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IconResolution Checkup By Cheryl Gochnauer About six months ago, we were toasting the New Year and making resolutions. How are you doing on those plans you made? Are you well on your way tobecoming that thinner, smarter, more socially aware and family-focusedperson? Or did your plans fade by February and dissolve completely by May? If so, don't worry; you've still got plenty of time to regroup and reachyour goals before 2003 arrives. And if you're right on track, now is agreat time to celebrate your successes! IN THE WORKPLACE. Re-evaluate where you're going in your career,whetheryou're working as a full-time stay-at-home mom, working outside the home, orpursuing a homebased business. Still giving 110 percent? Or has yourdedication slipped to 80 percent or lower? Has your determination to avoidoffice politics or neighborhood gossip slackened, as you find yourselfengaged in those same old gripe sessions? Renew your commitment, or start steps to move to a position where you'llthrive. Take classes to sharpen your professional edge. Scope out your career landscape, re-aiming for passes through workplacemountains. If you're an at-home parent, revisit your reasons for being there and tryto recapture the joy you originally felt about coming home.As you zero in on your chosen career, "remember that you work to live, notlive to work," says Dr. Robert Ramsey, a Minneapolis personnel managementexpert. "Be sure you have time for family, friends, church, community andyourself, as well as for work. You'll be a better, happier person for it." ON THE HOMEFRONT. If you're not spending quality time with your kids, stopeverything and make a date with them now. As resolutions go, this oneshould rank at the top, priority-wise. Speaking of dates, what are you and your spouse doing this Friday night?Renew your resolve to strengthen your commitment to your mate, too.Regarding the family budget, remember that promise to slip a little bit ofeach paycheck into savings? If you haven't managed to set any aside, callPayroll and arrange for an automatic deduction. You're less likely to missit if you never see it. MIND AND BODY. Internet usage has exploded in the past couple of years. Soif you said you'd become more knowledgeable about your world this year, justlog on. Go to your favorite search engine, and plug in a subject you'd love to knowmore about. To access your local library, visit their webpage and enter yourcard number. Under "InfoTrack," you'll discover a rich bank of freemagazine and newspaper articles literally at your fingertips. Ask yourlibrarian for the site address. If you promised to lose 20 pounds by December 31 and you've yet to shed any,trim your goal to a more manageable 10 pounds and go for it. Things you cando today: Watch the fat. Stop when you're full. Resolve to love your body, whether you're at your goal or still inprocess.Resolutions of every kind are easier to keep when we make them forourselves. If you haven't kept up with guilt-induced pledges, good for you.Leave those bogus checkpoints behind.Instead, focus in on those changes YOU desire, and revive your resolutionstoday. (Comments? Email Cheryl@homebodies.org or visit her website at www.homebodies.org . Copyright 2002 Homebodies.Org, LLC. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com) More >>

IconThe Movie Reporter: Seabiscuit Spy Kids 3D: Game Over Lara Croft: Tomb Raider - The Cradle of Life By Philip Boatwright www.moviereporter.com SEABISCUIT : Tobey Maguire, Chris Cooper, Jeff Bridges, Elizabeth Banks, William H. Macy. Universal/Dreamworks Pictures/Spyglass Entertainment. Drama. WD-Gary Ross. Based on the best-selling book, the film tells the story of three men #150; a jockey (Maguire), a trainer (Cooper) and a businessman (Bridges) #150; and the down-and-out racehorse that took Depression-era America by surprise. A triumphant account of a roughhewn, undersized horse that became one of the world#146;s most renowned celebrities and arguably the greatest champion of all time. I have never had an interest in gambling. I#146;ve never even been to Las Vegas. So seeing a movie about horse racing isn#146;t going to tempt me to go to the track. But I want to be sensitive to those who struggle with the addiction of gambling. No movie is worth being tempted toward self-destruction. Got a problem with gambling? Then don#146;t go to this film. That said, #147;Seabiscuit#148; is not about financial betting. While wagering is central to horse racing in the real world, it is not a focal point to this film. It#146;s about surviving, overcoming, honor, caring, faith and the kinship between man and beast. God#146;s name is profaned 11 times in this movie. #147;Well, Phil, you#146;re always saying we shouldn#146;t support a film with profanity.#148; No, what I say is, let#146;s not get to the point where we accept the misuse of His name. There is a difference. If this generation accepts profanity in entertainment, will not the next generation be more inclined to include such language in their everyday use? I cringe every time I hear a profane utterance. But this film isn#146;t about blaspheming God. It#146;s about people from different walks of life searching to find their place. And in one scene, the Jeff Bridges character and his wife are in church. What#146;s more, they have brought the trainer and jockey with them. While those two men seem unfamiliar with a church service, the film sends a positive message that the businessman is a man of faith and has invited these other men into the house of God. It#146;s a quick scene. I#146;m not even sure why it#146;s there. But I simply said, #147;Wow.