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Things That Bug me
Every now and then I want to just vent on this blog.

And so today I shall vent about long pants.

A while ago I took a bunch of pants to the seamstress to have them hemmed. She pinned them up, and I looked down and thought she had done nothing. You see, I use the word "up" loosely. They weren't pinned up at all. They were still almost touching the ground.

And I asked, shouldn't those be higher? And she looked at me like I was from Mars. "Oh, no. You want them resting on the top of the toe, so that if you wear heels they elongate your leg." Of course they do. We wouldn't want to have stubby legs, after all.

Somehow, without me noticing it, over the last few years fashion has changed, so that pants are now supposed to represent a serious health hazard and a serious dirt hazard.

You see, pants hemmed that high may look great that way if you're wearing heels, but if you're not, they look ridiculous. And the bottoms get horrendously dirty outside, especially if you live in a slushy climate like mine.

To make it worse, when you come inside, if you take your shoes off altogether you're walking on your pants all day. I think this is a problem, but I seem to be the only one because everyone is still hemming their pants so long.

I think we need to start a reverse fashion trend and start hemming them up just an inch or two higher. It doesn't need to be drastic; it just needs to be high enough that we don't kill ourselves tripping. Is that so much to ask?

What do you think?

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Who Should Clean the Toilets?

As I speak at women's conferences and marriage retreats, it seems that one of the biggest problems that many women have is that they feel taken for granted. They do absolutely everything at home, and he barely picks up a mop.

So what should he do? That's a tough question, and one that doesn't have a ready answer. I think it varies depending on each family's situation. But in this week's podcast I try to put it into some perspective, and help us all figure it out!

And I also give us women a reality check, by asking what our attitudes and motivations are for serving at home!

Just listen here.

And if you want a great resource to go along with it, here are some free household organization charts you can use, including a chart to help decide who does what!

Hope you enjoy listening!

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Valuing the Least of These
Every Friday my syndicated column is printed in a number of newspapers. I couldn't post on Friday since I was on an airplane flying to a marriage conference, so this one's a little late! It's based on a blog post from last week about Obama's Special Olympics remark. Hope you like it!

I believe in free speech, so I don’t particularly like political correctness. I think people are far too scared to criticize some cultures because they may be labelled racist. But some cultures have bad elements, and if we ignore things like Islamic honor killings or Jamaican gang violence, we're doing a disservice to everyone, especially to the most vulnerable within those cultures.

Political correctness veils truth. It makes people watch what they say, even if it is the truth, so they don't offend. Truth takes a back seat to inoffensiveness.

Personally, I think truth should trump just about everything. But that doesn’t mean that I think offending people is fine. Saying racist things against natives just because they're natives is wrong. Saying that parts of the native community have an issue with child abuse is legitimate, if done in the proper context. Do you see the difference?

By the way, my sub-culture has issues, too, primarily around greed, laziness, and lack of commitment to our families. We've all got problems.

Some are saying right now that Obama's recent comment that he bowls as badly as the Special Olympics was stupid, but nothing to get upset about.
I don't agree. What he was saying had nothing to do with truth, and everything to do with offense. To cause offense for no reason except to boost your own ego isn't just stupid. It reflects a fundamental character flaw.

Maybe he was just making a joke and it fell flat. We all make stupid jokes sometimes. But I don't think I've ever joked about the Special Olympics.

Especially not since 1996. That year I learned that the baby I was carrying had Down Syndrome. When we first found out, while I was still pregnant, it seemed like everyone was pressuring us to abort, especially the doctors. But we didn't.
It wasn't that I was happy about the Down Syndrome. I was devastated. What if my son could never read? Would I have to care for him the rest of my life? Would he ever get married?

But after a few days of panic, we began to read more materials about Down's. And I became excited. I was going to be the best mom he could have!

I only had that chance for a month on this side of heaven. Christopher died far too early. The rest of my relationship with him will have to wait until we're reunited. But so many people plot against these little blessings. The doctors didn't want him to be born. Many of my friends didn't want him to be born. Keith's colleagues didn't want him to be born. And now Obama thinks he's the subject of a joke.

What are we becoming when we start making jokes about the weakest in our society? We're becoming cruel, heartless, and prideful. Did Obama intend to insult those with Down's? Of course not. Did he intend to insult those with other disabilities who compete in the Special Olympics? No, I don't think he did. But he made that comment anyway, without thinking. I would never do such a thing, anymore than I would make fun of Obama because he's black. Such things don't register with me, as I don't think they do with the majority of good-hearted folk.

But we live in a culture which denigrates the disabled without even thinking about it. When we realize what we’ve done, of course we apologize, but the point is that we don't realize it beforehand. If we truly valued the disabled, such slips wouldn't happen. Perhaps I'm taking this too personally because I still miss my son, but that's just the way I see it. Let’s start valuing people again for who they are, instead of using them as a springboard to make ourselves look better. Maybe then we’d have a society that truly does include everyone, whether they can bowl well or not.

