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Solo Living Archives e

Some of these features for solos are seasonal, and some may be a bit out-dated by the time you read them. But most offer insight and for solo living that are timeless and useful -- and worth rechecking!

Scroll down to read all, or click on ... Fear of Filing? Tax Tips! ... (2007:) No Valentine? 10 Tips ... Five Mortgages to Avoid ... He/She Dating Advice ...... 6 Ideas to Beat Flu ... Dealing with Loss at Holidays ... The Truth About Resolutions; (2006:) ... Creative Gifts ... Fewer (Merry) Widows ... 7 Unwritten Rules for Professional Women ... Breast Cancer Life-Lessons ... The Web: A Sub for Friends? ... Male View of Romance ... Better Sleep ... Coping with Mid-Life Crisis

(To see CURRENT Solo Living entries, please click here for Features

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Fear of Filing? All the Tax Advice You Singles Need!

by Kay Bell

1. Afraid I can't do my taxes myself
This fear, unfortunately, is too often justified. And it gets more true every tax season as federal lawmakers add provisions and pages year after year. The tax law publisher CCH Inc. notes that the 1913 tax code took up 400 pages in its "Standard Federal Tax Reporter." By 2007, CCH filled more than 67,000 pages of that document with tax law intricacies.

"The law is very complicated and filling out the returns is somewhat mind-boggling," says Robert Simon, partner at Eisner & Lubin in New York. "The media keeps telling everyone how difficult it is and people just get panicky. They sit down and start (the filing process) with all this in the back of their minds. I can understand why people would be afraid to do it."

Such fear, says Simon, is nothing to be embarrassed about.

"If you ask congressmen who actually wrote the laws, many don't do their own returns," he says. "They're writing policy, not looking at it from an accounting point of view."

The way our tax system works also adds to this fear.

"Many people aren't good with numbers, then once a year they wind up trying to deal with numbers," says Simon. "Any other time you spend money, before you walk out you have someone there telling you what you owe. But when you're doing your taxes, you're doing it yourself. You're telling the government what you owe them."

The remedy: Don't be afraid to ask for help. You have lots of preparer options, from a personal accountant who can fill out your return and help you plan throughout the year to franchise operations that gear up between Jan. 1 and mid-April. If your tax situation is not overly complicated, computer software might be enough to help you file with a bit more confidence. Take a look at your tax needs, then find the tax assistance that best meets them.

2. Afraid I'll overlook a tax break
Even folks who are brave enough to tackle their taxes on their own often face this fear. Again, it's not an unreasonable one. And once again, those folks in Washington, D.C., feed this fear.

Take, for example, the alternative minimum tax, or AMT. This parallel tax system can be quite costly for millions of filers, but rather than make a permanent change to the law, for the last several years Congress has opted instead for a temporary "patch." Even worse, the 2007 law change was enacted so late, it will cause a lot of grief not just for us filers, but also for the Internal Revenue Service. The slow lawmaking process has forced the 2008 filing season to be delayed until mid-February for up to 13.5 million taxpayers.

The remedy: Accept that tax filing is going to take some homework. Before you start your return, check out the countless publications -- including Bankrate's Tax Guide, of course  -- so you'll know exactly where this year's taxes might trip you up. Again, you also can turn to software or a tax pro for help in claiming all your possible tax breaks.

3. Afraid I'll make a mistake that will cost me money
This is a close relative of fear No. 2. But here, the fear is not of omission, but commission.

This includes things as simple as filing the wrong tax form. It happens. In trying to get through filing as quickly as possible, some folks opt for the easy, in this case, the 1040EZ, way out and end up cheating themselves.

Or they choose the incorrect filing status, such as single when they're eligible to file as the more tax-advantageous head of household. Those are just a couple of the many mistakes that filers make ever year.

The remedy: Slow down. No longer how long you wait to do your taxes, you still have time to do it right. Read the instructions. If you're using software, don't skip steps just to finish. Answer all your tax professional's questions. If he or she says to provide more information, then provide it. A little extra work and attention to detail could cut your tax bill or get you a bigger refund.

4. Afraid that my tax adviser is incompetent or a crook
You know you need help, but you're afraid that the person you turn to could be more of a hindrance. Unfortunately, sometimes this fear is well-founded.

The Government Accountability Office issued a report in April 2006 with the disturbing finding that in a limited study of commercial tax preparation chains in major metropolitan areas, all the returns completed in those offices were wrong to some degree.

Then in April 2007, the IRS alleged that some Jackson Hewitt franchises filed bogus returns for clients, cheating the federal government out of $70 million. The agency obtained court orders to shut down 125 branch offices in Detroit, Atlanta, Chicago and Raleigh, N.C.

Even big name, high-dollar help sometimes produces unexpected tax costs. Remember KPMG? A few years ago that global accounting and consulting firm acknowledged that some of its tax shelters didn't meet IRS standards and agreed to pay the government millions to settle the inquiry. Last month, the law firm Jenkens & Gilchrist announced it was closing its offices across the U.S. in the wake of a nonprosecution agreement it reached with the IRS about tax shelters it offered clients.

By the way, the taxpayers who participated in those companies' questionable shelters ended up owing additional taxes and penalties.

The remedy: Everybody makes mistakes, even tax professionals. The key is to make sure you don't end up paying for your tax preparer's mistakes.

Start with the hiring process. Investigate several potential preparers and thoroughly check out each before you hand over your personal tax documents.

Once you're a client, don't take every recommendation at face value. Ask questions and make sure you understand the answers. Most of all, remember the adage "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." There are some tell-tale signs that a tax shelter is in fact a tax scheme that could cost you dearly.

5. Afraid I'll get audited
If fear No. 4 comes true, then this is definitely one to be scared of. Audit fears, however, tend to be much greater than actual audit realities. True, there are some red flags, such as excessive medical or charitable deductions, that might catch an IRS examiner's eye. But overall, the risk of audit is small -- about 1 percent of individual returns were audited in 2006.

So don't let fear of IRS questions keep you from filing. And definitely don't let it stop you from claiming legitimate tax breaks.

"If you're really doing stupid things on your tax return, expect to get audited. Deservedly so," says Enrolled Agent Eva Rosenberg, who is based in Southern California and the Internet's Tax Mama at www.taxmama.com. "But if you're afraid to use a legitimate tax break because you're afraid you're going to be audited, stop it! Stand up for your rights. There's no reason to be afraid."

The remedy: Make sure you can show an IRS examiner why you filed as you did. This means keeping good records, especially if you're self-employed. People who work for themselves and file Schedule C with their returns tend to get scrutinized a bit more, so your business record keeping needs to be more precise.

6. Afraid to e-file because my personal info could be lost or stolen
Slightly more than half of us send in our returns electronically. But that leaves another 60 million, give or take a million, folks who still file the old-fashioned paper way. This fear is one of the contributors to that mind-set.

Yes, identity theft is a major issue. In fact, the IRS keeps careful track of e-mail phishing scams that falsely claim to be from the tax agency. And yes, hackers still manage to break into online financial data systems periodically.

The biggest problem the IRS has had in recent years, though, has been with such information left on laptop computers that were lost or stolen, not with someone compromising the government's online tax database. But that doesn't mean you should ignore Internet safety precautions.

The remedy: Any tax data transference requires two parties. Make sure the starting point of such a relay, your computer, is secure.

