Tantrums: Parents Have Them Too!

Post dateSeptember 25th, 2014 by admin in Uncategorized | No Comments »

My friends consider me a calm person. When other drivers but me off without signaling, I just sigh and keep going. When store clerks are surly, I ignore them. So why was I standing at the top of the stairs the other day, waving a Lego block and screaming that if I found one more beneath my bare feet, I’d throw all of them out?

My kids, that’s why. Gus, 6, and Teddy, 2, have an uncanny ability to pull me into tantrum territory. It’s frustrating. It’s embarrassing. But like many parents, I can only take so much before I go into meltdown.

Experts say that parents are most vulnerable to eruptions when they’re already feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, or angry. Of course, yelling, stomping your feet, or throwing stuff rarely helps, as satisfying as they may feel. Worse, kids don’t learn healthy ways to handle frustration. Fortunately, there are proven ways to short-circuit your temper and still lay down the law, when confronted with the following problems:

1 Whining

You’re shopping for groceries and your 6-year-old notices a toy he has to have. You say, no, and the pitiful pleas begin. Why we get so mad: “That unreasonable, grating, endless tone of voice feels like Chinese water torture,” says Atlanta psychologist Stephen W. Garber. Ph.D., author of Good Behavior. The rule to stay cool: Immediately say, “You’re whining, and I don’t respond to whining. I won’t change my mind.” Then totally ignore your child. “The whining may get worse for awhile, but eventually it will break, like a fever,” says Garber. If the problem persists: Do a time-out. Leave the store with your little whiner and return to your car. Seat him in the back and tell him to contemplate his tone of voice. Then sit down in the front and take a breather. When both of you are back in control, resume shopping without discussing the incident.

2 Interrupting

You’re on the phone with a friend when your 9-year-old tugs on your sleeve: “Hey, Mom, we read a really cool book in school today, and guess what happened at soccer, and…” Why we get so mad: “We feel that an older child should know better,” says James Windell, a Michigan-based psychotherapist. “And we suspect he’s trying to control us.” The rule to stay cool: Put your friend on hold or tell her you’ll call back. Then calmly spell out the ground rules: “Unless it’s an emergency, you are not to interrupt while I’m on the telephone. This is my time to spend with my friend; I will give you my full attention once the call is done.” Then suggest an activity he can do in another room or outside. If the problem persists: Make your calls someplace where you can shut the door — or when the kids are away or asleep.

3 Ignoring requests

Every day this week you’ve asked your 10-year-old to clean up his room. Now, it’s Saturday afternoon, he’s playing video games, and his room remains in chaos. Why we get so mad: When kids don’t listen. it feels like they’re either being lazy or trying to walk all over us. The rule to stay cool: Stop nagging and set a deadline, says Dee Shepherd-Look, Ph.D., a child psychologist in private practice in Northridge, CA. “Tell your child exactly when the chore needs to be completed — and what will happen if it doesn’t get done.” Avoid making threats you won’t keep (“If you don’t clear your CDs off the living room floor. I’ll throw them out!”) or you’ll undermine your authority. If the problem persists: Enforce the penalty without further discussion. “Parents frequently back down because they don’t want their child to get upset or angry.” says Shepherd-Look. “But it’s okay for children to have negative feelings as a consequence of their actions.”

4 Sibling fights

You’re driving your kids home from school, and the two of them start punching each other in the backseat. “Cut it out! ” you command, but they just keep going. Why we get so mad: “We feel helpless — and it grates on the nerves,” says Garber. The rule to stay cool: Don’t take sides. Glaring at your kids through the rearview mirror and demanding to know “Who started it?” will only prolong things. Tell them if they don’t stop taking swipes at each other, you’ll revoke a privilege they both enjoy (like watching videos). “When kids suffer the same punishment, you reinforce the message that neither will profit by fighting — and give them equal incentive to resolve their argument,” says Garber. If the problem persists: Pull the car over if possible, or wait until you get to the next highway exit. Then say, “This car is not moving until you guys are quiet enough for me to drive safely.” When the combat dies down, get back on the road without comment. Explains Garber, “This sends a clear message that, you won’t tolerate hitting — and that you won’t become emotionally involved in your kids’ arguments.”

5 Lying

Your 13-year-old tells you she’s going to the library after school, so you plan a quick trip to the mall — and spot her sitting with a boy at the food court. Why we get so mad: “It’s like a slap in the face for most parents when they catch their child in a lie,” says Constance L. Katz, Ph.D., director of training in the Child-Adolescent Psychotherapy Training Program at the William Alanson White Institute in New York City. The rule to stay cool: Don’t drag your child out of the mall, which will only alienate her. Besides, as Katz notes, “you won’t find out why she lied.” Instead, approach her, express your distress without making a scene, and tell her you’ll discuss the matter at home. Later, give a warning or reasonable punishment, depending on the situation, and try to address the reason she felt she had to lie so you can prevent repeat performances. For instance, if your daughter acted deviously because she thought you wouldn’t approve of her having a boyfriend — and you wouldn’t — compromise by letting her spend time with him at your house, or encourage group dates. If the problem persists: Get help (from your spouse or a professional) in teasing out the underlying issue. “Chronic lying is a danger signal,” says Katz. “The child may have low self-esteem or intense feelings of anger about something.”

6 Breaking things

Your 7-year-old and her friend are having a pillow fight in the family room. You remind her once again to be careful of your pottery collection. Then you hear the crash. Why we get so mad: “The parent thinks, `She ignored my warnings,’ or `She doesn’t respect me or my stuff,'” says Mark L. Goldstein, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Roosevelt University in Chicago, and a clinical psychologist in private practice. The rule to stay cool: Don’t approach your child for at least ten minutes — you’ll need the time to fight the urge to accuse her of being “stupid” or holler, “How could you do this to me?” Once you’re composed, take your child aside and clearly express how upset you are about her carelessness. Then impose a punishment that fits the crime (dock her allowance to help pay off the vase, for instance). If the problem persists: Change your approach. “Children of any age can’t be expected to be as skilled as adults are in avoiding accidents,” notes Goldstein. Place precious objects in places where they won’t fall victim to rough-and-tumble play.

7 Foul language

Your 11-year-old gets so furious when you won’t let him go to his friend’s house to play that he calls you an offensive name. Why we get so mad: Cursing isn’t just hurtful — it’s in-your-face disrespect, says Shepherd-Look. “We also worry that if our child swears at others in public, he’ll be labeled `bad,’ or people will think he’s been poorly raised.” The rule to stay cool: Let your child know right away that although he is entitled to express his dissatisfaction and anger, you will not tolerate that kind of language. Tell him that if you hear it again, you’ll send him to his room to reflect on his choice of words. If the problem persists: Turn up the heat. Push his bedtime ahead by 15 minutes for each offense; with a teenager, restrict telephone use.

8 Missing curfew

You told your teenage daughter she could go out with her friends as long as she was home by 9:00 PM. It’s 10:00, she isn’t home, and she hasn’t called. Why we get so mad: “It’s a challenge to our authority,” says Goldstein. “But it’s also a source of great anxiety when you don’t know where your child is.” The rule to stay cool: Plan ahead. “Instead of getting worked up as you wait, spend the time thinking up a punishment that will give future curfews more impact,” he advises. Then, when your child walks through the door, say, as calmly as you can, “I am very disappointed and upset that you ignored your curfew. It’s important for me to be able to trust you when you go out. To help you learn that lesson, next week’s curfew is five minutes earlier for each minute you were late tonight.” If your child sees that you’re extremely upset but still in control, says Goldstein, “she’s more likely to admit that she overstepped her boundaries and to learn from her punishment” If the problem persists: Ground your child. “Hold firm,” urges Goldstein. “Your child may hate you for awhile, but she’ll get over it and pay more attention to curfew in the future.”

The Right Ways to Get Mad

It’s not necessarily bad to explode, especially when children have done something that’s dangerous to themselves or others, or unlawful, says James Windell, author of Children Who Say No When You Want Them to Say Yes. “When outbursts are infrequent, they can really drive a point home.” For the most effective results:

* Keep wording brief and to the point.

