Dr. Laura
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Tip of the Week

Character First; Designer Jeans Last
By Anne Leedom

Kids today are very fortunate. They have so many activities to choose from compared to what was available thirty years ago. However, parents might be cautioned to take a moment and decide#133;.is it really in your child's best interest that she take on the next round of activities? Does your child need the expensive items? Do you really have your child's best interest at heart? Let's take a look at what the experts say.

Research is very clear on this one. Kids who are taught the virtues of empathy, compassion and self-control#133;those are the kids that succeed. They succeed in relationships, academically, and financially. So, next time you are thinking of what to nurture in your child, think character first. These guidelines can help your child get the most of their activities without compromising the most important goals parents have#133;.teaching their kids to do the right thing.
  • Set limitations in your household. It's all too common to hear what other kids have or get to do. However, we each need to decide in our own homes what is appropriate and best and then stick to it.

  • Have your children earn their own spending money. They will scale down their wish list to affordable quantities and bargains. Children will reason: 'I can't afford this, but I can afford that#133; Life is about learning to make wise choices.

  • Fill Kids Up From the Inside Out. Your children may be telling you that they feel empty inside, that they need artificial stimulation because they are hungry#151;hungry for you, the strong family unit. Talk to them more. Do activities together (not shopping). Make sure to have a family dinner hour to listen to them- try to listen more and only speak unless asked to. The best gift is yourself and your time.

  • Do volunteer work with your children. Let them see the internal side of life, not merely the external, and how they can make a positive contribution

  • Exercise with your children. Exercising will help children get rid of stress, raise their endorphins and make them happier.

  • Encourage creative expression. This can be through writing, painting, music, sculpting, carving, cooking, etc. Original thinking will encourage children to become nonconformists, take the road less traveled by and therefore not need the validation of looking like everyone else. Fashion and materialism are expressions of personal style; encourage your children to develop their individual style.
I will be the first to say that money is a nice thing to have. It's a wonderful thing to provide well for your kids and enjoy the perks of life if you can. Just remember to incorporate a steady and consistent dose of gratitude and self-control, or the benefits you many be trying to give your child can actually come back to haunt them#133;and you.

Anne Leedom is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of www.parentingbookmark.com. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.

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Tags: Military, Regarding Dr. Laura, Values

Organize Your Communication

We all know that organizing your day will increase your productivity. It allows you to keep a record of things that you need to do and prioritize them to make better use of your time. It keeps you on track and helps you to organize your day. A planner is an essential tool for the busy woman whether she has a business, a career or an active household!

But, how many times have you had to return a phone call and forgot to mention an important point? Have you ever had a hard time formulating your thoughts in a letter? Did you ever email anyone and come to find out that they didn't quite understand what you were asking? And then, how much of your time was spent trying to clear up that communication?

We all know that effective communication is important, but what does that really mean in practical terms for busy women? Here are some tips that I use to help me make the most out of my communication.
  1. Phone Calls
    Before you dial that number, make some notes on a piece of paper to remind you of the points you wish to address. Don't write complete sentences, but rather write a bulletized list so that it is easy to refer to while you are talking.

    Write the person's name at the top and, if this call is for business, some notes about that person that you remember. Have you ever called someone and, while it was ringing, forgot who you were calling? This technique helps with those 'senior moments . Good communicators are great listeners and your notes can help you communicate that you were listening to them when they mentioned that their Aunt Sally was in the hospital last week. How? Because you will remember to ask how Aunt Sally is doing!

  2. Use an Outline
    Before you write anything (a letter, an email, a report or an article), you must organize your thoughts. The best way to do this is to use an outline. This ensures that your thoughts are complete, presented in a logical order and are easy to understand before you begin to write. You will notice that the writing goes much more smoothly when you do this too! An added bonus for those of you who don't like writing as much as I do!

    I can always tell when someone didn't organize their thoughts before hitting the keyboard or picking up that pencil because their communication is a jumble of disjointed ideas that hit you from all angles and leave you wondering.

    A confused mind will not act. If you have confused your Uncle Edward, he might not understand that you want him to watch the kids next Tuesday night. If you have confused your boss, she may not give you that project or that corner office you were trying to ask for. And if you confuse your customer, he will not buy from you!