"You're one of the end points and the IRS server is the other," says Gary Morse, president of Razorpoint Security Technologies in New York. "Make sure that your personal machine is secure, that it doesn't have any viruses, Trojan horses or any other back-door access points that could be attacked."

This means installing a firewall and virus protection, either as software or a hardware barrier, and then updating it regularly.

Of course, says Morse, taxpayers still must trust the IRS to safely store our data, but at least e-filers can know they did their part in the security process.

As for data losses, almost every computer user knows the frustration of dealing with a crashed machine. Tim Margeson, general manager of CBL Data Recovery Technologies Inc., headquartered in Armonk, N.Y., points to an oft-repeated warning as the surest way to avoid this: Save and back up your files regularly. This is especially important for home computers, even beyond tax season, because of what Margeson calls "the unique issues -- children and pets and food" -- that the machines face.

You don't need any fancy software to back up your data, says Margeson. "You can just copy the files the same way you copy other material, send it from 'my docs' to a CD or USB drive."

"There's no reason that a computer or data loss should cause filing problems," says Margeson. "The IRS doesn't really accept that as an excuse for a late or no return."

7. Afraid to file because I can't pay
The only thing scarier than filing taxes is what could happen if you don't file. The IRS penalty for not filing is actually worse than if you file but don't pay your tax bill in full.

If you owe tax and don't file on time, the late-filing penalty is usually 4.5 percent of the tax owed for each month, or part of a month, that your return is late. However, if you file on time but just can't pay your tax bill then, you'll generally face a late-payment penalty of only one-half of 1 percent of the tax owed for each month, or part of a month, that the tax remains unpaid.

The total nonfiling and nonpayment penalties could reach a cumulative 25 percent maximum penalty. But if you file your forms on time and then make arrangements to pay, you can avoid taking that hardest tax penalty hit.

The remedy: File! And file on time. If you can't afford to pay your full tax bill, send Uncle Sam at least a down payment. Even sending in an extension request with a nominal payment is better than not filing at all. Then worry about coming up with the cash.

"Never don't file," says Rosenberg. "There's no reason to put yourself in that position. File the return and establish a plan to deal with the consequences of not having the money."

You have payment options. Use a credit card to meet your tax debt, then pay it off as quickly as possible. Go with the card that has the lowest interest rate or a zero-percent rate if possible. The IRS also has payment plans. Though these add interest charges to your tax bill, at least you can be assured that you're meeting your filing and payment obligations.

Face your tax fears early
By now, you should be a little less anxious about that impending return. And by taking a few steps now, you should be able to completely overcome most of these fears by the time your next return is due.

Look at what caused your heart to race and your palms to sweat this filing season. With those fears fresh in your mind, map out a strategy to overcome them, starting now.

"Trying to pull things together at the end of year when you're not organized during the year is not a good idea," says Simon. "You need to plan throughout the year, not in April."

That way, when next tax season rolls around, fear won't be a factor.

Freelance writer Kay Bell writes Bankrate's tax stories from her Austin, Texas, home. She also writes two tax blogs, Bankrate's Eye on the IRS, and Don't Mess With Taxes.

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No Valentine This Year? Ten Tips to Get Through

1) Instead of feeling badly about not receiving any gifts, become a giver. Make a list of people you love and surprise them with something thoughtful. Remember the phrase: "it's better to give than to receive." Give it a shot! Plan to hand-deliver as many gifts as you can so your day is busy and full of good feelings.  

2) Plan a night out with your single friends. Chances are you've still got one or two. "Remember that it's not odd or unusual in any way to be single on Valentine's Day," says Kristin Cavins, a mental health counselor with a Master's degree in Counseling Psychology. "Right now there are more singles in this country than ever; it's a great time to have a party or go out as a group."  

3) Gather up those old love notes that cause more pain than anything else and have a Valentine's Bonfire. You can do this in your fireplace, make a circle of large stones in your backyard or go somewhere neutral where it's safe to build a fire and light it up! Burn those letters one by one or toss them all in and watch the flames roar. Nothing warms a wounded heart more than destroying painful memories once-and-for-all.  

4) For those who are ready to move on and feel that Valentine's Day requires a date, find an appealing singles event in your area. Look on community websites or in the local paper to find advertised events or just ask around at the office, church, temple or any other place you frequent. Not one for singles events? Don't be afraid to browse online dating sites. "I'm a big fan of online dating for singles," says Cavins. "I think that's a wonderful way for people to dip their toes in the dating pool. It's good to post a profile and see what's out there.

5) Celebrate being single this year by doing an out-of-the-ordinary solo activity. Visit a psychic, get pampered at a spa (yes, even men can find great treatments), schedule a horseback-riding lesson, try a yoga class: anything unusual that excites you. "Choose an activity that you might not typically do," says Barb Nefer, a counselor with a doctorate in Psychology.  "Make it about self love vs. being reliant on an outside source."   

6) Don't feel like doing much? Allow yourself the luxury of driving through or ordering in from your favorite restaurant. Rent a movie, buy some magazines or curl up with a good book and just relax.   

7) If being alone on Valentine's Day is the last thing you want, host a small party or get-together at your place. "Staying isolated and singing the blues is never going to lead to recovery," says licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Vicki Carpel-Miller. "Being around other people, staying active and involved keeps the mind occupied in a positive direction." Make some cocktails and appetizers and invite as many non-couples as you can. Have a secret Valentine gift exchange or a grab bag filled with kinky party gifts, depending on the crowd.  

8) Go the extra mile this year: plan a trip to visit a friend or relative. Take a short drive or flight and spend the holiday with someone you love. Or, if you're feeling adventurous, plan a trip to somewhere you've never been and always wanted to see. Ask a friend to join you or meet you there and have fun exploring a new place.  

9) For those who like the culinary arts, Valentine's Day is an excellent excuse to cook a gourmet dinner. Make yourself a favorite meal or experiment with a new recipe. If you drink, open a bottle of good wine and enjoy the process of cooking for yourself. Invite someone over if you want to share, or cook just enough for yourself this Valentine's Day. Turn up the music while you cook and relish being the master of your own domain!  

10) Don't feel like celebrating Valentine's Day at all? Then don't!  Maybe you've never liked Valentine's Day, or maybe this year you'd rather just ignore it. Whatever your reasons, give yourself a "get-out-of-Valentine's-Day-free" card. Go about your business as you would on any other day and don't sweat it. Pretend to be hard of hearing if anyone wishes you a happy Valentine's Day, and whatever you do, don't wear red! 

More info? divorce360.com

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Five Mortgages to Avoid

by Stacey L Bradford, Reporter, SmartMoney.com


Shopping around for a mortgage is nothing short of confusing, and when you're single and have to make all of your own decisions it can be particularly difficult.. Thanks to plenty of innovative products on the market, a consumer has more than 50 loans to choose from.

"While there is a mortgage out there for everyone, not every mortgage is right for every consumer," says Mark Lefanowicz, president of E-Loan, an online lending site. And now that the real estate market is softening, there's no guarantee that home prices will continue to appreciate -- at least not over the next few years. So buyers need to be particularly wary and not take on additional risk.

Here are five popular, yet risky, loans that the average consumer should avoid.

1. The Multiple-Choice Mortgage

Product: The Pay-Option Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM)
Why You Should Avoid It: Could end up owing more than you borrowed.