* Never assassinate your child’s character with statements like “You’re such a brat!” or “How could you be so stupid?” Point out the misbehavior and your feelings. (“You’re not obeying the rules, and that makes me really angry.”)

* Apologize if you cross the line. Tell your child, “I’m sorry I was so hard on you. What you did was wrong. But you didn’t deserve those hurtful words.” Don’t worry that you’ll lose your child’s respect — you’ll help her see that you respect her and that everyone makes mistakes.

* Seek professional help if you can’t stop yelling, name-calling, or ridiculing. Studies show such behaviors can harm kids’ self-esteem and lead to anxiety, depression, or rebellion.

The Blood Supply… How Safe?

Post dateSeptember 10th, 2014 by admin in Uncategorized | No Comments »

tbshsThis year, an estimated four million Americans will receive blood transfusions. “The blood supply has never been safer,” says Jim MacPherson, executive director of America’s Blood Centers. While there are small risks involved with getting a blood transfusion, experts say they are far outweighed by the risks of not receiving blood. What’s more, blood banks continue to pursue “absolute safety” through the development of more sophisticated tests and more detailed questioning of potential donors.

Here, answers to some common concerns:

What are my chances of getting AIDS from a blood transfusion?

Researchers say that a new, more sensitive screening test required at all blood banks since last March has cut what was already a very small risk (one chance in 450,000 to 660,000) to, literally, one chance in a million.

For more than a decade, blood banks have been testing blood for HIV–the virus that causes AIDS–with an HIV antibody test, which is considered highly effective. For every “real” positive, the test produces 30 “false” positives, which require further testing to verify that the blood is not tainted. The reason why contaminated blood can still leak through is that there is a window period–the interval between when a person becomes infected with the virus and when tests can detect it in the body.

The window period of the old HIV antibody test is approximately 22 days, but the additional use of the new HIV antigen test has cut the time in half. “We will never totally eliminate the risk of HIV transmission through transfusion, but we have taken important steps to further reduce what is already a very small risk,” says Commissioner of Food and Drugs David A. Kessler, M.D.

What are my chances of getting other diseases form donated blood?

Besides HIV, infectious diseases that are known to be transmitted through blood are hepatitis B and C, and human T-cell lymphotropic virus (HTLV). According to research published last June in The New England Journal of Medicine, the risk of transmission by blood transfusion of hepatitis C is one in 103,000, the risk of hepatitis B is one in 63,000. Both viruses can be difficult to treat, but are usually not fatal.

The risk of transmission of HTLV through transfusion, according to the same study, is one in 641,000. This is a leukemia virus that’s more common in Japanese people and those living in the Caribbean. Untreated, HTLV can cause leukemia and paralysis of the nervous system, but it takes many years for the conditions to develop.

Can I put aside my own blood before elective surgery?

Hospitals nationwide encourage you to donate your own blood to reduce the risk of infection, and doing so will add only $20 to $40 to your hospital bill. Insurance companies typically do not pick up the cost if the blood is ultimately not used during surgery, which happens about half of the time. Friends and family can also donate blood for you, but doctors recommend that you choose people who are already regular blood donors. Research has found that “directed” blood has a higher incidence of infectious diseases than blood from anonymous volunteers. One reason may be that relatives and friends are too embarrassed to admit their own risky behaviors.

Another option that’s available in many hospitals is blood recycling. In this procedure, the patient’s own blood is collected during the operation, cleansed, and then reinfused on the spot. The procedure–which adds about $350 to surgical costs–can be used only for certain types of operations, such as vascular and orthopedic surgeries.

Saving Your Newborn’s Valuable Blood

If you’re pregnant, you may have received a glossy flyer suggesting you save the blood from your newborn’s umbilical cord. Once routinely discarded, cord blood is showing promise as a treatment for some cancers and immune disorders. For fees of up to $1.100 (not including a yearly storage charge of around $75), for-profit companies are offering to preserve that blood as a sort of life insurance policy should anyone in your immediate family fall ill.

Is it worth it? Cord blood has a high concentration of the same stem cells found in bone marrow, which are necessary for fighting disease and maintaining a healthy immune system. Until now, the only way to transfer stem cells from one person to another has been through complex bone-marrow transplants. Research indicates that using cord blood in such operations may be less costly and provide another source of donors. If there’s already cancer or certain genetic diseases in a family, some doctors say private storage (which can also be provided through some hospitals) may be advantageous; family members have a 25 to 75 percent chance that the cells will be suitable for their use.

However. a number of researchers are concerned that for-profit centers may be exaggerating the current benefits of cord-blood treatments and preying on the fears of parents. The Food and Drug Administration has proposed that it regulate the substance as an investigational new drug. That move would prevent anyone from collecting or storing cord blood for profit until it is proven safe and effective.

Meanwhile, if you’re interested in aiding cord-blood research. there are a few medical centers where you can donate cord blood free, including the New York Blood Center in New York City and Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC. More centers are being funded through $30 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health, which hopes to eventually help set up a national cord-blood registry.

If you don’t live near a collection facility, the Pediatric Bone Transplant Program at Duke University Medical Center will send out free kits that allow your doctor to collect cord blood for research.

If you can do it, you should.” says Pablo Rubinstein, M.D., director of the Placental Blood Program at the New York Blood Center. “It’s a small effort to make and will create the potential for saving many lives.”

New Year’s Resolutions: Not For Everybody

Post dateAugust 30th, 2014 by admin in Uncategorized | No Comments »

nysOne year ends, another begins. “Now let us welcome the New Year, full of things that have never been,” the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote. His invitation to be open to receiving the New Year’s bountiful blessings inspires me to look deep within myself. I gaze with gratitude at a blank canvas, eager to begin painting 1997.

In the past, when I focused on perfectionism rather than possibility, I didn’t welcome the New Year with as much joy and good cheer. Instead, I greeted January with steely will, dogged determination, and a list of resolutions so demanding and daunting I was doomed to fail even before the first day was done. “This year I’ll earn one-hundred thousand dollars, write the great American novel, study sculpture, stop smoking, lose thirty pounds, learn to lambada, become fluent in French, build a barn, conquer clutter, hike the Himalayas, and still find time to master the stock market,” I used to promise myself.

By the end of the first week of January I was emotionally exhausted by my own unrealistic expectations. Year after year, no matter how hard I tried, I was never able to fulfill my ambitions. But who could? As the year progressed, procrastination (my predictable ally) and the daily demands of real life–dirty laundry, dental appointments, deadlines, faxes, and car-pool schedules–buried my personal passions so deeply, I became psychically numb to my own needs.

One New Year’s Eve, as I reviewed a decade’s worth of personal logs recording a litany of unfulfilled longings, I realized that I had woven a very subtle but strong pattern of self-defeating behavior into my life. By taking on too much at once-and trying for instant transformation–I was unconsciously engaging in self-sabotage. I realized that my annual resolutions were about achievement rather than authentic aspirations. I also recognized that I was unable to distinguish my needs from my wants. This meant I wanted everything the world tells us will make us happy: money, success, fame, recognition. But what I needed-the ability to reconcile my deepest spiritual and creative desires with often overwhelming and conflicting commitments to family, work, friends, and community–could only be found by embarking on a safari of the self. I knew in my heart that in order to go forward, I needed to come to a full stop.

For me, the New Year now begins with a ceremony of reverence and reconnection I call tabula rasa–a day dedicated to wiping the slate clean. Sometime early in January, I set aside a few quiet hours at home for a solitary interlude to silently reflect on the gifts and lessons of the past year. This ritual of renewal begins by putting the old year’s unfinished business behind me: mistakes, anger, regrets, guilt, shortcomings, and disappointments. First, I forgive myself for all the unfinished tasks, empty promises, and unmet goals. Next, I forgive other people, letting go of all the hurts–real or imagined–I’ve so carefully cataloged in my consciousness and carried in my heart. “Leave it behind, let the pain go,” my authentic self whispers wisely. “Make room in your heart for all the good waiting for you this coming year.” So I record on small slips of paper whatever it is that I’d like to forget or those I need to forgive, and place them in a small cardboard box. Wrapping the box in black or very dark paper, I seal in the sorrow, hard times, and bad luck. With a prayer of acceptance, I toss the box into the fireplace, saying “Good riddance, go in peace.” Silently I watch the pain of the past become ashes. This symbolic ritual is very healing.

