people who need a friend. Help me to help lonely people." That is the antidote for loneliness.

You can help others become rich in relationships by giving them the gift of YOU.

[Rick Warren]

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tips on Dating

Rule #1: Listen to Your Gut

Whether you’re on a date, communicating with someone you meet online, or flirting with a cutie you meet in person, it’s important to pay attention and listen to your gut. If a potential date’s actions or words set off an internal alarm system, you owe it to yourself to pay attention and act accordingly. These alarms can be both good and bad. For example, how about if you’ve met someone online and they seem interesting- enough to talk on the phone, right? But then you talk to them on the phone and they sound completely different (in a negative way)- you may decide not to meet them in person. A positive example would be if you were on a date with someone and they seemed nervous but well intentioned, your gut might tell you to give them a second chance. By going on a second date, you’ll gain a better understanding of who they really are and if you’d like to see them again.

Rule #2: Pay Attention to Red Flags

Like those internal alarms that alert you to your gut feelings, you also have an alarm system to alert you to red flags. Sometimes this alarm system is turned way down. As a result, we often ignore red flags and find ourselves getting involved with inappropriate partners because we’re not paying attention. Wrong move- you owe it to yourself to become a red flag specialist- especially on a date. An example of a red flag would be if you found yourself on a date with someone who could not stop talking about their ex. They may be a fantastic person, and eventually make a great partner, but right now they’re not ready. Your job is to pay attention to that red flag and not pursue them.

Rule #3: Actions Speak Louder Than Words

During the course of your dating life you'll most likely find yourself on a date with someone whose actions speak much louder than their words. Maybe they’re attentive and chivalrous to you, but treat the waiter, bartender, and/or valet poorly. Or maybe they claim they’re ready for a long-term relationship, but their wandering eye tells you otherwise. To get the most out of your dating life, it’s important to understand that actions speak louder than words. When someone’s actions are contrary to their words, this is not only a red flag, it’s gut-check time. By paying attention and screening out potential partners whose actions don’t match their words, you cut down on wasted dating time and make it that much easier to attract potential partners worth your time and energy.

Rule #4: Don’t Play Games

Successful singles know what goes around comes around. They also know the importance of being honest and well-intentioned with the people they date. As a successful single, you owe it to yourself and the individuals you date not to play games. Call when you say you’re going to call. Do what you say you’re going to do, and be honest when the other person asks if you’d like to go out again. If you don’t want to see them again, say so in a kind and considerate way. By being honest and letting them down easy, you avoid playing games. Expect the same in return. If you don’t get it, don’t play games by taking that out on the next person you date.

Rule #5: Know When to Say “Game Over”

Just as you should not play dating games, you will want to avoid getting played. Like it or not, there are plenty of players on the dating scene. It’s up to you to know the signs of the player, know their game, and be confident enough to say “game over.” Here’s where that all important "gut-check" pays off- know how to spot a player. A little too charming? A little too self-deprecating? A player wants to engage you in the game. So call it for what it is, and instead of falling for their tactics, simply smile, say “game over,” and walk (better yet, run!) away.

[Research by John Tesh]

Friday, December 11, 2009

Footprints in the Sand

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
other times there were one set of footprints.
This bothered me because I noticed
that during the low periods of my life,
when I was suffering from
anguish, sorrow or defeat,
I could see only one set of footprints.

So I said to the Lord,
“You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you,
you would walk with me always.
But I have noticed that during
the most trying periods of my life
there have only been one
set of footprints in the sand.
Why, when I needed you most,
you have not been there for me?”

The Lord replied,
“The times when you have
seen only one set of footprints in the sand,
is when I carried you.”

by Mary Stevenson

Monday, November 30, 2009

8 Ways to Help Your Bipolar Loved One Cope

Depression and bipolar disorder are family diseases. Everyone who shares a kitchen and a bathroom is affected. In fact, in his book Understanding Depression, J. Raymond DePaulo Jr., M.D., writes, "Depression ... has a much greater impact on marital life than rheumatoid arthritis or cardiac illness. One study found that only severe forms of cancer affected a family as adversely as depression or bipolar disorder.

1. Educate Yourself - Education is always the starting point. Because until the spouse or daughter or friend of a manic-depressive understands the illness, it is impossible for them to to say or do the right thing to be supportive. Do your own research by going online.

2. Learn How--and When--to Talk - As a spouse, you shouldn't say much when your loved one is clutching tissues, crying their eyes out. And you should be hesitant to speak when they are manic (not that they would let you get a word in). But when they don't want to get out of bed in the morning, you should remind them why they need to. And when they are revved up, you should be the voice of reason telling them why, for example, a spontaneous trip to New York isn't smart.

3. Make Some Rules - You know all the fire drills in primary school you prayed would happen during your pop math quiz? All those times the school administrators rehearsed what, exactly, would happen in the case of an emergency? Families of bipolar persons need those as well: plans of action for those times when the bipolar person is sick. In order to design such a strategy, the manic depressive and their loved one must compile a list of symptoms -- the equivalents of the smoke and burning smell of a fire -- and what action should accompany each, like "call the doctor." Each family will have a different list of symptoms and a different model of recovery, because no two illnesses are exactly alike.

4. Plan Even More - As part of your plan of action, you should consider what should happen when the bipolar person is very ill. "When you are dealing with a disease that has the potential to become life-threatening, the last thing you want is an improvised response to an emergency situation," writes Francis Mark Mondimore, M.D. in his book Bipolar Disorder: A Guide for Patients and Families.

5. Listen - "When people are talking," writes Rachel Naomi Remen, 'there's no need to do anything but receive them. Just take them in. Listen to what they're saying. Care about it. Most times caring about it is even more important than understanding it."

6. Go Gentle - A little kindness and gentleness toward your loved one -- especially at those times when the bipolar person feels incapable of affection and care -- go a long way to aid recovery.

7. Laugh Together - Humor heals in so many ways. It combats fear as it loosens anxiety's death grip on your heart and every other living organ. It comforts and relaxes. And recent studies indicate that humor also reduces pain and boosts a person's immune system. "Laughter dissolves tension, stress, anxiety, irritation, anger, grief, and depression," says Chuck Gallozzi of personal-development.com. "Like crying, laughter lowers inhibitions, allowing the release of pent-up emotions. After a hearty bout of laughter, you will experience a sense of well-being. Simply put, he who laughs, lasts. After all, if you can laugh at it, you can live with it. Remember, a person without a sense of humor is like a car without shock absorbers." Humor also aids communication, and if there is one thing besides education that is absolutely essential for a healthy relationship with a bipolar loved one, it's strong communication.