This is considered the riskiest mortgage around. The pay-option ARM offers borrowers a low initial interest rate and then allows them to choose one of four monthly payments. On the more conservative side, homeowners can opt to write a check for both the interest and principal on a fully amortized loan. On the other end of the spectrum, borrowers can make a payment that's so small it doesn't even cover all of the interest due on the mortgage.

While some advocates argue these mortgages are good for people with modest salaries but large bonuses -- think Wall Street -- many average home buyers are taking advantage of them, too. And that spells trouble. It's simply too tempting to make that minimum payment when families have others bills to pay off. The risk? In just a few months a homeowner could find he's "upside down" in his loan, warns E-Loans Lefanowicz. That means he owes more to the bank than he initially borrowed.

2. Cash-Out Financing

Product: The Pay-Option Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM)
Why You Should Avoid It: Could end up owing more than you borrowed.

This is considered the riskiest mortgage around. The pay-option ARM offers borrowers a low initial interest rate and then allows them to choose one of four monthly payments. On the more conservative side, homeowners can opt to write a check for both the interest and principal on a fully amortized loan. On the other end of the spectrum, borrowers can make a payment that's so small it doesn't even cover all of the interest due on the mortgage.

While some advocates argue these mortgages are good for people with modest salaries but large bonuses -- think Wall Street -- many average home buyers are taking advantage of them, too. And that spells trouble. It's simply too tempting to make that minimum payment when families have others bills to pay off. The risk? In just a few months a homeowner could find he's "upside down" in his loan, warns E-Loans Lefanowicz. That means he owes more to the bank than he initially borrowed.

3. Adjustable-Rate Mortgages (ARMs)

Product: One-Year and Three-Year Fixed-Rate ARMs
Why You Should Avoid Them:
Tough on budgets, since the monthly payments are variable in just one to three years.

Call this the high-risk, little-reward mortgage, at least in today's rising interest rate environment. Here's how they work: Borrowers lock in a slightly lower interest rate for the first one to three years. The product then readjusts every year in tandem with highly volatile short-term interest rates. Since 2004, the one-year ARM has increased two percentage points to 6% from around 4%. That means a homeowner with a $300,000 mortgage is now paying $4,400 more a year than when he first took out his loan.

A few years ago, these loans appealed to consumers who needed a little extra help making their monthly payments during the first few years of homeownership. But now, there is only a half a percentage point difference between the interest rate on the 30-year fixed and the one- and three-year ARM. While that discount might still appeal to some homeowners, the risk of that mortgage readjusting upward is too great to justify the minimal savings, says Keith Gumbinger, vice president of HSH Associates Financial Publishers. Better to lock in the interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate product and never think again about what the Federal Reserve will say at its next meeting. (Click here to compare payments on a fixed rate mortgage vs. an ARM.)

4. Interest-Only Payments

Product: Three-Year, Five-Year, Seven-Year and 10-Year Interest-Only Option on an ARM (commonly referred to as the Interest Only Mortgage)
Why You Should Avoid Them:
Monthly payments can quickly balloon.

Can't afford a home in today's pricy environment? A mortgage that gives you the option to pay just the interest on a mortgage offers consumers yet another way to slash their monthly payments. As the name implies, borrowers don't pay down any principal for the first three, five, seven or 10 years of their loan.

Now it's time to read the fine print. After the initial "interest only" portion expires, the monthly payments balloon to cover the remaining interest and all of the principal payments on that mortgage. Borrowers are also charged a slight premium on their interest rate, compared with fixed-rate ARMs, since people who take on these loans are more likely to go into default. Add it up and the new payment is likely to break the average family's budget, especially if they could only afford the interest portion to begin with, warns HSH's Gumbinger. At this point many borrowers will either have to spend a few thousand dollars to refinance or sell the house.

5. Fixed-Rate Loans

Product: 40-Year and 50-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgages
Why You Should Avoid Them:
Builds equity too slowly.

As the name implies, these long-term vehicles are mortgages that amortize over a period of 40 or 50 years. The selling point is that a homeowner could lower his monthly payments by stretching out the terms of the loans. But when you do the math the savings just aren't that significant. On a $300,000 mortgage, a borrower would reduce his monthly mortgage payment by roughly $80 with a 40-year vs. a traditional 30-year fixed rate mortgage.

What does a homeowner have to sacrifice for that minimal monthly savings? It will take significantly longer to build up any equity in a home compared with a 30-year mortgage, says Lefanowicz. Consumers will also pay a lot more in interest over the life of the loan since the interest rate is typically a quarter of a point higher than the more traditional alternative.

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New Dating Rules (from Both Viewpoints!)

Female View

Old Rule: The man always pays for the date.
New Rule: It's OK for women to pay sometimes.

The days of men taking care of all the dating bills are fading. Granted, this could be a little sad -- it's nice to enjoy a great evening and not have to shell out a dime. But we're new millennium daters! We can handle this.

Benefits to paying for the date: You choose the place, based on what you like and how much you want to spend. Without all the flash of his cash, you can concentrate on who the guy really is, not what he's giving you. And, there's no way he would expect you to pay and put out! Single women can't lose!

Old Rule: The man always asks the woman out.
New Rule: Take control of your dating life.


If we've got to pay for dates sometimes, we might as well start initiating them. Sure, the threat of rejection is a tough hurdle, but we have got to stop leaving our romantic future in the hands of men, chance or serendipity.

Think about it; if you're picking and choosing men, you'll have a much better chance of meeting someone who really piques your interest.

Old Rule: Don't call the day after a date; it's too soon.
New Rule: If you want to talk, call.


In the new dating world, it's never too soon to let someone know you're interested or excited about them. If you had a good time on a date, let the guy know it.

Old Rule: Give out your cell number instead of your home number.
New Rule: Give out your e-mail address.


Gone are the days that single women make ourselves accessible via cell phones to any and everybody who may be interested in us. Why use up those expensive minutes on somebody who may not be worth talking to?

E-mail gives you lots of options; you read when you're available, respond when you're ready, and at least this way, you know you're dating a man who can at least put a couple of sentences together.

Old Rule: No sex on the first date.
New Rule: Sex whenever you're ready.

Some of you solo women are no doubt cringing at the idea that sex on the first date could possibly be OK. Consider this: the electronic dating age brings people together via IM, e-mail and lengthy phone calls before they ever meet face-to-face. By the time they go out for the first time, they've already swapped bad date stories, sexual histories and HIV test results.

So don't worry that he won't respect you in the morning. Plenty of women have let their emotions run wild and ended up marrying the guy, for better or for worse. So, if the mood hits you ...

Old Rule: If you don't see stars after the first kiss, he's not the one.
New Rule: Real love doesn't play out like a movie script.

Stars, fireworks, chills, butterflies -- isn't it all so romantic? Of course it is; it's the stuff that makes good love stories great. But it doesn't always happen like that in real life.

What’s the next best thing? Relationships that build over time, generating feelings of trust, friendship, respect, which trump fireworks and butterflies any day.

Old Rule: Online dating is for losers.
New Rule: New millennium, new ways to date. Get with it.


OK, putting a letter in the mailbox used to be the only way to send mail, but I don't see you saying e-mail is for losers! Online dating is an option, just like e-mail, text messaging or IM to communicate. And we can still use the old blue box on the corner anytime we feel like it.

