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How to Stop Kids from Complaining
Last week was Complaint Free Week over here!
We talked all about how to foster an attitude of gratitude, rather than an attitude of complaining all the time.
It's great to move ourselves to more gratitude. But what about our offspring? Often we raise them in such a way that we make complaining more likely. We think we're making their lives easier, but really we're harming them because we're not teaching them gratitude.
In today's podcast, I talk about how to combat complaints with real-life lessons. Listen in here.
I just love listening to podcasts while I exercise, so why not download this to your iPod or Zune and listen to it, along with some others, while you get moving? Or listen right here on your computer while you surf. It's not that long, and I hope you enjoy it!

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Works for Me Wednesday: Unfinished Craft Projects

They say that guilt is women's number one emotion. At any particular time, we're feeling guilty about at least two things. And if you're not feeling guilty right now, if you thought about it for a while, you could talk yourself into it.

Some of those things are serious. We feel guilty for not exercising. We feel guilty for not eating right, praying enough with our kids, cleaning more.

But some are more frivolous. For instance, do you have a closet in your house where you place all your unfinished craft projects? My house is filled with UFOs. My mother says that she's leaving me hers in her will. We have them everywhere. We spent all that money on scrapbooking supplies, and then we've done so little with it. We started that needlepoint for the baby's nursery, and the baby is now 11. We started that quilt, and now we have basting all over the place and it looks ridiculous.

So we feel like we can never follow through.

I used to do that. I started every new craft under the sun. I made soap. I sewed. I painted, stained, and stencilled. I made cards. I wove.

And then I realized something. I don't actually like doing very many of those things. I really don't. What I do like doing is knitting. And so I have decided to do one craft for the rest of my life, and only one. I may occasionally choose a one day project, like making soap, that I can do with my kids, but on the whole, I will not feel guilty about not quilting. I will not beat myself up for not painting my old piano in interesting ways. I will not feel guilty about not refinishing my coffee table.

Because I knit awesome socks. And you should see the sweaters I make!

That colourful one I made when I was 19. It's got a little out of style, so since that picture I remodelled it and made it into a cardigan. It's nice.

Of course, I still have lots of unfinished projects. They're just all knitting. But I know I'll get to them sometime, because I really enjoy them.

So I don't think there's anything wrong with finding one craft that you really like, and concentrating on it. And all those other things you started, but never finished? Give them to someone who actually likes that sort of stuff and get them out of the house! You'll feel a lot better.

Thanks for stopping by! Why not stay and look around a bit? I've got posts on marriage, motherhood, why boys blow up stuff in microwaves, and more!

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Who Am I?
I've been writing this blog for just over a year now (I forgot to celebrate my one year anniversary last month), and I thought to myself, "I wonder how many of my readers actually know that much about me?" So I thought I'd share some stuff about myself.

First, the basics. I've been married for seventeen years to my husband Keith, who's a pediatrician, and happily married for about thirteen years. We speak at marriage conferences around Canada about how we moved from the "married" to the "happily married" category!

I've had four children, but only two are with me. The first was a miscarriage, which was far more emotionally painful than I ever dreamed it could be. The second was my wonderful daughter Rebecca, who is 14 and way too pretty. We have recently purchased a baseball bat to ward off any boys. My third child was Christopher, a little baby boy who we had with us only 29 days. I tell the story of my walk through grief in my book How Big Is Your Umbrella?. And then a year later Katie was born. She's my huggy bear, and she's now 11.

I homeschool the girls, and my nephew, and we have a great time. Usually.

I also write and speak. I've written four books, and I'm in two other anthologies. I started this blog really so that people who heard me speak would have a place to go where they could follow along with my life.

When I speak, I don't believe in trying to sound like I have it all together. To me, the point is to share what God has taught me, and point people to Jesus, not to me. I'm busy almost every weekend in the fall and spring, and I just feel so blessed that God has called me to something with so many rewards. I love hearing other women's stories. If you're interested in speaking, I have another blog on those preparing to launch a speaking ministry (or attempting to grow one) right here.

I also wanted a blog where I could spout off about things, and admit my struggles. You may have noticed that last week, Complaint Free Week, I did a lot of that. I think it's good to share the things we struggle with, if only to encourage other women.

And I knit. Not as often as I'd like to lately, but I love knitting. It's my lifeline.

