The driver of tomorrow is not thinking Green...

The driver of tomorrow is not thinking Green...
He's thinking Classic. (click on photo)


Feb 25, 2010

Superwoman syndrome fuels pill-pop culture

The irresponsibility of physicians and the pharmaceutical industry makes my brain explode in anger. Be aware - physicians do not pay attention and the drug industries are making billions of dollars off of our addictions. Vicodin (hydrocodone) is highly addictive and well prescribed. Matt & I have first hand knowledge of the rendering of lives that happens from this. It was interesting when we went in for Matt's leg injury the drug the doctor wanted to prescribe for pain was Percocet. Even more addictive. Being knowledgeable, he refused and stuck with the Ibuprofin - thank you very much. (Rebecca)

Popping a couple of pain pills helped Laurie J. Besden study night after night. They helped her pass the Pennsylvania bar exam. They helped her get more done in a day than many of her colleagues. Then they helped her land in jail.

Besden doesn’t seem like any drug addict you’d picture. She's smart, motivated — and an overachiever. But she’s one of an alarming number of women who have turned to prescription pills to get ahead — or even just to keep up.

Almost 6 percent of American women, that's 7.5 million adult women, report using prescription medicines for a boost of energy, a dose of calm or other non-medical reasons, according to the latest numbers from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

"Many may not consider what they're doing abuse because they're using a prescribed drug," says Susan R.B. Weiss, chief of NIDA's Science Policy Branch. "Many of these medications are being taken as performance-enhancers."

While street drug use has been declining in recent years, prescription drug abuse has been up since the 1990s.

The trend seems to be partly driven by more and more women popping pills. While men make up the majority of abusers of street drugs, including meth, cocaine and heroin, women are just as likely to abuse prescription pills as men.

Studies show that women are more likely — in some cases, 55 percent more likely — to be prescribed an abusable prescription drug, especially narcotics and anti-anxiety drugs.

"Not surprisingly, availability increases abuse patterns," Weiss says.

This alarms some drug abuse experts because women also seem to be more vulnerable to addiction to these types of drugs once they start taking them.

Perfection through pharmaceuticals?
To blame may be what some are calling the superwoman syndrome. Overworked, overwhelmed and overscheduled women juggling families, friends and careers are turning to stimulants, painkillers and anti-anxiety meds to help launch them through endless to-do lists.

"Women load their lives with so much that they get in over their heads, and some turn to prescription pills to cope," says Talia Witkowski, a psychologist in Los Angeles.

Witkowski, 30, began abusing her prescription attention deficit hyperactivity disorder drugs in high school, and has been clean for three years.

"For many women, even those whom you would never suspect, pills offer an escape," she says. But what many women don't realize is that they are conducting a dangerous experiment on their health and their mind.

Start of a secret addiction
After graduating from the Dickinson School of Law at Pennsylvania State University in 1999, Laurie Besden felt overwhelmed by the pressure to pass the bar. So she stole a box of Vicoprofen, which contains the narcotic painkiller hydrocodone, from her ex-boyfriend's father's house and popped two pills. She had heard the medication could offer a burst of energy and ability to focus.

"I had energy to study for 12 hours and then clean the house like a superwoman," recalls the 35-year-old from Plymouth Meeting, Pa. Eventually, her two-a-day habit grew to 20 a day.

After she passed the bar, she tried to quit, but couldn't. "If I didn't take them, I was going to be sick," she says. "I needed the pills to get out of bed so my heart wouldn't go into palpitations."

Then she started a prestigious — and demanding — clerkship, and realized she was completely dependent on her secret stash of pills to get through the day.

For years, she hid this addiction from her friends and family. She no longer even tried to imagine life without her little helpers. Then her source — a doctor who prescribed these pills for any phony condition — had his medical license revoked. Besden figured out how to call in her own prescriptions, using false names and impersonating doctors.

In 2002, she was arrested for the first of what would be five times before she was convicted in 2004 for prescription fraud and jailed for almost a year.

Pills all around
Abuse of prescription drugs has risen right along with increases in the number of prescriptions for stimulants and painkillers seen since the early '90s, experts note. According to IMS Health, a research firm that tracks prescription use, the use of stimulants has nearly tripled over the past decade.

And as the drugs have become more commonplace, our attitude has become increasingly cavalier. After all, if a kid can be given an amphetamine for ADHD, couldn't Mom benefit from a little extra focus, too?