  3. Email
    Now that you have organized your thoughts, make your email posts easier to read by organizing their appearance! Remember that we live in a microwave society. People don't want to read a 6000 word essay on what you have done today#133;especially if it is all one big paragraph!
    • Keep in mind to whom your email is going. If it is to an entire group of people, make sure that this is something you wish to release to the general population. As you type, keep in mind that the group may be diverse in their religious or political beliefs so tailor your message appropriately so you can say what you mean!
    • Remember that your words are the only things your audience will have to help them understand what you are trying to say. They cannot see your smiling face or hear your sweet voice to help them understand where you are coming from. Choose your words wisely.
    • Make each new thought a new paragraph.
    • Use bullets or numbers in list format to make it easier for people to scan- because they will scan!
    • Watch your spelling, grammar and punctuation to make sure that you are not asking your reader to strain a brain cell trying to figure out what that word is.
    • Read over your message before you hit the send button to make sure that you haven't missed something that might make your communication confusing or that doesn't represent the tone you wanted your message to have.

  4. Presentations
    It is generally acceptable to carry notes or index cards up with you when you are making a presentation of almost any sort. What is not acceptable is to read it verbatim while holding the cards up in front of you obscuring your face. Organize yourself for your presentation.
    • Know your audience. Consider what they value most and what they would like to know about you topic before you begin. Tailor your presentation to the average audience member, but leave room for the feelings and values of the others to whom you will be speaking.
    • Make sure that your notes are written like we talked about earlier for your phone conversations. Don't write complete sentences or you will be tempted to read them instead of refer to them.
    • If you use index cards, please number them. In case you accidentally drop them, you can quickly re-order them and go on with your presentation.
    • Prepare for your presentation by going over it several times until you become familiar with the flow without having to refer much to your notes.
    • Make sure you have any props or charts ready before hand and that you have worked with them during your preparation. Many is the time a presenter rushed out the door without the manuals they were going to hand out during the meeting or found that the had a hard time working with the 3 foot by 3 foot rice paper poster they planned on standing up on the table during their talk.
    • Walk the room. If you are unfamiliar with the room in which you will be speaking, arrive a few minutes early and walk through it to get a feel for how you will be presenting. Does it have a microphone? Does it need one?

A little organization and preparation goes a long way toward making your communication more clear! It will be less stressful for you, less frustrating for your audience and give you the best chance over-all to say what you mean. Happy communicating!

JoJo Tabares holds a degree in Speech Communication and is the author of the Say What You Mean series of studies on effective communication skills. JoJo is a frequent speaker in the homeschool community, teaches seminars/classes based on her work, and has written various articles for publication. She has just released a new e-book written just for small business owners called Say What You Mean When You're in Business. JoJo lives in Southern California with her husband and two children. If you would like more information on JoJo or her studies, please visit www.artofeloquence.com Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.

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Tags: Military, Values

Our Kids Love Being The Water. How Can We Make It Safe?
Armin Brott

Dear Mr. Dad: My kids, who are 3 and 5, absolutely love being in the water#151;swimming, boating, floating, soaking. And with summer just around the corner, I know they're itching to get into their swimsuits. What can we do to make sure our house is as safe as possible?

A: Any activity in or around the water, whether it's swimming, water skiing, or even wading, can be a huge amount of fun for little kids. But activities like these are potentially dangerous too, especially for kids.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that 350 children under five years of age drown each year in swimming pools, many at their own homes. Another 2,600 children under age five are treated in hospital emergency rooms each year following some kind of submersion incident. Sometimes the result is permanent brain damage.