But the old year brought many blessings as well, and I record them in my Gratitude Journal. One of the most valuable lessons the writing of Simple Abundance taught me is that real life’s true joys are revealed to us in numerous, almost imperceptible moments. We think our lives are shaped by the momentous occasions–the wedding, the baby’s birth, the big promotion, the move to the new house. But these events are the punctuation marks, not the narrative. The narrative is the “simple abundance” that surrounds each of us every day–the small, the sweet, the simple, the sacred in the ordinary.

Having let go of the past and given thanks for the present, I mentally move on to dream and draw up a blueprint for the next year. Now, curled up in my favorite chair, warm and content before a roaring fire, listening to some favorite music, glancing at the brilliant illumination of 12 large white candles–one for each new month–I welcome the future. As I sip a glass of champagne, I invite my Imagination to paint textured Technicolor daydreams. Perhaps you were admonished in no uncertain terms, during your wonder years, to get your head out of the clouds. I know I was. It’s taken me three decades to unlearn the impulse to be practical and learn to honor my creative reveries. Begin to honor your daydreams as the spiritual gifts they are. Let your imagination soar to a higher altitude where there are no limitations, only a boundless horizon of hope.

Often, when viewing my life from this new perspective, I discover that inadvertently I’m headed in the wrong direction or I’m continuing, through habit, on a path that no longer nurtures me or encourages my personal or spiritual growth. I can see several choices leading away from my current circumstances, but I have no idea which one to take, so I stop. I’ve arrived at the final step in my tabula rasa ritual: the New Year’s questions.

How often in the past have you turned away from all that is unresolved in your heart because you feared the questioning? I know I have. The heart always knows what’s working in your life and what’s not. But we avoid scheduling a heartfelt consultation because we sense on a deep level that the answer will inevitably require us to push past our comfort zone, allowing change to move us toward the life we were meant to be living. Let’s be honest: Change–even if it means that a year from now we could be living our dreams instead of denying them-is scary. We resist any and all change for as long as possible, until life intervenes, propelling us forward through unforeseen circumstances.

But just as we can gently learn to exchange self-sabotage for self-nurturance, we can also come to accept the awareness that we no longer need to know life’s answers in order to proceed. In fact, I’ve come to believe that we’re not meant to know–we’re meant to trust that all will be well while we live the questions.

So I begin to ask the questions I’m ready to try living this year. Little questions. Big questions. Transformative questions. Silly questions. Profound questions. “Do I want to dye my hair red?” “Am I giving more to this relationship than I’m receiving?” “Is it worth it?” “Is it time to move on or stay put?” Although I might ask a trusted friend for advice, I know that only my authentic self can answer these questions.

How about you? Are you ready for a fresh start? Have you lost your way? Whether you’re going nowhere fast, looking for an exit lane, or hoping for a detour, it’s never too late to begin the exciting, exhilarating, and extraordinary journey to self-discovery. Life is generous, but you must know what you want before you can go after it, as well as what it is you need. Learning to distinguish between wants and needs is crucial if we are to lead happy, contented, and fulfilling lives. But to discover the difference between wants and needs you’ve got to be willing to turn away from the outer world to journey within. Use questions to jump-start your imagination, to inspire you, to motivate you, to help you discover what really matters to you. It’s impossible to love the way you live if you don’t know what it is that you truly love. To get in touch with your heart’s desires, give yourself the following pop quiz:

What single thing, if it were taken away from you, would you miss in life?

If money was not a consideration, where would you like to live?

What changes would you make if you found out that you had one more year to live but remained in good health?

If failure were impossible, what dream would you bring into the world?

Once you’ve asked yourself some provocative questions, decide which one you’ll try living until the answer is revealed.

For example, if you dream of owning a bookstore and wonder if you should quit your job and take the plunge, start to live the question slowly, taking small but significant steps but still keeping the safety of your current job. Schedule regular study sessions at the library to read such specialty publications as Publishers Weekly. Visit one new bookstore each week to browse, noting the ambiance, store layout, and stock. Record your observations in a dream archive. Attend meetings of independent bookstore owners; see if you can’t get a part-time position in a bookstore for on-the-job research; write out a business plan; attend workshops. Send. the Universe unmistakable signals that you’re serious about the pursuit of this dream, the living of this question, and not only will the answers come but you’ll also discover that a loving and savvy Source– the Sower of Dreams–is just waiting to be asked to help you deliver it into the world. But you’ve got to be willing to do your part.

Whatever you desire or dream about from writing a novel to becoming a pastry chef, take some small action every day that moves you closer to your goal. You’ll be amazed at the power of 30 focused minutes each day–enough time to make a telephone call, read an article, or follow a hunch. And remember: Birthing a dream requires a midwife–your authentic self. Let her wisdom, unconditional love, and support nurture you as you push past your comfort zone to take the risks so necessary for success.

This year, start thinking of yourself as an artist. Because you are: You’re an artist of the every day. Artists know that curiosity is the core of the creative process: Artists are always asking “What if…,” leaping in the dark, embracing experiments.

Artists also know that a work in progress can’t be perfect. But changes can be made to the rough draft during rewrites. The film can be tightened during editing. Another color can be added to the canvas. So paint 1997 with possibility. Paint with passion. Paint with perseverance. Paint with pleasure. Paint with patience. Paint at your own pace.

Art evolves. So does life. Art is never stagnant. Neither is life. The beautiful authentic life you are creating for your-self and those you love through reflection, questions, choices, change, and courage will reveal the answers when you are ready to live them. When we trust in the goodness of life, our timing is always perfect.

Trust Your Alarm? You Shouldn’t

Post dateAugust 20th, 2014 by admin in Uncategorized | No Comments »

bcIn March 1993, residents of Silver Spring, MD, were shocked by a brutal crime: the cold-blooded murder of Mildred Horn, her quadriplegic 8-year-old son, and the boy’s nurse. Horn’s husband, Lawrence, convicted of hiring the killer, was sentenced to life in prison. In October 1995, the man he hired, James Edward Perry, was sentenced to death.

But there was, in a way, another accomplice, according to the prosecution: a book whose instructions Perry followed–to the letter–in carrying out 22 details of his crime, including the fact that his weapon of choice was an AR-7 rifle, that he drilled out the serial number so the gun couldn’t be traced, that he used what authorities believe was a homemade silencer, and that he fired from a distance of three feet, shooting two of his victims three times in the eyes.

That book, Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors, is published by Colorado-based Paladin Press. It specifically recommends an AR-7 (“it is both inexpensive and accurate”), advises ways to make sure “any weapon you use on the job cannot be traced beck to you,” and gives explicit instructions for drilling away the serial number and building a silencer. Other how-toe are more gruesome: “You will not want to be at point-blank range to avoid having the victim’s blood splatter you or your clothing. At least three shots should be fired to ensure quick and sure death…aim for the head–preferably the eye sockets.”

Paladin Press Attorney Thomas Kelley argues that the publisher’s typical reader is harmless–a collector, police groupie, sportsman, or former soldier, “a Walter Mitty type who likes to read of intrigue and form thoughts that never leave his armchair.” For them, the materials have the same appeal as true-crime books and adventure novels. What’s more, he argues, the book is written in such a way that “it’s difficult to take seriously as a how-to manual.”

Apparently not for James Edward Perry.

PALADIN IS NOT ALONE; IT IS JUST ONE OF SEVERAL PUBLISHERS and catalog companies that peddle ways to cheat, take revenge, rob, brutalize, and kill. Nor is the industry new; such materials have been around for more than 25 years. Paladin was founded in 1970, and The Anarchist Cookbook, published by New York City-based Barricade Books, with its recipes for pipe bombs, has sold more than two million copies since it was published in 1971.