Women aren't just abusing their own prescriptions; they're also dipping into friends' supplies. In one survey, 29 percent of U.S. women admitted to sharing or borrowing somebody else's prescription drugs in their lifetime. This study, published in the Journal of Women's Health, found the rate of borrowing was highest among women ages 18 to 44. That stat is backed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which found that the main source of prescription drugs among non-medical users — a whopping 56 percent — was free drugs from friends and family.

The most commonly abused pills are opiod painkillers, stimulants and central nervous depressants, generally used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. But these drugs are used for specific brain chemical imbalances, and if you are healthy, you risk tweaking your brain's natural abilities to sleep, focus and calm down.

These pills can also undermine your confidence if you begin relying on a pill versus your own strengths and capabilities to get through the day, Weiss says.

Popping too many pills also can trigger an irregular heartbeat and lead to cardiac arrest — and even death. In fact, there's been an exponential rise in the number of unintentional drug poisoning deaths, which spiked nationwide by more than 68 percent between 1999 and 2004, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accidental overdose often happens when users build up tolerance to the drugs and must take more and more for the same effect.

Another big worry is that these pills can interact with many other common medications. When combined with over-the-counter cold medicine, for instance, stimulants can drive up blood pressure to dangerously high levels.

But the potential for addiction is the most serious consequence, experts warn.

At age 15, Witkowski, the Los Angeles psychologist, started abusing medications including the Ritalin she'd been prescribed. Once she got into college, she began experimenting with other drugs. "I knew I was living a lie, but I couldn't stop," she says. Finally she got help from a treatment program called Heal Your Hunger.

As Witkowski learned, addicts can recover, especially under the guidance of a therapist or program that specializes in addiction.

"An addiction specialist will be able to offer a solid assessment on how much control the addict has lost and what treatment plan is best," says Dr. Ken Thompson, medical director of Caron, an alcohol and drug addiction treatment center headquartered in Wernersville, Pa. He advises women pursue gender-specific treatment.

"Women often have different motivations than men in abusing prescription drugs, and by being in a women's-specific program, they're able to deal with those reasons more effectively," he says.

"This doesn't mean they're always going to suffer or be miserable, but they will have to pay attention to their recovery and do things to support staying clean," Thompson says. At Caron, for instance, addicted women who are in the process of healing are encouraged to eat healthy, exercise, relax and do mind-body activities like yoga.

Dr. Harold C. Urschel III, co-founder of Enterhealth, an addiction recovery program in Dallas, says these are the same strategies he recommends all women follow, especially if they're turning to a pill to relieve stress or anxiety, even just once. "You're cheating yourself when you use a pill," he says.

That's a message Besden has come to accept, especially in jail, which she says saved her life. "I was forced to get clean, something I didn't think would happen until I died," she says. After jail, she sought treatment at Caron where she learned how to live without drugs. Since then she's been rebuilding her life.

Clean now for six years, Besden's had her license to practice law in Pennsylvania reinstated. She's a working attorney in civil law who finds satisfaction in every day activities — like swimming, hanging out with her dog Marcus and helping other lawyers recover from addiction.

Yet she's also an addict in recovery, attending five support meetings weekly and touching base with her sponsor, and hopes she can inspire other women who have a secret addiction to get help. "Getting clean was the hardest thing I've ever done," she says, "but getting clean and maintaining my sobriety is by far the biggest accomplishment of my life."

Karen Asp, a freelance journalist who specializes in fitness, health and nutrition, is a contributing editor for Woman's Day and writes regularly for Self, Prevention, Real Simple, Women's Health, Shape and Men's Fitness.

Feb 19, 2010

Love vs. Loneliness

From something I saw today:

If you've been on your own for a while, it may seem like it's impossible to find a partner. You may feel miserable and unworthy.

Then when someone does come along, it's easy to overlook red flags because you're so happy not to be lonely any more! This, of course, can lead you down the road to more unhappiness.

The cure for this is to treat your "dry spells" as opportunities to build a more fulfilling life. Instead of sitting home reading dating sites, find things to do that get you out of the house and around other people -- things that help broaden your horizons and make you a more interesting person.

Anyone who's been dating for a while knows about the needy-puppy phenomenon -- people who are so desperate for any kind of relationship that they make themselves a nuisance to potential partners and thus wind up dealing with more rejection.