Don't miss a Reality Check! Sign up to receive it free in your inbox every week here.

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I'm at a Marriage Conference!
Speaking at one, that is.

I'm in beautiful Kelowna, British Columbia, where my husband and I will be presenting seven talks this weekend. That's a lot!

Kelowna's a three hour time difference from home, but so far we're holding up okay. We're staying at a gorgeous resort. I think that's the best part of speaking; getting to travel and sample different hotels!

Tonight the two talks are on the Five Threats to Marriage. Keith and I are delivering the first one, and basically the two ones we're talking about are Unrealistic Expectations going into the marriage, and Difficult Adjustments once you're married.

And we all have unrealistic expectations, don't we? But the interesting thing about expectations is that we don't realize we have them. We think that's just the way the world works.

So naturally he will want to be affectionate all the time without expecting anything in return. Naturally once the kids come he will stop going out with friends and he will spend evenings playing with them. Naturally he will stop watching TV once we're married so we can take long walks together. Naturally he will do half the housework.

And then you get married, have kids, and he doesn't do any of these things that are "natural". And you think the problem is with him. But really you just came into the marriage with expectations he didn't share!

Chances are he has expectations about you, too. So how do you negotiate these things so that they're not problems anymore? How do you learn to love him and experience love from him, even if he doesn't act exactly the way you thought he should?

Well, here are some past posts that may help on that:

Speaking his Love Language
Made for Each Other
Wifey Wednesday: When he doesn't want what you do (just keep reading!)

Gotta run now and get my microphone set up! I'll post my column tomorrow; my main computer isn't hooked up right now so I can't get access to it.

Have a good weekend!

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Your Feel Good Story of The Day
Okay, so here's the setting:

An 11-year-old boy in Thailand is going to his first day of school. He's autistic, and he's never been to school before.

He gets there and feels overwhelmed and scared. So it goes out to a third floor balcony and starts dangling his legs over the edge. His mom and the teachers can't coax him back inside.

They call the fire department. One of the firemen who arrives is Somchai Yoosabai. He assesses the situation and sees that they're getting nowhere. But in the meantime, he overhears the mom talking to the boy about the comic books he likes.

So here's what happens:

Overhearing a conversation between the boy's mother and his teachers about his love for comics and superheros, Somchai rushed back to the fire station to change into a Spiderman costume before swinging into action.

"I told him Spiderman is here to save you. No monster will hurt you now," Somchai said. "Then I told him to walk slowly toward me. I was very nervous that he might have slipped if he got too excited and ran."

Somchai, who keeps costume of Spiderman and a Japanese superhero Ultraman to liven up fire drills at schools, said the teary-eyed boy broke into a smile and started walking into his arms.

Isn't that awesome? I can just see the picture in my mind.

But here's why I like the story. First, it shows an enormous amount of compassion on the part of everyone for a little autistic boy.

Second, the firefighter went above and beyond. Nowhere in his training did they tell him he should wear superhero costumes to connect with autistic children, I'm pretty sure. But he assessed the situation and went above and beyond. He thought outside the box.

No one would have blamed him if he had just stood there, hopeless and helpless like everyone else. But he didn't. He thought hard, figured on a potential solution, and acted on it. He took initiative.

Isn't that what we all need? People to take initiative and do what's right? I think that's awesome.

By the way, it also shows how much kids yearn simply to be at home. But that's another story!

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Let's Bring "Judgment" Back!
In Pride & Prejudice, Elizabeth says, "The more I see of the world, the more dissatisfied I am with it."

That's how I'm feeling right now. There's a lot going on in my personal life that I'm dissatisfied with, though not with my immediate family. I have friends who are separating, and it is completely avoidable if one of the partners would stop being in denial about sin. But that's not in vogue to say anymore. "Many people suffer from this problem," is instead the line that is used. And in the meantime the family falls apart.

And now I read several statistics that say that in Britain, the out of wedlock birthrate is now over 50%. In the U.S. it's at about 40%. Something is desperately wrong.

Over at Contentions, the blog for Commentary magazine, they're discussing this problem. While referencing a British article portraying a single mother, they say this:

But as painful as these stories are, they are not quite tragic. Tragedy requires its protagonist to have no real choice in the matter: Othello had to be Othello. But the Guardian’s victims did have choices. In this case, Louise left school at the age of 18 with “only a handful of Es, Fs and Gs at GCSE.” In the British system, those are bad grades. She left school because she got pregnant, though she claims this wasn’t irresponsible because the man she was dating at the time had a job. He left her and she says she never wants a man in her life again, though the relationship didn’t end fast enough to prevent another child — a son — from arriving three years later. Now she is 24 years old, with two children, no skills, no money, with no eligible man ever likely to materialize, and she barely scrapes by on a multitude of welfare payments. She’s nonjudgmental about the women she knows who sell drugs or steal to support their children.