#148; Not many films acknowledge God to be a part of a main character#146;s life. This film does. A small horse, barely 15 hands and considered less than an underdog, Seabiscuit caught the imagination of 40 million Americans who tuned in to the Seabiscuit-War Admiral race as the two thoroughbreds went nose to nose for a full half-mile. I wish I was capable of describing the power of cinematographer John Schwartzman#146;s work (#147;The Rookie,#148; #147;Pearl Harbor#148;). But great art, including the art of photography, touches portions of the soul where words can#146;t reach. It must be experienced to be best appreciated. A word must be said about the film#146;s color. Sumptuous. Great painters work magic with color. Color brings light, shading, depth to a work of art. The same is true when used properly in movies. (Have you seen #147;The Adventures of Robin Hood#148; on DVD?) The dialogue is sharp, witty, and often insightful. The story never becomes saccharine, but serves to exemplify the strength of the human spirit. And then there are the performances. Each of the leads has proven himself to be a journeyman actor. They take a role and transform an often one-dimensional character into a fleshed out, fascinating human being. What#146;s more, they make it look effortless. Here we are transfixed, because these actors are telling us something not just about their characters but about us, as well. There is a scene where jockey Maguire needs to borrow a few dollars from businessman Bridges. Keep in mind that this was a time in our nation#146;s history when asking for money said a great deal about your personality and self-esteem. He asks for $10, a tidy amount for that period. It#146;s a difficult request. The businessman, who in some ways has become a father figure to the horseman, puts a twenty in the younger man#146;s hand. Maguire doesn#146;t tear up. That would have been too easy. No, he goes deeper. The emotion we see is palpable, causing us to tear up. It is a brief scene, a telling scene, it is a remarkable scene. Reportedly Chris Cooper once again had to fight for a role, this time for the part of the trainer. When will the industry learn to give him any role he wants? For he#146;s as good as they get. And Bridges as the real-life Charles Howard should once again receive Oscar attention. These and other people in the film reveal character. They stand for something, relaying emphatic messages concerning honor and respect for God#146;s creations. The film is almost epic in its scope, portraying the hopes and struggles of America before, during and after the Great Depression. Author/historian David McCullough, the narrator of Ken Burn#146;s award-winning documentary #147;The Civil War#148; also serves to give poignant perceptions of America at its best. Not just a horseracing movie, #147;Seabiscuit#148; is a perceptive tale of three men who find a sort of redemption. The second installment of #147;Lara Croft: Tomb Raider#148; opens the same day as #147;Seabiscuit#148; and #147;Terminator 3#148; is still going strong at the box office. But if you are looking for a film that energizes, engrosses and thoroughly entertains, this one is the real thoroughbred. PG-13 (11 profanities, 13 obscenities, and 8 milder expletives; occasional smoking, which is done not to promote the habit, but merely to depict it as a part of most Americans#146; lives at that time; occasional drinking; one scene shows some jockeys celebrating at a bordello; it is implied that the Maguire character has sex with one of the prostitutes, but nothing is seen; there is some violence that includes a couple of brutal boxing matches, but again, the scenes are handled with taste and don#146;t become gory; a tragic accident off screen results in the death of a child #150; yes, this is difficult, but it serves to show the character of the father and why he later becomes a father figure to others; a horse-racing accident causes a rider to badly injure his leg, but he later triumphs over the setback). Vid. Alt. If you do not wish to support this film due to the content, try my video alternatives: Black Beauty, The Black Stallion, The Red Pony, National Velvet, The Story of Seabiscuit, Misty, My Friend Flicka, Wild Hearts Can#146;t Be Broken. SPY KIDS 3D: GAME OVER : Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Ricardo Montalban, Steve Buscemi, Sylvester Stallone. Dimension Films. Family action/adventure. WD-Robert Rodriguez. An evil toy maker (Syl Stallone) is out to takeover the minds of the world#146;s children through his brain-controlling three-dimensional video game. Young Juni and Carmen discover the villainous plot and set out to defeat the evil genius. This movie uses the very latest digital technology to weave 3-D images directly into the Spy Kids' trademark espionage action, inviting audiences of all ages to become part of the larger-than-life excitement on the screen #150; because we all know, it wouldn#146;t be a movie without digital effects. Disappointing. The 