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Tip of the Week

Seven Ways to Discover Joy
By Bob Livingstone LCSW

Many of us reach a point when our lives become routine, dull, and thankless. We lose our sense of meaning and direction. There seems to be a lack of purpose and feelings of hopelessness permeate our very being. We do reach a time when we are tired of being emotionally constipated and seek out ways to break this numbing cycle. The time has come to venture into something new.

Here Ways to discover joy:

  • Listen to Music-Select songs that will make you happy or if you haven't cried for a long time, select songs that will induce sadness. The release of tears will help you let go of what ever is keeping you stuck.

  • Changing Jobs-If you have been working at the same job for a long time, perhaps it is time for a change. It is difficult sometimes to know when you have outgrown your current position and you stay because it is familiar and secure. However, the lack of new challenges is deadly for your personal growth and creativity. It may be time to move on.

  • Follow your Dream-If you have had a long term dream of writing a book, opening a store, moving to the country or running for political office, now is the time to pursue that dream instead of merely fantasizing about it.

  • Letting go of Stuck Grief-You may have been deeply hurt during your childhood. One of your parents may have died abruptly or you may have been abused. If you are having difficulty forming and keeping relationships and if you have had a loss or traumatic event years ago and it seems like it happened yesterday, you may be suffering from stuck grief. Seeking out a psychotherapist or an appropriate self-help group may be very helpful.

  • Giving to the Community-Volunteering to help those less fortunate than you will not only be appreciated by many, it will also reward you spiritually and allow you to connect with others who are helping and receiving assistance. This activity will move you out of the intellectual realm and into your emotional world.

  • Celebrating your Positive Changes-We tend to focus on the negative aspects of our being and the positive parts of us tend to be overlooked or ignored. Tune in to the positive changes you may have recently made such as: "I used to be so reactive and now I am able to stop and think before I blurt out something that will be hurtful." "I can now walk for three miles without getting exhausted."

  • Decide to Break your Addiction-Whether you are addicted to substances, another person, video games or anything else, getting assistance and eventually breaking your addiction will eventually make you a happier, more productive person.

Starting a regular exercise program will help you physically, emotionally and spiritually. It you are able to stick to a workout routine for a week, you will feel like this is a major accomplishment. You will begin to look and feel better. Your confidence, self-esteem and self-image will improve. Exercise will also drive you to discover the delight of moving your body.

If you have never exercised before, check with you physician to insure that you are cleared to workout. Begin slowly and briefly. For example you can start out by walking once around the block and then slowly increase your distance and your pace. The gift of exercise will open up the world of joy for you.

Psychotherapist Bob Livingstone has helped millions heal their emotional pain during the past twenty years. He has been instrumental in assisting victims of emotional and/or physical violence recover from trauma and no longer be victims. He is a featured contributor to,,, and He is the author of the critically acclaimed book The Body-Mind-Soul Solution: Healing Emotional Pain through Exercise (Pegasus Books, Sept. 2007). The first printing has sold out-Now in its second printing! For more emotional healing visit Permission granted for use on

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Tags: Marriage

Dumbed-Down Parenting
By Nancy Carlsson-Paige

Lots of parents tell me they rely on screen activities such asGameBoys, DVD players, and computers to entertain their kids when theyare traveling, waiting for appointments, or sitting inrestaurants. "It's so easy," they tell me, "it really keeps themquiet." Yes, the screens do engage kids, for sure. But are thereways to occupy kids that are more beneficial to them?

Over the years, I've gone to restaurants now and then with my grandsonsJackson and Miles. Before we head out, I always stick someopen-ended toy or material in my bag-a handful of legos or smallblocks, a few sheets of paper and some markers, or a hunk ofplaydoh.

What I find really amazing is that once we're seated and waiting forour food, the boys become deeply engrossed in these activities withoutfail. They seem really happy and peaceful as they sit with theirgrandparents and create. And we have some really niceconversations about what they're making-buildings with lots of windows,or how you can draw really big muscles. Have you ever tried totalk to a kid who's on a GameBoy? You can shout quite loud andstill not be noticed.

Children learn the most when they are directly involved with hands-onactivities and when they interact with people. With open-endedmaterials like playdoh, building toys, and art materials, children canexplore, problem solve, and make up stories and characters from theirown imaginations; the possibilities are limitless.

But when kids engage with the screen, their involvement is morerepetitive; the activity doesn't foster new and original ideas. Withhandheld games and screens, children don't invent what they want tomake or do; they play the games or watch the stories that someone elsehas created.