Of course, there is a tragic element. Louise’s own mother was single and — according to her — entirely uneducated. The tenement she lives in, though just like thousands of others across Britain, is vile, and the schools are dreadful, because no good teacher wants to work in an environment where most of the homes are broken and neither the children nor the parent — usually only one — place any value on education. In a phrase that, more than any other, sums up Britain’s poor, Louise “take[s] life as it comes.” Since her life is a sad testimony to the fact that, until her already meager income and circumstances were drastically reduced, she never planned ahead, she is probably right.

Now she is genuinely stuck, and her children will turn out like her, unless they are very lucky. No amount of government funding can remedy this, because what are lacking are moral and educational, not financial, resources. She would have been far, far better off in a traditional two-parent family, with a strong and rigorous school system, going to church, and being surrounded by a culture that taught her a duty to herself and society and taught her to improve herself and to provide for her own needs, that dependency was a sin, that failing to plan ahead was a form of dependency, and that she should have children only after marriage and only when she and her husband had the financial wherewithal to raise them in reasonable surroundings.

What is so hard about that? What is wrong about it? Why is it cruel? Is it not in every way a more fulfilling, happier, self-directed, and liberal mode of life than the one she chose — and, of course, had chosen for her by the last 40 years of liberalism, under which the nonjudgmentalism was elevated into a religion and the breakdown of the family proceeded apace? (emphasis mine)

Isn't that the point? The problem with illegitimacy, the problem with family breakdown, and the problem with most things in general today is that we have failed to call them what they are: sin. We live in a non-judgmental society, where everybody is fine to do whatever they want.

But in that environment, people are going to make not just poor choices, but wrong, bad, and even evil choices. I believe it is evil to have an affair and abandon your wife and young children. I believe it is evil to repeatedly sleep with men you have no intention of marrying, wind up pregnant, and raise those kids in a dangerous tenement. And then to keep having more children! I believe it is evil for men to sleep with women not caring about the consequences. (This doesn't mean that these people are evil, or that there is no forgiveness or redemption available. There definitely is. But these things are not neutral).

Yet instead of labelling it for what it is, we pour money in to these communities, as if money will help. It won't. If you add up all the money that the United States has spent on the poor since 1970, we wouldn't have any poor. P.J. O'Rourke is famous or saying that, but basically if you take it on a per capita basis, it's more than a middle-class income. But it isn't lifting people out of poverty because poverty today is a cultural issue far more than it is a monetary one. If you are poor but you have motivation and morals, you can rise above it, and you can raise great kids nonetheless. But if you are poor and have a fatalistic attitude, and believe none of this is your fault, you're stuck and so are your kids.

Money is not the answer. Culture is. And the culture will only change by two things: a backlash when things get so bad that your average joe can't take it anymore; and a resurgence of religion. The latter will only happen if we start figuring out how to engage people in a more meaningful way. We need to start spreading the good news. But the good news is not only that Jesus loves you; it's also that there is a moral code.

I heard a sermon once about the Blessings and Curses in Deuteronomy, and basically what the pastor said was that the blessing is not just in what comes after obedience; the blessing is in the commandment itself. In other words, having a commandment to wait until you're married to have sex; having a commandment to stay faithful; having a commandment to not lie or steal; all of these things are blessings. They help us order our lives. And it is in this ordering that there is blessing, even before the consequences come.

It is wonderful to know how to raise our kids, and we avoid so much heartache when we do it right. Somehow we need to communicate that again. It is FUN to be married. It is a BLESSING to have kids as part of a marriage relationship. We are not prudes by waiting to make love until we are married. We can be free with our spouse, because there is no baggage.

We need to tell people this. We need to bring back the idea that some things are right, and some things are wrong, and the things that are right are actually more fun and fulfilling.

I wonder if anybody will buy it? Without the Holy Spirit, I highly doubt it.

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Wifey Wednesday: Don't Hide Your Gifts Under a Bushel!

Last Friday I was on 100 Huntley Street, a Christian television program that airs across Canada and in parts of the U.S. Here's a picture from that show. I'm the one in the fuchsia blouse:

Anyway, we were talking about "Gender or Giftedness"? The question was, "what should determine what gifts women exercise: their gender or their giftedness?" That's a loaded question. We didn't really get into roles in ministry so much as this idea that the division between men and women is really a result of the fall. And God equips women to do amazing things. Wherever we're planted, whether it's in our families, or in the workplace, or in the church, we need to exercise the gifts that God has given us. That may look different in different denominations, but God wants to use women.

That got me thinking quite a bit about marriage, and that's what I want to talk about today: how gifts interact with marriage.

A few years ago I was leading a women's Bible study where we were working our way through the book of Acts. We were looking at some of the women who were amazing teachers and leaders. And many of the women in my study said something along these lines, "I'd love to do more in my family. I'd love to have devotions after dinner, and memorize verses together, and serve together, but my husband won't take the initiative. So it doesn't get done."