But criminologists say that the growing availability of violence-themed information-made even more widely accessible thanks to the Internet–could lead to more crime; unsettling in light of recent events such as the Oklahoma City bombing’ bloody standoffs between the federal government and fringe militia movements, the Unabomber’s 18-year terrorist mail-bomb campaign, and last summer’s pipe-bomb explosion in Atlanta’s Centennial Park during the Olympics. Police bomb-squad units say suspects routinely have a library of these manuals, and the FBI has found them in the homes of serial killers. “Research has found that if you show people how to commit a crime, they are more likely to do it,” says Ronald Clarke, dean of the School of Criminal Justice at Rutgers University. “Spreading the knowledge is spreading the opportunity for crime.”

Mildred Horn’s relatives want Paladin Press to pay for that. They sued for monetary damages, charging that the publisher “aided and abetted” Perry in his triple murder. “Perry followed the book’s instructions like he was following a cookie recipe,” says John Marshall, one of the family’s lawyers. “It is our contention that the murderer followed the book’s teachings, so the selling of the book comprises part of the criminal act.”

Amazingly, Paladin didn’t see any reason to dispute the link. Contradicting what he says publicly, Kelley and other Paladin lawyers-in a court document obtained by Good Housekeeping–conceded that the company’s marketing strategy is “intended to attract and assist criminals and would-be criminals who desire information and instructions on how to commit crimes…. [Paladin] intended and had knowledge that their publications would be used, upon receipt, by criminals and would-be criminals to plan and execute the crime of murder for hire….”

Last September, a judge ruled that there was no evidence that Paladin “intended imminent lawless activity,” and that while the material was “morally repugnant, it does not constitute incitement or a call to action.” Citing free speech protection, he threw out the case; Horn’s family has appealed.

Peder Lund, who once served in the Army’s Special Forces and cofounded the 26-year-old company, was no doubt relieved. Though he declined to talk to Good Housekeeping, in the past he has said, “As a human, I feel very sorry for anyone who’s put through any physical suffering. As a publisher and as a pragmatist, I feel absolutely no responsibility for the misuse of information.”

Even so, Lund seems to acknowledge that his books can lead directly to acts of violence; he has said that he won’t publish any titles about altitude-sensitive explosives, because “we don’t want to be the scapegoats for an investigation of an airliner coming down…. We all have our boundaries.”

Meanwhile, Lund has done well. Paladin offers more than 650 books and videos, most in the $10 to $40 range, such as The Ancient Art of Strangulation; Fun, Games, and Big Bangs: The Home and Recreational Use of High Explosives; and Kill or Get Killed. Though Lund won’t reveal the company’s yearly earnings, he has cited-years of consecutive growth, drives a Range Rover, and has one home in Britain and another near the company’s headquarters in Boulder, with a panoramic view from its hillside site.

BOOKS ARE NOT THE ONLY THINGS SUCH MAIL-ORDER CATALOGS offer. Also for sale–as easily as ordering from your favorite sweater catalog–are mock sheriff badges, lock-picking and safe-cracking devices, pepper-spray grenades, and bulletproof vests. In reporting this story, Good Housekeeping was able to buy a $39 Steering Wheel Bar Unlocker, which, according to the Shomer-Tec, Inc., catalog, is “designed to bypass the most popular brand of car steering wheel locking bars.” Although the buyer is required by federal law to sign an enclosed form certifying that she is a locksmith, lock manufacturer or distributor, auto maker or dealer, or law enforcement officer, a Good Housekeeping staffer who did not qualify received the device simply by checking one of the categories and mailing in a check.

Another popular catalog item is the bulletproof vest. Who’s buying them? The publishers say individual cops order their own, but police are concerned because criminals are increasingly turning up outfitted in body armor. In Baltimore, police confiscated vests in 30 arrests in the first five months of 1996, mostly from drug dealers. In the past two years, there have been shooting sprees in Dallas; Detroit; Columbus, OH; and Putnam County, NY, in which the killers were wearing bulletproof vests. In April, a Denver man walked into a suburban supermarket and shot to death his wife, the store manager, and a sheriff’s sergeant. When he was finally subdued and taken into custody, he was found to be protected by a bulletproof jacket. In 1994, James Guelff, a San Francisco policeman, was killed in a shoot-out by an assault-rifle-toting gunman wearing a bulletproof vest and helmet.

There are no laws or regulations governing the purchase of body armor, though some vendors, such as Sam’s Club, have established their own procedures that require buyers to show proof that they are law enforcement officers. Similarly, Ed Bachner, a group vice president of Second Chance Body Armor in Central Lake, Ml, says his company has “reasonable and prudent policies to avoid body armor getting into the wrong hands.” But he concedes that someone could fool a bulletproof vest vendor, and that some are not as strict as they could be about getting proper documentation from their customers.

Last May, Maryland’s state legislature passed a bill making it illegal to wear armor in the commission of a crime; doing so could add up to five years to a prison sentence; some 14 other states have similar laws. Last year, U.S. Congressman Bart Stupak (D-MI) introduced a federal bill named for Officer James Guelff. It failed to pass Congress, but Stupak plans to reintroduce it this year.

BOMB-MAKING MANUALS ARE PERHAPS THE BIGGEST THREAT to the greatest number of people. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was disturbed by the fact that Internet information may have been connected to a series of pipe bombings in her state, as well as the fact that one of the World Trade Center bombers was carrying a number of terrorist manuals when he was arrested. She has twice introduced amendments to bills that would make it illegal to teach or distribute information on how to make a bomb–if a person intends or knows that that bomb will be used for a criminal purpose.

“I do not believe the First Amendment gives anyone the right to teach someone how to kill other people or provide certain information that will be used to commit a crime,” said Feinstein. “Even our most precious rights must pass the test of common sense.” Neither time did the amendment become law, but she plans to reintroduce it this year.

Publishers traditionally cite freedom of speech in debates about banning or restricting access to so-called crime manuals. Paladin Attorney Kelley maintains that if the Horn family prevails in the Hit Man case, a wide range of mainstream material would be “put at great risk”–since fiction, autobiographies of gangsters, and even PBS documentaries of bombings could all contain descriptions that would-be criminals might find useful.

But critics counter that such freedoms don’t absolve publishers of responsibility. Douglas Kmiec, professor of constitutional law at Notre Dame Law School points out that the First Amendment is not “an absolute doctrine,’? and that over the years, limits have been placed on certain kinds of speech–perjury, libel, hate speech–and materials, such as child pornography.

Best-selling novelist John Grisham goes as far as to suggest that filmmakers ought to be held liable for violence that can be proven to be directly inspired by a movie. He cites as an example two shootings allegedly perpetrated by a young Oklahoma couple who, one of them confessed, watched Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers before committing the crimes. Grisham argues that First Amendment rights to make such movies would not be jeopardized, even as filmmakers have to assume responsibility for damages.

“A society has a right to defend itself from the people who but for the availability of descriptions in the marketplace might have a tougher time committing crimes,” says Jack Thompson, a Miami lawyer who helped convince Time Warner to pull “Cop Killer,” the song by gansta rapper Ice-T’s band, Body Count, out of stores. “The whole food chain is morally and legally culpable. Ideas do have consequences, and disseminating information that is senseless and corrosive is the purveying of mayhem.

“All you would need,” Thompson says, “is a prosecutor who would go to a grand jury and say that this is not First Amendment speech–it poses a clear and present danger to the public. The average person understands there’s something wrong with this picture-they have a gut feeling that you shouldn’t explain to people how to kill other people.”

So what can the average person do? “Organize, go to your local prosecutors and ask them to find the pertinent statutes in their jurisdictions,” urges Thompson. “Contact your congressperson about holding local hearings. Demonstrate outside Paladin’s corporate headquarters.”

Nathaniel Pallone, professor of psychology and criminal justice at Rutgers University, agrees: “As a society, we are far more concerned about protecting the rights of people to publish information, and the price we pay for that is that we are going to have some victims.” Until we make changes, Pallone says, publishers will continue to have the “freedom to make a buck out of human misery.”