There's no way to make the water 100% safe for small children, but there are some steps you can take to significantly reduce the risks. Let's start with a few general rules:
  • Watch your kids (and everyone else's) closely when they're playing near any unfenced water-filled area.
  • Never allow them into the water or into a boat without a life preserver. Life preservers should have a floatation collar to keep the head upright and the face out of the water.
  • Learn CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation) and know how to get emergency help.
  • Anytime you're around water, whether it's the bathroom, a swimming pool, a spa, a hot tub, or even a big puddle, always stay within an arm's length from the child. The water does NOT need to be deep for a child to be able to drown in it.
  • Don't leave your bathroom door open if your child is old enough to stroll in by himself. If possible, lock the door from the outside so it can't be opened by a child.
  • If you have a baby who can't sit by herself, make sure you have a supporting ring device for your tub. But even with a ring, NEVER leave your baby alone#151;even for a second.
Swimming Pools and spas
  • Teach your kids to swim. A good time to start lessons is when the kids are about five. If you want to start earlier than that, do so only if you're absolutely sure the instructor is trained to handle toddlers. Don't make the mistake of thinking that once your child has learned to swim it's okay to leaver her alone. Constant supervision in and around the water is a must, no matter how old the child or how good a swimmer she is.
  • Never throw your child into the water (or let anyone else do so either). It may be fun, but it can also be disorienting#151;and dangerous#151;for small children.
  • If you have a pool at home, put up a fence at least around 4 feet high around it. Use gates that self-close and self-latch, with latches higher than your kids can reach. And keep stools or anything else a child could climb on away from the fence.
  • Anyone watching your child around a pool should know how to swim and know how to perform CPR. Keep a life preserver, hook, flotation devices, a telephone, and emergency numbers near the pool too.
  • Always make sure that children with long hair either wear a bathing cap or pin their hair up. Hair can get sucked into drains and drown a child faster than you might think. If a drain cover is missing or broken, don't use the pool or spa until you replace the cover.
  • In the off season, keep the pool well -covered, even if it's empty#151;falling into an empty pool can be as dangerous as falling into a full one. And check the cover for water build-up too. Spas should also be covered and locked.
  • Always empty your baby pool as soon as you're through it. Store it upside down to dry, but keep an eye on your infant to make sure he doesn't crawl underneath and get trapped.
And finally, before you or anyone else gets into a pool or the open water, have an action plan ready in case of an emergency. Know how to get help and what to do until it arrives. Enjoy your summer!

Armin Brott, hailed by Time as 'the superdad's superdad, has written or co-written six critically acclaimed books on fatherhood, including the newly released second edition of Fathering Your Toddler: A Dad's Guide to the Second and Third Years. His articles have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, American Baby, Parenting, Child, Men's Health, The Washington Post among others. Armin is an experienced radio and TV guest, and has appeared on Today, CBS Overnight, Fox News, and Politically Incorrect. He's the host of 'Positive Parenting, a weekly radio program in the San Francisco Bay Area. Visit Armin at www.mrdad.com. Permission granted on DrLaura.com.

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Pets On A Budget
by Jonni McCoy

Getting a family pet can be one of the most rewarding things for a child. The pet provides companionship, entertainment and exercise. But sometimes the wrong pet for the family style and needs can be disastrous.

Many pets require a certain type of care. Some dogs, for example, require more money as well as physical interaction and attention. Without proper attention, they can start to act strangely, chewing up things and sometimes even biting or growling. Some other mammals, especially the small ones, don't demand as much and may be better suited for certain people. The smaller mammals, such as rats, rabbits, hamsters, and guinea pigs, are not only less demanding, but also less expensive to care for. Food can be homemade healthy items such as vegetables, grains and fruit. And vet bills are usually minimal.

How does one decide if they can afford a pet?
When deciding if you can launch into this addition to the family, don't forget to factor in the pet's love it will provide in return. This is something no one can put a price tag on. After deciding what the initial purchase fee will be, the prospective owner must look at food, vet bills, cage (if required), and any accessories that may be needed.

Another consideration is if your family is away from home much. Will pet sitting be a regular expense? A dog can cost $13,000 over it's lifetime. A third of that goes to food, and another third for the vet bills. The other third is spent on training, collars leashes, toys, etc. A cat will cost significantlyless, with small mammals, reptiles and fish trailing behind.

Vet bills can be an expense we forget to plan for. The average family spends between $100 and $350 per year on their pet. Those unexpected expenses like broken legs, etc. are just things we have to plan for.

There are ways to cut some of the routine vet expenses. Here are a few:
  • Ask around at pet stores if they host a mobile vaccine clinic in the area. These are usually 75% cheaper than a vet office visit.
  • Ask around what vet prices are. They vary greatly.
  • Practice good health and hygiene. This preventative measure can save hundreds of dollars.
  • Healthy food is one of the most important items pets need. Cheap food may not have the right amount of protein or essential oils that theyneed. Do some research on your pet's needs.
  • Get videos from the library on dental cleaning grooming, and clipping at home.
  • Get books at the library on simple home remedies for common ailments.
Food can be an overwhelming expense if you have a large and active animal, such as a dog. There are ways to get around this expense if you are creative. These have helped us in the past:
  • Buy in bulk quantities at discount pet superstores.
  • Avoid buying food from the vet. Their brands are good, but the mark upis high. Excellent quality pet food is available for less at most large pet stores.
  • Don't over feed the animal.
  • Learn to make some of their food - this is easier than you think. Most recipe are simple and can be made in bulk. That last suggestion may surprise you. When we lived in Nigeria and Pakistan we didn't have the luxury of a supermarket, or canned pet food.