I think we parents have fallen into an all-too comfortable trap sincewe've had the electronic option. It's so easy to turn on theswitch-bingo! The kids are occupied.

It becomes an easy habit for us-we quickly turn to electronics when thekids are bored, when they're arguing, when we want them to bequiet. We choose this option first instead of searching for otherpossible ways to engage them. And this has dumbed down ourparenting: we no longer have to use our own ingenuity to findinteresting alternatives for our children.

I think it's time we reclaim our parental creativity, time we lookbeyond screens to find better, fuller activities that can optimallyengage our kids and help us be the fully involved parents children needus to be.

Nancy Carlsson-Paige is aprofessor of education at Lesley University and the author or co-authorof five books. Her most recent book is Taking Back Childhood: Helping YourKids Thrive in a Fast-Paced, Media-Saturated, Violence-Filled World. Nancy writes and speaks about how media, violence, consumerism,and other social trends are shaping children today and what parents andteachers can do to raise caring and compassionatechildren. For more information visit Permission granted for use

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How to Answer theDreaded Questions
When you Go Home for the Holidays

By The Love Goddess

"I'm going to be asked by my aunt--yetagain--why I'm not married," and am tired of answering thequestion with "Because I haven't met anyone yet. Because the look onher face when I say that is, like, triumphant. 'Oh dear.' she says,shaking her head 'I guess, well,--and here she smiles--no one's reallygood enough. Such a shame. How old are you now?'"
'My brothers are going to tease meabout gaining weight. I need a quick answer that doesn't humiliate me.Help!
'My mother will put down myboyfriend--a fabulous carpenter just starting out--with little snydecomments like, 'And what do you do again, dear?

Okay darling earth girls; time to get smart--now, beforeChristmas. Answers to stupid questions require planning ahead,lest they make you so mad you lose your cool. Here are threetried-and-true ways to five answers to the world's most obnoxiousquestions. Note that they share a theme, and that it's the theme you'reto remember.

1. ANYONE WHO ASKS YOU WHY YOU'RE NOT MARRIED DESERVES A BLOW-OFFANSWER.--AS GOOFY AND INSINCERE AS YOU CAN MAKE IT. Don't takethe question or the person seriously, as it's not a sincere questionbut rather one designed to make you uncomfortable (for, after all, whatanswer can you give that doesn't require an intimate, honestexchange?). So, unless you're prepared to level the person and start afight, evade the question with a breezy, even goofy answer--it deflectsthe hostility and you come out looking cheerful and unfazed.

2. To hone this skill, try anticipating the questioner's real point,and offer the answer she or he wants to hear. "I guess no one's goodenough for me, Aunt Jane" is very good, as it saves her the trouble ofimplying just that. 'No one would ever marry me because I'm fartoo stupid is another good one. Whatever you suspect the hidden agendais.

3. Disarm the questioner with something more interesting than thequestion. "I came close to marrying Fred Auntie, but he got worriedwhen he discovered how rich I am." At least she'll do a double take.You? Rich? How and when? Huh? An excellent answer. Thenturn and pour yourself a drink--and don't join her again.

The theme here is to disarm the rude questioner in any way you can. Thegoofier the answer, the better. "Gosh, Grandpa, I DO want toget married and have found just the right guy....but my psychic told me not to get marrieduntil February of 2011. So I'm waiting. " (Grandpa won't knowwhether to ask about the psychic or the reasoning for the month ofFebruary, or why he didn't know you were engaged--by which point you'llhave dashed out of the room.) Your "psychic" could also be yourguru, or your priest or your Groom's mother. Anybody who hasn'tbeen introduced to the family, nor heard of at all, will do. You wantto sound like it's all taken care of--by some lunatic no one knows.

For a roomful of family friends who all seem to be asking the samequestion and can't shut up, try. "Oh, you haven't heard, UncleBill. I AM married! I just haven't announced it yet! You're thefirst to know--so keep it a secret for me for now, okay?" Bill willwant to know when you're going to tell everyone. Just say, "Soon! Verysoon!"

Same for your boyfriend, the neophyte carpenter. Have him tell yourmother he's working on a chest of drawers for the queen of England. Andtell your brothers that the reason you've gained weight is that you'reon the girls' basketball team and are taking steroids till you reachthe proper strength.


And then walk away and find someone to talk to who loves you just theway you are.