Now, for those of you who aren't Christian, bear with me for a moment, because I think what I'm going to say relates to all of us. But the point I want to make here is that many times we women use our husbands lack of interest as an excuse not to do important things in the family.

My husband and I are both gifted teachers, but I'm better with smaller children than he is. To say that he has to be the one to tell stories about God--or anything--to the children would be silly. Most women are more effective prayer warriors than their husbands, according to surveys. To say that we can't pray for our families out loud unless our husbands lead it only hurts the family.

I know some may disagree with me, but I truly don't think this is a matter of roles. God has called us to raise godly families. If our husbands are not helping in that endeavour, that does not get you off the hook. You have a brain. You have a mouth. You need to use them!

And this doesn't only apply to spiritual matters. Let's say that you want to get the kids to stop watching so much television, but your husband doesn't really care. Or let's say that you want to get the kids exercising more, but he's not interested. Does that mean that you let the kids continue to be couch potatoes, even though you know that's bad for them?

There is a balance, of course. If you take over all parenting responsibilities, leaving him with nothing, it's easy to shut him out. You certainly don't want to do that. You always want to leave room for him to join you. But don't abandon the project altogether simply because he's not on board. If it's important to do, it's important to do.

So let's look at some strategies together.

If you want to read Scripture with the kids, and he couldn't care less, then can you do it when he's not home? Can you carve out time right after the kids come home from school, or after breakfast before they go to school? Can you do memory verses in the morning? I know people say the best time is at the dinner table, but you also want the dinner time to be for your husband, too. So try to get creative!

The other thought is that many men don't want to "do devotions" after dinner because it seems boring and they don't know how to lead it. I mean, what does "do devotions" mean, anyway? But there are some wonderful books and internet resources on family devotions. If you pick something like that up, and if it includes games and quizzes and even jokes you can read together, he may see that it's not a big deal. Get the book out in the middle of dinner and suggest you read it together. Start with a particularly fun one. And then suggest that you all take turns, so that your husband has his turn, too.

And what about the television issue, or the exercise issue? Again, many men aren't on board because television is what they do after dinner. Why take that away? But isn't that the point? Nobody wants something TAKEN AWAY. It's much better to ADD. So if your husband wants to watch TV, and your kids want to play on the computer, and you want them to play outside, then instead of saying "shut off the TV", how about buying some second hand bikes and suggesting everyone go for a bike ride? Or buying a soccer ball and suggesting everyone head to a local park?

You can take the initiative without setting down rules that your husband has to follow. You can change the family dynamic without turning it into a big production. Just do it. Don't hide behind your husband, saying, "well, since he doesn't want to do it, I can't". That's not true. If it's important, it's important. Use your brain power to figure out how to make the changes you want to see in your family as fun as possible for all concerned. And you just may find that they start to get on board--even your husband!

Now, do you have any marriage advice you want to share? It can be about anything, but if you have any suggestions about how to get your husband on board to important family changes, I'd especially like to hear that! Just go to your own blog and write a Wifey Wednesday blog post! You can copy the picture at the top of this post and use it, too. Then come back here and enter your URL. Looking foward to reading it!

I talk a lot about this issue of creating the right environment in our families in To Love, Honor and Vacuum: When you feel more like a maid than a wife and a mother. Find out more about that book here.

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Works for Me Wednesday: Getting Active as a Family

Spring is here, and with it comes the chance to stop this yearly hibernation and actually get some exercise and some vitamin D!

But there's a problem. How do you get exercise with toddlers in tow? I mean, they have really short legs. Really short. So jogging doesn't work. Even walking is difficult, because you walk so slowly for them to catch up. Biking may work, but they're so slow on their tricycles or with training wheels that it's not much fun for you. So what do you do?

When kids are little is a bit of a struggle. But with some creativity, you can find ways to get outside and be active!

Let's take the biking thing. I think biking is one of the best forms of exercise you can get, and you can bring kids along! When our children were young, we used a bicycle trailer that looked like this:

Now, that can get a little pricey. But you can often find them second hand. We still have ours today. I just use it for groceries in the spring! The girls and I bike to the store and we carry the groceries home in that. Now that's exercise!

But when the girls were little, I would load them both up in the bike trailer and we would go places. I was in the best shape of my life in those days. Often I would bike to a park where they could then get out and play and I could rest before having to take them home again!

When they get to be about five, you can add the wheel extension onto your bike, so that they bike on your bike, but on a different wheel. They have their own handlebars and pedals, but it's a lot easier on you. It takes a while to get the balance, but it works!

And of course, there's the baby accessory that you can add. We never did this one; I was always afraid of what would happen to the baby if I fell over. But it works well for many!

You can often get really good deals on any of these accessories second hand, too!

When children are still in the 3-5 range, another idea is to let them bike while you walk. To bike at the same time as them is often frustrating because you're going so slowly. But they can bike to a park, and you get some exercise walking with them!