The point is, technology has made it easier for single women to do things; dating is one of them. You still have to do all the old-fashioned legwork it takes to build a solid relationship. Even if you had the time, would you go to a club or bar every night to pick up dates?

Old Rule: I have to be a "creature unlike any other" to get a boyfriend.
New Rule: Just be yourself.


Remember this the next time you are about to go on a date: the solo woman you are, right now, is just fine, so why try to be anybody different?

Pretending to be somebody that you're not won't work for long. At some point, the real you will show up, good or bad. So, if you're not a morning person or you never make up your bed, better to let those sides show. Besides, if you're busy pretending to be somebody you're not, you might not notice that the guy you're dating really isn't the one for you.

Male View

By Ron Geraci, Courtesy of Match.com's Happen magazine

I have been on more than 250 dates in the last six years. And, on behalf of my fellow single American male peers, I feel the need to air some things that I, and men everywhere, find complaint-worthy. Many are small things that drive men away, or drive us slightly nuts. But if single women would just take a few of these helpful suggestions into consideration, we could change the world. Or, at least, make a man here or there enjoy a date a smidgen more and consider settling down a whole lot sooner.

Love@AOL Personals

1. Do not insult my black leather couch. It's been around a lot longer than you. And I can clean it with Windex.

2. Don't tell me about the conspiracies and evil schemes of your coworkers. I don't know these people and I won't care about any of this drama unless it involves guns or sex.

3. Don't do the feign where, after dinner, you take your wallet halfway out of your purse when the bill comes, saying, "Oh ... wait a second, here ... wait ... Are you sure?" We know it's almost certainly an empty gesture. If you asked me out, you can make a push to go Dutch or to pick up drinks without risking this negative overtone.

4. If you're overweight, don't try to bring attention to it in some mitigating way, such as "I broke my foot last winter and have gained so much weight, I can't stand it." All a guy hears is, "I'm sure you find my extra weight unattractive, but I'm hoping you'll overlook it." Pretend you really believe that you're attractive. Every guy drooled for at least one enigmatic woman who was a good 20 or 30 pounds overweight, but had the personality and magnetism to make her weight a nonissue.

5. Don't pull the "I'm pissed off at you but I'm not going to tell you why" stunt. If I do something that incenses you, either dump me or speak up. Do not attempt to make me figure out why you're angry. This is the most annoying trait you can demonstrate in early courtship. I know you'll do it occasionally if we get serious, but if you do it in our early dating phase, that means you will do it constantly.

6. Don't tell me your timeline for getting sexual. Telling me, "I never sleep with guys until we've dated at least a month -- just my little rule," won't make me think you have especially high standards. It'll make me think you need artificial timelines because you don't trust your instincts. If I become a real jerk and push you into telling me when I'm going to get some, be direct and say, "I'd like to wait until we've dated longer."

7. Express open-minded interest in something I bring up that you have no interest in at all. I'm doing this for you constantly, so reciprocate just a little. Instead of saying, "I don't watch television, so I've never seen that show and don't know anything about it" try, "I've heard about that show but haven't seen it -- what's interesting about it?" See how easy?

8. If I talk on and on about myself, don't immediately assume I'm an egocentric conversation hogger who never shuts up. It might be because you're letting uncomfortable silence persist after responding economically to my questions. Say something interesting. If I don't let you finish your sentences, label me an ass and move on.

9. If we only had dinner, let me call you. If the date was an event in which I bought you some ticket or admission that cost $20 or more (a play, opera, concert, wine tasting, anything above a movie), call or e-mail me the next day with a brief second thank you (the first should have come at the end of the date, though it's omitted quite a bit). Do this whether you want to see the guy or not. It shows class.

10. Ask me one question. Just one question about me or my life. Don’t spend three hours responding to my questions, talking enthusiastically about your own life, or waiting to be entertained. Asking a question that indicates you have some interest in my life, and letting me answer it, will put you in the top three percent of great dates. And the more questions you ask, the greater your chances that any guy, die-hard bachelor or not, will fall hard and give up anything to be with you.

Ron Geraci is the author of 'The Bachelor Chronicles,' a memoir of his dating travails. More info: love@aol.

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Avoid Flu!

by Amy Lippman

As soon as I knew I was at risk for getting a cold or flu I took a few precautions I'd like to share with you:

1. Avoid sugar. This is probably the best thing you can do for your body since sugar lowers the strength of your immune system.  Remember, fruit juice is loaded with sugar.

2. Get rest. If you feel you might be getting sick, get to sleep extra early.  Take a sick day from work and don't do anything unless you absolutely must. This may mean taking a break from your exercise routine. We tend to be on the go all the time and think the more we do the better, but conserving energy will allow your immune system to do its job.

3. Eat your vegetables. Try to eat 3-5 servings (or more) of vegetables a day. Most vegetables (such as bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, lemons, leafy greens, asparagus, celery, etc.) are rich in vitamin C, which aids your immune system.

4. Create and use a "stay healthy" kit. Your kit might include vitamin C, zinc lozenges, alcohol-free echinacea and goldenseal, and grapefruit seed extract.  Choose high-quality products and follow the directions of your physician and those on the products.

5. Drink lots of water. Increase your water intake to 8-12 cups per day. Water will help flush out your system.

6. Get regular exercise. While you're feeling good, maintain a regular exercise routine. Exercise increases blood flow and circulation and will keep your body strong.

Do you have questions about how to avoid getting sick? Email your questions and comments to amy@wellnesshealthcoaching.com You can schedule a complimentary one-hour consultation.

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Dealing with Loss During Holidays

Are you living alone? "The holidays are painful if someone you love has recently died, or if you're going through a divorce, or even if your child has moved away," says Susan Apollon, author of Touched by the Extraordinary: An Intuitive Psychologist Shares Insights, Lessons, and True Stories of Spirit and Love to Transform and Heal the Soul.. "Special days remind us of our loss. Family is supposed to be together during the holidays, and when things aren't the way they're 'supposed' to be, of course it's distressing."

"But you can get through the holidays," she promises. "In fact, even if your grief is very fresh, you can create a space to celebrate in your own way."

Here are nine hints for making space in your grief for some holiday joy:

· Give yourself permission to cry. Apollon's mantra on dealing with grief is "face it, embrace it, and replace it." In other words, the only way to "get over" sadness is to experience it.

"If you need to cry, cry, even if you're at a party and have to leave the room," she says." You might even set aside an evening to get in touch with your grief. Fix the cocoa you used to drink with your mother or go through your photo albums. It's healthier to feel the sadness and loss than to detach yourself from it. It's right and normal to grieve; just don't make it the dominant part of who you are."

· It's okay to break tradition. It's okay to say no. You know your own limitations, says Apollon. If you simply can't face hosting your annual holiday feast, complete with dozens of relatives, don't try to soldier through it for the sake of your guests. People will understand. In fact, it's okay to leave town altogether.

"Some people find it helpful to get away completely, to somewhere that doesn't remind them of holidays past," she notes. "You might consider a tropical vacation, or you might take the time to visit a friend across the country. Doing something completely different can be a good coping mechanism, especially for that first tough year."