Bad Friends: Everyone Has One

Post dateAugust 7th, 2014 by admin in Uncategorized | No Comments »

bfSHE CAME TO MY HOUSE EVERY DAY, bearing freshly squeezed orange juice, pots of chicken soup, and loads of advice. My friend Alice(*) was a godsend, there for me at a horrible time when I’d lost my job and was feeling miserable. I’d weep, and she’d tut-tut and put her arm around my shoulder, bucking me up and reassuring me that my previous employers weren’t fit to shine my shoes. When yet another job interview became a dead end, she’d come over, fix dinner, listen to my new tale of woe, and tell me that my limitless talents would be appreciated more the next time.

Alice was as solid as a friend could be–until I found another job. Then, this woman who had been on the scene in my darkest days seemed to vanish. My phone calls to her went unanswered, and when I did finally reach her, there was coldness in her voice instead of enthusiasm at my good fortune. I agonized: What had I done to drive her away? I missed her, but she didn’t seem to miss me. I felt like I had been dumped. And indeed I had. From her point of view, with my crisis over, there was no place for our friendship to go except out the window.

We’re told that real friends are those who stick with us in bad times. But sometimes we discover, painfully, that the true test of a friend’s staying power is her ability to be supportive when things are going well.

Alice, it turned out, was a perfect example of a foul-weather friend, someone who thrives during your disasters. This kind of negative friend “is really a very needy person,” says Helen Fisher. Ph.D., an anthropologist at Rutgers University and author of Anatomy of Love. “She’ll tend to downplay your successes to secure her position in your life and feel abandoned when you don’t need her. Her role as `crutch’ is threatened when circumstances change.”

A foul-weather friend can also be someone who dwells on the negative aspects of your life, effectively creating a one-woman foul-weather system. Or she could be the pal–they used to be called busybodies–who ferrets out your troubles and even helps to create some you didn’t know you had.

Those descriptions are familiar to Andrea, whose decade-long friendship with Edie is a source of anxiety. “When Edie calls, she always ends up saying something awful. My husband has chronic fatigue syndrome, and she’ll say, `How’s Ed? I just heard of someone whose husband died from that.’ Or she’ll read something negative that could affect Ed’s business and will be the first one on the phone to ask if it may lead to a corporate takeover.”

Andrea admits that she doesn’t really enjoy seeing Edie. But, she says, “I feel obligated to stay in touch. Edie and her husband don’t have a lot of friends. We’ve curtailed our time with them, but I’m reluctant to cut off the relationship altogether.”

Her justification for maintaining the friendship is revealing–and not uncommon. “Sometimes, women feel it is better for them to suffer a negative friend than to break it off because they don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings,” says Karen Gail Lewis, Ed.D., a Washington, DC, family therapist. “There’s this image that it’s better to take the hurt and discomfort yourself for months or years rather than give it to someone else for five minutes–to tell them you want to see less of them or don’t want to be friends anymore.” Often, adds Lewis, women think it’s just easier to stay with old friends than to risk making new ones.

But there’s another, larger problem. Most of us don’t really know how to behave toward friends. “Unlike marriage, there is nothing that binds us to a friend legally or morally,” says Jacqueline P. Wiseman, Ph.D., retired professor of sociology at the University of California, San Diego. “Friendship is purely voluntary.” Problems arise, according to Wiseman, because “there’s an unacknowledged contract, but it’s never discussed. Though you don’t talk about the expectations you have for a friend, you expect certain things anyway.”

For many women, raised to be compassionate and nurturing, friendship is not only an essential part of their lives, but goes to the very core of who they are. “We re-create family-of-origin issues in our friendships,” says Lewis. “Someone who grew up feeling unloved may find the only way she can get a sense of self-worth is by giving up herself and doing for others. If she grew up being criticized, that’s how she’ll show `caring’ in her friendships. But if she’s the kind of woman who was raised being valued, then she’s going to look for much more mutuality and won’t be satisfied with a relationship like that.”

It took a while for Karen to catch on to what her friend Lena was up to. “I remember being in bed with the flu once and her only comment to me was, `What did you do to bring it on?’ Like it was somehow my fault.

“She’d question everything. For a while, I was seeing a very nice man, but she kept saying that he was taking advantage of me financially if I told her we had split the dinner check. The point is, she’d use criticism as a gift–she’d be the one to tell me things that other friends wouldn’t, and that was what made her more valuable.”

But they remained friends for five years because, Karen says, “she seemed so strong and perceptive, and I really believed she was doing me a favor when she brought up the difficult questions. I thought she was a good balance in my life.”

Finally, Karen was able to put the “friendship” in perspective and take the initiative to end it. But when a foul-weather friend abandons you, it can be very hurtful–even if you know you’re better off without her. Annie still remembers the sting of betrayal she felt when Roz left her behind. “She’d been incredibly supportive,” Annie says. “My marriage was very unhappy, and she was right next door, listening to all my problems. But when I made the decision to divorce and take some control over my life, she withdrew.

“One day we were at the neighborhood swimming pool, and I asked her why she was so distant. `I can’t be your friend anymore because you don’t want to be best friends with me,’ she said. The reason–she told me she thought I was becoming friends with someone else–didn’t make sense. She wouldn’t listen when I told her that wasn’t the case. She just cut me off. I was thirty-five years old, and sobbing like a girl in grade school who had just been rejected.”

Now happily remarried, Annie is philosophical about the episode. “I guess she was like the boyfriend who moves in too fast, with too many flowers and too many boxes of chocolates,” she says. “I was very flattered by her attentions, but there was something in her behavior that made me think there might be a very long emotional string attached. And there was.”

Helga reacted similarly when her foul-weather friend found a replacement. “Leslie would be so eager to hear every little detail of my bad days at the office,” Helga says. “And if my kids had trouble at school, she wanted to know what they’d done. One time, I remember, I showed her my daughter’s report card, which was quite good. She looked at it and said, almost in triumph, `But she got a C in gym.'”

Helga finally got tired of the negative nit-picking and started to see less of Leslie. “Then I went to a party and saw her fawning over someone else–and it hurt my feelings. It was like running into an old boyfriend you don’t want, but feeling jealous anyway.”

How do you handle the mischief–even maliciousness–of a foul-weather friend? “The only thing you really can do,” says Lewis, “is to be strong enough to say to yourself, This woman is trouble. And move on.”

Friendships change as our lives change. Some friends stay with us, some don’t. But the key at all times, says Susan Jeffers, Ph.D., author of Dare to Connect, is “to draw friends who make you feel confident instead of frightened, and who build you up instead of diminish you.” And, of course, to be a good friend yourself.

Polio: Still Out There, Still Dangerous

Post dateJuly 30th, 2014 by admin in Uncategorized | No Comments »

polioLast year, my 6-year-old son, David, took karate lessons. For most parents, the occasion would be just one of many milestones in their children’s lives. For my wife, Kathy, and me, however, it was much more than that. It wasn’t too long ago that we thought our son might never walk.

Like his sister, Liz, six years older, David was the perfect baby-sleeping through the night after only a few weeks, exploring and crawling at 6 months, and constantly flashing a smile. Liz was an enthusiastic “third parent,” always ready and willing to hold and feed him.

When David was 5 months old, we took him to the pediatrician for a “healthy baby” visit. In the examining room, Kathy and I held him as he was given a sweet, pink oral polio vaccine followed by a shot for DPT (diphtheria/ pertussis/tetanus). Suddenly his bottom lip started quivering, and he let out a bewildered cry. For the next few days, he had a low-grade fever, but we knew that isn’t unusual after an immunization. Yet we were alarmed when the fever shot up to 102 degrees and a rash broke out all over his body. We rushed David back to the doctor, who assured us that the rash probably resulted from the fever and would go away. It did, but David continued to have episodes of high fever for several weeks, though each time his temperature would go down within 24 hours of giving him children’s acetaminophen.

For the next few months, David appeared to be developing normally. But when he was about 9 months old, we began to notice that he tired easily. One day, his baby-sitter told us that he was no longer crawling. In disbelief, we immediately got down on the floor and called for him to crawl to us. Instead of his usual smiles and excited leg kicks, he just laid on his stomach, moving only his head.