8. Support Yourself - Caregiving is draining. Even when you are protecting yourself with the armor of regular sleep, healthy meals, and essential time-outs from your bipolar loved one, caring for a person still takes a toll on both physical and mental health. "It can be exhausting to live with a hypomanic person and frustrating to deal with a seriously depressed person day after day," says Dr. Mondimore. "The changes and unpredictability of the moods of someone with bipolar disorder intrude into home life and can be the source of severe stress in relationships, straining them to breaking point." That's why you need support as much as your loved one. You need to talk to people who have lived with a manic-depressive, and be validated by their experiences. Spouses and family members of bipolar people should consider therapy for themselves, as a way of processing all the stress. You may also benefit from checking out support programs for spouses and loved ones of the mentally ill, like from the National Alliance for Mental Illness.

[by Therese J. Borchard]

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Ten Ways to Help a Friend's Struggling Marriage

It's common to know someone whose marriage is in trouble and to be unsure how to help. These 10 practical tips will help you get started helping others.
  1. Pray for them by name. Ask God to intervene in their marriage. Ask God to give you and others wisdom to know how to help. Pray in their presence as well as when alone. Send emails and note cards of encouragement.
  2. Listen. Listening doesn't mean simply hearing. It involves empathizing, seeking to understand and expressing genuine interest.
  3. Don't give advice. Your main job is listening. Leave the advice giving to a pastor, counselor or mentor.
  4. Don't make the problem worse. Don't allow your support to be seen as an encouragement to give up or get a divorce. Your job is to help steer them toward the proper help and reconciliation (If addiction or abuse is involved, make sure they get the professional help they need and are safe).
  5. Help them think outside the divorce box. Booklets such as When Your Marriage Needs Help, Should I Get a Divorce, and Marriage and Conflict can give couples both research and practical advice to help them consider the facts about divorce and how to get the help they need for their marriage.
  6. Help them find the right help. Locate a good, licensed Christian counselor in their area. Ask your pastor or Christian M.D. for a referral. Focus on the Family offers a free counseling consult as well as a free referral service to a Focus-screened marriage therapist.
  7. Connect them with a mentor couple. If you are not qualified to help, call your pastor to recommend an older couple who is willing to mentor a younger couple.
  8. Refer them to helpful Web sites. Web sites such as TroubledWith, Pure Intimacy and www.FocusOnTheFamily.com offer hundreds of articles, practical advice and resource recommendations on various marriage issues. Focus also offers a Marriage Forum designed to give couples a safe place to talk about struggles and successes in their marriage.
  9. Encourage them to work on their problems and not simply expect them to be solved on their own. Focus On The Family offers an online Marriage Checkup which measures over 18 major areas of marriage -- identifying both strengths and weaknesses.
  10. Refer them to solid Christian-based books and seminars. Many are available through Amazon and Focus On The Family. Key resources like Yes, Your Marriage Can Be Saved, Love and Respect, Love Must Be Tough, First Five Years of Marriage, Help! We are Drifting Apart, Breaking the Cycle of Divorce, Healing the Hurt in Your Marriage and others can provide needed encouragement and direction.
[By by Mitch Temple, Copyright © 2008, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.]

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Reduce Your Worry About Cancer

Little lifestyle changes can lower your odds of hearing the dreaded diagnosis - "cancer." Slip these practices into your routine and worry less.

Stay Weight Wise

Excess pounds boost cancer risk, a study in The Lancet shows. Build an exercise habit now to head off trouble: The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends aiming for 30 minutes of activity five days a week.

When you hit your 45th birthday, make sure you're also doing 45 minutes of strength training twice weekly to minimize metabolic slowdown. "Beginning in our mid-40s, we lose up to a third of a pound of muscle a year and gain it back as fat, and fat burns fewer calories than muscle," says Miriam Nelson, Ph.D., director of Tufts University John Hancock Center for Physical Activity and Nutrition in Boston.

Nibble a Bit of Chocolate

Hooray - an excuse (except - you don't need one!) Researchers have discovered a compound in dark chocolate that fights fast-growing cancers such as colorectal cancer. "It requires the activity of an enzyme called kinase, which causes cancerous cells to die but leaves normal cells alone," says Richard Pestell, M.D., director of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. The finding could even lead to adding chocolate to current cancer treatments.

Practice Peace

Say ahhh! High levels of the stress hormone cortisol may inhibit a key gene from suppressing tumor growth, findings in the journal Genes, Chromosomes & Cancer suggest. Tame tension with this formula from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Healthy Lifestyle Program:

- Take deep belly breaths. You slow and elongate brain waves, bringing on calm.
- Watch your favorite comedy. Enjoying a good laugh activates the areas of the brain that govern humor, in turn suppressing the brain's stress regions.
- Adopt an uplifting mantra. Try "I love my life!" and repeat it when you're happy. You will train your mind to associate the phrase with being content. Then when you're on edge, chant your mantra and you'll immediately feel at ease.

Bake, Don't Burn

Grilling beef, poultry and fish until it's charred to a crisp can turn amino acids and other substances in the meat into heterocyclic amines (HCAs), compounds that have been linked to cancer. "HCAs are 10 times more potent than most other environmental carcinogens," says Kenneth Turteltaub, Ph.D., a toxicologist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. Try these ideas:

- Marinate meat before grilling. Soaking chicken breasts in a mixture of cider vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice and spices reduced HCA formation by 92 to 99 percent, notes a study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology. "Marinating creates a barrier between the hot surface and meat, enough to lower the temperature and prevent HCAs from forming," Turteltaub says.
- Keep the grill temp below 325 degrees, the point at which HCAs begin to form. Grill meat or fish in punctured aluminum foil to protect against flare-ups. When fat drips on the hot coals, it forms HCAs, plus other carcinogens called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that rise with the smoke.
- Microwave beef burgers for one to three minutes before browning; doing so reduces HCA production by 95 percent, according to a study in Food and Chemical Toxicology. Prior to grilling, discard the juices, which contain the building blocks of HCAs. Flip burgers often — about once a minute. This action keeps meat juices from getting too hot and activating HCA formation.

Avoid Needless Tests

Those full-body computed tomography scans you sometimes see at the mall are bad news: CT scans deliver a dose of radiation 50 to 200 times that of a conventional X-ray. A study from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston found that for every 1,000 patients screened, an average of 908 would have at least one false-positive result, requiring further testing.
Stick to shopping when you're at the mall, and if your doc orders a non-emergency CT scan (say, to investigate headaches), ask if a radiation-free ultrasound or an MRI can be used instead, says Devra Davis, Ph.D., director of the Center for Environmental Oncology at the Uni versity of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.

Breathe Easily

Radon is a leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers. The odorless radio-active gas is linked to up to 22,000 cancer deaths annually, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
It is released during the decay of uranium, an element found in many soils, and can seep into your house. "When inhaled, radon can break down cell DNA and lead to cancer," Davis explains. To test your home, look for a do-it-yourself kit at a home-improvement store.