Dalma Heyn, M.S.W., Founder of The Love Goddess, is the author ofseveral bestselling books on marriage and relationships. Dalma is awidely read columnist and sought-after speaker. She hasappeare--without her wings--on national talk shows including Oprah, The View, Charlie Rose, GoodMorning America, and Larry King Live. For more information or Permission granted foruse

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Tags: Dating, Marriage, Men's Point of View, Morals, Ethics, Values, Regarding Dr. Laura, Relationships, Women's Point of View

Text Messages and YourPrivacy
By John Sileo

Just as you wouldn't want togive any personal identity information to someone via email, you wantto use the same practices via text message. There is a new wave offraud that tries to trick you with text messages appearing to be fromyour bank.

SMiShing uses cell phone text messages to deliver the "bait" whichentices you to divulge your personal information. The "hook" (themethod used to actually "capture" your information) in the text messagemay be a web site URL, like it is in phishing schemes. However, it hasbecome more common to receive a texted phone number that connects to anautomated voice response system. One version of this SMiShing messagewill look like this:

Notice - this is an automated message from (a local credit union), yourATM card has been suspended. To reactivate call urgent at 866-###-####.

In many cases, the SMiShing message will show that it came from "5000#8243;instead of displaying an actual phone number. This usually indicatesthe SMS message was sent via email to the cell phone, instead of beingsent from another cell phone.

Once you take the "bait" and pass on your private information, it canbe used to create duplicate credit/debit/ATM cards. There are somedocumented cases where the information an unsuspecting victim gave on afraudulent website was used within 30 minutes#133;halfway around the world.

To minimize your risk:
  • Approach all text messagesasking for your personal information with a great deal of skepticism

  • Understand that no bank,business or financial institution will EVER ask you to divulge orconfirm your personal banking information over email or SMS textmessage.

  • If you have any question atall that the text is legitimate, contact your bank or financialinstitution directly using a published phone number (on the back ofyour card, for example).
About the author: John Sileo became America's leadingIdentity Theft Speaker amp; Expert after he lost his business and morethan $300,000 to identity theft and data breach. His clients includethe Department of Defense, Pfizer and the FDIC. To further bulletproofyourself and your business, visit John's blog at To bookJohn at your next event, visit Permission granted for use

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6 Tips for Resolving Your Thanksgiving Hassles NOW
By Sharon Rivkin, M.A., M.F.T.

He says no#133;she says yes. She wants to go to her best friend's for Thanksgiving dinner, he's firm about going to his parents'. She wants a change#133;he wants the same. Suddenly you're not feeling thankful for anything at all. Sound familiar? So, how do you put the thankful back into Thanksgiving? How do you come to a middle ground with your partner, your family, and yourself?

Thanksgiving can be anything but peaceful if holiday disagreements escalate into yearly battles. It's easy to forget what you're thankful for if the hassles of planning Thanksgiving begin to outweigh the meaning of this important occasion.

Use these 6 tips to resolve your Thanksgiving hassles NOW!
  1. Negotiate with your partner about how to spend the day. Start by each of you writing down your ideal Thanksgiving. Compare notes and see what's negotiable and what's not. Then talk about how to structure Thanksgiving with both of you getting what you want. It may not look like your original ideal list, but it will be workable nevertheless, and you both can feel satisfied that you heard each other, listened to each other, and came to a middle ground.

  2. Delegate. If you're hosting Thanksgiving, don't be a martyr and do it all alone. Make a list of what you want to do and can comfortably do given your work schedule, etc. Then begin to delegate tasks to the invited guests. We often take on too much and feel so hassled on Thanksgiving Day that we simply don't enjoy ourselves.

  3. Take care of yourself and just say NO if you really can't do something. At busy times of the year, we tend to forget about ourselves. Don't stop exercising or getting your weekly massage during the holidays. In fact, try to schedule or do something EXTRA for yourself at these times to compensate for the extra stress. Remember, if you're stressed and not taking care of yourself, it will be difficult to take care of your loved ones and enjoy the holiday activities.

  4. Make it easy on yourself. Create a list of the things you MUST do to make it a good holiday. Then make a list of things you don't really HAVE to do. For instance, you might HAVE to clean your house before the guests come, but maybe you don't HAVE to cook. You could buy a whole Thanksgiving meal and save yourself a lot of time, energy, and hassle. Think about it!!

  5. Create a new tradition. In advance of the holiday, gather your loved ones and talk about doing something different this year that has meaning for the entire family. It could be a special walk together or sitting down and allowing each member to express their appreciation.

  6. Gratitude. The most important way to put the thanks back into Thanksgiving is to be grateful. Writing down a list of things you're grateful for, your "Gratitudes," is an immediate and powerful way to negate depression, envy, and stress. Write one per day from now until Thanksgiving, and suddenly you'll feel grateful instead of hassled. We tend to emphasize what we don't have or what's not working, so turn that around and see what you do have and what is working.