The pediatrician wasn’t sure what caused David’s sudden weakness. He thought that it was probably a virus and sent us home to keep an eye on him. But after several days with no improvement, we decided to take him from our home in a Virginia suburb to Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC. After three days of tests, doctors concluded that David had suffered a neurological injury known as “interior horn cell damage” that had caused both legs to be severely weakened. They didn’t know the cause at the time, so it was classified as “unknown etiology,” and his condition was referred to as “poliolike.” Kathy asked if it could have anything to do with his vaccination, but the young doctors–who’d never seen a case of polio–dismissed the idea.

We brought David home from the hospital and cried every night, worried and uncertain about his future. The doctors seemed to have very few answers, and there were no guarantees. What we did know was that our lives would never be the same again. There would be weekly visits to neurologists, orthopedists, and physiatrists, as well as the physical therapist. We were encouraged when his left leg started to return to normal; but the right leg was stiff as a broomstick with no muscle tone and a withered foot that simply dangled.

David was fitted for a brace on his right leg, and the physical therapist showed us how to do daily leg massages and exercises between weekly sessions in her office. We made frequent visits to a pediatric neurologist who tested for any changes in David’s nervous system. And we spent a lot of time at the pediatrician’s office, since David often had an ear infection, strep throat, and a chronic cough. He was constantly on antibiotics. At the time, we chalked that up to the fact that kids are constantly picking up viruses. We cried tears of joy–and relief–when David took his first steps at 16 months.

Then, when David was about 2 1/2, he complained of pain in both legs. We were referred to rheumatologist Stephen Ray Mitchell, M.D., associate professor of medicine and pediatrics at Georgetown University Medical Center, who diagnosed arthritis in David’s knees and ankles. He also did some blood tests. A week later, we sat in Dr. Mitchell’s office as he told us that David had Bruton’s, a rare genetic disorder that contributed to the arthritis and left him without a fully functioning immune system. That explained why he was constantly sick with infections.

But the most devastating news was that David had polio. Because of his undiagnosed immune deficiency, he’d contracted the disease from the vaccine given to protect him from it. We were both haunted by images of the crippled children of the 1940’s and 1950’s–some in iron lungs.

While Kathy concentrated more on David’s daily medical needs, I tried to learn as much as possible about the disease that robbed my son of a normal life. I went to the library to research polio immunization, and the more I learned, the angrier I became. I discovered that there have been two polio vaccines in the United States since the 1950’s-the inactivated injectable Salk vaccine and the live (albeit weakened) oral Sabin vaccine. Forty years ago, when the wild polio virus was still circulating in the United States, the Sabin (oral) vaccine was considered preferable for mass immunizations because the virus’s presence in the stool would also convey immunity to other family members. That’s something the Salk vaccine cannot do. In addition, the drinkable Sabin vaccine was considered less traumatic for kids than an injection.

Public health officials had long known that at least eight to ten people each year would contract polio from the oral vaccine. Approximately one quarter are babies like David, with undiagnosed immune deficiencies. (But for unknown reasons, not all children with immune problems contract polio from the oral vaccine.) The others are healthy children, or adults who have immune deficiencies or who were inadequately immunized against polio as children and later come into contact with children recently given the oral vaccine. This risk was considered acceptable for the good of society at large as long as there was wild polio virus and a risk of epidemics. But what shocked me was that the wild polio virus had stopped circulating in this country in 1979. Yet we still were using the vaccine that had the potential, however slight, of causing the disease rather than preventing it.

As I looked at David every day, I began to count our blessings for all the joy he brought. He learned to put on and remove his brace and by age 3 could dress himself. At 4, he insisted on getting a bunk bed–just like his friends and one of his proudest first accomplishments was climbing to the upper berth. I became determined that something had to be done to stop these “accidents” of prevention. I sent letters to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one of the main organizations that sets immunization policy in this country, members of Congress–even the president. My message was simple: “Since wild polio has not existed in the United States for nearly twenty years, isn’t it time that the government adopts guidelines that would encourage the use of effective and safe ‘killed’ polio vaccine, or at least provide more information to parents in order to prevent more victims like David?”

I received some polite responses but nothing more. So I took my case directly to the public and wrote dozens of letters to newspapers and television news programs. Even then, although I received some sympathetic calls, no one was interested in David’s story. Then I contacted the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), a nonprofit educational group in Vienna, VA, and discovered that it had also been fighting this frustrating battle.

Finally, because of my contact with the NVIC, I was invited to testify before an Institute of Medicine conference in Washington in June 1995. After four years, I would now have a chance to tell David’s story and the forgotten stories of the more than 100 other children who have contracted polio over the past decade. I told of a seemingly healthy boy who, overnight, lost the use of his leg. I described in vivid detail David’s daily struggles, sadness, and triumphs–a 5-year-old crawling up and down our stairs, covered with bruises from falling while trying to do things his friends could do with ease. A boy who thought it was normal to see doctors every week, who still relied on a stroller or the arms of his father to take a long walk. I acknowledged that it was too late for David, but not too late for others who might be future victims of a polio-vaccine policy that plays Russian roulette with children’s lives.

Within days, there was a newfound interest in David’s story. The Washington Post started the bandwagon, and it was quickly followed by USA Today, CNN, and a handful of other news organizations. As a result of all this coverage, the NVIC received more than 20,000 telephone calls. Other than behig amused by seeing himself on television and in the newspaper, David seemed oblivious to all the attention. Liz, on the other hand, who had always seemed to resent the extra attention given to her little brother, finally began to understand and appreciate the effort we were making for David’s sake. In many ways, this was the most Important step of all for our family.

Last June in Atlanta, the CDC Advisory Committee recommended the first substantial change in the polio-vaccine program guidelines in more than 30 years. I stood with other families representing the more than 100 victims of vaccine-associated polio and listened to the panel conclude that we could no longer justify the fact that the only new cases of polio in the United States each year are those contracted as a direct result of the oral polio vaccine when there is an equally effective alternative available.

The committee proposed phasing in new guidelines so that the most vulnerable–infants 4 months old and younger–would receive two immunizations with the injectable poijo vaccine, followed by two doses of the oral polio vaccine, beginning at 12 to 18 months of age. The new guidelines would also allow an all-oral or an all-injectable schedule if parents requested it. Finally, doctors would be giving parents an informed choice. What’s more, members of the CDC committee also made it clear that it would be looking to rely less and less on the use of the oral vaccine.

When I came home from Atlanta, David was beaming. “You won, Dad!” Actually, when the CDC’s director, David Satcher, M.D., formally approved the advisory committee’s recommendation last September, it was a victory for all the children who might have followed in David’s halting steps. The changes will be published and distributed early this year.

Despite the challenges, David’s story is not one of despair. Now in the first grade, he tires easily and falls frequently but gets up without a whimper and starts again. During the past three years, he has broken four braces–a sign of his resolve that nothing will keep him from doing the things other kids do. Last fall, he learned to ride a two-wheel bike–without training wheels! He’s also our family clown, always entertaining us with a silly joke or dance, delighting in teasing Liz. And he recently told his mother that he wants to take gymnastics like his sister. And we say, “Why not?”

I’m not sure that David will ever become a black belt in karate or excel at gymnastics, but I do know that he will try. As he grows up, I hope he will realize that he achieved much more–he helped to ensure that hundreds of children from his generation will not be crippled by polio.

Keeping The Best Records

Post dateJuly 20th, 2014 by admin in Uncategorized | No Comments »

lipWhen I started thinking about this column, I felt a flush of guilt. To the left of my desk is a foot-high pile of stuff awaiting filing. And my cabinet is full of old papers I haven’t thrown away. How could I help others get organized when I’m drowning myself? So I’m fixing things and feeling better–just as you will, as you begin to wring order out of chaos.

Good records simplify your life. And they’re money in the bank for your heirs. Americans lose millions because they never find all the savings accounts, life insurance policies, and investments that careless relatives leave behind.

Here’s a quick guide to what to keep, what to toss, and where to stash it.

In a home safe or bank safe-deposit box, protected from fire and flood:

* Your will, trusts, and cemetery deed.

* A home inventory. Take still or video pictures of everything to help you collect on fire insurance. Include appraisals or sales receipts for valuable items.