Give yourself the gift of a fulfilling and fascinating single life. And don't settle for anyone who's just looking for the right set of body parts -- it's worth waiting for someone who appreciates you as a whole person and is capable of forming a secure attachment.

Feb 18, 2010

'Distracted driving' gets more attention

A Seattle man was recently sentenced to five years in prison for vehicular homicide because he was texting while driving when he hit and killed a bicyclist. According to The Seattle Times, the prosecutor used phone records to prove the accident occurred while the driver was sending a text.

Feb 16, 2010

For Them. That is why.

Try as I might, I have yet to understand just how a person with a child, hear me out - who actively participates in bringing the child in to the world, who decides to have the responsibility of that human being, can just as actively decide to walk away from their flesh - even knowing - the pain it creates as their child endures the deepest loss, like death - yet a loss that there is no explanation for - at such a young age. It is good that there are those of us that remain faithful and steadfast on the path of difficulty in life and care for the ones left behind. Who would they have, if not us? That one thought, who would be there for my children, has often driven me through hardships in life, to endure if only for the sake of my kids, so that they will always know I love them with the same fervor God loves me and I will fight the fight and stick it out. It is not easy! Who said it would be? But it is so worth it. With every kiss, smile and "you're the best mom ever".

Feb 15, 2010

Cultural Challenge of the Week: Abstinence Education

Rebecca Hagelin:

School has been cancelled all week, and the teenagers have been having a ball. They've been tromping through the snow and in-and-out of several homes. Yesterday, there was a large group here for hot chocolate and a little rest from all the sledding. It was so much fun to sit with them around the fire and hear them talk about school, college applications and ....snow! Tomorrow, a "bunch" of them are coming over for lasagna and all the fixings. I'm so grateful to have a daughter who has chosen her friends well. And, I'm also grateful that somehow when our kids were little, my husband and I both had a vision to create a home where teens would want to "hang out."

Being around teenagers and seeing how much potential they have -- how their entire adult life awaits them with all of its joys, worries, and experiences -- really makes me want to do all I can to help them protect their integrity, their innocence, and that great potential.

Innocence? I can hear some folks questioning my selection of that word. In today's world, are any teenagers really innocent?

Well, when you look at all they don't know -- can't possibly know -- because they haven't lived on their own, raised families, had to look for jobs, etc., etc., yes, they are indeed innocent. And, given that this particular group of kids that was gathered in my home all believe that sex should be saved for marriage -- they are innocent in that regard, too.

Guess what: They didn't make it to their senior year believing they should save sex for marriage by accident. It came from some pretty deliberate teaching by their parents, reinforcement by caring youth leaders, and regular involvement in their faith communities.

But not every child has that supportive network of adults who love them enough to teach them the value of abstinence, and then go the extra mile to equip them to practice it. That's why it's important to teach abstinence in the public school systems.

Sadly, however, thanks to recent political decisions, it seems that the few schools who do teach a solid abstinence message are going to lose all funding. It's not surprising when you consider how hard some are working to replace all abstinence education with comprehensive sex education. I wrote about that subject last week, and then this week a new medical study was released that shows just how superior abstinence programs are to any other type of sex education. That's why the subject is my Culture Challenge of the Week:

Culture Challenge of the Week: Abstinence Education

This week the American Medical Association (AMA) published a report that shows abstinence education works. Tragically, President Obama and Nancy Pelosi had already pandered to dishonest groups like Planned Parenthood, who profit from teen sexual activity, and took the unbelievable action of terminating government funding of these successful abstinence programs.

When adults take the time to tell children what is right and what is wrong, and teach them how to avoid sex, the majority of them actually do. But, when a young person is constantly bombarded with sexual images, taught by those in authority that he can freely engage in sex if he wants to, and is presumed to be unable to control himself, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that he will most likely become sexually active.

In the AMA’s Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, a study of sixth and seventh graders reveals a stark contrast between kids who are taught the president's preferred sex education and those who receive abstinence education. When students are told that abstinence is best at the same time that the educator is telling them how to use a condom, nearly half of the teens end up having sex within two years. But when teachers give a consistent abstinence only message, equip children with practical methods to say “no,” and relay the full expectation that they can control themselves, only about a third of those children become sexually active in the next two years.

The facts are clear: true abstinence education works.