We've always been the type that takes walks as a family, so that's been our exercise. And we've done big hikes since the time the kids were little. If you stop frequently and have snacks, they tend to go right along without getting too tired. Kids really do have abundant energy.

Soccer is another great way to start some exercise. It gets all of you running, and it's fun. To make it more interesting for the adults, try it with two balls. Kids have a harder time getting to the ball and kicking it, so you and your husband can keep one ball going between the two of you while you also try to get the ball going with the kids. That makes it more of a workout for you, while the kids still have fun!

What about you? What do you do to get exercise when you have little kids? I'd love to hear it!

Thanks for stopping by! Why not stay and look around a while? I've got great posts on marriage and parenting and fun!

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Podcast: Parenting with the Long Term in Mind
As a parent, it's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day stresses. You just want the house clean, the kids to behave, and maybe some peace and quiet. And you'll do what you need to to accomplish that.

But that's not always the best thing for our kids. As a parent, we need to remember that the goal is to raise independent, godly, responsible children--not to just make them act right on the outside. It's the inside that counts.

Today's podcast relates a story of a mom who kept that in mind--and encourages us to do the same thing! You can listen in here.

And don't forget to subscribe! I post a new podcast every Tuesday, and they're short and easy to listen to. And fun! Just go to my podcast page and click on the links to the right to subscribe.

I haven't put up a podcast in a few weeks because my podcast host crashed. Boy, was that a pain. And then they lost all the archives. That was an even worse pain. I've been working through reloading all my old podcasts, so that they're still there to listen to!

And I've been reviewing some of them. Here's a couple of other podcasts that you may enjoy:

How to Move Your Marriage from Fizzle to Sizzle
How to Change Your Marriage when you Feel Stuck
When Passive Won't Cut It--Stopping the Initiation Wars in the Bedroom

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Menu Plan Monday: Back in Shape!

Every few weeks I say this, but I really am going to start exercising again.


After my bout with the Plague recently that lasted 3 1/2 weeks, I completely stopped exercising. And then last week, even though I was technically better, I didn't have the energy. This week I do!

So that means going to the Y, which means that I have to have dinner ready ahead of time. That's why I'm focusing on my crockpot again this week. If you don't have one yet, you really need to get one. They're not that expensive, and the food is delicious! Plus, you can cook when you have time to cook, since many of us don't have time at 5:00 p.m.

Here goes:

Monday: Crockpot Ham Casserole
I made a big ham last week and I have some leftovers, so I'm making this!

Tuesday: Crockpot Lemony Chicken Thighs
One of my daughters will actually eat lemons--raw--so I thought I'd try this recipe that uses frozen lemonade in the crockpot. It sounds good! I have a problem in crockpots that I always seem to overcook my chicken, so I may not cook this for quite as long as it says. (Don't worry; I'll still test to make sure it's done). But I'm looking forward to it!

Wednesday: Round Steak in a Creamy Sauce
I love beef in the crockpot! So here's an easy one I'm doing with round steak. I have a bunch of it in the freezer, since we bought half a cow last year, so I'm looking forward to using this up. I don't necessarily use the Cream soup that it calls for; I just use whatever's in my cupboard. And I always buy the lower-fat creamed soups. I just can't use the full fat version.

Thursday: Spaghetti.
But my daughter's cooking on Thursday, so I don't have to worry about it!

This weekend I'm speaking at a marriage conference, so the other meals I don't need to worry about. But I figure that with all those crockpot recipes, I should be able to get to the Y three times, or at least twice. Let's see if I actually do it!

Thanks for stopping by! I have lots of other posts up about parenting, grief, marriage, and more! Why not stay and look around a bit?

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The Least of These: On the Special Olympics Flap
I wasn't sure whether or not to post on this, but I have some thoughts on Obama's Special Olympics gaffe, and I'd like to get them out.

First, a disclaimer. I completely believe in free speech. I am completely against political correctness. I don't think we should all second guess ourselves and watch what we say for fear of offending someone. For instance, I think people are far too scared to criticize some cultures because they may be labelled racist. But some cultures are bad, if not downright evil in some respects, and if we ignore things like Islamic honor killings or child marriage, we're doing a disservice to everyone.

But the reason that I dislike political correctness is that it distorts truth. It makes people watch what they say--EVEN IF IT IS THE TRUTH--so they don't offend. The key here is to avoid offense, not to speak the truth.

I'm in favour of truth, regardless of whether it causes offense (though, of course, we should also be tactful).

But that doesn't mean I'm in favour of causing offense if there's no truth behind it. Saying racist things against African Americans just because they're African Americans is wrong and should never be done. Saying that the African American community has an issue with illegitimacy should be done, in the proper context. Do you see the difference?

By the way, I think my culture has issues, too, primarily around lack of compassion, lack of fortitude in speaking up against moral relativism, and lack of commitment to our families. So we've all got problems.

Some are saying right now that Obama's comment that he bowls as badly as the Special Olympics was stupid, but nothing to get upset about. We should just leave it.