3-D special effect gives it a grimy, unnecessary and often obtrusive look, the interplay between brother and sister that made the first two installments lots of fun is missing as we don#146;t see much of Alexa Vega until the final third of the film, the acting by young Daryl Sabara who is the focal character in this sequel is dismal, most of the pop-culture references will be lost on the intended audience, and Sylvester Stallone as comic relief isn#146;t. The muddled plot, mostly taking place within a video game, lacks energy or focus. Once again a special effects-laden film gives evidence that an involving story and good acting are essential. Unfortunately for the audience, this time out writer/director Robert Rodriquez gets so caught up in the technical magic of special effects that he pays little heed to that truth. That said, less discriminating adolescents may enjoy the film. To be fair, there is a lot going on to keep them involved. And the film does include positive messages about family relations, what#146;s truly important in life #150; not winning or losing but how you play the game #150; and a philosophy seldom promoted in action adventure movies #150; the fact that revenge is not the answer. PG (I caught no objectionable language and although there are several putdowns common among youngsters, there is a positive element concerning working together for the common good; there is a great deal of comic book action and violence, but nothing really graphic; still its always best for an adult to attend with very young ones just in case they begin to take the dramatic events, such as the possibility of dying if you don#146;t win the game, too seriously). Videos - Spy Kids 1 2. LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER - THE CRADLE OF LIFE : Angelina Jolie. Paramount. Action/adventure. W-Dean Georgaris. D-Jan De Bont. Oscar winner Angelina Jolie (#147;Girl, Interrupted#148;) reprises her role as Lara Croft, taken from the celebrated video game about a wealthy adventurer who could teach James Bond or Indiana Jones a thing or two about survival. This time out, the intrepid tomb raider travels through exotic places such as Hong Kong, Kenya, Greece and over the Great Wall of China in search of an infamous site known as #147;The Cradle of Life,#148; where life supposedly began. An evil mastermind is seeking Pandora#146;s Box, said to house the most unspeakable evil ever known. It rests at this location and Lara must get there before he does, or he will unleash a disastrous horror that will devastate the world as we know it. It starts out fun, but there are tedious moments where the pacing lags and the story becomes convoluted. Jolie again plays the part with a sullen distaff personality that lacks much emotion or humor (what humor she displays is very cynical). And when we finally arrive at the mysterious and spooky Cradle of Life, suddenly the film#146;s tone becomes somewhat creepy. When a man falls into oil-like ooze that surrounds Pandora#146;s Box, he begins to disintegrate down to his skeleton, then finally screams as he submerges below the black substance. The scene could give younger members of the audience nightmares. Although the lead, a cross between Modesty Blaise and Wonder Woman, lives on her terms alone, she is motivated to do the right thing, in this case saving mankind from a nutcase determined to repopulate the world with perfect people once he#146;s done away with the rest of us. Adolescent males who enjoy seeing a buffed-up woman kicking the tails of bad guys and shooting twin hybrid 45s will likely find this actioneer satisfying. There is a lot of stylized action, including blowups, shoot-#145;em-ups and beat-#145;em-ups #150; all sharply choreographed. But it didn#146;t do much for me. I#146;m not sure I like the lead character, nor do I like the inference in one scene that biblical teaching is untrue. PG-13 (One or two obscenities and four expletives, but I didn#146;t catch any misuse of God#146;s name; one sexual scene as Lara entices a man only to trap him #150; the scene is brief and does not contain nudity or anything explicit; while discussing the location of the Cradle of Life, Lara explains that this location where life supposedly began is not the #147;Sunday school version,#148; implying her disbelief in the Bible; the film gets its rating for the violence, which is often cartoonish, but like a video game, is nearly incessant; ancient temples fall down and break, men #150; mostly bad guys #150; are beaten, shot and blown up continuously; one scene features tree-like statues surrounding the Cradle of Life that suddenly spring to life, becoming quick-moving monsters that devour the intruding infidels; this scene becomes quite scary and is far too much for little ones, taking on a creepy, demonic feel). Vid. Alt. The Phantom. Billy Zane, Kristy Swanson, Treat Williams. Paramount. Kids Action Adventure. A well-made, tongue-in-cheek salute to the Saturday serials of the #145;30s and #145;40s, based on the comic strip about a purple-costumed hero of the jungle fighting the forces of evil. Aided by his wolf, Devil, and his white horse, Hero, he seeks justice for the good guys and destruction for all evil doers. Lots of laughs for adults and much imagination-inciting adventure for the little ones. But beware, it's jam-packed