How to Protect Your Family from dangerous sex education

While many in the policy and education world are shocked at the revelation that abstinence education works, Robert Rector and Christine Kim of The Heritage Foundation have known this truth for years. In 2008, Heritage analyzed 21 different studies done on abstinence education programs. Researchers “found that in 16 of the 21 reports there were significant positive results in delaying early sexual activity and initiation.”

In addition to eliminating all chances of becoming pregnant or contracting a sexually transmitted disease, Rector also reports that the research reveals that teens who practice abstinence, “will be happier and less depressed than their permissive peers. Abstinent teens also do dramatically better in school. They are half as likely to drop out as their sexually active peers. And teens who abstain until at least age 18 are twice as likely to attend and graduate from college as those who become sexually active while in high school.”

When I think about the millions of teens who will be left emotionally scarred by sexual encounters they are not mature enough to handle, or the millions of little girls who will become pregnant because adults shamefully encourage them to be sexually active, or the youngsters who will contract and carry a serious STD for life, it makes me angry that we have a president who is more concerned with satisfying the special interest groups than he is advocating for the safety of our children.

In most states, parents have the right to opt their children out of the sex education classes. But, you have to take the action to make that happen. Contact your school counselor and find out what the options are, and then sit down with your children and explain why you are choosing a better way. Make certain that the teachers do not belittle or punish them for not taking the classes. Find other parents in your child’s classroom who dare to take a stand, and support each other.

Secondly, be proactive in teaching abstinence to your children. Check out sites like,, , and for great abstinence education resources. Do your homework, take action and be committed enough to your children to teach them the truth. Since the president abandoned what works, and is even funding programs that make your job harder and your children more vulnerable, your sons and daughters are more reliant than ever on you to show them the way.

Thank you so very much for your continued support of my efforts to help parents strengthen their relationships with their children, grow their faith in God, and equip them to tower above the pop culture. You are helping every time you forward this e-mail to other parents, youth leaders and educators. Each week, I write this e-newsletter both as the mother of three (two boys in college and a senior in high school) and as a media/culture analyst. I know that many parents feel helpless in their efforts to raise children with character, and I know that all of us need ongoing encouragement and help in doing so. This free newsletter is my way of providing a little consistent support to others. Please feel free to e-mail it to others and to let them know they can subscribe at

If you are one of the folks who recently ordered my book, 30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family, but haven't yet received it, please accept my apologies! The snow has delayed my fulfillment abilities a bit. They should be on the way to you shortly. Thank you so much for your patience.

I also thank those of you who have e-mailed me with questions, suggestions, or just kind words of support. Although I can't respond to every e-mail, I do read each and every one of them and say a prayer for the person writing. Sometimes I even work suggestions and tips into these e-newsletters! So, thanks again.

Until next week, I hope you all stay warm and cozy. And, I pray that you will make the effort to spend one-on-one time with each of your children. If you haven't ever had "the talk" with them about abstinence, this just might be the perfect time for you to do so. It might (ok, it will) be a bit awkward for you and for your child, but deep inside they are hoping you will give them direction; that you care enough about them to share truth.

Please take the time to look through the websites I mention above so that you can get the support you need to equip your children to rise above the noise.



Feb 14, 2010

Happy Valentines Day - Things Not to say to your wife

:) Hope you're having a fabulous love day

Feb 11, 2010

Bud Light Clothing Drive

This was hilarious so I thought I'd share some levity :)

Feb 9, 2010

Book of the Day: So Sexy So Soon

Authors: Levin/Kilbourne

Elementary-school children playing the rape game and young teens engaged in oral sex are only a fraction of the sexualized behavior young children are displaying, to the horror of their parents. Victoria’s Secret is selling thongs to girls as young as 8, and the Bratz doll is outselling Barbie, who is viewed as no stranger to sexualized images herself. Levin and Kilbourne, experts in childhood development, explore the troubling trends in ramped-up childhood sexuality; the implications for sexuality and relationships; and the potential for such trends to lead to pathological sexual behavior. The authors offer disturbing research on the pressure on young children, particularly girls, to dress and act in sexually provocative ways long before they are able to understand what they are doing. They also explore the marketing of sex to young children through television and the Internet. Intended for parents of children ranging in age from 4 to 12, this book offers helpful advice about what parents can do to protect their children from hypersexualized cultural influences. --Vanessa Bush