· Attach new meaning to the holidays. Holidays are difficult because they remind you that someone special to you—someone who should be there—is gone. In your mind, your daughter (or mother or husband or friend) is a part of a holiday. Without that person, family dinners and parties just don't have the same meaning. That's why Apollon suggests you find a new way to connect with the person you've lost.

"Buy the gifts that you would be giving to your lost loved one and donate them to a charity or volunteer in a hospital or soup kitchen. If you consciously guide yourself to attach a new meaning, one that still involves your lost loved one, you will find that you are able to create a new beginning for your holiday celebrations with that person."

· Honor your lost loved one in a way that feels comfortable. It's usually better to acknowledge your loss than to pretend that nothing has changed. You might light a special candle for your loved one, hang a tree ornament in his memory, or bring out a favorite photo. "Some clients actually set a place at the table for their missing family member. On the other hand, some people discover that the empty chair is more upsetting than comforting. Do what feels right to you."

· Invite your loved one to be part of your holiday. Apollon means this literally, not figuratively. She suggests that you talk with your lost loved one and share your feelings with him throughout the holidays.

· If you don't want to go all out, go small. You don't have to decorate lavishly or bake up your usual six dozen secret-family-recipe homemade cookies to celebrate the holidays.  Instead, put up a tiny tree and pop a pack of pre-made cookies in the oven. "Recognizing the holidays in some small way can be healing," says Apollon. "It's a way of accepting the fact that life goes on and of giving yourself permission to enjoy small pleasures.""

· If you can't find holiday joy, find some other kind. Maybe you're too depressed or too angry to celebrate holidays even in a tiny way. That's okay, says Apollon. But don't deprive yourself of all joy. Go to a movie. Meet a friend for coffee. Take a long nature hike with your beloved dog. "The law of attraction says that if you want positive experiences, you need to do something that feels good. Make it a priority to do something that brings pleasure, even if it's not holiday related."

· Be conscious of the moment. Practice being fully present in the now; it truly is where joy resides. "Every day of your life, every moment of your life, you can choose joy or not," Apollon reflects.  "Of course, no one feels joyful all the time, but when we learn to live in the present—to really pay attention to how food tastes or what a child's laugh sounds like or how the snowflakes look against the edge of the woods—we can savor moments of delight even in a time of grief."

· Realize that magic can happen at the holidays. They really are magic, she says. You knew this as a child but may have forgotten it. But spiritual occasions like holidays allow us to step outside the box we live in most of the time. "Paradoxical as it sounds, grief and holidays are a lot alike," she reflects. "They both help us detach from trivial things and focus on what's important, what's real. Open your mind and heart this year and see what happens. Maybe you'll feel a sense of connection with your loved one who passed on, or maybe you'll feel joy for the first time since your loss.

Remember, says Apollon, the holidays won't always be such a struggle. If you work through your grief instead of repressing it, you'll find joy again.

"The holidays will never be the same again," she says. " But life is change, by its very nature. Little by little you will form a new identity and learn to connect with your lost loved one in a different way. You'll form new memories and new traditions. Grieving well can lead to spiritual growth, which means that life itself can become richer and fuller after a profound loss. You'll never forget the person you lost, but you will find joy—even holiday joy—again."

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The Truth About New Year's Resolutions

It makes sense that I've been thinking about making resolutions recently, but I started to realize that it wasn't really because of the new year. I find that when I go on vacation or slow down that it gives me a chance to reflect on what's working and what's not working in my life. I start to ask myself, "What would I like to change or do differently?"

Making resolutions should not be about forcing yourself to do something you don't want to do. In fact, it should be quite the opposite. It should give you the opportunity to set an intention about how you will continue to make your life the best it can be.

Do you know the truth about new year’s resolutions? Most people make resolutions such as, “I will lose weight” or “I will take more time to relax.” These are fine goals to have, but they are very general and can feel overwhelming. When we feel overwhelmed what usually happens? We don’t know where to start and so we don’t take any action. Or, we think we have to do all or nothing and when we can’t seem to do it all we feel like a failure and give up. When I make resolutions, I don't really think of them necessarily as my BIG goals for the entire year, but as small things I want to focus on over the next couple of months that I expect will have a BIG impact on my wellbeing.

I’ll give you an example.
I have made two new year’s resolutions:
1) I will take a 10 minute walk in the middle of the weekdays.
2) I will take a 10 minute walk with my husband Steve 5 times each week.

Each of these resolutions relate to larger goals I have to get more movement, reduce stress, stay connected with Steve, and to ward off winter weight gain. The resolutions are specific and practical. They’re like baby steps. But now here’s the thing that I’ve found makes all the difference in the world. Once you have decided on one or two realistic and specific resolutions, share them with someone and write them down. Trust me, you will feel much more committed to your resolutions and you will have the support of the people you shared your new goals with.

Your assignment:
Take a few minutes, right now, to think about one or two things you would like to start doing today that will help you make your life the best it can be.

Remember to:
- Make them specific
- Make them realistic
- Have them relate to a larger goal
- Write them down
- Share them with at least one person in your life

Would you like help following-through with the resolutions that are floating around in your head?
Solo women: share your resolutions. Email me, Amy Lippman, at amy@wellnesshealthcoaching.com or contact me to schedule a complimentary one-hour nutrition and health consultation.

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Unusual, Creative Gifts          

No time in your busy single life to shop? A growing selection of original presents, for others --or you!

Drink!

Want to give an exceptional whisky as a gift? Highland Park single malt whisky was recently declared “The Best Spirit in the World” in F. Paul Pacult's Spirit Journal.

 “More than 200 years of distilling tradition, attention to detail and honesty has earned Highland Park its award-winning reputation,” said Russell Anderson, Highland Park distillery manager.  " It has balance, character and provenance and, in that, epitomizes all that is great about single malt Scotch whisky.”

Highland Park’s five keystones include:

  1. Hand-Turned Malt which adds to the deliciously succulent, balanced layers of aromatic character;
  2. Aromatic Peat which gives a delectably seductive, luxuriant floral smokiness to Highland Park, unlike any other single malt Scotch whisky;
  3. Cool Maturation which enhances the smooth character found in Highland Park;
  4. Sherry Oak Casks that contribute to the whisky’s distinctive richness and multi-dimensional complexity; and
  5. Cask Harmonization which ensures that consistency and balance are achieved.

Established in 1798 on Orkney, Highland Park is the most northerly Scotch whisky distillery in the world. With windswept moors, craggy outcrops and ancient religious sites, Orkney is a land full of mystery and rich in anecdote (and would be a fascinating trip, as another gift to yourself, or others).

Price range: Highland Park 12 Years Old -- $39; 15 Years Old -- $59.95; 18 Years Old --$79; 25 Years Old -- $230; 30 Years Old -- $349.95

For more information, please visit www.highlandpark.co.uk.

Sleep!

Now there is a better way to Travel ‘n Sleep. Neck pillows or U shape Horse Collar style travel pillows have been used for years in an attempt to sleep while traveling. They wrap around the neck to indirectly support the head through the neck, cheek and jaw. Some are inflatable and others are filled with various resilient materials. Travel ‘n Sleep is a unique Dual Pillow design that provides support on both sides of the head. At 1/3 the size of neck pillows it is guaranteed to prevent side-to-side head movement while sleeping or relaxing in any reclined chair, because it supports the head directly. And one size fits all. It consists of two independent inflatable pillows, connected to form a comfortable air cushioned cradle on both sides of the head, where it counts. The pillow can be used to relax or sleep in any high-back reclined chair on a Plane, Bus, Train, Cruise Ship, deck chair, lawn or beach chair: www.travelnsleep.com . Email: email@travelnsleep.com

Watch!