Just follow these tips and you will feel less hassled, more grateful, and truly thankful to be celebrating another Thanksgiving!

Relationship and Conflict Resolution Expert, Sharon M. Rivkin, M.A., M.F.T., author of The First Argument: Cutting to the Root of Intimate Conflict, helps hundreds of couples break the argument cycle with her proven, groundbreaking technique that resolves the most painful issues, stops repetitive conflict in its tracks, saves relationships, and puts the love back in your marriage! Sharon has been featured in O: The Oprah Magazine, Reader's Digest, and Visit Sharon at Permission granted for use on

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Notes for Valentines Day and Beyond
By Patti Teel

If you've ever attended a child's class Valentine party, you've seen how enthralled children are to open each and every valentine. Starting around age three, children not only enjoy receiving valentines, they take great delight in giving them. Many children also begin to express their affection and love by drawing and presenting their pictures and homemade cards to their parents and teachers.

Most parents receive an assortment of pictures and cards containing colorful rainbows, hearts and words of love--which are all the more precious because they have been written phonetically. These pictures and love notes will fill your heart--as well as boxes, files, and a significant portion of your garage.

For parents and their children, Valentine's Day includes the lovely ritual of expressing their love through the exchange of cards. But if you're only giving your children cards and notes on Valentines Day and on their birthdays, you're missing out on a wonderful opportunity. Through the written word, parents can express love, encouragement, appreciation, concern, and understanding. It's also an effective way to settle a misunderstanding, offer an apology, or express constructive criticism.

During the turbulent teen years, notes and letters can be a wonderful way to keep the lines of communication open and to gain a deeper understanding of your child. And while it's easy to let a thoughtless or angry remark slip out of our mouths, writing notes requires us to be reflective as we carefully choose the words that will communicate a clear and thoughtful message.

Sometimes, older children and teens are more comfortable expressing their heartfelt emotions through the written, rather than the spoken word. My teenage daughter writes me notes with a depth of thoughtfulness and understanding that takes my breath away. The colorful cards of her childhood have been replaced by letters that express her growing maturity, love, and the agony and joy of young adulthood. Whether your child is three years old or seventeen--cards, notes, and letters, are a great way to deliver a message of love and understanding.

Here are some ways to use the written word in your relationship with your child:

Use notes to express love.
Children can't be told too often that we love them or that we're thankful to be their parent. In addition to telling your children that you love them, leave little love notes in visible places-taped to the bathroom mirror, by the front door, etc.

Use notes to express appreciation and thanks.
When your child surprises you by straightening a room or helping with the dishes, write a quick thank-you note and tape it where he or she is sure to spot it.

Use notes to congratulate and celebrate.
Young children love to receive mail. Occasionally, surprise your child by sending a congratulatory note in the mail. For example, "Congratulations! You finished your science project! Let's celebrate with a scoop of ice cream!"

Use notes to apologize.
If you lose your temper, or make a mistake that affects your child, write an apology note. You will be teaching your children to accept responsibility for their actions and to make amends to anyone who is harmed by them.

Use notes to remind.
While verbal reminders can feel like nagging, notes can clearly list the chores your child is expected to do.

Use notes to encourage.
When your child will be facing a particular challenge at school, tuck a note in his lunchbox or backpack saying, "You can do it," or, "I have faith in you!"

For older child or teens:
Use notes to gain understanding and to stay close.

Share a journal with your older child or teen. Pass it back and forth and keep it in a place where each of you can get to it and easily express your feelings.

Use notes to show concern and clear up misunderstandings.
If your child becomes defensive and angry when you try to correct his behavior, notes can be especially effective. A thoughtful note can clear up a misunderstanding and help to ensure that constructive criticism is taken in the spirit that it is intended.

About the author: Dubbed "The Dream Maker" by People magazine, Patti Teel is a former teacher and the author of The Floppy Sleep Game Book, which gives parents techniques to help their children relax or fall asleep. She is holding Dream Academy workshops at schools, hospitals, and libraries across the country where parents and children learn the playful relaxation techniques from her book and widely acclaimed children's audio series. Children at the Dream Academy workshops practice the three R's by resting their bodies, relaxing their minds, and refreshing their spirits. Visit her online at Permission granted for use on
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The Future of Parenting
Five Key Trends in the Future of Parenting

By Caron B. Goode

The future is uncertain. So is the future of parenting. The aftermath of disasters such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina has cast a shadow of doubt over our lives. This pervasive sense of insecurity and vulnerability has prompted many people to reevaluate and reclaim what is most important to them#151;their families. We instinctively reach out to our families for comfort. But is it possible to give that feeling roots? Is it possible for parents to give their children a sense of strength, security, and faith in the future?