    Instead, we made all of our pet's feed. It is simple, healthy and very inexpensive. It sometimes is better food than store-bought pet food.
For dog food, we boiled some meat and a bone with some rice and herbs. We would add some healthy oils (olive oil, etc.) to the mix for the dog's coat and skin.

For a cat, we chopped a few teaspoons of fish, chicken, or egg yolk and mixed it with a tablespoon of cooked rice or oats, a teaspoon of milk or sour cream and a little oil for its coat.

There are several recipe books in the library with various meals to make for pets. You can even make your own dry pet food. Whichever pet you choose, taking care of them shouldn't break the bank.

Good basic feeding and loving care should help them go a long way.

Jonni McCoy and her family live in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She is the author of Miserly Moms, Frugal Families - Making the Most of Your Hard-Earned Money, and Miserly Meals. You can visit her website at www.miserlymoms.com. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.

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Tags: Family/Relationships - Family, Morals, Ethics, Values, Parenting, Relationships, Relatives

Finding Closure When aRelationship Suddenly Ends
By Dalma Heyn

Charles left Miranda one day after a six-month love affair, with nosatisfactory explanation. He just announced, during a good solid startat long-term love, "Sorry, Miranda, I guess this isn't working" -- saidit not even kindly, at that. He wasn't interested in hearing whyMiranda thought that in fact it was working, quite wonderfullyactually; that it was a relationship and relationships needed a littleworking out now and again. No, he didn't want to hear it. For him, itwas over. So was all discussion on the topic.

It always seems unthinkable, this scenario in which a lover leavesabruptly; runs you over like a train, as if you were just something tobe left on the side of the curb like road kill. How do you everfind closure with a guy who heads for the hills and never tells youwhy? It's gut-wrenchingly hard, but you have to find closurewithin yourself. Here's how.

Cut your losses. You pickyourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again. You don'tdecide that because he didn't tell you anything, the cause of hisdeparture are your thighs, or a fight you had, or your bad mood lastmonth. A man who is too withholding and cowardly to explain himself hasto be excised as brutally as he excised you. You tell yourself,"I don't want to spend my precious time with someone who doesn't wantto spend it with me." When all is said and done, isn't that the truth?

Do not call him. Hedoesn't want to talk? Then believe him. No quick texts; no trying tolocate him; no flaming e-mails; no late-night calls begging for areason why you were so unceremoniously dumped. (Do you really want tohear, "Oh, it's you. Um, yeah, right, hi.") You remind yourself#151;athousand times, if you have to-- that while you still want him, you donot NEED him. You have a roof over your head. (I remember, eons ago,when women literally needed men to have a life!) All that you need isgood food, rest, exercise--and some calm downtime to get yourself upand ready to meet someone who wants you.

Do not idealize him now that he's gone.We all tend to turn people into saints once they're gone, but thisperson didn't die; he bolted. Resist the urge to make him moredesirable simply because he's unavailable. And resist the correspondingurge toward self-blame. (The thigh thing again.)

Take your power back. Remember what it felt like--really felt like--to be with him. I don'tmean how you thought it could be if he loved you more; I mean most ofthe time. Were you exhausted? Walking on eggshells? Pushing to getcloser? If so, you were at your worst and will never be at your worstagain. If it was truly wonderful.....then the man isn't just cowardly,he's psychotic.

Don't think, "I should have knownbetter." You couldn't have known. You can't spot one ofthese guys; he doesn't wear a sign saying, "I'm a disaster." The onlyway to avoid a man who can't love you is to remember what it felt likein the past. When you're with someone the next time, you'll have asense memory: a feeling of being exhausted, off-balance, nervous....and you'll run.

Meanwhile, lay low. Nurse your wounds--the way a hurt animal would.Don't date; you're not ready. But one day, you'll meet an earth guy wholoves being intimate; who wants to please you; who gets you, who makesyou feel comfortable in your own skin#133; a man who can express hisfeelings. And that man won't sap your energy--he'll make you feel aliveagain.