with derring-do and violence. PG (2 or 3 mild obscenities; one use of the expression, "for God's sake", but no other profanity; lots of cliff-hanging action; some brutal violence, but more cartoonish than most action films of late; the villain refers to "the forces of darkness" and states that God is dead; one scene featuring scantily clad women, but no nudity or sexual situations). DEFINITIONS Crudity - A word or action lacking in culture, tact Expletive - A mild obscenity or needless expression Obscenity - Objectionable or repugnant to acceptable standards of decency or morality; indecent; pornographic Profanity - Irreverence toward God Blasphemy - To speak contemptuously of God Adult subject matter - Situations or subjects unsuitable for or difficult to comprehend by children For further information, visit www.moviereporter.com . "Know Before You Go" reg;Philip Boatwright, Editor Film/Video Reviews from a Family Perspective, Email: moviereporter@sbcglobal.net . Published by C. C. Publications, 835 Northstar Ct., Tonganoxie, KS 66086. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

IconA Penny For My Thoughts By Cheryl Gochnauer "That woman can pinch a penny 'til it bleeds!" It's true -- I've learned a lot about stretching our family's finances sinceI decided to become a stay-at-home mom. I seldom shop without coupons, or buy something that's not on sale. Sunday papers only get purchased if they contain enough usable coupons topay for them. Eyeing everything from sale flyers to adjustable interest rates, my internalprice-checker/comparison shopper is constantly on auto-pilot, ready tosnatch the best deal on anything we need. I'm trying to teach my girls a healthy respect for money, too. Notice Isaid "respect", not "love". The love of money can be just as destructivefor people who don't have much as for those who are swimming in it. My husband, Terry, and I recently started giving the kids an allowance.Instead of a fixed amount, we decided to give them a percentage of Terry'sweekly paycheck. Half their allowance is saved, 10% goes to charity, andthe rest is theirs to spend as they like. I'm sorry we waited so long to let them handle money. Karen and Carrie lovepassing wadded dollar bills to the cashier or clinking coins in the offeringplate. Plus, the experience of earning a paycheck is teaching the girlsresponsibility, while freeing me up from some housework. Maybe they'lllearn to use towels more than once after folding the mountain they createeach week! I read a great idea in a local parenting newsletter. Chores are written onscraps of paper and placed in a container. Every day, the child takes threeslips from the container and performs two of the designated tasks. He'sallowed to put one slip back. To earn an extra dime or so, he can do thethird chore, if he desires. Great! This gives the child some control, but still gets jobs done. I likeit. I think I'll go make up some slips right now. Let's see...setting thetable...vacuuming their room...changing the oil -- wait, that'sTerry...sweeping the kitchen... This could be a pretty good deal for me. Why didn't I think of this sooner?With the new shared chore schedule, there'll be more time to do fun stuff,like: Going to the movies (discount matinees); Teeing off at the local miniature golf course (2 for 1 coupons); Visiting the zoo (on Tuesdays, when it's only a dollar); and Jaunting to the ice cream shop. (Dutch treat, of course. Hey, they get anallowance!) (Cheryl Gochnauer's brand-new " Stay-at-Home Handbook: Advice on Parenting,Finances, Career, Surviving Each Day More " is out. Catch it at yourfavorite bookstore, in Dr. Laura's Reading Corner or order an autographed copy for $13.99 fromcheryl@homebodies.org. Copyright 2002 Homebodies.Org, LLC. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com) More >>

IconI Think I Can...I Think I Can...I Think I Can... By Patti Chadwick patti@parentsandteens.com www.parentsandteens.com Remember the story about the little train that took the risk and tried tomake it up that HUGE hill? It was daunting, but it kept telling itself,"I think I can...I think I can...I think I can..." - and it found outthat it could! We had a similar experience, but this time it involved my daughter, Jeni, riding IN a train! According to my 16-year-old daughter, life is an adventure. This past weekend we moved into new territory and she had herself a grand old time being an independent woman. My daughter has always loved going to Delta Lake, her favorite Christian camp ( www.deltalake.com - incase you are interested!). Since the 4th grade it has been the highlight of her summer. This year she was old enough to apply for a job there - and she got the position. She will be attending her own camp plus working two weeks as a counselor. She also had to attend 4 day orientation over the Memorial Day weekend. "How nice for her," you may be saying. But did I mention that this camp was about three hours from our home? You can do the math - 12 hours of driving over Memorial Day weekend, plus another 36 hours of driving during the summer. While my young lady was thrilled about the plans for her summer - Mom wasn't quite as ecstatic. The thought of driving for 12 hours for four weeks of my summer was not very appealing, yet I did want her to have this experience. So what's a mamma to do? I started thinking - "How can I get her there WITHOUT me driving her?" I checked bus schedules...no luck.I asked around to see if anyone else was going to swap rides with...no luck. Then I thought of the train. Sure enough - there was a train station about an hour from here that went right to Rome, NY (where Delta Lake is located). The price was reasonable and the camp director said they'd be glad to pick her up. I thought it was a great idea, but I was a bit worried. Sweetie has never traveled alone before. Was she ready? I asked her about how she'd feel about taking the train and she thought it would be a splendid adventure. So we went on the Internet, bought the tickets, and waited for the Memorial Day weekend. As the time for her departure neared, darling daughter got a little nervous. She'd be ALL alone on the train for three hours. What if the people on the train were "creepy"? What if the camp forgot to pick her up? Valid questions. I tried to prepare her the best I could. I gave her my cell phone so she could call me if she wanted...or the camp...or 911! I sent her with extra money incase she missed her train and had to buy a new ticket or needed to take a cab. We tried to think of everything. The day finally came. Jeni was excited, but a bit overwhelmed by her sudden independence. As we sat waiting for the train to arrive she made an amazing statement to me. Now you need to know that this is the same girl who has reminded me since the day of her sixteenth birthday of how she is now ALMOST seventeen! She said to me, "Mom, I can't believe you are letting me do this. I'm ONLY 16 you know!" I had to laugh. I hugged her and told her I knew she'd be fine. I'd never let her go if I didn't think she could handle it. That seemed to give her some confidence. If I thought she could handle it, well, she COULD handle it. The train pulled into the station and she boarded. I was hoping she'd get a window seat so I could wave good-bye. My eyes scanned the windows looking for her, but they were tinted and I couldn't see in too well. Right as the trained pulled away I spotted her. There was my oh, so grown-up daughter waving frantically and blowing her mamma a kiss. Priceless. Just in case you are wondering, the trip was a success. The camp picked her up and dropped her off on time and I was there waiting for her when the train pulled into the station. My daughter got on thatfirst train a nervous teenager, but she walked off that homebound train a confident young woman. I love this stage of parenting. Yes, it can be scary, but in order togrow you sometimes have to step outside your comfort zone. And we need to teach our kids that too. You know, I think my daughter is right, lifeIS an adventure. I'm so glad to be a part of hers. Patti Chadwick is a SAHM of three teenagers. Visit herwebisites at www.parentandteens.com and www.historyswomen.com . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

IconManaging The Costs Of Moving By Cheryl Gochnauer I am a habitual coupon-cutter. That means I apply the same penny-pinchingprinciples no matter what I've got my eye on, whether it is marked $10 or$100,000. My family is in the process of moving into a new home. This is undeniablythe biggest big-ticket item we've ever purchased, but my guidelines remainthe same: Get the best deal on everything from the mortgage to the welcomemat. Here are some suggestions on managing the costs of moving. TRY FSBO. By reading up on the subject and working closely with our titlecompany, Terry and I went the "for sale by owner" route and saved severalthousand dollars in commission fees. At the same time, we worked with anexcellent buyer's agent to find our new home (a no-cost convenience for us -sellers pay her fee). Even if you decide to list with a realtor, try tonegotiate a lower percentage. For instance, you might agree to do themarketing (running ads, showing your house, getting a contract) and pay therealtor half commission to handle the ensuing paperwork and closing. BUY SMART. Is that fixer-upper really a good deal? Maybe. But figure ineverything you'll have to do to make it "perfect" (including your time). Also, take a hard look at the neighborhood. Are homes still appreciating invalue? Remember that you'll be selling this house yourself someday. Choosewisely, and your house will make money for you. Choose poorly, and you'lltake a financial bath. If you're buying new, try to get in on the first phase of a development. Asthe second and third phases are built, your home will automatically go up invalue. That's because building costs continue to rise, making it impossiblefor builders to recreate your home for the same price. This is an excellentway to build fast equity. MORTGAGES. Contact several mortgage companies, comparing interest rates andclosing costs. When you find your best deal, call your favorite lender andask them to match or beat it. FURNISHINGS. I spotted my dream refrigerator in the clearance aisle, but ithad a small dent in the side. The price was right, but before I settled forthe dent (even if it wouldn't show once it was installed), I wrote down themodel number and approached a competitor. Sure enough, they agreed to matchthe clearance price. I got the frig I wanted, brand-new and in the box forthe same price as the damaged one. I am a big believer in supporting mom-and-pop businesses whenever