According to Caron B. Goode, director of the Academy for Coaching Parents International, it is not only possible, it is imperative.

Five Key Trends in the Future of Parenting
  • Family First. Although statistics indicate a 10% increase in the number of stay at home parents, the majority of children today are raised in families where both parents work. While economic pressures make this situation hard to escape, parents have begun to give voice to their desire to put family first. According to a 2004 study by the Families and Work Institute, parents are starting to say no to overtime and yes to family time. In fact, a recent survey found that among working fathers between the ages of 22-37, 52% have no interest in taking on more job responsibility, as compared to 68% in 1992.

  • Fostering Resiliency. While parents may have never considered fostering resiliency in their children before, they do now. Resiliency is the ability to navigate stressors, major or minor, and then return to the business of living. Studies have shown that children who have close, supportive families and caregivers are more apt to deal with stress or trauma in a positive manner than those who do not. Having supportive, sensitive, and responsible parents helps ensure that children are equipped to handle life's stressors, now and in the future.

  • Raising Compassionate Children. More and more, parents are concerning themselves with raising compassionate children. As borders blur and the global community expands, parents feel it is important for their children to be understanding, empathic, and willing to help a neighbor in need. To be compassionate, one must first be capable of identifying with another, which is best taught by example. Parents who treat their children with kindness and respect, will see those same children treating others in kind. By nature, children are caring and compassionate creatures, but it is up to parents to nurture their altruistic behavior.

  • Finding Faith. Increasingly, parents are becoming interested in helping their children develop a spiritual base. A growing number of parents are turning to spirituality, whether it is religious, iconic or mystic in nature, to help them navigate rough terrain and master the uncertainty that inevitably visits every life. Teaching children to believe in something greater than oneself fosters a sense of community and reinforces the tenets of tolerance on many levels. The very nature of spirituality shows children that no one person is more important than another. It illustrates that we are, in fact, all part of a greater whole, and that this whole can be a powerful source of strength and a vital instrument for change.

  • Reducing Stress. Today many adults and children suffer with chronic stress which has been linked to a number of physical conditions such as depression, heart disease, and diabetes. In addition to the adverse health consequences, overexposure to stress may, in part, inhibit the development of healthy resilience. Scientists believe that our ability to manage stress is formed in childhood through a combination of genes and experience. Everyone must learn to deal with stress, and to a degree stress is necessary to a healthy, productive life. This generation of families is aware of this fact, but they are also starting to say enough is enough. Mothers and fathers are beginning to recognize that they can't nor do they want to do it all. Parents are spending less time on the things they feel they must do, and making room for the things they want to do, like spend time with their family. They are starting to insist that their children assume responsibility within the family, which in turn is helping their children learn how to manage time, become part of a whole, and develop a strong sense of community. They are also starting to replace the propensity to over schedule their children and acknowledging that kids need time to be kids. This shift in attitude is leading to a less stressful existence, and is putting the emphasis back on the family functioning as a unit.
Dr. Caron Goode is a parenting expert and the director of the Academy of Parent Coaching International. The Academy offers a parent coaching certification program for individuals interested in helping families nurture and grow their children. For more information, visit Receive a free online parenting magazine, visit Permission granted for use on

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Tags: Character, Courage, Conscience, Character-Courage-Conscience, Marriage, Values, Women's Point of View

Tax Time Identity TheftPrevention Tips
By John Sileo

This past week, I have beenhelping a gentleman recover from the theft of all of his taxrecords. Before it is all over, this gentleman will have spendhundreds of hours and thousands of dollars simply preventing anyfurther fraudulent use of his identity. That doesn't account for anydamages already done to his finances, criminal record, medical recordsor social security benefits. There is very little that is more damagingand dangerous to your identity than losing your tax records.