Equipped with an easy access slot-loading DVD player built into the base, the OPPO LT-201 is an ideal holiday gift for the woman who has everything.  Not only is the picture quality striking, but the display casing is eye-catching. The clutter-free design makes it a fit for any room and location.  Simply plug in the power cord and TV cable, pop in a DVD or tune to your favorite TV show.

Also, it can be used as a large picture frame to display memorable holiday moments captured by your digital camera through the external USB and flash memory card reader. The merging of the LCD TV and DVD player is all-inclusive with graceful touches like last channel recall, sleep timer, headphone jack and a unique cradle for the remote control.

“The OPPO LT-201 is ideal for anyone, but really satisfies the women out there because of the style and design; this isn’t your regular black box,” stated Megan Saulsbury, spokesperson for OPPO Digital.  “Rather than giving women things they may return, the combination player is something they will definitely like at first sight.  It is the quintessential home electronic that fits in with any décor.”

The LT-201 20-inch LCD TV and DVD player combination is a modish product encased in an upscale translucent frame, and is available from OPPO Digital and authorized resellers for $599.

Eat!

And now, for good things to eat! Love cassoulet but lack the days to prepare it? For foodies and Francophiles, Seattle's Cafe Campagne located in the historic Pike Place Market, offers this ultimate comfort food available for overnight shipping. Place the order and all that remains is baking and sprinkling the dish with breadcrumbs, provided in the simple instructions in the to-go packet. 

Grounded in centuries old tradition, cassoulet was thought to have been created during the Hundred Year's war (14th- 15th century). This signature dish of Café Campagne's chef Daisley Gordon combines many elements. From soaking the beans, roasting the pork, cooking the lamb, preparing the duck confit, and simmering the broth, to bringing the ingredients together; each facet imparts its seasoned richness, creating rounded flavors and comforting country peasant fare.

Call the cassoulet haute line (206) 728-2233 or via email at cassoulet@campagnerestaurant.com $19 per person plus shipping handling and tax where applicable. Available till March 30, 2007.

Slurp!

Taylor Shellfish Farms is pleased to offer the ultimate Holiday Oyster Package for half-shell oyster lovers. Five species of oysters in the shell—Olympia, Pacific, Virginica, Kumamoto, European Flat—just harvested from Taylor oyster beds in the legendary, nutrient-rich waters of South Puget Sound are shipped directly to your door for festive tasting, comparing and sharing with friends. Unprecedented tasting opportunity for oyster enthusiasts. Give as a gift or order for yourself! In France, oysters on the half shell and champagne are a necessity on New Year’s Eve.

HOLIDAY OYSTER PACKAGE #1

Two dozen oysters: 4 European flats, 4 Virginicas, 4 ex-small Pacifics, 6 Kumamotos, 6 Olympias. Oyster knife, shucking instructions, Oyster guide and Jon Rowley’s “Art of Eating an Oyster” included. $29 plus shipping.

HOLIDAY OYSTER PACKAGE #2

Four dozen oysters: 8 European flats, 8 Virginicas, 8 ex-small Pacifics, 12 Kumamotos, 12 Olympias. Oyster knife, shucking instructions, Oyster guide and Jon Rowley’s “Art of Eating an Oyster” included. $48 plus shipping.

SHUCKED PACIFIC OYSTER MEATS, plump, firm and sweet. (photo available)

Order by the pint or half gallon for holiday stuffing, oyster fry, scalloped oysters, oyster stew or gumbo. Different size meats available.

To order Holiday Oyster Packages or shucked oyster meats, visit www.taylorshellfish.com or call 360-432-3300.

Order by noon PST 12/20 for delivery by Friday, 12/22.*Order by noon PST 12/27 for delivery by New Year's Eve.*Visa, Master Card and American Express.*Some locations in Alaska and Hawaii require an extra day.

What to drink with oysters? Visit www.oysterwine.com.

Oyster Profiles :

Olympia Ostrea lurida: Native to the West Coast. Only as big as a fifty cent piece. Sweet, coppery flavor. Distinctive metallic finish. We like Olys taken cold, glistening and uncompromised, directly from their shells.

Kumamoto Crassostrea sikamea: Introduced to Washington from the Kumamoto prefecture in southern Japan in 1947. Small deep cup, sculptured, fluted shell, uniform size and shape with clean, sweet, nutty flavor.

Pacific Crassostrea gigas: First introduced from Japan to Samish Bay, WA in 1905. Nicely cupped 2.5 to 3.5 inch shell with pronounced flutes. Shell color varies from whitish-grey to greenish to brown to nearly black.  Flesh is white to chestnut with grey to bright black mantles. Fresh, clean, briny-sweet flavor.

European Flat Ostrea edulis: First introduced to the U.S. from Holland in 1949. The shallow, round, 3”-4” flat shell resembles a small plate. Meaty, crunchy texture with a complex sweet, mineral and fresh seaweed flavor. Its connoisseurs esteem the characteristic metallic aftertaste that cries out for a porter, stout or a cold crisp, clean-finishing white wine.

Eastern/Virginica Crassostrea virginica: Introduced to San Francisco Bay from the East Coast in 1869 and to Willapa Bay, WA in the 1890s. Attractive pear-shaped shell with a somewhat flat top shell and slightly concave bottom shell. The meat color is a beige-cream with a thin slightly black or brown-trimmed mantle. The flavor combines a clean, briny, smooth sweetness with a pronounced mineral finish.

Taylor Shellfish Farms is a fourth generation family-owned company producing Manila clams, Mediterranean mussels, geoduck, Olympia, Kumamoto, Pacific, European Flat and Virginica oysters for the half shell trade and shucked and frozen oysters for national and international markets.

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Fewer (Merry) Widows in 50 Years?

Men are catching up to women in life expectancy according to the National Center for Health Statistics. A recent article in The New York Times reports that the gap between men and women has shrunk to five years, the narrowest since 1946. If current trends continue, in 50 years men and women will live the same length of time.

Women have had the advantage in life expectancy since the late 19th century, when overall longevity started to climb. Today, women are more likely than men to be widowed -- 71 percent of people over the age of 85 are women, and the majority of them will have been married.

We single women have adapted. On our own we develop strong friendships to support ourselves in our older years, and force doctors to pay attention to our health concerns. We no longer have to cater to men, and travel companies now cater to our interests.

''Women don't need men as much as men need women,'' said John Gray, the therapist and author of, most famously, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. We know that!

If Men Live Longer How Would We be Better Off?

''Even given the limited capacity of men, having a surviving spouse is going to mean that women do not go as early to nursing homes when they have chronic illnesses,'' said Ronald D. Lee, an economist and the director of the Center on the Economics and Demography of Aging at the University of California, Berkeley.

And a shorter widowhood means women will be better off financially. Heidi Hartmann, a labor economist and the president of the Institute for Women's Policy Research, says, ''Men are generally happier when they're married. The women may not be happier, but at least they've got more money!"