possible. So I shopped for several pieces of furniture at discount centers, againnoting model numbers and prices. Then I gave my hometown furniture storethe chance to match their prices. They did, plus threw in free delivery(which saved me another $150). MOVERS. Packing requires you to go through your house and examine everysingle item. Is there a spot for it in the new place? Now is the time toget rid of the dead weight. Toss the junk. Have a garage sale. Give tocharities. Don't pay to move stuff you never use. Rent a trailer and ask friends to help you load. If you use professionalmovers, call around for the best hourly deal. On moving day, make sure you've got everything boxed up and ready to go, so you aren't paying movers towatch you pack. Moving is expensive, no doubt. But hold onto your frugal mindset as youmake your way through the process, and you may be surprised at how much youcan save. (Comments? Contact Cheryl@homebodies.org or visit her website at www.homebodies.org where you can purchase an autographed copy of her new "Stay-at-Home Handbook: Advice on Parenting, Finances, Career, Surviving Each Day Much More." Copyright 2002 Homebodies.Org, LLC. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.) More >>

IconSimple Family Field Trip Ideas Copyright 2002 Deborah Taylor-Hough Used with permission. All right reserved. http://hometown.aol.com/dsimple/ Family field trips are a simple, fun, and fairly inexpensiveeducational enrichment activity you can enjoy regularlywith your children. Here are some quick ideas to getyou started: Many manufacturing plants offer free tours to families orsmall groups, and any free samples given out make greatsouvenirs when on vacation. Call ahead to find out abouttour availability. Field trips to local attractions such as zoos or aquariumscan be expensive, but purchasing an annual family passpays for itself in just a couple trips. Knowing you can comeback again and again, frees your family to thoroughly enjoythemselves without feeling the need to hurry and see every-thing in one day to get your money's worth out of theadmission price. Return to the same site whenever youwant a family outing, and then buy a pass to a differenteducational attraction next year. If your family enjoys attending live performances, checkfor free concerts, plays and other cultural events in localparks during the summer months. You can also contact college or community performancegroups (drama, ballet, orchestra, etc.) to see if they'llallow you to watch them rehearse for free. Many local theater groups need volunteer ushers fortheir live performances. Volunteering in this manner is anexcellent way for the older members of your family to gainfree admission to a wide variety of cultural events, plus itprovides a useful service to the local arts community. ABOUT THE AUTHOR: --Deborah Taylor-Hough is a full-time mother of three, free-lance writer, and author of the bestselling book, "FrozenAssets: How to cook for a day and eat for a month." Available In The Dr. Laura Reading Corner Shealso edits the Bright-Kids email newsletter. To subscribeto this free resource for fun and easy educational ideasfor the bright kids in your life, join-bright-kids@ds.xc.org Visit Debi online at: http://hometown.aol.com/dsimple/ More >>

IconThe Power of One: Confessions of a Cultural Vigilante I#146;ll never forget the day I decided to become a #147;cultural vigilante.#148; I was driving with my two little boys in the back seat. My eldest son, then 7 years old, tried out his new reading skills on a billboard we passed. #147;Look, Mommy,#148; he said. #147;It says, #145;Get your butt in here.#146;#148; He and his 5-year-old brother tittered at the language. They were not allowed to use vulgar language at home, yet here on the street, it hit us smack in the face.The billboard was intentionally provocative. It revealed a bare-bellied young woman with jeans unzipped halfway down. I was incensed. I felt that this kind of advertising was an assault not only on my children#146;s innocence, but also on the standards of decency that our culture once adhered to. Over the years, we have become accustomed to increasingly explicit and coarse images and slogans from magazines, radio, television, movies, and retailers. We cannot erase what we have seen or heard. A steady diet of this kind of rubbish desensitizes us and robs us of our civility, bit by bit. That day I began to wonder, why were we not as concerned with first-hand cultural pollution as we were with second-hand smoke? I decided to take a stand. I called the retailer responsible for the billboard and complained about the image and wording. Though prepared for resistance, I was happily surprised to hear that others, too, had registered their protest, and that the entire ad campaign would soon be scrapped. In the five years since this incident, I have succeeded in getting many offensive billboards removed from my community. The advertisers have ranged from soft-porn self-promoters and phone sex lines to others so vulgar that it boggles the mind that anyone thought it clever. The most recent example was a billboard for a sports radio station that displayed the clothed backsides of four males, all of whom were unzipping themselves in order to urinate. Additionally, I gave the name and number of the person responsible to business