After all, tax records generally contain the most sensitive personallyidentifying information that you own, including Social Security Numbers(for you, your spouse and maybe even your kids), names, addresses,employers, net worth, etc. Because of this high concentration ofsensitive data, tax time is like an all-you-can-eat buffet for identitythieves. Here are some of the dishes on which they greedily feed:
  • Tax documents exposed onyour desk (home and work)
  • Private information thatsits unprotected in your tax-preparer's office
  • Improperly mailed, emailedand digitally transmitted or filed records
  • Photocopiers with harddrives that store a digital copy of your tax forms
  • Copies of sensitivedocuments that get thrown out without being shredded
  • Improperly stored and lockeddocuments once your return is filed
  • Tax-time scams that takeadvantage of our propensity to do whatever the IRS says (even if it'snot really the IRS asking)
TopTips for Tax Time Identity Theft Protection: Safe Preparation.Your greatest risk of identity theft during tax season comes from yourtax preparer (if you use one) either because they are dishonest (lesslikely) or because they are careless with your sensitive documents(more likely). Just walk into a tax-preparers office on April 1 and askyourself how easy it would be to walk off with a few client folderscontaining mounds of profitable identity. The devil is in thedisorganization.

Effective Solutions:
  • Choose your preparer wisely.How well do you know the person and company preparing your taxes? Didthey come personally recommended, or could they be earning cash on theside by selling your personal information. Do they have an establishedrecord and are they recommended by the Better Business Bureau?
  • Interview your preparerbefore you turn over sensitive information. Ask them exactly how theyprotect your privacy (do they have a privacy policy?). Are they meetingwith you in a room full of client files, or do they take you to aneutral, data-free, conference room or office? Do they leave files outon their desk for the cleaning service to access at night, or do theylock your documents in a filing cabinet or behind a secure office door?Do they protect their computers with everything listed in the nextsection?
  • Asking professional taxpreparers these questions sends them a message that you are watching!Identity thieves tend to stay away from people they know are activelymonitoring for fraud. Remember, losing your identity inside of theiraccounting or bookkeeping business poses a tremendous legal liabilityto their livelihood.
SecureComputers. Last year, more than 80 million Americans filed theirtax returns electronically. To prevent electronic identity theft, youmust take the necessary steps to protect your computer, network andwireless connection. Additionally, your tax preparer should be workingonly on a secured computer, network and internet connection. Hire aprofessional to implement the following security measures:
  • Strong alpha-numericpasswords that keep strangers out of your system
  • Anti-virus and anti-spywaresoftware configured with automatic updates
  • Encrypted hard drives orfolders (especially for your tax preparer)
  • Automatic operating systemupdates and security patches
  • An encrypted wirelessnetwork protection
  • A firewall between yourcomputer and the internet
  • Remove all file-sharingprograms from your computer (limewire, napster, etc.)
Private information should betransmitted by phone using your cell or land line (don't use cordlessphones). In addition, never email your private information to anyoneunless you are totally confident that you are using encrypted email.This is a rarity, so don't assume you have it. In a pinch, you canemail password protected PDF documents, though these are relativelyeasy to hack. Stop Falling for IRSScams. We have a heightened response mechanism during taxseason; we don't want to raise any red flags with the IRS, so we tendto give our personal information without much thought. We are primed tobe socially engineered. Here's how to combat the problem:
  • Make your default answer,"No". When someone asks for your Social Security Number or otheridentifying information, refuse until you are completely comfortablethat they are legitimate. Verify their credentials by calling them backon a published number for the IRS.
  • If someone promises you (byphone, fax, mail, or in person) to drastically reduce your tax bill orspeed up your tax return, don't believe them until you have done yourhomework (call the IRS directly if you have to). These schemes flourishwhen the government issues economic stimulus checks and IRS refunds.
  • If anyone asks you forinformation in order to send you your check, they are scamming for youridentity. The IRS already knows where you live (and where to send yourrebate)! By the way, the IRS will NEVER email you for any reason (e.g.,promising a refund, requesting information, threatening you).
  • To learn more about IRSscams, visit the only legitimate IRS website, which is Ifyou are hit by an IRS scam, contact the IRS's Taxpayer Advocate Serviceat
MailSafely. A good deal of identity theft takes place while taxdocuments or supporting material are being sent through the mail. Ifyou are sending your tax return through the mail, follow these steps:
  • Walk the envelope inside ofthe post office and hand it to an employee. Too much mail is stolen outof the blue USPS mailboxes and driveway mailboxes that we use foreverything else to make them safe.
  • Send your return bycertified mail so that you know it has arrived safely. This sends amessage to each mail carrier that they had better provide extraprotection to the document they are carrying.
  • Consider filingelectronically so that you take mail out of the equation. Make surethat you have a well-protected computer (discussed above).
Shredand Store Safely. Any copies of tax documents that you no longerneed can be shredded using a confetti shredder. Store all tax records,documents and related materials in a secure fire safe. I recommendspending the extra money to have your safe bolted into your home sothat a thief can't walk away with your entire identity portfolio. Makesure that your tax provider appropriately destroys and locks up anylingering pieces of your identity as well. Tax returns provide more ofyour private information in a single place than almost any otherdocument in our lives. Don't waste your tax refund recovering from thiscrime.