Steal These Secrets

Cancer rates in some countries are significantly lower than in the United States, and many experts attribute this to the lifestyles of people in these areas. Adopt these disease-fighting behaviors from afar:

- Spice things up. In India, where breast cancer rates are about five times lower than in the United States, people cook with an abundance of cancer-fighting spices such as cumin, ginger and turmeric. Go for whole grains. Finland natives are known for eating loads of dark rye and other whole-grain breads, which likely contributes to their low colorectal cancer rates. Kick butts. West Africans smoke much less than Americans, which may in part explain why their rates of esophageal cancer are about 60 times lower than ours.
- Cut back on coffee. The number of esophageal cancer cases has jumped 300 percent in the past 20 years, the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reports. A primary cause: chronic reflux, which bathes the throat in stomach acids that can erode tissue. To put out the flames, avoid top triggers like caffeine and alcohol. "They relax the sphincter muscle at the bottom of the esophagus, allowing stomach juices to splash up," says Yvonne Romero, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn.

Be Sunscreen-Savvy

Melanoma rates among young women jumped 50 percent between 1980 and 2004, the Journal of Investigative Dermatology reports.

Apply sunscreen properly: Put on the amount that would fill a shot glass 30 minutes before heading outdoors, then reapply every two hours or after swimming or major sweating. Also, look for broad-spectrum coverage and UVA-filtering ingredients such as Mexoryl, avobenzone and zinc oxide.

Ask About Daily Aspirin

It's not only for heart disease: One a day reduced estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer risk by 16 percent, NCI research finds. "Aspirin may block cyclooxygenase, an enzyme that could disrupt cancer development, in part by reducing estrogen levels," says lead researcher Gretchen Gierach, Ph.D. More research is needed, though; long-term aspirin use can cause ulcers.

Beware of False Promises

At least 25 companies have misleadingly marketed products containing ingredients like shark cartilage, exotic mushrooms and wild yam as cancer treatments or preventives, prompting the FDA to issue a warning this summer. One supplement, CancerGene, claimed to "help switch on all three genes that inhibit cancer." "These products aren't proven safe or effective," says FDA spokeswoman Rita Chappelle in Rockville, Md.

[research by John Tesh]

Today's Quote

"The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests." - Epictetus

Friday, November 20, 2009

Family Meal Time

According to a new poll commissioned by The Associated Press, 60 percent of those who live with families said they sat down with family for dinner at least five nights in the past week. The research also revealed:

  • Twenty-five percent of families have the television turned on during dinner.
  • Fifty percent of families feel pestered by phone calls during this time together.
  • E-mailing or texting on a cell phone is constantly taking place during dinner for five percent of families.
  • Fifty-one percent of men said they cook dinner at least sometimes.
  • Sixty-four percent of people in rural areas said they eat dinner as a family at least five times a week compared to 56 percent of those living in cities.
  • Twenty percent of those polled said they ate dinner in a sit-down restaurant once in the past week.

The poll was conducted November 5-9 by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Media, and was based on phone interviews with 1,006 adults. [MercuryNews.com]

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Marriage Counseling

A woman seeking counsel from Dr. George W. Crane, the psychologist, confided that she hated her husband, and intended to divorce him.

"I want to hurt him all I can," she declared firmly.

"Well, in that case," said Dr. Crane, "I advise you to start showering him with compliments. When you have become indispensable to him, when he thinks you love him devotedly, then start the divorce action. That is the way to hurt him."

Some months later the wife returned to report that all was going well. She had followed the suggested course. "Good," said Dr. Crane. "Now’s the time to file for divorce."

"Divorce!" the woman said indignantly. "Never. I love my husband dearly!"

Friday, November 06, 2009

Why Many Marriages Fail

One of the chief reasons so many marriages fail is that the functions of a date and mate differ radically: that of a date is to be charming; that of a mate is to be responsible; and, unfortunately, the most charming individuals are not necessarily the most responsible, while the most responsible are just as often deficient in charm.

[by Sydney Harris]

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Today's Quote

"When one is out of touch with oneself, one cannot touch others." - Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Monday, November 02, 2009

Marriage Under Attack

In June, a U.S. senator and a governor both admitted to adulterous affairs, yet kept their jobs. The percentage of American marriages ending in divorce within five years is twice as high as in any other nation. The United States has 13.6 million unmarried heterosexual couples living together. In some quarters, activists are pushing for recognition of "polyamory," in which a person has more than one legal partner. Throughout American society, traditional marriage --God's design as outlined in Genesis 2:24 -- is under assault. How can we reverse a prevalent cultural pattern in which marriage no longer is a special relationship between a man and a woman? And how can we keep from falling prey to notions that the sacredness of marriage is an outdated concept?

God intended His relationship with His created human beings to be a loving, committed relationship, and marriage is modeled after that. When a man leaves his parents and cleaves to his wife, it connotes more than just a companion or partner. It's the infusion of two people into one relationship that God expects to stay together.

"Marriage is the very fabric of a society that's healthy," says Linda Mintle, a licensed marriage and family therapist. "It's a sacred institution of God."

MORE THAN HAPPINESS

Experts say the biblical model and societal expectations for marriage are vastly different. Scripture presents marriage as a covenant vow, not a social or business contract. Yet the standard thinking among many today is that a spouse is disposable if he or she no longer keeps the partner content. Marriage won't always be consistent in its level of fulfillment and personal happiness. Marriage should be a committed union with another person rather than something to make us happy. There will be conflict in marriage. But if the emotional bond between partners is strong and intimate, damage can be repaired quickly.

In July, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford attempted to justify an eight-year secret relationship he had with an Argentine woman. Frequently, politicians caught in adultery make a brief statement of contrition to the media with their wife stoically at their side. In contrast, Sanford stood alone and showed no remorse. He called his affair partner his "soul mate" and admitted that he no longer loved his wife of 20 years, with whom he has four sons. The ordeal may have been a watershed in terms of shifting attitudes. Josh Spurlock, a professional counselor with Tri-Lakes Relational Center in Springfield, Missouri, (http://getrelationshiphelp.com/) who has been married four years, agrees that the Sanford affair signaled a new boldness by public figures in displaying behavior long considered unacceptable.

Likewise, the sad demise of former NFL quarterback Steve McNair shows how infidelity can spin out of control. McNair, married and the father of four sons, had bought a luxury vehicle for and vacationed with a 20-year-old girlfriend. Police say the adulterous girlfriend murdered McNair because she suspected he was cheating on her in a second affair.

Another sign of growing tolerance of infidelity is the burgeoning number of Web sites facilitating extramarital affairs. One site, whose membership has doubled to 4 million in a year, recently added mobile iPhone and BlackBerry applications to keep suspecting spouses from discovering the adultery.

DISPOSABLE RELATIONSHIPS

A critical root of the problem is that it's all about what feels good at the moment. This new relativism of "whatever's right for me' pushes away absolute values." Such thinking is evident in the reality show "Jon & Kate Plus 8," which follows the Gosselin parents and their sextuplets and twins. Early episodes in 2007 talked about the faith of the mother, Kate. By June this year, Kate had filed for divorce after the series divulged Jon's dating of a 22-year-old woman. On air, Jon complained that he needed to flee the marriage because of his overbearing wife. "I was too passive. I let her rule the roost and went along with everything. And now I stood up on my own two feet and I'm proud of myself," Gosselin said. No spiritual solutions were offered. There was no talking to their pastor, no praying together, no push for an intimate walk with God. No other couples coming around to help them. It was strictly the secular answer: I'm not happy; I'm getting out. The Gosselins are symbolic of the American pattern of the highest divorce rate in the Western hemisphere.