Men, typically the higher wage earners, get bigger Social Security checks. And if the couple is living on his checks alone, she gets less when he dies. The surviving spouse's cost of living is about 80 percent what the couple's was, economists estimate, but the Social Security payments decline to about 65 percent.

Men are much more likely to have pensions, too, leaving women dependent on them, and two-thirds of men, Ms. Hartmann said, do not leave theirs to their wives. (That number used to be higher, she said, until wives were required to sign off on the deal.)

Will it Be Harder for Us if Men Live Longer?

Men have the expectation that women should take care of them. Particularly after retirement, when women are not used to having a partner around quite so much.

Recent studies have shown that among husbands and wives who both work, the woman still does the much larger share of the housework. As one Connecticut woman in her 70's was heard to retort recently when her husband asked if they were ready to move to an assisted-living facility, ''You've had assisted living for 40 years.''

Men Will Benefit!

Single men are four times as likely as single women to remarry after the death of a spouse, experts on aging say. (Men who divorce also remarry faster; within three years, compared with nine for women.) They're looking for love, Dr. Gray said, but they're also looking for lunch.

Single women lower their risk of death only slightly by marrying. Similarly, a man's risk of death increases sharply after the death of a spouse; a wife's does only negligibly.

''Women are very helpful for men,'' Professor Lee said. ''Men are not very helpful for women as spouses.''

A Secret: Women Often Do Better Alone

People have traditionally felt sorry for older widows, thinking they had so few prospects for remarrying. The truth is, they may not want to remarry.Women not only do fine despite a spouse's death, they may even do better. A solo man loses a social network, whereas a solo woman continues to make plans and see people.

We have often taken care of a frail husband, and marrying and doing it again aren't necessarily appealing.

Dr. Gray said a woman's sex drive increases as she ages, while a man's declines. (But then, Viagra may be upsetting that balance, putting men in retirement homes permanently on the prowl. On that count, at least, things may even out. And that may be true over all.)

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Seven Unwritten Rules for Professional Women

Especially important for singles

by Kate Lorenz

We've all heard the reports: Women earn 77 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earn. And women are a minority among the ranks of CEOs in today's companies. Is this merely a result of the "Old Boys Club" tightening its ranks or is there more to the story?

Over the past year, Amy Dorn Kopelan, executive director of COACHME, Inc., a nonprofit career coaching program for women, conducted interviews with human resources and training directors at dozens of Fortune 500 companies to find out why women, as a group, don't seem to advance in their careers at the same pace as men in similar positions.

"What I heard were the same comments again and again and they were consistent across all industries," Kopelan says. "It's not the core competencies of the job that women are lacking, but rather the subtle, unwritten rules it takes to further advance in their career."

It could be individual personality types, societal conditioning or lack of mentoring opportunities that keep women from exhibiting those characteristics most often recognized and rewarded by corporate America. But whatever the reason, Kopelan maintains that women need to understand what these qualities are and demonstrate them in the workplace to advance.

According to the hiring managers Kopelan spoke with, these actions hold the keys to women's successful career development and achievement:

1. Build Successful Relationships.
In a word -- network. It is crucial to understand the importance of developing and maintaining industry contacts you can rely on, whether it's for information about a specific project or the inside scoop on an open position. Attend seminars and professional meetings in your field. Besides learning some good information, these gatherings help you raise your visibility among your peers.

2. Exert Influence and Convert Others to Your Ideas.
Develop the confidence in yourself to get people to see and value your ideas. Knowledge is power. "Do your research," Kopelan advises. "Know what is happening in your industry." The more you know about a particular subject, the more comfortable and confident you will be discussing it and offering your opinions

3.Take Initiative.
If you are interested in a particular high-profile client at your office, find out how you can be a part of the project team. Or learn the specifics of a particular issue so you can be your office's "resident expert."

4. Manage Difficult Conversations.
Women often tend to shy away from confrontation. But if you learn how to diffuse an awkward situation, you will appear strong and levelheaded under pressure -- two good traits for potential senior managers.

5. Promote Yourself.
Only you really know everything you have achieved. Now just make sure the right people also know what you have accomplished.

6. Know How to Ask for What You Want.
This goes along with managing difficult conversations and promoting yourself. You shouldn't feel hesitant about asking for something you need or have earned.

7. Establish Work/Life Harmony.
This challenging area often gets the misnomer "work/life balance." Sometimes there just aren't enough hours in the day to balance these two important parts of your life equally. Instead, strive for a harmonious coexistence between the two.

What Kopelan found in talking to the Fortune 500 hiring managers is that these organizations want to see women advance and succeed, but until women understand the important role these unwritten rules play in business, "they're diminishing their chance at achievement," she warns.

Kate Lorenz is editor of CareerBuilder.com

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Joy and Sorrow:
Six Life Lessons Regarding Breast Cancer

For twenty years, October has been recognized as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness about the disease that will, according to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, strike 212,920 women in 2006. And for Ruth Haag, October is the time to reflect on the profound life lessons this dreaded disease can teach us.

"Almost everyone has a story about how breast cancer touches our lives," says the author of Hope All Is Well There. Love, Nancy: Letters from a Friend with Breast Cancer.. "There are many tragic stories, certainly, but there are also stories of hope, perseverance, and love that transcend illness and death. Women with breast cancer, especially women like my friend Nancy who faced her illness with such courage, have much to teach us all."

Haag's book is a compilation of her correspondence with Nancy Caplan, a dear friend who passed away from the disease in 2003. Its letters and e-mails chronicle her friend's experiences with breast cancer and her quest to find happiness and meaning in life after diagnosis.

In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month—and in memory of her dear friend—here are six life lessons that Haag gained from her friendship with Nancy during her fight with the disease:

Life Lesson #1: Laughter really is the best medicine. "Nancy always maintained her sense of humor," says Haag. "I think that is one of the things that comes across the most in her letters and e-mails, and some of the telephone conversations that I had with her. I remember one story she relayed in an e-mail, about an invitation she received to a brunch being hosted by a Bible study group. She wrote, 'I wasn't invited to the Bible study, just the brunch. They must think I'm a heathen.'"

Life Lesson #2: No matter what, keep living a full life. "After she was diagnosed with breast cancer, Nancy didn't lock herself in a room and hide away from the world for very long," says Haag. "She chose to live with breast cancer. And in our letters and e-mails, she was always telling me about something she was doing: trips to the beach and Europe, visiting family and friends, helping her husband with his business, redecorating the kitchen, and so forth. She greeted life's challenges with a lot of spirit."

Life Lesson #3: Family and friends are crucial. "Nancy's family and friends showed how prolific and powerful our connections with others can be," says Haag. The final letter in the book, written by her husband, Jason, reads, "I have never seen a tighter family unit than Nancy's parents and siblings...This has confirmed my faith in family. In addition to our family and friends, I have observed numerous acts of kindness from doctors, nurses, and other 'strangers' in our lives.  This has confirmed my faith in humanity." 

Life Lesson #4: Selflessness is key to a rich and happy life. "You'd think that a woman fighting breast cancer and juggling all kinds of other activities in her life wouldn't have time to help anyone else," says Haag. "Not true for Nancy. She never failed to ask me how my family was doing, or how things were going with my business. At one point, she even helped me resolve some shoulder pain I was having. These are small things that we should all do for each other, and Nancy worried about others to the end."