* Documents proving marriage, divorce, military service, birth, death, adoption, child custody, citizenship, education, and technical or professional training.

* Life insurance policies. Include notes about coverage that your survivors might not think of, such as small policies granted by a credit union or club, or accident insurance if you charged a travel ticket to a credit card. Keep letters and sales materials from the insurance agent. That way, if you find you were misled, you might get your money back.

* Deeds, titles, and associated records.

* Proof that a debt you owed was paid off (in case, after your death, someone asks your heirs-s to pay again).

* Proof of any money owed to you.

* Stocks, U.S. savings bonds, and other securities.

* Contracts that entitled you to stock options or deterred pay.

* A list of all your assets and liabilities, account numbers, what’s on your computer, and all other personal-finance information.

In a home safe so they’re readily available:

* Your durable power of attorney, so someone can manage your affairs if you’re incapacitated.

* Your health-care directive or living will, so someone can make medical decisions if you can’t.

* A note stating where you keep the bank safe-deposit box key.

In a home file cabinet:

* Tax records if you itemize deductions for example, church and charitable contributions, mortgage interest, real-estate taxes, and unreimbursed medical bills (deductible only if they exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income: toss at year’s end if they don’t.)

Keep back tax returns for at least three years; that’s when audits normally stop. The IRS can go back six years if you under reported your income by more than 25 percent, and forever if it suspects fraud.

You need to keep older tax returns if they show the capital gain you’re carrying forward on your house, investment losses from previous years, or any contributions made to a nondeductible Individual Retirement Account. If you expect a company pension, save all back tax returns. Companies don’t always maintain accurate records.

* Checking account statements. Keep for three (or six) years for tax purposes. Save canceled checks and receipts that prove tax deductions, the value of household goods (for insurance purposes), or money you spent improving your house. Keep deposit slips until deposits show up on your monthly statement. Toss everything else, including canceled checks.

* Booklets on employee benefits and where to call to get them paid.

* Booklets on health and disability insurance, including information on what’s covered and where to call to get authorization for treatment.

* Homeowner’s and auto insurance policies and tenant agreements. Toss old policies, once the statute of limitations has run out (often two or three years).

* Credit card statements. Check them for accuracy and keep for six months or so, in case a dispute arises over what was actually paid. Then toss, unless you need an inventory of purchases. Always keep the original lending agreement and any notices of changes.

* Other debt statements, including mortgages, car leases and loans, and personal loans.

* Pay stubs. Toss them at year-end, when you get your W-2.

* Retirement plan documents, including all annual statements from your employer Keep current information about investment choices and performance.

* Other investment material. Keep annual statements and prospectuses. If you have a brokerage account, keep the brokerage agreement and confirmations oF trades (so you’ll know the buying price and commission you paid).

Where To Hold Them

Throw out those shoe boxes and overflowing accordion files. Here’s what to substitute:

1. A bank safe-deposit box, for maximum protection. Small boxes, for holding papers and a little jewelry, cost around $10 to $50 a year. Be sure to tell your executor where to find the keys!

2. A fireproof home safe, for hard-to-replace records. The safe should be rated at least Class 350 for fire resistance by the Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. To protect computer disks, get a class 125 safe. Plain metal boxes don’t work: The heat of fire would scorch to ashes any documents inside.

3. A file cabinet, whether steel or cardboard for replaceable records. You can tuck a two-drawer cabinet under a table. Just don’t put it in the attic. Unless your cabinet is handy, your system will fall apart.

On Guard For You

Post dateJuly 7th, 2014 by admin in Uncategorized | No Comments »

ogfuThis is how it happened. No excuses. Nothing to make me look better, or at , least not so bad. Moira had just stepped out of the bathroom, and after she’d gone, like I could see through walls, gave her a look, then clicked off her curling iron. Why she can’t remember to do that, especially now with little Larry tottering around, is beyond me. I picture him snagging a loop of cord, pulling the iron down, wrapping his hands i I around the bright rod. The idea of his fingers burning there makes me shiver.

She forgot to close the door, too, so within a couple of seconds, there was Larry, standing in the doorway, wearing his I-wonder-if-I-can-get-away-with-this smile. He bent, slapping his thighs in excitement, and took a step across the threshold.

I said, “Larry? What do you think you’re doing?”

He wouldn’t be a year old for another few weeks, but he knew perfectly well that he wasn’t allowed in the bathroom, where he could conk his head on the tiles, eat all the aspirin, or drown in the toilet bowl.

I’d just come in from my night shift, still covered with a film of of oil from the refinery, and my tub was running. Moira’s last words over the rush of water were, “Maybe for his birthday you could actually put in that shower.”

She has a legitimate gripe-I’ve been telling her I’d put in a shower ever since we’d moved into this place–but, tired, I responded by mouthing her words back at her, all singsory. Then I stepped over Larry to shut off the water, making it less fascinating to him.

He thumped his fists on the edge of the tub, thinking he’d be getting in with me, one of his favorite treats. But he was already in his snowsuit, dressed for day care, and Moira was heading out to her office, planning to drop him off on her way. And I’d be hitting the sack as soon as I got out of the tub.

Larry slapped the edge of the tub again, double-handed, shouting louder, and I said, “Watch yourself, Ace,” and stepped out of my pants, kicking them toward the hamper.

Larry had pulled the wicker hamper over on himself last week, climbing being his newest game. He’d scared himself silly. But at least he hadn’t figured out hour to scale the smooth sides of the tub yet. Even so, I naturally never took my eyes off him. Two inches of water, they always say, that’s all it takes, not even two.

We were in the middle of the standard January cold snap, so when I pulled my work shirt over my head, it stuck a little on my long johns. It took me two seconds longer than usual to get out of it. Trapped inside the shadow of my shirt, I thought of the way Moira’d say, “Undo the buttons, Lar”. You undress like a two-year-old.” But I grinned, thinking I’d teach Larry the same timesaving techniques: leaving the buttons done, stepping out of shoes without untying them. It’d drive Moira wild, but eventually, I figured we’d all get a laugh out of it.

When I came out of the shirt, I threw it toward the hamper in the same move, a little surprised not to see Larry there, clanging my belt buckle against the floor. Usually he waits for me to take off my pants just for that thrill. I glanced over my shoulder at the toilet, which was closed and safe, and for some reason, even as I shot a look at the empty, open doorway, my heart started to gallop.

I turned to glance at the gently swishing water in the tub, steaming a little, ready for my soak–and there was Larry, on his back, on the bottom, peaceful as can be, his arms stretched out. The water waved above him, and his eyes were wide open, looking at me a few hubbies escaping from his nose.

“Moire!” I shouted, thrusting my arms into the water, sweeping up Larry so quickly it seemed he could hardly be welt I mean, he couldn’t have been in that water any longer than two seconds, three at the very outside.

Moira was at the door in a second, something in my voice scaring her before she even saw us.

Larry, thank God, was coughing and sputtering, while water streamed like Niagara from his snowsuit onto the floor. I nearly slipped sitting down on the edge of the wet tub, almost dropping us both back into the water.

Moira screamed, “Larry!” though which one of us she meant wasn’t clear.

I was holding little Larry across my knees, belly down so the water could drain. Then I flipped him over, tugging at zippers, stripping him down being important for some reason.

Larry hadn’t started to cry, too busy coughing at first, I think, then too amazed at all the activity; his mom and me both pulling at his clothes. He stared at one of us, then the other, his eyes still as big as nickels, amazed to find himself there, but not unhappy, not scared-more curious.

Then, because Moira was almost in tears herself, saying, “What happened? over and over, Larry’s lip started trembling, and he reached out his now naked arms toward her neck. She let him clasp her, and as she stood, I held onto his snowsuit, dragging it off, taking everything else with it, so he hung from her neck in just his diaper, shaking now, with cold probably, and starting to cry.

I untaped the diaper, and it came away in my hand, weighing about a hundred pounds, having soaked up half the tub, thanks to whatever space-age material they use to make those things these days. Then I was left, holding the diaper, as Moira sped Larry out of the bathroom, cooing at him, leaving me standing there in my wet long johns.