Divorce and cohabitation -- which begins and ends quicker in the United States compared to other countries -- challenge the foundational premise of marriage. It's a false premise that a relationship is about my pleasure as long as it lasts with a certain other person, and then I can leave. It's antithetical to God's design of marriage, which is about commitment, growth, mutual sharing and benefit of the other person. When people don't have a commitment to the biblical model of marriage, they are vulnerable to other kinds of relationships.

Growing acceptance of adultery has been accompanied by astronomical cohabitation and the highest divorce rates. Many people see broken relationships as an expected part of life. Linda Mintle, whose books include Divorce-Proofing Your Marriage and I Married You, Not Your Family, says the divorce rate for Christians mirrors that of non-Christians because they have adapted to the mindset that marriage is about personal happiness, rather than honoring a covenant.

"Anything that breaks up the institution and marginalizes the important role of a man and a woman in creating a family is destructive," Mintle says.

FALLOUT FOR CHILDREN

Mintle says Satan has effectively assaulted marriage on a variety of fronts involving parenting, including: common portrayals of fathers on television as dolts; unmarried Hollywood couples having babies without moral qualms; and homosexual-rights groups trying to redefine the family to include two same-sex parents. "All of this at its root destroys what God developed: The best place for kids to be raised is within the institution of marriage," Mintle says. A generation ago, most viewed procreation as a vital reason to marry, but that's no longer the case.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that a record four out of 10 births are to unwed women. The widespread acceptance of divorce towers above other threats to marriage. The median age for a first divorce in this country is 30.5 for men and 29 for women. The devastation that happens with kids in the course of a divorce often seems to repeat itself in the next generation. Divorce wrecks the home life of kids. Emotionally, it leaves scars that are carried into other relationships. The wounds of infidelity or pornography are damaging, but they can be healed. Divorce is more like an amputation.

Andrew J. Cherlin, author of The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today, concurs that the carousel of relationships of parents is particularly damaging to children's emotional development and undermines a sense of security and trust. About 60 percent of children born to cohabitating parents see them split up by the time they reach 10 years old, he reports. "Some children seem to have difficulty adjusting to a series of parents and parents' partners moving in and out of their home," Cherlin writes.

Couples contemplating giving up on marriage need not be afraid to seek mentoring help from solid older couples in their church or professional counselors. Such guidance may help put the marriage in perspective. In marriage, sometimes the spotlight of the heart shifts onto what disappoints us about our spouse. As discontentment grows, attraction fades and eventually fades to coldness. The reality of what characteristics attract us to other people is that they are also the qualities that attracted us to our spouse. Thus, innocent attraction can grow improperly into affection that becomes obsession. Even through the bad times in a marriage, God is able to use difficulties to mold us in His image.

[by John W. Kennedy, Pentecostal Evangel]

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Today's Quote

"Don't give up. Moses was once a basket case."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Does Divorce Matter?

In 1997, a prominent psychologist wrote an article which appeared in an American psychological journal. The author reviewed several commonly held beliefs about psychology, and one of his claims was that the brain is quite resilient to the effects of trauma. He noted that rats which had been subjected to trauma as infants developed into apparently well-adjusted adults.

A response was written to his claim in which it was noted that, unlike animals, we humans have language — along with a memory system with which to process it — and that trauma has a unique linguistic way of lingering in our unconscious minds. Humans, just like rats, may give the appearance of being well-adjusted, but, as any experienced mental health clinician has seen over and over, many of the seemingly “well-adjusted” individuals walking around in our society are tormented by inner lives of emptiness and self-destructive despair. Professor, physician, lawyer — they all say the same thing to me: “I feel like mush inside.” And most of them, as children, saw their families shattered by divorce or adultery — often the “adultery” of child sexual abuse. We take divorce so much for granted today that it is hard not to find someone who has been divorced or who has married someone who has been divorced or who has parents or relatives who have divorced. And like that prominent psychologist, we brush it off and say, “It doesn’t matter.”

But it does matter. Children need to have both a mother and a father who will protect them, care for them, teach them, and guide their feet through darkness into the way of peace. Even the trauma of losing a parent to death is less a trauma than losing a parent to divorce, for in divorce a parent essentially says to a child — and to a spouse — “My personal desires are more important to me than is your welfare. This family is nothing to me, and you are just an object to be moved around like a pawn in my self-indulgent search for happiness.” Laboratory rats have only cheese and mazes. What can they say about trauma? Children, however, have phobias, eating disorders, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, sex, unwanted pregnancies, sexual diseases, abortion—and suicide, and guns — to “speak” about their traumas. And yet we continue to look at divorce and say, “It doesn’t matter.”

It does matter and we often need help with divorce issues. Counseling is available. Call us.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

About ADHD

If you’re waiting for your child to outgrow ADHD … don’t. Approximately 60 percent of children with the condition will carry it into adulthood. Early evaluation and treatment, when appropriate, can pre-empt years of more serious problems. As the ADHD child gets older, his symptoms — and his means of coping with those symptoms — can intensify. A 10-year study currently under way has already found that young adults are at high risk for “markedly elevated rates of antisocial, addictive, mood and anxiety disorders.”

Over treatment and misdiagnosis are still problem areas. Some bioethicists believe that pharmaceutical companies are pushing their drugs, leading to medical treatment in patients who don’t need it. At the same time, a true case of ADHD is a neurobiological condition — a medical problem, not just a psychological one — and does warrant the use of prescribed medicine.

A major part of the problem is that most primary-care physicians are simply not trained yet in diagnosing ADHD. The disorder was not formally recognized as a disability until 1998, and doctors are still catching up to the ongoing research and the efficacy of treatments. Seek physicians with experience in ADHD diagnosis, and educate yourself.

ADHD is most effectively treated with a combination of medication and therapy. Prescribed medicines are effective for approximately 50 percent of the patients who need them. But even in the patients who do respond, only about half of their symptoms are relieved. The drugs won’t necessarily treat problems with organizational skills, coping socially and the overwhelming emotions associated with underachievement and failure. Cognitive psychotherapy can reach where medication does not.

It is still undetermined whether ADHD can be beat. We don’t know yet whether adult patients can be free of the condition after stopping medication and therapy. (Children may have not carried the condition into adulthood.) While on a treatment program, people do learn to relieve impairments and decrease distress. But it is unknown whether patients can maintain long-term control over symptoms on their own when the course of meds is ended.

Half of all people with ADHD have other disorders as well. Depression and anxiety are the most common conditions that “co-travel” with ADHD. These co-travelers present a major problem because they mask ADHD; physicians will often recognize and treat the mood disorder, which they’re familiar with, but miss the ADHD completely.