Life Lesson #5: Friendship matters. "All of these life lessons are part of one major point of life: the importance of friendship," says Haag. "My friendship with Nancy spanned eighteen years, and only in the first two years did we live in the same city. For the next sixteen years, we communicated weekly by letters. Nancy was a great friend, never failing to send me some of her kind words, even when she was extremely ill. I will never forget or stop cherishing the friendship I had with Nancy. I was reminded what a great friend she truly was when an early reviewer of my book commented to me, 'I wish I could have been Nancy's friend, too.' I hope, through this book, that everyone can learn a few lessons from my friend."

Life Lesson #6: Not all cancers are curable. "I didn't realize until I was doing research for the book, that Nancy's breast cancer was not the type that was curable," says Haag. "I remember telling her that she could 'fight' it, when she found the first lump. I knew that some people had a lumpectomy and radiation, and then never had a recurrence. I always thought that would be what would happen with Nancy. But Nancy, herself, began calling it 'living with cancer,' rather than curing it.  I admire the fact that she volunteered for treatment studies, when she could have just said, 'No, I don't want to go through any more.'"

"Almost everyone knows someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer," says Haag. "By sharing Nancy's letters and e-mails through this book, I hope that I can encourage women to educate themselves about the disease. But more important even than that, I want them to think about the larger lessons of life that we're all here to learn. I loved my friend Nancy and I miss her—and I consider it an honor to share her, and her wisdom, with people everywhere."

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Is the Web Becoming a Substitute for Friends?

According to a recent article in The New York Times, a recent study by sociologists at Duke and the University of Arizona found that most adults only have two people they can talk to about the most important subjects in their lives. And about one-quarter have no close confidants at all.

Like "Bowling Alone," the essay and, later, book by Robert D. Putnam, a public policy professor at Harvard, the Duke study suggests that weakening community connections is partly responsible for increasing social isolation. More people are working and commuting longer hours and have little time for the kinds of external social activities that could lead to deeper relationships.

The Internet has made it easier to maintain ties among family members who have become scattered. Those ties inevitably developed over long-term, face-to-face contact, but e-mail can help keep them strong. Contacting family by e-mail allows for sharing important things.

The Internet can help expand social networks, and is increasingly being used during life's "major moments" — to gather financial info, deciding where to relocate, or choosing a college for a child.

Sololady is one of many community Websites that strengthen and deepen relationships that we have offline, but e-mail or instant messaging is still no substitute for face-to-face contact.

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  A Male View of Romancing Women

What are the top five mistakes men make when trying to establish romantic contact with women? It's fun to hear them from the man's point of view. See if you agree with Matt Buschbacher, author of Date the Women of Your Dreams.

Using Pick-Up Lines: "I actually heard a guy walk up to a girl the other day and say, 'If you were a sandwich at McDonald's, you'd be a McGorgeous! I don't know where pick-up lines came from or if they actually worked at some point in time, but I can tell you that they don't work anymore. Most girls will laugh you away if you approach them using pick-up lines," says Buschbacher.

Always Letting the Woman Take the Lead: "Women hate it when guys don't take a stand. It sends shivers down my spine every time I overhear a conversation where the guy won't make a decision. 'Whatever you want to do,' is a horrifying phrase I hear far too often."

Talking about Guy Topics: "If you want to bore a woman to death, walk up to her and start talking about cars, sports, and college frat pranks. Talk about topics that are of interest to both of you - not just you."

Trying to Impress: "When a guy tries to impress a woman with money, clothes, and cars, it shows that he doesn't understand anything about women and that he's needy and materialistic. Women are much more interested in who you are than in what type of car you drive."

Looking for Approval: "Men seem to think that getting a woman's approval is going to make her attracted to him. The problem is that women won't respect you if you don't have your own ideas and beliefs, and they're not attracted to men who are constantly looking for approval."

Do you agree with Matt Buschbacher?
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 Dream Easy: Tips for Better Sleepmis
Being on our own, we especially need a good night's sleep! To help achieve that goal:

*Nap early, only about 30 minutes, or not at all.

* Bathe before bed. Candles and soft music help.

* Sleep, romance and read in bed—but not much else.

* Don't lie around in bed for long periods if you aren't sleeping.

* Moderate caffeine, and finish it early in the day.

* Relax. Don't clock watch. Eat and drink early, at least two hours prior to bed.

* Don't exercise too close to bedtime, but do exercise daily.

* Consider a new mattress—you do spend about a third of your life in bed! (A pillowtop mattress feels like sleeping in a cloud!)

* Ritualize bedtime—same hours of falling asleep and waking-up—even on weekends.

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                      Solo Mid-life Crisis -- Coping and Thriving!

climbingA recent issue of Time magazine discussed the idea of midlife crisis for women, which usually arrives between the ages of 40 and 60, but can hit us anytime. How can you tell it when you see it? A desire for Botox and a brow lift? Starting an affair with your dentist? Craving a lime-green VW convertible?

Divorce, disease, an empty nest, loss of a parent—these are all downsides of hitting that midlife time, when life seems to take a major turn. It may not be a crisis, but it certainly can be a late wake-up call.

Growth and Improvement

Some of us get frantic, needy, and neurotic. But women in general seem to approach midlife as a time to reexamine and regenerate complicated lives. We are more hopeful about the future than men, who tend to define themselves by power and prowess.

Making the most of midlife involves stepping back and living out long put-off dreams, confronting obstacles and turning them into opportunities, taking a much-needed breather. Maybe starting a long-desired business.

But what about midlife for solo women. If we are dependent on our own income, it isn't so easy to run off to Hawaii, or retire, or risk changing careers. We may not have the empty-nest syndrome, and probably have already learned to make the most of solitude. But we face this mid-life passage full force, both a plus and a minus, as it is with the rest of our lives.

We can regenerate gently, by rethinking what's important, and thinking of ourselves as well as others.

Friendships

As women on our own, we tend to especially value our friends. But as we hit the midlife years, and we are losing some, we need to seek to improve relationships with the ones we have. And really important, make new ones, younger as well! Friends are like gold.

Small pleasures

We may not be able to fly to France, but we can certainly indulge in a fine meal at a French restaurant. The cliché candles, music and bubble bath may not be a full spa experience, but it sure feels good, Try to include pampering pleasures in your life.

Adaptation

If we have no time to read, we can find ways to increase that time. Bring a book to bed, and read it to fall asleep, instead of going to bed with Jay Leno (sort of). On our own, we can leave the lights on without worry, and read. If we adapt, we continue to grow, and can make the most of any situation.

Balance

If we tend to work too much, we can build more play into our lives. If we spend too much time worrying about our families, we can portion some of that time thinking about ourselves. As solo women we tend to take on all problems. We need to balance that with down-time and relaxation.

Revitalizing and rejuvenating

Whether changing from gray to blond or switching careers --- midlife is time for a charge-up. If you're getting bored with something, try something new, whether major or minor. Even a small change, like learning Italian and going to Italy. You may have to sacrifice or be patient, but you can make appropriate changes, if you are determined to do them. No one will stop you! That's one of the pluses of living solo.

Helping others

Truth is, you gain by giving. As soloists, we especially can gain from the socializing involved with volunteering, or helping through a service-oriented career. Giving is one of the greatest gifts—to ourselves.

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Solo Traveler: Tales and Tips for Great Trips, 1st Edition (Special-Interest Titles)

 

 




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