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 hasappeared--without her wings--on national talk shows including Oprah, The View, Charlie Rose, GoodMorning America, and Larry King Live. For more information visitwww.thelovegoddess.comor www.dalmaheyn.net.copy;2009 Robbin Montero Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.

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Six Sound Strategies to Stress Less

By Ellen Simon, M.S., M. Ed., LPC

Stress happens in your body but starts in your mind. In addition to the perception of danger or life threatening events, there are two thinking habits that activate the stress response in the body.

The first is negative attention, or focusing on what you don't want/like, rather than what is good, right or challenging in a growth producing way. The Law of Attraction will bring into your life that which you focus on and play on the movie screen of your mind.

The second common habit to induce stress is an insistence and needing that things be a certain way, rather than preferring the same. Insistence on things being a certain way implies an attachment to a particular outcome, and thus sets you up for disappointment. If instead you prefer an outcome, you still identify your wishes and desires, yet this attitude contains energy of letting go. Preferring carries an element of trust in the unfolding of life and the confidence that whatever happens, you have the resources and ability to handle life.

It's better to have what you need than to need what you want.

The 6 strategies to stress less and enjoy life more follow:
  1. Thinking healthy - focus on what you do want rather than what you don't want, let go of insisting or clinging to a particular outcome. Where are your thoughts? Are you focusing on what is wrong? Or is your awareness on the solution or even on the blessing that if often revealed down the road? Are you turning your wants into needs? When you NEED what you WANT then you create unnecessary stress. Try shifting your needs into preferences, relaxing, breathing and looking at the big picture.

  2. Breathing - breathe in fully and completely let go of your breath. Breathing is a metaphor for life. Take it in fully and let go of what you do not need.

  3. Moving - stretch your body and keep it flexible and resilient like your mind.

  4. Awareness - maintain a consciousness of your habitual patterns. If something is not working, cease the pattern and make another choice.

  5. Communication - be assertive, state your truth with harmless intention and allow another to have a truth that may differ from yours. Respect your needs and celebrate diversity in your loved ones.

  6. Sound Sleep - crucial to managing stress and feelings of well-being. If needed, create a routine for yourself that includes a soothing and calming ritual before bed. If there is something on your mind, talk to a friend or journal - get those feelings out of your body and onto some paper or into a friend's ear! Meditation prior to bedtime can create a nice transition to sleep. A spray of lavender or nutritional supplements may be considered to support a healthy sleep.
Keep in mind these six strategies as you remember that you are the choice maker. One of the few things you can choose is what thoughts you entertain and how you respond to life!!

copy; 2009 by Ellen Simon www.imadulation.com. Permission to reprint if left intact.

Ellen Simon is a nationally recognized expert in the field of mind body health. Ellen's unique brand of audio programs is in use in hospitals and health care facilities across the country. Author of over 25 titles this article is adapted from Food for Thought(r) a 6 audio CD set. For more information visit www.imadulation.com. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.

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Tags: Marriage, Men's Point of View

Are You Addicted toFear? Learn How Not To Be!
Adapted from Dr. Judith Orloff's new book "Emotional Freedom:
Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life"
(Harmony Books, 2009)
By Judith Orloff MD

If you don't make it your business to overcome fear, you better believeit'll try to overcome you. Most people are subservient to this emotionthough they may not know it. I define fear as the emotional response todanger, perceived or real. What underscores fear in all itspermutations is the feeling that you won't be all right.

Emotional Action Step from "Emotional Freedom". Harness Your Biology toQuiet Fear.

To short-circuit fear and turn off your flight-or-flight response,you'll need to train your brain to send chemicals to counteract them.Otherwise, fear and its hormones will make you crazed. In contrast,with a calm biology it's easier to find courage by practicing thecombined techniques below to quiet your system.

To achieve immediate and longer termresults:
  • Eliminate caffeine, sugar,and other stimulants--these fuel the fight-or-flight response.
  • Avoid people who reinforceyour fear--they are biological irritants; stick close to emotionalnurturers.
  • Stay away from violentnewscasts, traffic jams, arguments, or other stress inducers.
Whenyou're in the grip of a fear-driven adrenaline rush, try these quicksolutions.
  • Use this ProgressiveRelaxation Technique: In a comfortable position, sitting or lying down,take a few deep breaths while letting your body go as limp as possible.When you're ready, begin by tightening the muscles in your toes...holdto a count of ten... then relax. Enjoy the relief of tension melting.Do the same with flexing your foot muscles, and move slowly throughyour entire body: calves, legs, stomach, back, neck, jaw, face,contracting and releasing each area.
  • Immerse yourself in hotwater to relax muscular tension as soon as possible.
These practical changes, whichallow you to take control of your body, can be tremendously effectivein restoring calm. You don't have to be passive while battered byfear. The victim mentality takes many forms. It requires courage toassume control, to say, "I'm going to be responsible for my biologicalself-care." Educating your body how to respond makes you emotionallyfreer.