The authors (Levin is a professor of education; Kilbourne, an authority on the effects of advertising) accuse the media of sexualizing children. Constantly, American children are exposed to a barrage of sexual images in television, movies, music and the Internet. They are taught young that buying certain clothes, consuming brand-name soft drinks and owning the right possessions will make them sexy and cool—and being sexy and cool is the most important thing. Young men and women are spoon-fed images that equate sex with violence, paint women as sexually subservient to men and encourage hooking up rather than meaningful connections. The result is that kids are having sex younger and with more partners than ever before. Eating disorders and body image issues are common as early as grade school. Levin and Kilbourne stress that there is nothing wrong with a young person's natural sexual awakening, but it is wrong to allow a young person's sexuality to be hijacked by corporations who want them as customers. The authors offer advice on how parents can limit children's exposure to commercialized sex, and how parents can engage kids in constructive, age-appropriate conversation about sex and the media. One need only read the authors' anecdotes to see why this book is relevant. (Sept.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Feb 5, 2010

Blah Blah Blah...Why Can't He Hear You Part 2

I'm continuing the story but not sure if it's ALL accurate ;) -R

Blah, blah, blah!

For years, researchers have claimed that women talk way more than men — one oft-cited stat is that women use 20,000 words a day while men use only 7,000. But it turns out that women and men both use an average of 16,000 words per day, according to a recent study from the University of Texas at Austin.

Lost in translation: What he really hears when your lips are moving.

You say: "Ugh, my boss is horrible. I had the worst day."
You mean: "I really need to vent about my day."
He hears: "Tell me how to fix my relationship with my boss."

You say: "Hey, can we talk?"
You mean: "I have something important to tell you."
He hears: "You screwed up, buddy."

You say: "Oh, those shoes don't go with that belt. Why don't you wear the brown ones?"
You mean: "I just want to help you look good."
He hears: "Aw, the widdle baby can't dwess himself!"

You say: "Let's straighten up in here."
You mean: "Let's straighten up in here."
He hears: "I resent that you're a pig."

You say: "I'm so sorry you had such a rough day. You must feel terrible."
You mean: "I want you to know I empathize with you."
He hears: "I feel sorry for you, you sad sack of a man."

You say: "Do you think that woman's hot?"
You mean: "Tell me that I'm hot."

Men's ability to process language and understand what's being said to them begins to diminish starting in their 30s. Women retain this ability until menopause.
Source: Why Men Never Remember and Women Never Forget by Marianne J. Legato, M.D.

Why doesn't he see what I need?
The love expert says ... he takes everything personally.

"If I call a friend and say, 'I'm having a terrible day,' she'll drop everything and ask, 'Are you okay?' A woman hears complaints as an invitation to move closer. But a man hears complaints as an indication that he's failed. He measures his very worth by his ability to provide and protect, so in his mind, if he were doing his job, she wouldn't be unhappy.

"Does this mean a woman can never complain to a man? Of course not! Men really want to please women. All you have to say is, 'Would you help me with ...' or 'I would love it if ...' Go beyond the complaint or criticism and get at the desire. High-maintenance women don't scare men. Men actually like it because it gives them a clear set of rules for how to improve, and they can tell when they're succeeding."

—Pat Love, coauthor of How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It

Why doesn't he understand me?
The linguist says ... he assumes you're trying to be the boss of him.

"In general, men focus on hierarchy and women on connection. I always find it fascinating to go back to studies of how kids talk: Boys use talk to negotiate their status within a group, while girls use talk to negotiate closeness. This difference can cause misunderstandings with apologies, for example.

"When a man makes some small transgression, his wife might feel that if he'd just say, 'I'm sorry,' it would be over. But he won't, and then you end up arguing about why he won't apologize. For many women, an apology means, 'I care that I let you down; I care about you.' If he doesn't apologize, it's like he doesn't care. But for men, asking for an apology is a demand that he publicly humiliate himself. He thinks apologizing is a sign of weakness, and that you'll use it against him, because that's what another man would do. So when you say, 'Why won't you apologize?' he hears, 'I caught you in an error and I'm going to rub your nose in it.'"

—Deborah Tannen, Ph.D., professor of linguistics at Georgetown University and author of You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation

Why doesn't he really listen?
The psychologist says ... he's too busy trying to fix the problem.

"There's a difference between how men and women process stress. In a woman, stress produces a reaction in the emotional center of the brain. Talking stimulates the production of serotonin to relax the brain, so she'll instinctively talk in order to feel better.