As in children, adults with ADHD are also more likely to have asthma. Other co-travelers, so to speak, include smoking, drug or alcohol abuse, and obesity — all of which signal ways in which people try to cope or self-medicate.

It's very real. Sure -- many people in our generation or older can remember a time back when behaviors that mirror ADHD/ADD were punished since they looked like plain, old disobedience or out of control impulsiveness. You, as parent, know your child best. But also recognize when it's not only okay, but in your child's best interest, to seek the advice of experts -- your son or daughter likely isn't intentionally trying to forget homework assignments night after night, and treatment of a perhaps previously overlooked medical condition could make a world of difference to you all.

(Research by John Tesh)

Repairing a Broken Relationship

1. Assess what's going on between you - Try to think objectively and make sure that you really want to mend the friendship. Your latest tiff may just be a sign that the relationship has been doomed for a while. Have you simply outgrown each other? That's no one's fault. People change over time and not always in the same direction. Have the same problems recurred time after time? Maybe the bad chemistry or sense of imbalance between you has become so overwhelming that it is impossible to transcend. Or -- is it something that you think you might really be able to fix? If so, proceed to Tip 2.

2. Pinpoint what happened - If it is something you said or did, or something you didn't say or do -- or if the problem was with her, talk about it. No friendship is perfect and each one has tiny kinks that need to be worked out. Communicating avoids little problems from escalating into big ones that can undermine a relationship.

3. Be the first to offer the olive branch - If you know you were in the wrong, take responsibility for your mistake. Tell your friend how important the relationship is to you and show her in some small but concrete way. Invite her to dinner or send her a card that says, "I'm sorry." If she was in the wrong, practice forgiveness. Harboring resentment towards someone has a way of bouncing back like a boomerang to hurt you (including raising your blood pressure). Let go of the disappointment. Having a shared history should provide a strong foundation that allows a friendship to weather small hurts.

4. Step back after you've tried - Be sensitive to her response. Okay, you've been thinking about how you were going to handle this fiasco, for hours or maybe even weeks and months. But you just sprung your thinking on her and she may need time to mull it over. If her answer is "No way," accept it for the moment, give it some time, and try again. If she repeatedly blows you off, you may have to accept her decision and move on.

5. Don't necessarily view endings as a failure - Friendships have beginning and endings. Ones that last forever are more likely to be the topic of novels and television scripts. Sometimes, people breathe a sigh of relief after an ambivalent or toxic friendship is over.

Friendships are wonderful and life affirming. But keep in mind that just as is the case in most relationships that really mean something to us, the ones that have a chance at surviving the test of time (as well as stresses and arguments!), our friendships will not flourish being left on a shelf with no care coming from us. They require effort. And if we're lucky, each one provides us with new wisdom so they get better and better!

(by John Tesh)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Counseling Women

Women today face the challenge of trying to meet everybody else’s needs, often ignoring their own needs. They may find that they try to be the perfect wife, mother, employee, etc., and still ...

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Does God Expect Me to Stay Married to a Jerk?

Years ago, a family therapist was asked, “What are the top three causes of divorce?” to which he replied, “Selfishness, selfishness, selfishness!” Of course this is an oversimplification of the varied and many contributing factors to divorce but there is an element of truth in this statement that permeates each.

At the core of all that ails the human race is selfishness: this innate love of self-self-worship-or pride. We alienate ourselves from one another when we elevate our desires, our opinions, and our feelings above others. We cheat and steal because we want, we lie and deceive because we give priority to our self-interests, we murder-in actuality or with words-because our puny sense of supremacy is threatened. This is the very sin that separates us from God: our love of self over and against the Father. In short, we are deplorably selfish beings consumed with satisfying our own appetites and desires, often without regard for anyone else.

This is the dreadful state in which the Lord finds us-and despite our active resistance to his rightful rule in our hearts, our thoughts, and actions, he lovingly subdues our rebellious pride with his grace and mercy. He saves us from eternal alienation that our stubborn resistance brings! The old man, so infatuated with himself, is crucified and buried with Christ; we are raised to a new life in Christ (see Romans 6:4). However, this new life doesn’t just happen. Our will, which was once in bondage to sin, has been freed to pursue godliness in obedience to Christ through faith. Paul, writing to the church at Ephesus, tells us that we are to be taught to cast away our “old self” and “to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22–24, NIV). C. S. Lewis summed it up in saying, “To become new men means losing what we now call ourselves” (Mere Christianity).

The clearest clue to what this new self looks like is given in Paul’s letter to the Philippians when he writes, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:5–7, NIV). This is a radical departure from our selfish nature into one that denies self even in the face of offense. This same nature is, of course, the foundation for marriage-but also all relationships.

In Ephesians, Paul lays out the foundation of marriage as being rooted in a mutual love and submission, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord” and “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:22, 25, NIV). Notice also that Paul begins this chapter with the charge to “Be imitators of God,” another reference to the disposition described in Philippians chapter two. Later in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul compares this joining of two people into “one flesh” to that of Christ and his bride, the church (see Ephesians 5:32). Thus marriage-this “profound mystery,” according to Paul-transcends anything resembling a mere contractual obligation. Nor is marriage simply a self-serving means to personal happiness; Christian couples should strive for and display this self-denying disposition.

Another aspect that should govern Christian marriage is the doctrine of God’s sovereignty.

Do we believe that when we suffer, we suffer outside the will of God, or do we believe that God allows suffering to enter our lives for his good purpose? Isn’t there the expectation that we, too, will share in the sufferings of Christ, that “we must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22, NKJV)? While we do not eagerly seek to suffer, don’t we believe that suffering bears sweet fruit nourished by bitter tears and that such fruit is nothing less than holy character (see Romans 5:2–4)? If we believe that God in his providence causes everything to “work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, NLT), then wouldn’t it be reasonable to conclude that such suffering may also come in the form of a troubled marriage?

That being the case, wouldn’t we be expected to persevere rather than seek escape, trusting God for both endurance and the outcome? It is here-in the domain of our so-called domestic happiness-that we may be tempted to draw a boundary, saying, in essence, “Lord, you may come this far but no farther.” It is often in this context that the old self returns in an effort to assert his rights: “I need, I want, I deserve!” However, the Christian is compelled to lay down these rights and instead trust in God, believing that his grace is indeed sufficient in all things including an oppressive and loveless marriage. It is here that the Christian patiently endures, trusting the Lord for the grace to do so, and hopes for a future where God may be pleased to set things right.

Please do not think I am suggesting that the person suffering physical abuse remain in a situation whereby he or she is subjected to physical harm. I am not! However, that is a topic for another time, as I am presently addressing divorce for no other reason than the failure to achieve personal “happiness.” This is where we Christians either begin to differ from the world or remain worldly. The Christian life does not culminate in a quest to be happy but to be holy!