I don't agree. Though I'm not politically correct, I hope I don't go around gratuitously taking slaps at people just to make myself look better. And what he was saying had nothing to do with truth, and everything to do with offense. To cause offense for no reason except to boost your own ego isn't just stupid. It reflects a fundamental character flaw.

Now maybe he was just making a joke and it fell flat. We all make stupid jokes sometimes. But I don't think I've ever joked about the Special Olympics.

Especially not since 1996. Here's a picture of me with someone very dear to me. This was taken the night before my son Christopher had open heart surgery. Unfortunately, the surgery wasn't successful, and he died five days later. Christopher had Down Syndrome.

When we first found out, while I was still pregnant, it seemed like everyone was pressuring us to abort, especially the doctors. (You can read the story here). But we didn't.

It wasn't that I was happy about the Down Syndrome. I was devastated. What if my son could never read? Would I have to care for him the rest of my life? Would he ever get married?

But after a few days of panic, we began to read more and more materials about Down's. We joined listservs of Down Syndrome parents. And I became excited. I was going to be the best mom he could have!

I only had that chance for a month on this side of heaven. The rest of my relationship with him will have to wait until we're reunited. But so many people plot against these little blessings. The doctors didn't want him to be born. Many in my family didn't want him born. Keith's colleagues didn't want him born. And Obama thinks he's the subject of a joke.

What are we becoming when we start making jokes about the least of these? We're becoming cruel, heartless, and proud. It seems to me I remember Someone else saying something quite different about those who are maybe a little more helpless among us. He said, "whoever does this to the least of these my brothers does it to Me." So when Obama said that about the Special Olympics, he wasn't just talking about those with Down's. I know that sounds harsh, but that's what I think.

Did Obama intend to insult those with Down's? Of course not. Did he intend to insult those with other disabilities who compete in the Special Olympics? No, I don't think he did. But the point is he made that comment without thinking. I would never do such a thing, anymore than I would make fun of Obama because he's black. Such things don't register with me, as I don't think they do with the majority of good-hearted folk.

We live in a culture which denigrates the disabled without even thinking about it. When we realize what we do, of course we apologize, but the point is that we don't realize it. It's become so commonplace that it just slips out. And what does that say about us?

That's why I don't think it really matters whether he intended it or not. I don't think it matters whether he apologized (though I'm glad he did). And I do hope that he's learned to think a little bit more about those who are disabled.

But if we truly valued the disabled, such slips wouldn't happen. Canada really doesn't have the racist history that the United States does, and so I don't hear racist jokes. I really don't. We trained ourselves not to make them, because racism just isn't acceptable. So surely we can train ourselves not to make jokes about the disabled, either.

If we truly valued those with Down's, the way Jesus does, we won't make such jokes. Perhaps I'm taking this too personally because I still miss my son, but that's just the way I see it.

By the way, at the same time as I was learning about his gaffe, I was putting together a video trailer for my book, How Big Is Your Umbrella, which relates Christopher's story. I posted it the other day, but here it is again:

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Cure for Melancholy
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in several newspapers. Here's this week's, on a sure-fire cure for melancholy!

Spring is supposed to be a happy time, with robins and geese returning and the sun melting away the black residue of what was once a white blanket of snow. But spring also brings mud and damp and mold and viruses and rain, so it’s the perfect breeding ground for grumpiness, too.

If you’re sniffling, and you’re damp, and you just need a pick-me-up, I have the perfect cure. Go to YouTube and type in “Baby laugh”. Then watch the videos that pop up, starting with the ones with the highest views. Perhaps you’re a stoic soul, and you’ll last through the first one without cracking a smile. You may even make it through the second. But soon you’ll be laughing, too. You won’t be able to help it.

One baby laughs every time Daddy makes a funny noise. One laughs at tearing paper. One laughs at Dad trying to play golf on the Wii, which admittedly for many would be funny, especially if you can never make that final putt. And when babies laugh their whole bodies shake. The arms go up and down, the legs kick, and frequently the whole baby falls over. They don’t do anything half-heartedly.

Why are baby laughs so cute? I think it has to do with the fact that to a baby, nothing ever gets old. Dad hitting the Wii ball is as funny the 149th time as it was the first.

We don’t find things funny after a while. Babies find delight in anything, even if they’ve seen it a million times before. They don’t get bored. They just delight in life.

On the other hand, we mature ones get self-conscious when we laugh, which is probably why our laughter doesn’t involve limbs or extraneous body parts. When’s the last time you laughed so hard you actually fell down? Granted, my children fall out of chairs from laughing quite frequently, but they’re children, and I’m still not positive they’re not suffering from some sort of nervous disorder. Most of us may chuckle occasionally, but letting out a true belly laugh is rare.

I think it’s because we second guess ourselves so much. What if I laugh, and I have something on my teeth? What if I snort? What if I laugh and no one else thinks it’s funny? Then they’ll be laughing at me! It’s better to keep quiet.