"For a man, stress triggers a reaction in the action center of the brain. So when you talk to him about a problem, he's so intent on taking action to fix it that there's no way he can actually hear your point of view. But if you tell him that the solution is just to listen, he can relax. He doesn't have to hunt for a solution, so he can listen, and maybe even empathize."

— John Gray, Ph.D., REDBOOK Love Network expert and author of the upcoming Why Mars and Venus Collide

Why can't he figure out what I'm really saying?
The psychiatrist says ... he's hardwired differently from you.

"In brain-imaging studies, women have more blood flow to the parts of their brains that produce and interpret language, and there are more interconnections between the emotional center and the verbal center. Men have less well-defined connections between the verbal and emotional parts of their brains. Early-childhood studies show that girls have a greater capacity for verbal communication than boys — they're more skilled at using words as a way of sharing their experience.

"The big problem between husbands and wives is that they don't realize how the other functions. A woman expects that since she is able to freely talk about her emotions, her husband is equally able to do so. Meanwhile, a man tends to view his wife's efforts to communicate as simply sharing information, not as sharing an emotional experience. So if she says, 'I'm upset that our son hasn't called to tell us he got to his friend's house,' he might say, 'I'm sure he's all right,' focusing on the 'Is he safe?' question. What she's really saying is, 'I'm anxious, I'm scared.' But he's not focusing on her emotional experience."

— Scott Haltzman, M.D., REDBOOK Love Network expert and author of the upcoming Secrets of Happily Married Women

"Our wires get crossed when ..."

"... the TV is on. I have to pause it and force my husband to make eye contact before I say anything. Otherwise, he will literally not hear me, much less retain any of what I said. The worst part is, there are still times when he doesn't remember what I said — and then he'll get mad at me when he doesn't remember!"
— Laura Kukucka, 30, Columbus, OH

"... something I say reminds him of something his ex-wife did or said and he thinks I'm taking him down the same path. I have to remind him that I'm not her."
— Katherine Miller, 29, Memphis

"... I criticize him, especially if I start with 'You never do ... ' or 'Why can't you ... ' I think it's because as soon as I say anything negative about him, all he hears is that negative statement. Everything after it just sounds like blah, blah, blah."
— Nature Lewis, 31, Staten Island, NY

"... there is any game on TV. It's like my husband's brain shifts and everything around him turns to babble. I think it's a hormonal change that happens to men during sporting events. So I'll tell him things I don't really want his opinion on — like expensive things I've bought — because he doesn't hear, and yet I haven't hidden anything!"
— Colleen Hoffman, 35, Washington Township, NJ

Told you so!
If you and he disagree about who said what when, chances are you're right (you knew it!): Studies have shown that women are better at recalling the spoken word than men.

Feb 3, 2010

Why Can't He Hear What You're Saying? Part 1

Part 1:

Your lips are moving. Sounds are coming out, and you swear you're speaking English. But he's Just. Not. Getting it. What to do? Read on for insight into why men misinterpret what women say — and how you can make yourself heard.
By Bryan Stipe

It was a novice mistake, I admit — the kind of dumb thing you do two months into a relationship, not four years. My wife and I were having dinner with friends and I was telling a story about how her brother crashed his car. Yes, maybe I hyperbolized a little bit, played it for laughs at his expense. So when Kristen shot me her death-ray look across the table — the one that means: You have committed some gaffe, said something offensive, revealed something private, etc., and should cease and desist — I ceased and desisted.

But afterward, on the car ride home, she was still mad. "I mean, at this point you shouldn't even apologize," she said. So I didn't apologize. I said I understood. I held her hand a little in the car, and when we got home I made a bowl of ice cream and watched Big Love. Later, Kristen came into the den, all dressed for bed, and stood silently watching Bill Paxton and wife number two in flagrante. "Well," she finally snapped, "you could have at least apologized!" When I protested that she'd told me I shouldn't apologize, she said, "It would have been a good place to start."

At that moment, I became a walking marriage cliché. You know the cliché I'm talking about. It goes: My wife speaks a strange alien tongue that I, no matter how hard I try, am too dumb to learn. It was one of those moments when you identify with that line from Knocked Up: "Marriage is an unfunny version of Everybody Loves Raymond."