Though the excitement was over, my heart was just starting to crank into gear. I sat on the edge of the tub again, beginning to shake. I looked at the water, at where Larry had been lying so quietly. There W2S a bit of blue fuzz from the snowsuit stuck to the side of the tub, and I picked it off.

Only two days earlier, in swimming class (Moire’s idea because she doesn’t know how to swim), Larry had progressed trom submerging his mouth and nose to a complete head dunk. He came up after that first dunk, squirting a stream of water from his mouth, like spitting out a watermelon seed. We d laughed, holding him tight in that chlorinated pool, wondering where he d learned that. I wondered now why he hadn’t done that squirt this time. Not that bobbing in a ring of toddlers and their parents, singing “London Bridge,” was anything like lying by surprise on your back in a bathtub, but that’s what I wondered anyway.

I got up, grabbing the sink to keep from going down on the wet floor. Dropping a towel onto the mess, I walked out after Moira and Larry, my wet feet slapping against the linoleum.

Although she was still dressed for work, Moira was in our bed, wrapped around Larry, the blankets pulled up to their necks. She was tickling his chest, singing quietly about the Animal Fair and the big baboon combing his auburn hair. Larry was giggling, and when he saw me, he turned, smiling even wider. This would be like a Saturday, I could see him thinking, all of us rolling around in our bed, tickling each other, getting trapped beneath the blankets by the roaring monster, the Gozzard.

I shivered again, starting to work the top of my long johns over my head with trembling fingers. Wet as it was, it clung like a snake’s skin, and I bent over, tugging, frantic to get out of the same trap that, minutes before, had nearly cost me more than my life.

When I finally had the thermal top over my head, the sleeves still handcuffing my arms, I looked at the bed. They were both sitting up now, looking at me. Larry slapped his thighs, waiting for me to jump in.

“He seems okay,” I whispered.

“What happened?” Moira asked, like she really wanted to understand, not like an accusation, as I’d expected.

I was ready with, “You left the door open,” but the way she asked the question made me realize how childish that answer would sound. “One second,” I said, instead, shaving the time. “That’s all. I was taking off my shirt.”

I remembered a video shown at our childbirth class, about children’s safety, and how every parent of a drowned child said, “I only took my eyes off him for a second.” I looked at the floor.

Then Moira said, “He was hardly wet. The water didn’t even get to his socks.”

That sounded like she was letting me off the hook, and alter a second, waiting to see if she’d say more, I wriggled out of the pants of my long johns. Still, without looking at her, I went to the foot of the bed, lifted the covers-the Gozzard’s sneak attack from below.

“Larry,” Moira said, and this time I knew she was talking to me.

I peeked up, holding the blankets to my chin, ready to dive.

“I’ve still got to go to work. He’s still got to go to day care. You’ve got to get some sleep.”

I shook my head. “I’ll take him later. When he’s calmed down.”

Moira gave Larry a look meaning if he got any calmer, he’d be asleep, and I let the blankets droop.

“Take your bath, Larry,” Moira said, sighing. “I’ll get him ready again.”

I did as I was told, still waiting for her to make that one false move, showing that, though she was going to be good about this, treat it like an accident, no one’s fault, she wasn’t ever going to forget that, single-handedly, I nearly killed Larry only a few weeks before his first birthday.

I stepped into the water, shallow now with all that had been sucked and splashed out, and sat listening to Moira talking to Larry, and his answering whoops and babbles. After awhile, I turned on the faucet, full hot.

While the steaming water was swirling into the tub, Moira came to the door of the bathroom, holding Larry in her arms. He was still as naked as the day he was born. He squirmed for me, yelling to be let go.

“Let him come, Moira,” I said. “Let him take a bath with me.”

“You’ll die if you don’t get some sleep,” she answered, but she was already lowering him to the floor.

He raced to the side of the tub, running out of control, and gave one almost unseeable heave over the edge and was in my lap so fast I wouldn’t have been able to catch him if my lap hadn’t been there to save the day.

Moira’s eyes widened at the quickness of it. I saw that, and knew that when she was gone I’d thank Larry for that display. But, while she was still there, watching both of us in the tub (her Larrys, she sometimes called us), she only bit her lip.

“I won’t let go of him,” I promised. “I won’t take my eyes off of him. Not ever.”

Moira looked at me a second longer, still chewing on her lip. “Yes, you will,” she said. “We both will.”

I clutched Larry hard enough so that he turned to see what was wrong, already straining away from my grasp. “Of course we will,” I whispered, lifting him up high, making him laugh.

“I’ve got to go,” Moira said, and she blew us both a kiss.

Larry waved bye-bye, a first, and I almost called Moira back to show her.

But he’d be doing that forever. There’d be plenty of time for her to see.

Filing A Home Insurance Claim: The Basics

Post dateJune 10th, 2014 by admin in Uncategorized | No Comments »

fahiLightning has struck your home, blasting a hole in the roof and zapping your appliances. While most insurers are likely to provide prompt assistance, we’ve all heard stories of skinflint adjusters and shoddy repairs, followed by cancellation notices. Knowing the best way to file an insurance claim can help you avoid any problems and get the coverage you’re entitled to without delay.

File Fast Some policies set time limits for claims, so make sure you know the deadlines. After filing, it should take your insurer about 30 days to issue a check for a simple claim, such as a stolen car, and 60 to 90 days for a more complex claim, such as a caved-in roof. If you’ve suffered a disaster that forces you out of your home, your company may offer immediate emergency aid.

Make Temporary Repairs

Do the patchwork, but nothing beyond what will ensure that there’s no further damage to your home. You can board up a broken window to keep the rain out, for instance, but don’t replace the glass. If you make permanent repairs without getting a payment from your insurance company first, you might be stuck with the bill.

Do Your Homework

Find out the market cost of the damage by getting an estimate from a local contractor before the adjuster visits. If the insurance company’s contractor offers a much lower bid, demand that repairs be made with materials that are the same or equivalent to what existed before the damage, as required by law in many states. (If you have unusual vintage woodwork or plaster walls, a standard policy will probably provide only for repairs with more modern equivalents–standard moldings and wallboard–while a premium policy is likely to replace in kind.)

Keep Receipts/Records

During the process of filing your claim, keep careful notes on whom you’ve spoken to and what they’ve told you regarding your claim, says Robert Hunter, the director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America, a consumer advocacy group in Washington, DC. Careful record-keeping will encourage an adjuster to see you as someone who is going to demand quick action.

Take Inventory

We’ve all heard the advice: Get antiques appraised, take pictures of valuables, and keep the bills of sale,on all valuable items, storing them in a fireproof safe or a bank safe-deposit box. What can you do if you haven’t done this and don’t have all those records? According to the Insurance Information Institute, most homeowners won’t have a problem getting reimbursed as long as their total claim is within a range that is considered typical for the size and value of their home and the number of people who live there. However, you may not be reimbursed for jewelry, furs, real silver flatware, and other valuables if you have not specifically covered them in a separate floater clause. Detailed record-keeping will expedite your settlement, so if you haven’t gathered records yet–do it now!

If you’ve taken all of the above steps and your claim is denied, ask your company for a written explanation. “If a company is denying your claim, you want it to specifically state it’s because of Clause Six of your policy, which excludes X,” says Hunter. Then there are several last-ditch options:

Appeal the insurer’s decision, following the instructions detailed in your policy.

File a Complaint with your state department of insurance. States have the power to sanction insurers who don’t pay claims. For help contacting your state insurance department or consumer groups in your area, call the free National Consumer Insurance Helpline at 800-942-4242.

File Suit against the insurance company as a last resort. Be aware, however, that it’s most likely going to be a long battle with fairly substantial legal fees.

Knowing Your Rrights

Insurers can’t cancel policies midterm unless customers commit fraud, add risks, or miss payments. Each insurance firm sets its own standards for cancellation of a policy, typically giving more weight to the frequency and type of claim than the cost, says Dale Emerson, assistant deputy director of the Illinois Department of Insurance. Weather damage rarely prompts non-renewal, but if your dog has bitten someone and your homeowners policy covered the medical bills, the company isn’t likely to renew you; owning a dog that has a record of biting people may be viewed as negligence on your part.