So that's all about my personal life! But there's more to me, too, and that's my books, because I poured my heart into them, and shared some things that God had been impressing upon me. I thought over the next little while I'd share about a different book or resource I had every few days, just so you get a better picture of who I am and what I do. And you never know--maybe you'll find something that will really help you, too!

Let's start today with my first book, To Love, Honor and Vacuum: When you feel more like a maid than a wife and a mother. A lot of moms feel like everybody takes them for granted. They're worked off their feet, and people don't seem to understand the toll that takes, or want to pitch in. This book helps us reconceptualize our jobs as moms and wives. It's not to be anyone's slave; it's to manage the home well, encouraging respect from everybody. Sure it's a lot of work, but if it's draining you, chances are you're worried about the wrong things, raising kids who don't help, or fostering a marriage where you're not really partners. Here's a video explanation:

You can purchase it for $16 Canadian (which works out to about $13 US), and I'll autograph it for you!

Or buy from Amazon:

Or find out more here.

I believe that it can transform your marriage and your relationship wtih your kids!

And so that's a bunch about me. Can you let me know a bit about you? Do you have kids? How old are they? Do you work outside the home? I'd just to love know a bit about some of my readers!

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The Difference Between Males and Females
Forget that Mars and Venus thing. I have found the definitive difference between the genders.

Or rather, my nephew found it.

It is a YouTube channel appropriately called, "Is it a good idea to microwave this?".

If you have to ask the question, you know what the answer is already. But these enterprising young males have built a microwave room, plastered with tin foil and a video camera, where they set things like Snow Globes, Twinkies, LED batteries, iDogs, and more in their microwave and then watch through a window for several minutes to see what happens. Here's a taste (guaranteed your sons will love it):

Now I would hazard a guess that 90% of their YouTube viewers are male. I admit to finding it rather mesmerizing watching the plasma sparks burst out of the batteries, but I wouldn't have searched for them in the first place. But my nephew found them. And when he showed my husband, Keith said, "Cool!".

Males, I believe, are preprogrammed to like blowing stuff up. Women, on the other hand, like to talk about males who like to blow stuff up.

My daughter said that if two university aged females were going to start a YouTube channel, they'd probably make it into a talk show rather than a combustible experience. And I think she's right.

Men like explosions, car crashes, rockets, and MORE POWER. I don't think there's anything particularly wrong with that, even though we women may find it weird. That's how they're wired. And I think we should stop trying to tame them. Sure men need to be taught to show their softer side--or at least to try to figure out if they have one--but if men inately need to explode things, should we always be telling them to calm down?

Channel it into appropriate outlets, sure. But let's stop trying to tame our guys. They're guys. And we love 'em.

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Complaint Free Week: The Wrap Up
Last week was complaint free week at this blog! If you didn't join in, you can start again! Just go to this first post, and follow the posts for the week. It really will make a difference in your life!

I'd love it if people could share what they experienced when they tried to stop complaining and show gratitude instead.

I think the big thing I noticed is that it's hard to identify complaining. I know that I can be negative, but it's easy to couch that negativity in other terms. Oh, I'm just offering constructive criticism. Or I'm just sharing something I'm struggling with with a friend of mine. Or I'm just trying to correct my child and point him or her on the right road.

We can justify just about anything.

Now some of those things are perfectly legitimate. It's good to discipline children. It's good to share our struggles with one or two close friends. Quite often, though, we do these things when we don't need to because we want the attention, or we want to be seen as "the good ones" while everyone else is wrong. It's the motivation that's the issue.

And what I found last week is that I don't always have the right motivation in my interactions. Even if I'm trying to stop from complaining, I often substitute other things for it. And what I need to do instead is to "take every thought captive" to God, and really exercise gratitude and grace.

It was a good exercise, and one I'd like to continue. What about you? Have you tried to stop complaining for a week? And what happened? I'd love to know!

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The Problem With Waxing Under One's Arm....
is that one has to wax under one's other arm.

I discovered this last year in a fit of what I thought was brilliance, when I decided to try waxing my armpits instead of shaving.

But after shaving for 25 years or so, the roots are extra heavy. You yank them out and it is awfully hard to get up the courage to wax the other one. Trust me.

Now, that's probably Too Much Information. And if so, I do apologize. But I want to share some other expertise that I have acquired over waxing.