If our attitude is to be the same as that of Christ Jesus, then consider how Jesus responds to his frequently unfaithful bride, the church. Every one of us has, at some point, been unfaithful to Christ; we have wantonly rebelled against him, we have been indifferent, even abusive in our disregard toward him. We have all failed to love him at times and we constantly put our needs ahead of his. And yet Jesus never says to us, “That’s it, I’ve had it! I will not take this abuse anymore; you are selfish and uncaring; you don’t love me or make me feel special, so I am out of here!” Can you imagine these words coming out of the Savior’s mouth? Never!

So it is to be with us. For those poor souls who walk in darkness, there is no chance of assuming the self-denying character of Christ; but for those whom Christ has made alive, there is the all-sufficient well of grace. It is to Christ that the Christ-follower must go with his “irreconcilable differences,” not to the courts. It is only Christ who reconciles the unrighteous with the righteous and it is Christ that can reconcile husband and wife.

The question for the church is this: Will we truly trust him in all things, including while we suffer marital maelstroms? Will we follow Christ when it is most difficult? If we won’t, then not only will we fail in our witness, we will never know the freedom of living by faith.

[By S. Michael Craven, Christian Post Guest Columnist]

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Today's Quote

"The conflict and indifference between religion and psychology is a curious state of affairs. Although both clergy and practicing psychologists are involved in counseling relationships and interested in emotional and behavioral outcomes among those with whom they work, they generally appear to do so in isolation without much guidance from each other."- Thomas Plante

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Today's Quote

"Do you realize that the common denominator in all your bad relationships is you?"

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

10 Stress Busters

1. Simplify - Cut your to-do list in half. How? Ask yourself this question after every item: Will I die tomorrow if this doesn't get accomplished? I'm guessing you'll get a lot of no's. I'm sure Franklin Covey has a more efficient and elaborate system. But here's mine: Every morning I immediately jot down my to-do list. Once I experience the first heart palpitation, the list gets cut in half.

2. Prioritize - Let's say you've got five huge work projects due next week, two Cub Scout commitments you promised your son, your mom's overdue taxes on your desk, your wife's 40th birthday celebration to plan, and your sister's computer to fix. What do you do? You record all the tasks on a sheet of paper or on your computer and you give each one a number between 1 and 10: 10 being the most important (life threatening) to one (stupid bloody thing I signed up for). Start with the 10s. If you never get beyond the 8s, that's okay!

3. Use Pencil, Not Pen - If you rely on your to-do list as much as I do, then you'll want to start using pencil instead of pen. Because one important stress buster is to try to stay as flexible as you can. Things change! And change is not our enemy, even though our brain categorizes it as such. You want to be able to erase a task or reminder at any time, because who the heck knows what your day will be like.

4. Give Away Your Cape - If you haven't already guessed by now, you are not a superpower and don't possess supernatural qualities and capabilities. I'm sorry, but you're going to have to join the race ... the human race. Which means surrendering to limitations and conditions--like the number of hours in a day (24) and the amount of time it takes to get from point A to point B. In your car. Not in your bat mobile.

5. Collaborate and Cooperate - There are lots of people out there with to-do lists that look very similar to yours. Why not let them do some of your tasks so that you all don't have to do them? The moms around me have mastered this concept, as they have set up a babysitting co-op: one mom volunteers to watches a neighbor's kid and by doing so earns babysitting points that she can redeem when a neighbor watches her kids. In the blogging world, I have begun to collaborate with some other mental-health writers so that we all don't have to scan the same media outlets for depression-related stories. If I catch something I send it to them, and vice versa. It's an effective system.

6. Laugh - Just as chronic and severe stress can damage organic systems in our body, humor can heal. When people laugh, the autonomic nervous system mellows out and the heart is allowed to relax. Laughter can also boost the immune system, as it has been found to increase a person's ability to fight viruses and foreign cells, and reduce the levels of three stress hormones: cortisol, epinephrine, and dopac. Plus it's just fun to laugh. And having fun is it's own stress buster.

7. Exercise - Exercise relieves stress in several ways. First, cardiovascular workouts stimulate brain chemicals that foster growth of nerve cells. Second, exercise increases the activity of serotonin and/or norepinephrine. Third, a raised heart rate releases endorphins and a hormone known as ANP, which reduces pain, induces euphoria, and helps control the brain's response to stress and anxiety. You need not to run a marathon or complete an ironman. A quick stroll in the morning or in the evening might be just enough to tell the stress hormones in your blood to scatter.

8. Stop Juggling - I realize some multi-tasking is inevitable in our rushed culture. But do we really have to simultaneously cook dinner, talk to Mom, help with homework, and check e-mail? If you were an excellent waiter or waitress in your past or present, then skip this one. However, if you have trouble chewing gum and walking at the same time like I do, you might try your best to concentrate on one activity at a time.

9. Build Boundaries - Speaking of activities, get some boundaries, ASAP -- meaning designate a place and time for certain things so that your brain doesn't have to wear so many hats at the same time. I thought this was impossible as a mom who works from home until I made myself abide by some rules: computer is off when I'm not working, and computer stays off in the evening and on weekends. My brain adjusted nicely and appreciated the notice of when and where each hat was required, and it actually started to relax a tad.

10. Think Globally - I don't say this to induce a guilt trip. No, no, no. Because guilt trips compound stress. What I mean here is a simple reminder that compared to other problems in our world today -- abject poverty in Somalia or Cambodia -- the things that we stress about are pretty minor. In other words, if I shift my perspective a little, I can see that there are far worse dilemmas than my poor royalty figures on a few books. Put another way: Don't sweat the small stuff, and most of it is small stuff.

[By Therese J. Borchard]

Monday, September 07, 2009

Contact Information

Relationship Clinic
216 Gault Avenue North
Fort Payne, Alabama 35967
888-605-0215 (Toll Free)
256-845-7920 (Voice)
256-845-7820 (Fax)

256-418-0620 (Dr. Brock)





Thursday, August 27, 2009

Can Divorce Make You Sick?

A few weeks ago, I was astonished to find Time magazine exposing how the collapse of marriage harms women, children, and the poor. No Christian could have made the prudential arguments for marriage more impressively.

Not to be outdone, the New York Times has just run a piece announcing that divorce can make you sick - sometimes for the rest of your life.

The Times described the findings of a study of more than 8,600 people in their 50s and 60s. The study sought to determine how divorce, widowhood, and remarriage affected their health. The authors’ conclusion: “The physical stress of marital loss continues long after the emotional wounds have healed.”

Among the divorced and widowed, men and women alike reported “about 20 percent more chronic health problems” including diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, than people who stayed married.

Even when people remarried, they had 12 percent more health problems than those who stayed married to their first spouse. The study revealed that “most married people who became single never fully recovered from the physical declines associated with marital loss,” the Times said.