Such thoughts never occur to a baby. They laugh whether they look stupid or not. They don’t care if they have food on their teeth (or tooth), or coming out of their ears, or in their hair. They don’t care if no one else is laughing. They just laugh if they want to. They’re free.

We stop being free sometime around the age when we discover that the world is bigger than Mommy and Daddy who love me no matter what I do. When we realize that other people might not like us, or might not like something we do, then we start judging themselves. We hold ourselves back, or we do things simply because of the effect it will have on those around us. We’ve lost that innocence.

The only time I have ever been that carefree as an adult was when I was with my own babies. Not only do babies not care what people think of them, they also don’t judge you. You can look horrible, with food stuck in your teeth and hair going every which way. You can snort or fart or burp out loud by accident and babies won’t reject you. They’ll just laugh and try to grab your glasses or pull your earrings. You hug them, and they hug you back. And then they sigh, perfectly contented, because they know they’re safe.

So if you’re feeling alone, or sad, or mad, or hopeless, watch a baby. Maybe, just maybe, that baby will remind you of certain truths that we adults seem to have forgotten. Laughter is good for the soul. We shouldn’t let other people determine our emotions. It’s good to reach out to those who love you. And it doesn’t matter what other people think; you can still find joy in strange body noises. Have a happy spring!
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I'm on 100 Huntley Street in the morning!
I'm co-hosting the Christian television show 100 Huntley Street tomorrow morning (Friday!). I think they show it at 9:00 a.m. and then again in the evening. Tune in if you can!

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Getting Rid of the Things That Hold You Back
Do you have things in your life that hold you back from God, but you can't figure out how to get rid of them?

We all do. So did Pharaoh. And in this video I help us to see the plague of the frogs in a new way--and maybe realize why it is that we can't always get over things that make us miserable.

I haven't posted a new video in a while, so I thought it was time to show this short clip, taken from a Girls Night Out event I did in the fall. Watch it, and then we'll keep talking.

Okay, now after this clip I go on to elaborate on how we can get rid of those things. But it's a challenge to us, isn't it? I think quite frequently we hold on to things that make us miserable because they've become comfortable. We stay busy at things that don't matter because we think we're supposed to. We berate ourselves for not being a size 6 because we should have more self-control. We work so hard for more money even though we'd probably be happier with less money and more time. We let other people set our goals, instead of God.

So that's my challenge for you today. What is making you miserable in your life? What are your frogs? And then take them to God. Why are you holding on to them? Can you let Him take them away? That can be hard to do, if the frogs have become a big part of our lives. But there comes a time to let go. Is this your time?

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Works for Me Wednesday: Getting Rid of the Television

Have you ever gone to bed at night and just felt that your day wasn't well-spent? You have this list of stuff that you would love to do, including simple things, like playing board games with your kids, or taking a walk with your hubby, but it never seems to happen.

A few years ago I was feeling like this quite a bit. But I was also feeling depressed a lot when I went to bed, especially on Thursdays.

And then one night it hit me. On Thursdays I watched ER. And that was a depressing show!

Around that time I read the book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Great book! Not written from a Christian perspective, but with truths about human nature and family that are truths nonetheless.

And one thing he said that really stuck with me is that we can divide everything up into four categories, based on whether things are Important or Urgent. So you have your Important/Urgent, like going into labour, having your son arrested, having your husband walk out. Then you have your Urgent/Not Important, like answering the telephone, even if you're reading to your kids. And there's your Not Important/Not Urgent, which is basically your time wasters, like television and video games. This is where we spend most of our time.

But the time that really matters is in the Important/Not Urgent category. This is stuff that is so important to do, but there's nothing pushing you to do it. Stuff like spending time with your children, spending time with God, spending time with your hubby. And if we don't do these things, then we're going to find there are more crises in our lives.

The more we do these important things, the fewer problems we will have.

And I read that, and looked around at my life, and realized I as wasting most of it on TV. At that time, my husband wasn't home a lot. He was doing his residency, and I was often home alone with the babies. The TV became my lifeline. But I realized it wasn't a good one, so I quit watching, cold turkey. It's been 10 years, and I don't miss it at all. And I was a soap opera addict, drama addict, everything addict.

To a certain extent, blogs have replaced TV, and I have to be careful I don't let that take over. But it's a step I've never regretted making.

My children aren't into TV. They play instead. My husband and I do stuff together. And it's wonderful.

If your hubby would never consent to getting rid of TV, you can still stop watching yourself. But I'd encourage you to think about it. TV wrecks family life. Why let it into your house in the first place?

Thanks for stopping by! Why not look around a bit? I've got lots of posts on marriage, parenting, and more!

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Wifey Wednesday: Carelessness is not an Option

Does God make a difference in your marriage?

Now, before you say, "Of course He does!", and murmur all the Christian platitudes, just take a step back for a moment and let me talk.