I used to shave my legs as a teenager, but at 18 my mother told me to wax, because then the stubble wouldn't grow as fast. So I started to, and never really shaved again, petrified that I would counteract any good I had done by waxing. I had this little plug-in device called an Epilady which hurt like anything as well, but a funny thing happened. After yanking out by the roots for years, it really does stop hurting.

It's the same with waxing my eyebrows. The first time my hairdresser did it I almost hit the ceiling. Now I'm fine.

So last week, the big moment came in my relationship with my older daughter. She asked me if it was okay if she shaved her legs. I told her sure, but waxing may be a better idea. And we decided to wax together.

It was awfully funny. She laughed through the whole thing, and we had a great conversation. And the neat thing was that it didn't really hurt her at all. I guess if you never shave, it's not so bad. It's waxing after shaving that's bad.

So I have a little convert, and from now on we'll be experiencing this wonderful process together! I'm still trying to figure out why the female gender gets most of the pain and all of the beauty travails, but I'm not sure if that's a mystery that will ever be solved. Although my husband is requiring the tweezers now for all the stray eyebrows which keep growing as long as his hair! Guess he's growing old, too.

Be back tomorrow with a wrap up of Complaint Free Week!

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The Right Kind of Suffering
Every Friday my syndicated newspaper column is published. Here's this week's!

I've always enjoyed a good fight. When my husband and I disagree, we haul out every intellectual argument in our arsenal to show why the other person is irretrievably, irreconcilably, and certifiably off his or her rocker. Early in our marriage this usually lasted for several days. Now I can argue vehemently for a few minutes, and then shrug my shoulders, and admit, "I guess you're right."

It took me years to learn to say those words. During that time I also learned that trying to resolve an issue at one in the morning is exceedingly stupid; it's better to sleep on it, because chances are tomorrow you'll forget what you were fighting about anyway. But most importantly I have learned that even if I am right, listening to my husband's feelings is more important than winning the argument.

In other words, I have learned how to have good fights.

Before our wedding we didn't fight. He agreed with everything I said, and I agreed with everything he said, because we thought exactly the same way. Unfortunately, on the honeymoon I realized that he had independent thoughts, which proved very threatening. I had to whip him into shape, and he had to whip me into shape, and we both ended up with whiplash.

Why does anger hurt us so much? I think it's because we misunderstand it. We think anger is like flatulence. This uncomfortable feeling bubbles up inside us, growing ever more urgent, until it just has to be released. Problem solved, right?

Wrong. Unlike farting, anger doesn't waft away in the air after you've expressed it. It's more like a grenade going off, maiming everybody in its path. You say things you don't mean, but once those things are out of your mouth, you can't take them back.

We feel anger so strongly because anger is a master con artist. When we're angry, it's usually a sign that there's something else going on below the surface, something that we'd rather not talk about. And we don't like that vulnerable feeling, so anger helps us deflect attention from our fears.

Do you and those you love often have the same fight, over and over again, without really resolving anything? Maybe that's because in your anger you’re ignoring the real issues. Picture this couple: he arrives home late and she immediately berates him for being an insensitive clod who doesn't care about the family. He responds by complaining that if she really wanted him home, maybe she'd make the house a little nicer to come home to.

Words are flying, but nothing useful is being communicated.

On the other hand, if he could be honest, maybe he'd reveal something like this: "I just worry that I could get laid off, and I don’t know how to support us. And maybe I'm failing at home, too. What if I really am a bad father?"

And maybe she would admit: "I feel lonely. I love the kids, but sometimes they're not enough. What if I'm becoming boring? Show me that you still love me!"

So next time you're boiling mad, whether it's at a difficult spouse or a recalcitrant teen, ask yourself, "what’s really going on here? What am I actually scared of?" And then tell each other instead of blowing up. Sure you're risking rejection, but as long as two people just yell at each other, the relationship is never going to build anything except more walls. If you could both stop lashing out, and say what's on your hearts instead, a miracle might happen. It takes guts to open up. But opening up your heart is a whole lot more productive than just shooting off your mouth. And much more honest, too.

Maybe it's time we all tried it.

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Complaint Free Week: Challenge 4
We're coming to the end of Complaint Free Week! How are you doing?