About Judith Orloff MD
Judith Orloff MD is author ofthe new New York Times bestseller EmotionalFreedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform YourLife (Harmony Books, 2009) upon which this article is based. Dr.Orloff synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edgeknowledge of intuition and energy medicine. An Assistant ClinicalProfessor of Psychiatry at UCLA, she passionately believes that thefuture of medicine involves integrating all this wisdom to achieveemotional freedom and total wellness. www.drjudithorloff.com. Permission granted for use onDrLaura.com

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Tags: Family/Relationships - Family, Morals, Ethics, Values, Parenting, Relationships, Relatives

Five Ways to Market Using Email

There are many ways to market a home-based business. But one of the simplest ways is to use an every day business tool - email. By using these five easy tips you'll see how easily your business can grow without much effort on your part.

1. Use a Professional Signature - This is an important tip to use on every email that you send. Even your friends may not always remember your website address or business phone number and will quickly look to an old e-mail to look it up.

When preparing an email signature it's important to include Your Name, Company Name, and your Physical Address or Website Address. You may also include your phone number. Below is a sample Email signature:

Jill Hart
Christian Work at Home Moms

The signature is simple, easy to read and includes a link directly to my website. It is very important to include the http:// before the website address because many email programs will not link the text to your website without this (it will appear as text - not a link).

Also, make sure that you double check that you have your website correct. Often times I've found that people have their website wrong by inverting a letter or two and aren't aware of it. It cannot only lead to a loss of a sale, but it shows less professionalism on your part.

You can also use a virtual business card as your signature. You can design and purchase your own virtual business card at http://www.vistaprint.com.There is a very small cost - less than $2.00 for this professional looking virtual signature file.

2. Find a "Signature Buddy" - This is an easy and cost-free way to spread the word about your business. Ask a colleague or friend if they will "swap"a line their signature with you. You will add a line at the bottom of your signature with a link to their business and they will do the same.

Jill Hart
Christian Work at Home Moms

Publishing and book marketing - http://www.virtualwordpublishing.com/

The signature "swap" can be as simple as a line (as above) or as much as a 2- 3 line testimony of why you're recommending this link. You can find a permanent signature "buddy" or change it weekly or monthly.

3. Send Email Coupons - This is a great way to network using email. Send a special coupon by email that is available only for those that receive your emails. You can also extend this to a newsletter if you have one. Offer a special coupon for anyone who signs up for your newsletter!

You can send other specials by email as well - special offers, free gifts, ebooks, etc. There are many ways that you can utilize your email to bless your customers and colleagues.

4. Create a Custom Background for your Email - This is easier to do than it sounds. If you are using Microsoft Outlook or a similar program, you can find directions on creating your own custom signature online at places like http://www.mailmsg.com/outlookstationary.htm.

Custom email stationary can take a plain email and make it look professional. I include my logo and my website name in my custom background.Be sure to make the picture "light," so that it does not compete with the text of the emails you'll be sending.

5. Send Thank You Emails - In this day and age it is very acceptable to send a Thank You card via email. This is an easy way to thank customers, advertisers, and even newsletter subscribers.

You can create you own Thank You or use a program like Yahoo! Greetings.Many of these programs have free e-cards that you can send as well as a paidversion with additional designs. Another great place is Hallmark.com whereyou can get customized greeting e-cards for any occasion, free. It's a great way to remember your client's birthdays or perhaps a special day in their business.

You can even set up an auto-responder to send the Thank You automatically.There are many auto-responder programs for you to choose from and many website hosting companies will provide you with one, you'll just need to go in and set it up.

One great thing about an auto-responder is that you can set up when the email will be sent, what will "trigger" the auto-responder and what the email will say. This way, any time you receive an order, the customer receives an email immediately, even if you're not available.