managers whose stores faced the billboard. That one came down in less than one week. It is often easier than people think to get these offensive ads removed. Most billboards feature the name of the sponsoring outdoor media company at the bottom. From there, the phone book is your guide. On occasions when I couldn#146;t be sure about a number or company name, my city councilwoman#146;s office helped me hunt down the information. I have found that a polite but firm phone call or letter with a rational explanation of my feelings usually gets results. When I call, I am patient and listen to the other side. I don#146;t expect people to snap to attention just because I#146;m unhappy, but I don#146;t back down either. In the end, most people have a hard time defending blatant raunchiness for general public consumption. Violent images are also a big problem. I wrote to the vice president of a national chain of bowling alleys protesting the violent video games in their facilities. Just days later, the V.P. called me back to thank me for my letter, promising to share it with other executives at their next meeting. During a lengthy conversation, he also noted that the company had already removed what they deemed the most objectionable games.I#146;ve also lobbied by phone, letter, or e-mail, to other companies and media outlets, explaining why I felt their seamy material harms us all. Obviously most will not change their campaigns or programs because they hear from me. But when enough people speak up, change will happen. Most respectable businesses don#146;t want to get a bad rap, and companies know that for every one person who bothers to call or write, hundreds more were offended by what they saw.I#146;m never deterred when I am told, as often happens, #147;No one else has complained about this. You#146;re the only one.#148; Even if it#146;s true, I tell them, it doesn#146;t mean I#146;m wrong. But imagine that it is true, that I am the only one who calls. I still get results more often than not. What a powerful testimony to the difference each and every one of us can make in our own communities! Judy Gruen is the author of Carpool Tunnel Syndrome: Motherhood as Shuttle Diplomacy (Champion Press, 2002)available in Dr. Laura's Reading Corner. This article originally appeared in Woman#146;s Day magazine. More >>

IconMyths and Misunderstandings of the Grieving Process by Brook Noel Pamela D. Blair, Ph.D. excerpted from I Wasn't Ready to Say Goodbye: surviving, coping and healing after the sudden death of a loved one. nbsp;It is the rare school or family environment that teaches what to expect either emotionally or pragmatically, when life collapses in tragedy, especially the advent of sudden and unexpected death. A sudden loss can put one into a whirlwind of emotions and visceral responses, twisting and turning us until we are set down in a place that feels as foreign as another planet. Like a hurricane, there is nothing like it, and nothing can prepare us. We can only follow suggested guidelines, i.e. evacuate, board up, etc. However, unlike a hurricane where there is often advance warning, with sudden death there is no such warning#151;no way to prepare.We are ill-prepared to handle sudden death because we don#146;t expect life to be so tenuous, so fragile. However, once our lives are touched by the experience of tragic loss, we never look at life in quite the same way. We become acutely aware of the delicate nature of the human organism, and life becomes precious in a way it never was before.nbsp; You can consciously shift from feeling grief is #147;something that happens to you#148; to #147;grieving is something you do to heal.#148; Remember, when life feels out of control, and it#146;s bound to during this time, that you do have control over how you will grieve and this can be very empowering.In this article we will cover many of the common myths that people hold today. You may have encountered some of these already or been feeling pressured by them yourself. By examining the myth we can create a more well-rounded picture. nbsp;Myth #1 - Death is death, sudden or long term and we all grieve the same way. Of course there will be some commonalties in the grieving process. Truth is, depending on our life experiences, age, sex, resiliency, number of previous losses, health, cultural expectations and relationship to the deceased, we will each #147;do grief#148; in our own unique way. No two of us are exactly alike in our histories and in our relationship to the deceased. nbsp;Myth #2 - By keeping busy I can lessen or eliminate my grief. In an attempt to avoid the pain, grievers may choose to keep busy. We may find ourselves cleaning the house, dusting bookshelves, cleaning closets and engaging in other non-important tasks. However, you will find this #147;busyness#148; is simply a sidetrack that will only work for a short time. There is clearly no way around grief. nbsp; Myth #3 - I am going crazy and I#146;m afraid I will stay that way. Sudden death creates trauma for the survivors on many levels. Trauma victims may not behave as people would expect. Many people report feeling numb and indifferent. Those around you, may expect you to be more openly distraught and you may hear comments like, #147;My, you sure are taking this well,#148; or #147;I expected to find you in a more disturbed state.