The divorce rate among Christians in most parts of the country and in Canada is actually lower than the general population--significantly lower. Unfortunately, in the Bible belt in the U.S. it's a tad higher, which is the statistic that is often mentioned when we talk about Christians and marriage.

So for most of us, God does make a difference.

But our divorce rate is nowhere near 0. Just because it's not 30%, like the rest of the world (it's not 50%; that's a false statistic, too), doesn't mean that we should rejoice at 22% or even 18%. That's still high.

And I'm extremely troubled by that. I see so many of my friends who go to church, and who honestly do believe, but God doesn't seem to come into their lives in other ways--what movies they watch, how they spend their time, how they spend their money, how they raise their kids. They've simply blended into the culture.

I have to, in many ways. We all have. But my husband and I decided early in our marriage that we would be intentional. We would not let the culture take us over. While we're far from perfect (we sure could stand to pray a lot more than we do), we at least talk about it and wrestle with how to bring God into our marriage and our family.

I had some really bad news this week. A couple I love dearly have split up. Now there are good reasons, though I'm not fully apprised of them, and in their situation this sounds like the prudent course. I won't elaborate more than that, but let me just say that sometimes separation is necessary.

From the little I do know, though, it sounds like one partner in the marriage has let culture infiltrate too much into his/her thought processes, so much so that his/her morality has been seriously compromised. I'm sorry for being so vague, but I don't want to betray any confidences.

And this is happening all over the place! I know another marriage that split up because he had an affair. This man ran a praise team. He stood with his wife while she went through cancer treatment. And then he left her anyway, when she was already feeling ugly and unattractive. And now he's trying to get out of paying child support; this, a man who has written praise songs that are still played on our Christian radio station.

We all know stories like that, don't we? And chances are, the first thing in your mind is, "I thought they were such a great couple! What happened?"

Maybe they were a great couple. But even great couples can fall apart if the marriage isn't tended well.

Think about all the things that work against marriages today. How many marriages do we know have been destroyed by pornography? Pornography is now implicated in the majority of divorces. It is not harmless. It is not something "fun" that adds "spice" to your marriage. It is poisonous, and it ensnares people, especially men. It lowers their sex drive, eats at their soul, and consumes their time. And what are we doing about it?

All addictions--workaholism, affairs, pornography, alcohol--could be avoided if we all simply were intentional in our marriages. If we decided from the outset that we would limit the computer, that we would always have dinner together, that we would spent time each night connecting, that we would put our time with our spouse as a priority, even before our kids, maybe our marriages would last.

One partner can never completely save a marriage. The other needs to agree too, and if your spouse has deserted you or cheated on you, that is not your fault. I am not blaming you.

But at the same time, carelessness is not an option. If your marriage is going well right now, don't assume it will always be like this. Develop habits so that the things that can drive us apart don't start taking over our marriages. We need to be vigilant. Never assume that you're the one couple that this stuff will never hit. Never assume that your husband would never look at pornography, or that you will never be tempted to have an affair. Instead, take steps now to make sure that this won't happen.

Every marriage break up is like the death of a small civilization. It hurts the kids, it hurts ourselves, it hurts our families.

Please take steps to make sure it doesn't happen to you. None of us is invincible.

What do you think? How have you put hedges around your marriage? How do you deal with the pornography threat? Write your own Wifey Wednesday post, and then come back here and enter your URL in the Mr. Linky. I'd love to keep this discussion going!

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The Real Teletubbies

This is the kind of story that gets my blood boiling:

Family claims they're "too fat to work", so they live off of welfare in Britain and do nothing but watch TV and eat junk all day. And now they want more money to buy more food.

Both Philip Chawner, 53, and his 57-year-old wife Audrey weigh 24st. Their youngest daughter, Emma, is 5ft 3in and weighs 17st, while her older sister Samantha, 21, is 5ft 9in and weighs 18st.

They haven’t worked in 11 years, claiming their weight is due to a hereditary condition.
Instead, the family spend their days in front of a television borrowed from a friend.

Mr Chawner said: ‘We love TV. It’s on from the moment we get up. Often I’m so tired from watching TV I have to have a nap.’

Yet of their £22,508 a year in tax-free benefits - equivalent to a £30,000 salary - Mr Chawner said: ‘What we get barely covers the bills and puts food on the table. It’s not our fault we can’t work. We deserve more.’

How about getting rid of the TV and starting to walk? And maybe eating some vegetables?

Why is everything now a disease? They are "suffering from obesity", as if they're victims.

Now I know some people have a much harder time losing weight. My husband comes from a large family, but everyone is working hard to control their weight, and Keith's doing a great job! But he deliberately watches what he eats, and he jogs. It's not fun, but he does it, because he has to. I, on the other hand, tend to be on the thin side, though my metabolism is catching up with me with age. So I'm starting to exercise more, too.

When we tell people it's a disease, it's like saying they can't do anything about it. Yes, you can. Certainly it will be harder for some people. That may not be fair. But it's life.

Deal with it.

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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