The study was authored by University of Chicago sociology professor Linda Waite, an expert on marriage and divorce. Waite is the co-author, with Maggie Gallagher, of the book, The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially. In this book, the authors note that divorced, single, and widowed people are “far more likely to die from all causes,” including stroke, car accidents, murder, and suicide. Perhaps this is part of the reason God says in Malachi, “I hate divorce.”

The Times is quick to claim that staying in a bad marriage can lead to physical problems, too. But it’s good news that major news outlets are writing articles like this. For decades, they have trumpeted the idea that divorce harms nobody, that children do just fine without fathers, and that we should all just do whatever makes us happy, maritally speaking, that is.

But now the problems of marital breakdown - and failure to form families in the first place - have become so severe that not even news outlets hostile to Christian teachings can deny it.

Articles that reveal the damage of living outside of God’s design for us offer a great opportunity for the Church. I have long taught that only Christianity offers a reasonable system for how we are to live in the real world. Every day, it seems, we have more tragic evidence of the truth of that belief-provided by believers and non-believers alike who violate God’s design.

You and I need to reach out to neighbors who have been taken in, and harmed, by secular teachings about marriage and divorce. We should befriend them, find ways to meet their needs, and invite them to church.

Those who have suffered the consequences of false worldview teachings may well now be open to Christian teachings-and how well they match up with health and happiness. And having learned this, they may be open to learning more about, and following, the loving Maker of these rules.

The test of any worldview is, can you live with it? When it comes to marriage, we now have scientific evidence that living outside of God’s plan can literally make us sick.

[by Chuck Colson]

Identifying Drug Abuse

Identifying if a loved one is abusing drugs or alcohol is the first step in getting them to recovery. It is not always easy to be sure, especially in today's world – prescription drugs represent the most widely abused drugs in America today.

People abusing drugs tend to lie about their usage. Using a home drug testing kit can be difficult and embarrassing.

Products can be purchased on the internet that obscure positive test results. A family member may be doctor shopping and convince you that all the drugs they are taking are prescribed, easing your concerns – yet they may be addicted.

It can be difficult to be sure, yet the life of a friend or family member may utterly depend on you correctly identifying their drug or alcohol abuse. Once the problem is out in the open, it can be addressed.

Signs of drug abuse are listed below for most drugs abused in our society today:

Opiate Abuse

Opiates include heroin, morphine and a range of prescription drugs. Oxycontin, Dilaudid, Percoset, Percodan and Oxycodone all fall under the category of opiates. Whether they are bought on the street or are prescribed, the symptoms of abuse will be the same.

A person on opiates will have constricted pupils that look like pinpoints or small dots. If the method of ingestion is sniffing, the nostrils may appear raw or red. If the method of ingestion is by injection there will be needle marks in the arms, behind the knees or the ankles.

Heroin users have been known to inject themselves under the tongue, or directly into open sores. These locations are not as easy to detect.

Opiates affect people in different ways: some may get very "hyper" (active or frantic) and run around working or looking busy while others get very lethargic (nodding or doping off). The person may go around asking others for money. This will not be small change for cigarettes, but more like $20 or $40 here or there.

Amphetamines and Cocaine Abuse

Amphetamines include meth bought on the street and Adderal, which is prescribed. There are other amphetamine type prescription drugs, such as Ritalin, which can be abused.

The symptoms of those on cocaine and methamphetamine are similar and are listed below.

A person on cocaine or speed will usually have glassy eyes and very, very large pupils. They may try to hide this condition by constantly wearing sunglasses or other dark glasses.

The behavior will be erratic. A person on cocaine or amphetamines cannot relax or confront and is restless.

One will observe uncharacteristic activity, irritability, nervousness or aggression. Remember, stimulants speed up the body's functions and the person may have trouble sitting still, remaining inactive or controlling his or her temper. For this reason, there may be long periods without sleeping. The body, quickened by the chemicals, avoids sleep for extended periods of time. The person may exhibit this tendency of insomnia and then "crash" and sleep for similarly long periods of time.

The person will tend to move fast and ramble or be non sequitur in conversation-jumping from one topic to another. He or she will also experience "cotton mouth" and may drink inordinate amounts of water to satiate thirst and constantly be licking the lips.

There may be constant sniffing despite the lack of a cold or allergies.The person might exhibit unexplainable changes in appetite or weight. Stimulants diminish the user's appetite (which is why they are found in diet pills.) One might see a sudden lack of interest in food.

Aside from the physical signs of abuse, a person may show other signs by often borrowing money in odd increments (like $20, $30, $40). Other signs may be overuse of the person, or significant other's ATM card - like financial transactions taking place a few hours apart, several times per day - this pattern might be carried on through the night until the following morning.

Marijuana, Pot Abuse

People on marijuana, pot, hash or hash oil will have irritated eyes. They may be bloodshot or appear to have a dazed or expressionless appearance and will also experience dry lips and "cotton mouth."

They can walk around in a daze or euphoric stupor, staring out into space or at nothing, and may go into fits of laughter or laugh when there is nothing to laugh about.

Marijuana has a strong, pungent, virtually unmistakable odor. It's long lasting and difficult to mask. This is a telltale sign that a person has either smoked marijuana or it has been smoked in his or her presence. The person may attempt to eliminate this sign by putting clothes in the wash immediately upon coming home or taking a quick shower before being around other people.

LSD Abuse

A person who has taken LSD or other psychedelics will manifest glassy eyes and have a blank, vacant stare.

There will be inappropriate and extended interest in common objects -for example, examining an ashtray or a drawing for a long time, turning it, viewing it from different angles. The person may also have a similar interest in body parts, such as a finger, hand or food. Conversation tends to be esoteric, like a "head trip." And they will hallucinate.

A person on LSD will experience anxiety for no apparent reason. PCP users may experience sweating episodes, salivate heavily and have flushed skin. They may have dilated pupils and may be inexplicably high-strung.

Depressants - Alcohol Abuse

A person under the influence of depressants such as barbiturates or Valium may act intoxicated (slurred speech, stumbling gait, droopy eyes, etc).

Depressants slow down the body's functions, which may prompt unwarranted sleep episodes. There will be a pronounced tendency to fall asleep in unusual situations such as at dinner and the person will show signs of overall listlessness.

Alcohol can be detected on the breath. A user may attempt to mask it with extraordinary use of mints, mouthwash or even garlic. Speech will be slurred.

Watch for drawn-out speech and rambling, sometimes illogical talk. Symptomatic of alcohol abuse are headaches and nausea. Watch for telltale signs of hangover, disinterest in breakfast, late sleeping and an overall grouchiness throughout the day.

In all instances of substance abuse, watch for a tendency on the part of the abuser to refrain from and shun conversation and face-to-face meetings with others. You are watching for behavior that represents a somewhat dramatic change in character from previous experience.

Inhalents

An inhalant abuser may leave evidence of paint or glue on their face. There will be a runny nose and eyes and inappropriate drowsiness. The odor of the substance inhaled will be on the abuser's clothes or body. They might try to not give themselves away by attempting to walk slowly and straight, but this effort is very obvious.