#148; You may find yourself walking around in a fog with an inability to make decisions. You may behave in a matter-of-fact way and you may appear to be functioning at a rather high level. Blank stares are common as the mind tries to grapple with the unimaginable. You may not weep, cry or wail for some time. All of these behaviors may puzzle onlookers and family members, and all of these behaviors are normal and temporary. nbsp;nbsp;Myth #4 - I will need to make sure I don#146;t grieve for too long#151;one year should be enough. Sometimes societal and religious beliefs impose rules like time limits for grief, what we should wear, how we should behave, when and where we should talk about the death and to whom. With sudden death, as with any death, we must find our own way through tonbsp;embrace life again. Most recoveries from sudden death take at least two years, and in some ways we never #147;get over#148; the loss completely. Our expression of grief needs to come out of our need to make meaning or sense from what feels like meaningless tragedy, and no time limit can be set on that. nbsp;nbsp;Myth #5 - If I express my anger at God or the circumstances of the death, I am a bad person and will #147;pay#148; for it. Anger is an extremely uncomfortable emotion for some of us, but it is one of the most important ones to express. If you become angry with God, don#146;t judge yourself too harshly. As Earl Grollman writes, #147;It#146;s okay to scream at God. He can take it.#148; The Psalms are full of raging at God about injustices. We believe God can handle anything we throw his way. However, if you find your anger is becoming out of control (i.e. breaking valuables, threatening or preparing to kill someone, wanting to burn the church or hospital down or you have suicidal thoughts) immediately seek appropriate professional help and guidance. nbsp;nbsp;Myth #6 - I won#146;t have to grieve as much and I will feel better if I use alcohol or medication to alleviate my sadness. Some survivors will use, or increase their use, of alcohol or antidepressants. By doing this however, they distance themselves from what they need to feel to heal, and they distance themselves from their family members and support systems. The grief simply goes underground and waits to be expressed. They may mistakenly believe that #147;If I drink (drug) to get over it, then the grief will be gone when I#146;m sober.#148; Nothing could be further from the truth. Some will need the temporary relief that medication can provide in order to function and a competent therapist should help make this decision. nbsp;nbsp;Myth #7 - If I talk about my loss I#146;ll feel worse. You cannot move through your grief unless you experience it. Hiding it or denying it will only prolong it. Meeting and talking with other people who have been through this process will help you. Ellen Sue Stern writes in Living with Loss: Meditations for Grieving Widows, #147;It#146;s essential to allow yourself to talk as much as you want; healing is hastened by reminiscing about your husband [or loved one] processing the last days of his life, the funeral and any other details surrounding his death. For now choose only to spend time with people who are supportive and understanding, who can lovingly listen as long as you need to talk.#148; nbsp;nbsp;Myth #8 - After a while I won#146;t think about it anymore. You may be ambushed by grief when you least expect it. To believe you can forever put the loss and the circumstances surrounding the death #147;out of your mind#148; is a completely unrealistic expectation. You will, from time to time, throughout your life, re-experience feelings associated with the loss.nbsp; nbsp;nbsp;Myth #9 - I should be relieved that they didn#146;t suffer a long and lingering illness.nbsp; You may hear some say #147;well at least he died quickly#151;be happy for that.#148; Perhaps you are thinking this way if the person you lost suddenly was much older or had been suffering. But for most of us, the sudden death was an untimely one#151;one that occurred way too soon for the person and those left behind. There may be little, if any, relief in the knowledge that they died quickly. nbsp;nbsp;Myth #10 - Once I am done with one stage of grief, I will simply move on to the next. With the popularity of the well-known #147;Five Stages of Grief#148; (Kuuml;bler-Ross,) some people mistakenly believe that grief is a linear process. Like we said before, recovery is not like an elevator that takes you from the basement of despair to the penthouse of joy. It is more like a maze where you go forward a bit, move back a few steps, cover the same ground again and find yourself at the beginning. Like a fun house hall of mirrors, you see yourself over and over again, distorted and misshapen until you come out the other side. nbsp;nbsp;Myths can prohibit the process of recovery. Use the above Myth-Busters to work past the myth to reality. nbsp;nbsp;nbsp; Brook Noel and Pamela D. Blair are the authors of I Wasn#146;t Ready to Say Goodbye: surviving, coping and healing after the sudden death of a loved one. Available in Dr. Laura's Reading Corner, click here . Or at www.championpress.com nbsp; Brook Noel is also the founder of GriefSteps#153; www.griefsteps.com More >>

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