About the author: John Sileobecame America's leading Identity Theft Speaker amp;Expert after he lost his business and more than $300,000 toidentity theft and data breach. His clients include the Department ofDefense, Pfizer and the FDIC. To further bulletproof yourself and yourbusiness, visit John's blog at To book John atyour next event, visit Permissiongranted foruse

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Tags: Dating, Marriage, Men's Point of View, Morals, Ethics, Values, Relationships, Women's Point of View

Relationship Red Flags
5 Tips for Identifying Your Negotiables and Non-Negotiables
By Sharon Rivkin

You're in a new relationship, and you're starting to see some redflags, warning you that the relationship may not be a good bet, butdoes that mean you should leave? How many red flags does it take tomake that decision? How do you know if the red flags mean futuredisaster, or are just a warning?

These are tough questions to answer. But if you've identified your redflags, you can begin to get clear about staying or leaving by lookingat your negotiables and non-negotiables. These are the patterns ofbehavior in the relationship that either you can deal with (negotiable)or you can't (non-negotiable). A negotiable item does not go againstyour integrity, but a non-negotiable does. For example, if you valuehonesty in your relationships, and your partner is continually lying toyou, that is a non-negotiable. How could you really have a healthyrelationship with someone whose very behavior goes against the essenceof who you are? If you compromise on this behavior by deciding thatsometimes lying is okay, you are cutting into the deepest part of yourpsyche. Non-negotiables are those issues that you will not compromiseon because it goes deeply against your values.

Negotiables are not deal breakers and are those issues that don't cutas deeply. For instance, maybe your partner is messy and you valueneatness. However, messiness doesn't cut into your integrity andalthough it may never change, you could live with it and not feel asthough you've compromised your very essence.

It is important to know your negotiables and non-negotiables. That way,you can decipher which of these two categories the red flags fall into.If in your current relationship most of the red flags arenon-negotiables, it will be nearly impossible to have a lovingrelationship for more than two or three months. Our integrity can onlybe compromised for a short period of time#151;the honeymoon phase#151;before weget angry and resentful of our partner. If your negotiables outweighyour non-negotiables, it makes sense to continue the relationship.

Use these five tips to help you identify your negotiables andnon-negotiables:
  1. Make a list of issues youknow you can compromise on that your partner is displaying. "She's lateall the time, but I can live with that."
  2. Make a list of issues thatyou know you can't compromise on. "He says he's going to call me andeither doesn't or calls much later than planned. He always has anexcuse, and I want someone who keeps his word 99% of the time. I can'tsee living with this much inconsistency."
  3. Make a list of issues youwould compromise on within yourself for another person. "I know I'mmessy, so I'd either get an organizer to help me with this or bewilling to hire a housekeeper."
  4. Make a list of issues youcould not and would not compromise on. "I am an independent woman, andcould not be with a partner who wanted me to give up my work or myfriends for him."
  5. If you're not sure whichcategory your red flags falls under, ask yourself this question: If this behavior never changed, could Ilive with it? You have to assume it may never change and thatalone should help you determine if it's a negotiable or non-negotiable.
If you know your non-negotiables,theres still the issue of infatuation/love/passion/fantasy that cloudsour judgment and overrides our good senses. Sometimes we ignore thesigns of disaster and plunge forward anyway. That's just called beinghuman, so don't beat yourself up if this happens. Nevertheless, knowingyour negotiables and non-negotiables is important because when thefantasy dies down and you're wondering what happened, you can look atyour list as a reminder. This will help you pull back, reevaluate, andhave a clearer sense of what to do. The negotiables and non-negotiablesare exactly the framework and boundaries needed when trying to decideto stay or leave. It doesn't matter how long you've been involved, thenegotiables and non-negotiables are always there to remind us of who weare, what we want, and what we don't want.