But there's a reason the cliché exists: A lot of the time we guys do need help in the "What the heck are you talking about?" department. The Everybody Loves Raymond way of explaining this phenomenon is that we men are too thick to read between the lines. And, okay, this is kind of true. Kristen will try to tell me in every possible way about presents she'd like me to get for her. She might say, "Hey, those earrings are nice!" And nine times out of 10, I do not copy. I might think, Wow, she really likes to talk about jewelry a lot or Wow, does she not realize that I'm not a woman and that I don't care about earrings? Maybe if I'm quiet for long enough she'll change the subject.

The less Raymond-y way of explaining why we don't understand you is to say that we simply have different ways of talking. Men have two modes of communication: saying what we mean and repressing what we mean. We either say, "What you said the other night really pissed me off" or we say, "Hey, wanna go see Knocked Up?" Women, on the other hand, use a little more nuance. You imply things more than men do; you depend more on subtext. I remember in the beginning of our marriage, Kristen kept telling me that I looked sexy in black underwear. It took me about two months to translate that into "Your old white underpants are graying and disgusting. Please get rid of them and replace them with something that ages better."

The problem with subtext is that too often we men just don't catch it — and then we completely misinterpret you. I hate to say this, because yes, it's yet another "Men are so dumb" cliché, but it's kind of like when you pretend to throw a ball for a dog but really put the ball behind your back. The dog (man) is too stupid to keep his eye on the ball (the hidden meaning) and goes running after nothing.

This falls under my Grand Unified Theory of Male-Female Miscommunication: We misunderstand you most often when you want something but are afraid to (or don't think you should have to) ask for it, whether that thing is compassion or a back rub. Part of the problem is that you all are a lot nicer than we are — demure in some cases, and, it must be said, passive-aggressive in others. Kristen wanted me to "get" that she wanted those earrings without her having to ask for them. But when a man misses his cue, both parties can end up pissed. You feel like you're not being treated very well, and blurt out what it is you wanted all along (but are probably too annoyed to want anymore anyway). We feel like we've been ambushed. I'd say that's the dynamic driving fully half of the fights I have with my wife.

There is a way out. And that is: Show us some mercy. We really do want to understand you. And we are often a little intimidated in the communications department, partly because we know we have a reputation for being so bad at it. But look at us. We're trying so hard! Doesn't that count for something?

And we are not entirely untrainable: Over the course of a relationship, we'll (hopefully) pick up a few things. Recently, my friend Scott had a fight with his girlfriend about whether or not they were going to have dinner with his mother the following week. He'd been in this relationship long enough to know that what his girlfriend was really complaining about was not whether they'd see his mother, but his inability to plan anything more than five hours beforehand. So he said, "Let's plan right now for next week's dinner." That made everyone happy.

Even when your rules don't seem logical to us, we'll learn them by rote if necessary. The snafu about my wife and her brother, for example, taught me to apologize even when she tells me not to. Another rule I recently committed to memory: When the woman in your life has a crappy day, just listen and sympathize and express venomous contempt for those who have wronged her rather than trying to explain why it wasn't so bad.

Of course, that brings up a caveat. A man is not above gaming the system — that is, pretending not to understand what he doesn't really want to understand. "I didn't know you wanted those earrings!" he'll protest, instead of admitting, "I didn't want to spend that much money." After all, just because we're dumb doesn't mean we're stupid.

NEXT: Blah, Blah, Blah

Feb 2, 2010

5 tax myths that can cost you money

By Jeff Schnepper
MSN Money

Santa Claus. The tooth fairy. Babe Ruth pointing to where he would hit a home run in the 1932 World Series. Someone who knocks on your door, smiles and announces, "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help you."

Our culture is full of myths. And our tax system is full of myths, half-truths and untruths that can cost you big bucks if you don't understand the rules.

So let's have a look at some of the bigger myths about taxes. If I've done my job properly, I'll show you how they can trap you and how you can save money by separating myth from reality. And if you find you need more help, check this site for more information, or consult a tax professional.

Myth 1: Students are exempt

Lots of people believe there's an exemption for students that excludes them from tax. Wrong, scholarship breath!

There's no special tax status afforded to students. They are subject to tax on all their income, regardless of how many credits they're taking or whether or not they're fully matriculated.Students do get special tax credits, the Lifetime Learning Credit and the new American Opportunity Credit, which has replaced the Hope Credit for 2009 and 2010. In addition, distributions from a Section 529 Plan are tax-free. But their income is subject to tax, just like everyone else's.