One downfall to auto-responders is that they can seem impersonal. However, you can overcome this by taking the time to write a personal note to your customers and use this as the auto-responder email.

Can you see how beneficial e-mails can be for your business? When you use a professional looking signature, find a "buddy" to swap lines in your signature, personalize your email background, use auto-responders and any other items that you are able to customize, you'll never look at email the same way again. Marketing can be inexpensive and effective when you know the right ways to do it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Jill Hart is the founder of Christian Work at Home Moms, CWAHM.com. This site is dedicated to providing work at home moms with opportunities to promote their businesses while at the same time providing them spiritualencouragement and articles. Visit http://www.CWAHM.com for additionalinformation. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.

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Tags: Family/Relationships - Family, Parenting, Regarding Dr. Laura, Relationships, Relatives

Today's Family Man
'Values-Based Holiday Shopping

By Gregory Keer

Gimmee, gimmee, gimmee is a refrain parents here from (at least) November till the end of the holidays. It's hard to blame children for their insatiable requests for more and bigger gifts as marketers bombard them with 'must have options and their friends have parents who are dealing out the goods. It's difficult for a kid not to be motivated by other boys and girls shouting, 'I'm getting a Furby! or 'My parents bought me a Game Boy Micro!

One of the toughest tasks for a parent in this materialistic mayhem is to teach values. But the moms and dads who come out on top are the ones who stick to the program of educating their children about moderation, the needs of the less fortunate, and what's more important than the things we own. Here are some ideas for instilling principle in young consumers.

Gifts for Kids to Give to Others
  1. Let's List Again

    I've frequently recommended that a parent not even step foot in a retail outlet without first having made a list of things his or her child may want. Preparing in advance allows you to set a number of gifts and a budget in advance, thereby managing a child's expectations and teaching them the limits of money. The same thing applies when shopping for other family members and friends.

    Have your kids make a list of things they want to give to each person, working with them on the budget and the appropriateness of each gift. While you do this, discuss with them why they are choosing the specific present and what they think the result of the giving the gift will be. Often, children are disappointed by the reactions their friends or family give when receiving an item. Before this happens, teach your child that it is indeed the thought that counts and that giving is its own reward. You can tell them that not everyone has the ability to understand this, so it's important to derive self-satisfaction from the act of giving.

  2. Give Unto Others What You Would Give Your Kid

    For friends, give what your kids would want for themselves. Have them tell you what to get or have them shop for it themselves. Of course, a young girl may not want a 'Bonecrusher 2005 for Christmas, so you should do a little guiding about the recipient. But buying something your child values puts the friend on an equal footing.

    A couple of other tips: While shopping, buy two for the holidays or birthdays. Or keep the list of what you buy and return to the stores for sales on those same items.

  3. Be Personal

    For relatives, give something personal. Create-your-own pottery, handmade cards, photo albums with photos of special times spent together. What counts is how the gift connects with a friend or loved one.
Beyond Disposable Fun and Worthwhile Gifts for Kids
  1. The Gift of Time

    A museum pass or amusement park pass provides your kids with an opportunity to spend more time with you. Also consider "gift certificates" with dates for times you will take one child out with mom or dad for special dinners or other outings.

  2. Year 'Round Gifts

    In addition to the museum or park passes, try joining a book club in their name or make your own book club good for 5 to 10 books throughout the year and stamp a homemade card each time you buy one with your child.

  3. Philanthropy

    Teach your children about those who don't have the same privileges. Have them choose a toy to send to a charitable organization. Take them to the donation place so they can see the people who are getting these gifts. Making it personal will have a more lasting effect on a child who needs to understand that others don't have it as good as him.

  4. Board Games

    Board games, a deck of cards, puzzles for family times. Ages two on up will like this option, which increases family time.
These ideas are some of many others that creative, values-minded parents can use. At the core of the suggestions are understanding the needs of others and realizing that the time we spend with each other trump any video game or fashionable clothing that money can buy.

copy; 2005 Gregory Keer. All rights reserved.