There is help. You do not have to face this alone.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Money Management

The number two cause of divorce in America today is finances. Managing your money is a lot harder than it used to be.

You have to make a lot more decisions than folks did a generation or two ago, and be much more up on your financial toes than your grandfolks perhaps did.

Instead of one health plan, you may need to choose from half a dozen- if you can afford coverage at all. Instead of an employer-provided traditional pension, you have to manage your own 401(k) and figure out not only how much to save but how to invest- without losing it all.

Instead of a single credit card with a relatively low rate- all that was available to most households in the 1970s- you probably have a wallet full of options, all with different rates, terms and due dates to monitor.

Fortunately, technology is riding to the rescue. I love the advice from MSN Money's Liz Pulliam Weston, and she's rounded up - again! - totally - make-great-sense tips for having an easier time managing your finances. Used properly, it can help you stay on top of your money with minimal effort. Liz spells out these tips in her book "Easy Money: How to Simplify Your Finances and Get What You Want Out of Life", and could go a long way towards helping you streamline your financial life:

Simplify and De-Clutter

Use direct deposit. This should be a no-brainer, but many people who are eligible for direct deposit of their paychecks don't ever sign up. Perhaps it's an irrational fear of electronic transactions holding them back, but they should get over it. Direct deposit is easier, faster and safer than running around with a live check in your wallet.

Get true overdraft protection. Real overdraft protection links your checking account to a savings account, line of credit or credit card. Money is drawn from one of these sources if you write a check or initiate a debit card transaction for more than you have in your account. The annual cost is reasonable -- $20 to $50 is typical -- and you may pay another small fee anytime you use the overdraft.

What you don't want is "courtesy overdraft" or "bounce protection" that many banks and credit unions automatically offer their customers. That "service" can cost you $30 to $40 every time you make an over-limit transaction, and those fees can add up quickly. Take as example someone who racks up more than $200 in bounce fees buying songs for an MP3 player; because of an overdraft- even by a mere dollar! - each 99-cent tune could trigger a $30 fee. Be very careful navigating around overdraft protection; in the end, your bank will profit from the "courtesy" extended toward you.

Consolidate your accounts. Clutter isn't limited to the tangible stuff in your home. You also can create financial clutter when you have accounts all over the place. Too many accounts make it harder for you to adequately monitor your money, and you may pay more account fees than if you were able to maintain higher balances in fewer accounts.

For example, you could:
  • Roll 401(k)s from previous employers into your current plan or into an individual retirement account (IRA).
  • Combine IRAs as long as they're the same kind and they're all yours. You can't combine yours with a spouse's, for example, or combine regular IRAs with Roth IRAs -- at least not without serious financial consequences.
  • Combine taxable brokerage accounts. If you have different goals for the various accounts you have now, you could consider maintaining separate accounts but at least consolidating them with the same brokerage house.

Trim your credit cards. The more cards you use, the more due dates and interest rates you're forced to monitor. If you pay off your balances in full, consider carrying just one card in your wallet, with another at home as a backup. If you're carrying credit card debt, consider leaving all your cards at home. Don't close accounts, since that could hurt your credit scores, but stop using them until you've retired your debt.

Consider two checking accounts. Consolidation isn't always best. If you have trouble figuring out how much money you can spend and how much needs to be reserved for bills, consider a two-account system.

Folks who utilize a two-account system typically have their paychecks deposited to a checking account at a brick-and-mortar bank -- often one that offers free checking if you use direct deposit. They have a second checking account they use to pay bills. If they can't get the second account free from their bank, or their bank doesn't have free online bill pay, they use an online bank, such as ING Direct, that offers fee-free checking and bill-pay services.

Next, they total all their bills for the year, using the previous year's bills as a guide, and divide the result by the number of paychecks they get each year. They set up automatic transfers so that this sum is whisked every payday to the second account.

Some go further by setting up automatic payments for most or all of their bills. Others prefer to control when bills get paid using the online bill-pay system that comes with their second account.
This two-account system takes a little effort to set up and monitor, but done right you'll eliminate uncertainty about whether you can cover your bills. What's left in the first account is the cash that's available for spending on clothes, eating out, etc.

A Schedule for Success

Set up a high-yield savings account. Saving for retirement and paying off credit card debt need to be the first and second priorities for most folks. Once you're on track there, though, you should consider building up an emergency fund, and today's high-rate online savings accounts can help you accomplish that. Accounts offered by ING Direct, Emigrant Direct and HSBC Direct, among others, are FDIC-insured and offer attractive rates. They typically link directly to your checking account at your brick-and-mortar bank. Set up automatic transfers so you don't have to think about saving -- you just do it.

Create alerts. Banks, brokerages and credit card companies will send you e-mails to alert you to all kinds of events: when your checking account drops below a certain level, for example, or when your credit card payment is due. Get online access to your accounts and explore the possibilities.

Move your due dates. If you have too many bills falling due at the same time, see if you can shift some to another time of the month. Many credit card companies, for example, will allow you to pick your own due dates.

Create a bill calendar. Even if you have e-mail alerts, you still should have all of your bills' due dates mapped out on a calendar. This can be a calendar on the wall, on your desktop or on your phone. The only requirement is that it be a calendar you look at daily. You're responsible for paying your bills even if you don't receive a statement, and this calendar can help make sure you don't wind up paying unnecessary late fees or inadvertently ruining your credit. (A single skipped payment on a credit account can knock nearly 100 points off your credit scores- what a big YUK.)

Pick the no-brainer options. If you really love picking individual stocks or researching the heck out of your mutual fund choices, go with that. If you want an easier route, though, seek out funds that do the heavy lifting for you. "Life cycle" and "target date maturity" funds not only choose the investments but re-balance them regularly so you don't have to mess with figuring out how much of your 401(k) to put in stocks and how much in bonds.

Don't Procrastinate -- Aggregate

Monitor your money. People who wait for their statements to arrive in the mail typically catch fraud later than those who monitor their accounts online, according to Javelin Research & Strategy, an online research firm. Real-time access to your accounts can help you prevent overdrafts and over-limit fees, too. You can try bouncing from site to site to check all your accounts, but you have better options.

Your bank may offer account aggregation, which allows you to view accounts held at other institutions. If you're comfortable having your transactions aggregated online, you can use sites such as Wesabe, Mint and Yodlee.

Many people would prefer personal-finance software programs like Microsoft Money and Quicken. These programs, which live on your computer rather than online, allow you to automatically download transactions and keep track of your finances while providing some powerful financial-planning software. Recent updates have vastly improved cash-flow-forecast features, which can show you in advance when your checking account is about to run on fumes. (Microsoft is the publisher of MSN Money.)

Each of these 10 options requires some upfront effort on your part, but after your systems are in place you'll be able to stay on top of your money in just a few minutes a week. If that isn't a worthwhile goal, I don't know what is, and what if you could have a little more "me-time", instead of "bill-time"? Sounds pretty good.

[John Tesh]