Many students who work over the summer check the box "exempt" on their W-4's. If they had no taxable income last year and don't expect to have any this year, that's OK. But let's say a student earned more than $5,450 in 2008 or $5,700 in 2009. And let's say she is claimed as a dependent on her parents' return. She will owe tax and penalties if she owes more than $1,000 or actually fails to file. Don't get caught in this trap.

Myth 2: My child is working, so I can't claim him as my dependent

Again, pure myth. As long as you provide more than half that child's support (and meet other qualifications such as citizenship and relationship), the child qualifies as your dependent, and you can deduct, for example, all the medical costs you paid for that child.

Remember, support is what's spent, not what's earned. So, let's say your child makes millions as a teenage fashion model. If she banks all the cash and you actually shell out the dough to support her profession, you've provided 100% of that child's support.

Video: The most common tax mistakes

You can also qualify for a personal exemption for that child if the child doesn't earn more than the value of that exemption -- $3,650 for 2009. This income test doesn't apply to whether the child qualifies as your dependent, nor does it apply if the child is under age 19 or is a full-time student under age 24.

A child qualifies as a full-time student if, during each of any five months of the calendar year, he or she (a) is in full-time attendance at an educational institution or (b) is taking a full-time course of instructional or farm training.

Continued: Selling homes tax-free

Myth 3: I'm over age 55, so I can sell my house tax-free

Wrong again, graybeard! You're thinking old law.

It used to be that if you were older than 55, you could exclude as much as $125,000 in gains from taxes, but only once. Now the rules are even better.

Under current law, age no longer matters. If the property sold was your principal residence for at least two out of the last five years, you can exclude from tax as much as $250,000 in gain (and $500,000 in gain on a joint return).

Your age is irrelevant, and you can take the gain exclusion every two years if you qualify. By the same token, if your property appreciates by $250,000 to $500,000 every two years, give me a call. I could use your help in finding a new house.

Myth 4: I can deduct my sales taxes

This is a funny one. You haven't been able to deduct any sales taxes for purchases made for personal use since 1986.

But the deduction has made a comeback of sorts. Starting in 2004 and renewed through 2009, you can deduct your sales taxes from your federal income taxes or your state income taxes, but not both. If you live in one of seven states -- Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming -- you just got a nice deduction. You don't pay income taxes in those states. Don't get too chummy with this break if you live in one of those states, though. Congress will be asked to renew it before the end of this year. It probably will be renewed, but that action could get hung up in political fights.

Now, what about sales taxes paid on purchases made in the course of business? Easy. If you pay sales tax on an item bought for business and if the item itself would be allowed as a business deduction, then the sales tax on that item would be allowed as well -- no matter what.

Myth 5: I'm married, so I have to file a joint return

Again, not true. If you're married, you can always file "Married Filing Separately." That normally results in you having to pay more in taxes. But in some situations, it can be to your advantage.

For example, if one spouse has substantial medical or miscellaneous deductions, those deductions are subject to the 7.5% and 2% floors, respectively. That is, only medical expenses over 7.5% of adjusted gross income and miscellaneous deductions over 2% of adjusted gross income are deductible. If I had $10,000 in income and my spouse had $90,000 in income, the first $7,500 in medical expenses and the first $2,000 in miscellaneous expenses aren't allowed.

But if I filed as "Married Filing Separately," the disallowance would only apply to the first $750 in medical expenses and the first $200 in miscellaneous itemized expenses. The potential availability of $8,550 ($7,500 plus $2,000, less the sum of $750 and $200) in additional deductions could offset the bracket and other limitations of filing separately.

Video: The most common tax mistakes

Try it both ways, and see which gives you the lower total tax. You can change your filing status annually.

I should add a caveat on this filing myth. If you're married, you normally can't file as single or head of household. Let's say, though, that you're married but separated, and you have a child. There's a special rule that will let you file as a head of household.

You can qualify as an "abandoned spouse" if your spouse didn't live with you for the last six months of the year and you have a child living with you who qualifies as your dependent. If so, you can file as head of household rather than jointly or married filing separately.

Run the numbers and see which produces the lowest tax bill.

Our tax code is complicated and changes with painful regularity. Many of the old rules are poorly remembered and distorted into myths. Don't get caught in the trap of using the wrong rules. That can cost you big!

Updated Dec. 3, 2009


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