Gregory Keer is a syndicated columnist, educator, and on-air expert on fatherhood. His Family ManTM column appears in publications across the country, including L.A. Parent, Boston Parents' Paper, Metro Augusta Parent, and Sydney's Child in Australia. Keer's parenting advice is found at his online magazine, www.familymanonline.com, which is the #1 ranked site for fathers, according to Amazon's Alexa ratings. In addition to writing for Parenting magazine and the Parents' Choice Foundation, Keer contributes to USA Today, Pregnancy magazine, DrLaura.com, ParentingBookmark.com, Pregnancy.org, and CanadianParents.com. Keer is also a featured guest expert on television and radio and advisor to the Cartoon Network. He and his wife are the proud parents of three sons. Keer can be reached at his Web site, www.familymanonline.com. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com

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Tags: Religion, Values

The Punch That Parents Don't See
By Vaughn Alaine-Marshall

The job of nurturing an impressionable mind has always been a challenge. The once gradual ascent into adulthood is now a sharp rise. Every single day parents in America are confronted with the task of monitoring their child's influences. New technologies, social crazes and information portals emerge on a monthly basis, making the job of policing what goes into a child's brain all the more difficult.

The attempt of previous generations to counter this quandary reflects our modern standard of censorship. School reading lists now have an emphasis on classical works. Films now warn of offensive content. Music controls its controversial artists with corporate strings. The Internet, the latest parental predicament, is vast but awareness of its power is leading to its restraint. Individual standards of decency dictate what is suitable for viewing in different households, however like any old boxer will warn you, 'it's the punch you don't see that knocks you out...'

More money is being spent on television production than any other time in the industry's history. Television's fiscal resurgence is on the back of reality programming. Reality-TV shows, especially those of the talent show format, are gaining legitimacy and fulfilling the need for more family-oriented programming. For a parent, this is the punch you don't see.

Recognize the Punch
  • Every year the airways carry another slew of reality drama packaged for families. The highest-rating and most profitable show in the genre, American Idol, has built its franchise upon young adults chasing their dreams.

  • American Idol thrives because of its feel-good music moments and viewer participation. From the outside, American Idol is wholesome entertainment. The reality of this reality-TV show though is not so benign.

  • American Idol and it spin-offs intentionally project cruelty under the guise that it is part-and-parcel of the entertainment industry. American Idol reproduces the dynamics of bullying children deal with in schoolyards across the country every day.

  • By making it family entertainment only legitimizes this behaviour.

  • Children who have been victimized are much more likely to be depressed, anxious, withdrawn and distrustful, even in adulthood, and more likely to miss class and underperform in school.

  • The impact of America's most watched television show has been linked to the growing incidences of cyber-bullying.

  • In 2008, researchers at Yale School of Medicine found signs of an apparent connection between bullying, being bullied and suicide in children.
Reality shows are not only shaping how impressionable minds interact in the schoolyard, but what is perceived as reality. Unlike scripted television shows, there is no suspension of disbelief. American Idol and its affiliates claim to make superstars out of ordinary people; however the reality is far from this. Confidentiality agreements suppress the hundreds of contestant horror stories resulting from reality-show experiences.

Mental-health workers have discovered that people who compete on these shows suffer severe and often long-lasting psychological trauma as a result. American Idol is no different to any other television show produced in America except that it works on a fundamentally different premise - that it is real. The winner is chosen before a single second of the show goes to air. Impressionable minds take American Idol on face value.

The punch that parents don't see is not drugs, sex or violence - it's the subtle impressions. Parents cannot control every stimulus - only give their children perspective to make balanced judgements. Dreams are an expression of the soul's desire and shows like American Idol stimulate our hearts to achieve extraordinary feats. It's when their promises and methods are rooted in fiction the greatest damage is done.

Every day, parents all over America are giving their children wings hoping they achieve whatever it is they want. The punch we don't see is giving children hope when there is a dead-end and legitimizing a show that encourages meanness. Dreams do not materialize overnight, but they do come true. And they are a direct result of courage, perseverance and talent that parents nurture in developing people every day.

Vaughn Alaine-Marshall is the author of the ground-breaking reality-television novel Uuml;berstar. Born in Sydney, Australia, Vaughn is a chiropractor who put a career in private practice on hold after four-and-a-half days to co-found the international publishing firm Hendlin Books. Based in Hamburg, Germany, Vaughn is bringing the vision of his firm's two namesakes - Jimi Hendrix (HEND-) and Charlie Chaplin (-LIN) - into the publishing world. Vaughn's debut novel, Uuml;berstar, is a funny and explosive exploration of reality-television as told by insider sources from the world's biggest reality shows. For more information www.uberstarthebook.com.Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.

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Tags: Women's Point of View
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