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.


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]

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Prescription Drug Abuse

Parents- here's a wake-up call for being on the alert, when it comes to your teen. There’s a potentially deadly drug in your medicine cabinet, though you may have obtained it legally. The problem is prescription drugs, and according to NBC News, they’ve fast become a huge problem. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says nearly 7 million Americans currently abuse prescription drugs. That’s more than the number who are abusing cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, ecstasy, and inhalants combined.

This isn’t just a problem among adults: Almost one in five teenagers abuses prescription drugs. Although parents might warn their kids about pot or alcohol – they’re least likely to warn their kids about abusing prescription drugs.

Although prescription drug abuse is a problem in every state and province, it’s a really big problem in Kentucky. Kentucky led the nation in the use of prescription drugs for non-medical purposes last year, and almost 500 people died in Kentucky from prescription drug overdoses. Law enforcement officials in Kentucky say prescription drug abuse is an epidemic among teens because they’re highly addictive. It starts out as a party drug, then kids start doing it every day, and it takes compete control of their life. At the height of addiction, people will pop 50 pills a day. Your state, likely, has its share of the problem as well.

So how are people getting the prescription drugs? People are buying pills over the internet, kids are stealing them from their parents and grandparents, they’re getting them from street dealers, trading them in school, and three million doses are stolen from pharmacies annually! It turns out, Florida has become notorious as a destination for addicts and drug dealers from around the country. They’re drawn to the many pain clinics in Florida – some of which dispense hundreds of painkillers at a time after only a hasty medical exam.

If YOU think someone you know is abusing prescription drugs, they need to get help. Addictive behaviors are things like lying, hiding pills, obsessively counting them, making unnecessary emergency room visits and constantly “doctor shopping.” Parents, make sure your kids DO NOT have access to your prescriptions.

If you – or someone you know – needs help, go to the website for substance abuse, or call the Relationship Clinic for an appointment today.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Marriage Is Not a Dictatorship

As a Bible-believing Christian, Mike was the spiritual leader of his home. He believed that in order to be a faithful man of God he must always "be in charge." His wife, Jill, and their four children graciously submitted to his authority.

Mike insisted on controlling every aspect of home life. Jill was not allowed to handle any aspect of the family finances.

Jill felt God wouldn't be pleased if she didn't respect Mike's headship, so she eventually became numb to her husband's demands. Mike was never physically abusive, but his constant criticism made Jill feel like a worthless spiritual zombie.

It all erupted one day when their 5-year-old son, Tyler*, got the flu. Usually Mike and Jill tried natural remedies before seeing a doctor, but in this instance Tyler didn't seem to be responding to the natural products. After he'd had a high fever for several days, Jill took the boy to the doctor, who told her Tyler had a respiratory infection that required antibiotics.


[By J. Lee Grady]

Thursday, August 13, 2009

7 Communication Connections

These seven tips can improve the way you and your mate communicate. But be aware — most but not all men and women will share these characteristics. Switch up if you need to — that's normal, too!
  1. Women are inclined to want "feeling" conversations, while men lean toward problem solving. Label the kind of conversation you expect to have.
  2. Women give and want to hear lots of details; men go for the bottom line.
  3. Men discuss topics such as sports, politics, and movies.
  4. When a woman says, "Nothing's wrong," something usually is. Husbands — offer to be a sympathetic listener when she's ready to talk.
  5. A husband wants to be part of the solution to a problem, not viewed as the problem.
  6. Men tend to dislike unsolicited advice — they presume their mate believes they can't handle things on their own.
  7. When a woman is upset and emotional, just listen. Attempting to offer an explanation will frequently be taken as invalidation.

[Adapted from One Good Year by Dr. David and Janet Congo (Cook Communications)]