Relationship and Conflict Resolution Expert, Sharon M. Rivkin, M.A., M.F.T.,author of The First Argument: Cuttingto the Root of Intimate Conflict, helps hundreds of couplesbreak the argument cycle with her proven, groundbreaking technique thatresolves the most painful issues, stops repetitive conflict, savesrelationships, and puts the love back in your marriage. Sharonhas been featured in O: The Oprah Magazine, Reader's Digest, and majorwebsites such as YahooPersonals,,,, and many others. Visit Sharon at Permission granted for use

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Tags: Marriage, Women's Point of View

10 Reasons Why You Should Become A Virtual Assistant This Year
By Liz Folger, Work-at-Home Mom Expert

First of all, what is a virtual assistant (VA)? I like to explain it as a word processor gone wild. A VA is someone who works with clients, providing them with top quality support services without having to be physically present at a clients office. VA services are becoming more and more popular thanks to today's technology such as email, the Internet, online instant messaging, fax, phone, and overnight delivery. Gone are the days of offices needing their support staff in the same building.

If you have a secretarial background or other support staff expertise and a love for computers and all the technology it offers, then here are ten very good reasons why you should start your own VA business this year.
  1. Make An Income You Can Live On

    It was reported by virtual assistant trade organizations that the average full-time VA working in the US would gross about $39,452 annually. Now that isn't a bad income! That is the type of money you can live on, even if you are a single mom.

  2. The Need For VA's Is Only Going To Get Greater

    According to the George Washington University forecast of emerging technology, Virtual Assisting will become a $130 Billion Industry by 2008. Thanks to our growing technology, and the fact that it's easier to just source out work to a VA due to the fact that a business doesn't have to pay for any benefits when they out-source, this type of service will only get bigger and more in demand.

  3. Are you feeling unfulfilled, unchallenged, and unmotivated? Is your current corporate job beginning to feel like a real drag?

    Are you dreading getting dressed up, driving your commute to work, and working with a boss who is ungrateful and unappreciative? Do you love some parts of your job and despise other parts and wish you could do the parts you love more? Then becoming a VA might be something you need to look into.

  4. Want to continue your professional working life without having to leave home? Want the flexibility to work from home and have a better balance between work and life?

    Maybe you're thinking of having kids, or have had your first baby. You so want to continue your career, but you also want to spend more time with your children. Take a good hard look at the world of a VA. This type of home business will continue to give you the satisfaction of a career, while also offering you the ability to be there for your kids doctor appointments, their first step, school field trips, and running them around to after school events.

  5. Gain the ability to work with people you want to work with.

    Do you tend to click with certain types of people more than others? With a VA business, you can decide who you want your clients to be. Authors, salespeople, consultants, coaches, executives, entrepreneurs, and small business owners are just a few of the types of people you could work with.

  6. The ability to do more than just one thing.

    Looking for a little variety in your business? Don't want to get stuck doing the same thing over and over again? Here is a list of just some of the things you can do as a VA.

    Writing services (technical or creative)
    Business/employee communications
    Proofreading and editing, research (online or traditional)
    Data entry
    Database management
    Message management
    Bill paying
    Simple website design
    Newsletter distribution
    Bulk mailing
    Reminder services
    Event planning
    Special projects
    Concierge services
    Secretarial services
    Data processing/data management
    Desktop publishing
    Transcription services
    Mail and email services
    Telephone/fax services
    Internet services
    Purchasing services
    Writing/editing services
    Marketing services
    Personal services
    Santa letters
    Proposal Writer

  7. The ability to Niche yourself.

    Choose just a few of the ideas above and take it one step further. Niche yourself. You might already possess knowledge in a certain area. You can contact those businesses you are already familiar with and work with them. Maybe in the past you had worked as support staff for a marketing company. If marketing is your thing, you can let businesses know that you can not only be their VA and take care of all their typing and database applications, but that you can also use your expertise to help them market their business.

  8. Use the equipment you already have.

    If you're reading this article, then there's a good chance you already have a computer, a printer, and fax capabilities. Why not start putting that equipment to good use and make some money?

  9. The choice between working full-time or part-time.

    Maybe you don't want to work full time, but you need to do something to call your own. That's great! You'll be your own boss; you can decide how much or how little you want to work.

  10. Being able to say you love the way you make money.

    If just the thought of working with your computer and current technology makes you giddy, why not make money doing something you love? Grab hold of the opportunity to make as much money as you'd like and the ability to work from your home. You have the opportunity to decide who you want to work with, the type of work you want to do or not do, and your niche area. If this sounds like the perfect opportunity for you visit *** to learn more about starting your own Virtual Assistant Business.
For More information on starting your own Virtual Assistant business visit:

Liz Folger is the founder of is the leading online resource for work-from-home ideas. The site offers home-based business start-up kits, online classes, e-books, chats and enthusiastic support for moms who want to have it all - a family and a career. Visit a href="" target="_blank"> for more information.

* The author gives permission for the use of this article on

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Tags: Politics, Religion, Values