Monday, August 10, 2009

How to Get Through Grief and Loss

  1. Step Gently on the Road to Healing - When you lose someone you love, it will seem like grief has total control of you. The road to true healing is a tough one and there are no rules when it comes to healing your grief. Most days you’ll wonder if you will ever feel good again. Early morning and late evening are often the hardest. The good news is that you can get to a place of peace, healing, and even happiness after you have lost a loved one.
  2. Be Easy on Yourself - Give yourself a lot of space. When you lose someone you love, parts of you go crazy. Your emotions go on a rollercoaster. Let them go crazy. Cry when you need to cry, laugh if you share a funny memory. Listen to your body and let your emotions take you where you are.
  3. Communicate Your Needs - Let the people around you know what you need. If you want visitors, say visitors are okay; if not, post a note outside your door asking people to come back another time. It can be helpful to leave a paper outside so people can leave notes for you saying they’ve stopped by. In the first few hours or days of a loss, it is helpful to ask someone to man the phones and take messages. You may want to have someone leave a message on the answering machine explaining that there has been a death in the family and that you will return phone calls when you can. If you need to be touched, ask for it, if you’d like space, ask for it. During times of loss, people are often at a loss of what to do for the one grieving. Know that you are most likely going to want different things each day — sometimes each hour, and that is okay; it’s part of the process. Communicate.
  4. Find Extra Help - A counselor you respect or feel comfortable with can be invaluable. He or she is your partner in grief. One of their jobs is to give you a safe place to just grieve, where no one expects or demands anything of you. They can help you decide the steps that will begin your healing and the timing of them. Medication may be helpful for sleep problems or to prevent grief from turning into severe depression. A therapist can help you sift through the choices, and decide what’s right for you. Maybe most importantly, a therapist can help you understand that your thoughts and feelings are not wrong, or crazy, and that you will survive them. Let them and others in as much as you can. There are also many support groups that meet the different needs of different kinds of loss.
  5. Rediscover Exercise - If regular exercise has always been a part of your life, please go back to it as soon as you can. I can’t stress enough how important it is to get your body moving, and for those who don’t have an exercise routine, try something small even if it is a walk around the block. Grief, when trapped in the body, has the potential to create sickness. It can also heighten grief and push you into a deeper depression. Movement of the body helps “unstick” your grief.
  6. Give Your Heart a Break - Losing someone you love is the hardest thing to experience in the world. Grief needs to be distracted because it is so all-consuming. Try to allow yourself times of relief by doing something you enjoy … even laughter. Watch a movie, go on a picnic, listen to music … when you are ready, go back to work. Check in with yourself, see what feels okay. There is also something healing about trying new experiences when you are vulnerable because it can bring a form of diversity that helps you focus on something besides your pain. It won’t take away the pain away, but it will give your heart a break and give you a taste of peace amidst the storm.
  7. Honor the Memory - There are many ways to honor the memory of someone you loved and lost. It’s important to create a place in your life that allows you to fully express or share your love for the one you lost. A woman who lost her eighteen-month-old child lovingly created two large picture collages of her child. Another friend who lost her mother, created quilts for each of her siblings from some of her mom’s favorite clothes. One husband took his lost son’s stuffed animals to his son’s classmates; it was a way for him to reach out and give them something to hold on to. The parents of Christi who was killed by a drunk driver, started a support center, “For the Love of Christi,” which has helped over 70,000 people around Austin, Texas.
  8. Read About It - There is a lot of good literature written about loss from many different perspectives. Some offer accounts of how others have handled their own grief. It’s comforting to read about someone who understands what you are feeling. A friend of mine who lost her baby at birth has found it helpful to read books written by women who shared the same experience. Some books are written from a more psychological perspective and have practical tips for coping. Books written by members of your faith or, books that contain daily affirmations or meditations can often ease your morning or help you go off to sleep. You don’t always have to read the entire book to be able to gather a few helpful ideas.
  9. Celebrate the Life of Your Lost Loved One - It’s an important part of the grieving process to look back at the things that meant the most to the one who is gone and define what they were to you and to others. This can be an annual or one-time event, like first-year anniversary remembrance. For example, one family lost their son when he was in his 20s. He loved the outdoors and hiking and was always conscience and protective of the environment. To honor their son’s memory, his parents send out reminder postcards right before the anniversary of his death to ask friends and relatives, near and far, to pick up trash on this day. My husband, Art, created and administers an annual Sportsmanship Award to junior hockey players. This event, in some ways, provides a kind of healing for the whole town. Whatever you choose, from the small and intimate, to the large and communal, the important thing is that it should represent a meaningful connection to the one you lost.

[By Allison Daily, with Art Daily; BeliefNet]

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

How to Manage Your Fears After Job Loss

Lately, we have been working with many clients who have recently lost their jobs who are worried about finances and their future job prospects.

Being unemployed can be very scary and challenging, personally and financially. It's a time that requires a great deal of faith and fortitude. Here's a list of tips that I recommend for all of our readers who have experienced a job loss.
  • Avoid Negativity - Take a break from negative news and media. Even though the job market is tight, many companies are still hiring.
  • Reconnect - Reconnect with family, friends and former business associates, they may know of possible opportunities.
  • Revisit Your Skills - Revisit your skills, talents and abilities. Perhaps you have skills you've forgotten or that can be applied in a different way or field than you thought possible.
  • Pay Attention to Time - Pay attention to how you are spending your time — it's your most valuable asset! Be proactive in your job search everyday.
  • Get Support - Get support if you need it — you don't have to go it alone!
  • Take Care of Yourself - Create consistent self-care habits that will help you to stay healthy and positive. Eat well, exercise, take walks, pray, meditate, get plenty of sleep and avoid excess caffeine and alcohol.
  • Stay Connected - Stay connected to others, be in community. Connect with others who are also going through tough times and can offer you support.
  • Keep Your Eyes Open - Keep your eyes and ears open — opportunities can present themselves in unexpected ways and places.
  • Don't Isolate Yourself - Don't isolate yourself — get out of the house everyday and explore the job options in your own community.
  • Pray for Guidance - Pray for God's guidance and support to help you find your perfect job. Here’s a Prayer for Employment:
    "Heavenly father, please sustain my spirit as I search for new and meaningful work. You have blessed me with a healthy body and a keen mind for which I am grateful. I ask that you open my path as I seek employment that will allow me to support my family and myself while serving others and your divine purpose. In gratitude and grace, Amen." —Rev. Victor Fuhrman

[By Deborah Price,]