I have to admit I got a little grumpy last night. It wasn't anything anyone did. In fact, my family was being rather nice to me. It was just that I wasn't being nice to them.

Recently we purchased a new computer for me. I'm a writer, and I do a lot of stuff online, so I do need a good one. My old notebook I'd had for a number of years and it was getting so slow that sometimes I couldn't even get online.

Now, I love new computers. But I hate having to move everything over. And my photo editing software wasn't working. So for hours I sat at my brand spanking new notebook, frustrated at life.

And I get that way quite frequently. When I'm involved in some work project that isn't going well, or when I'm trying to get some piece of technology to work, family members start to bug me. It's not that they're doing anything bad, either. They want to talk, or they want to show me something, or they're just chatting in the background. But when I'm trying to concentrate, they bug me.

I think that's the root of much of our complaining tendencies. We get caught up in something WE'RE doing, and in the meantime everyone else just living around us gets to be annoying, because it's a distraction. But family should never be a distraction.

Too often, though, we spend our lives doing things, whether it's working on the computer, or cleaning the house, or planning something at church, and because of that we feel pressure. And when we feel pressure, our loved ones become problems.

Or perhaps we're not even doing anything big. Maybe we're just trying to relax by watching a TV show, and our little ones want us to read to them. That's when we get grumpy and complain about never having any time to ourselves.

Don't get me wrong; we do need such time. But often we make choices about what to do with our time that isn't really in our best interests, let alone our family's. Do you know what I find most rewarding? Taking an evening and spending it with my kids, rather than in front of the computer. We play a game, or go for a walk, or bake something. It's nothing huge, but it's relaxing, and we laugh together.

We make choices that squeeze out that laughter. We forget how to just have fun together, and that's why we get complaining. We choose things that focus on us, rather than on our family. Yet those things we choose don't relax us; more often than not they frustrate us.

So here's your challenge for Day 4: Do something fun with your family today. It doesn't have to be big; but do something where you will laugh together with no other agenda in mind. Learn how to have fun together again. And you just may find the complaining goes away!

Scroll down for all the other challenges, or go to the original post. They're all listed at the bottom!

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Complaint Free Week: Challenge 3!
Hello ladies! How are you enjoying complaint free week?

At times I have great difficulties. I wake up and I feel very tired, or I am tempted to offer "helpful observations", which are really just complaints. But I am trying to keep my mood upbeat!

If you remember, we've already had two challenges.

1. Find five things that you're grateful for everyday.

2. Find a way to talk to your husband about your relationship on a regular basis, so that complaints don't build up.

Today we have a new one! This one has to do with friends.

Do you know when I complain the most?

It's when I'm talking on the phone with friends. We complain about church, about committees, about people, about children (especially other people's children). Whatever.

And what's worse is that I realize that my children can hear.

So today, and for the rest of the week, I want you to watch what you say to your friends.

Now, I'm not saying we shouldn't talk about real problems or real issues with our friends. I think we all need 1 or 2 safe women that we can talk to about anything, to hold us accountable, pray with us, and encourage us and guide us. That's essential.

But usually what happens is that we get talking to friends, and it's fun to complain and find fault in others. It really is. I'm not sure if it's because it makes us feel superior or what, but it can be fun to talk about all the things that everyone else is doing wrong. And I am most guilty of this when I have a partner in crime.

I think the purpose of complaint free week is not to stop feeling badly about some things in our lives--we will all have difficulties. It's to get our eyes off of our difficulties and onto God, who has the solutions. If we talk about struggles with the goal to solve them, that's fine. If we talk about struggles so that we can focus on our problems and focus on criticizing others, that's not.

So let's change the nature of our conversations. Today, when you're talking to your best friend, sister, or just any friend, ask them what is GOOD in their life. If you need to share a problem, share it with the goal of finding a solution, not going over and over someone else's faults. Tell them what you feel blessed about, and what you are praying for.

In a nutshell,

Complaint Free Challenge Three: Talk about blessings with a friend on the phone today, instead of talking about difficulties!

Go to it, and leave a comment about how it's going with you this week!
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Works for Me Wednesdays: Making Exercising Fun

Here, at To Love, Honor and Vacuum, we're celebrating Complaint Free Week! For one week we're trying not to complain, but to react to things with gratitude, instead. It's been a challenge, because I'm naturally a complainer.

And one thing I've always complained about is exercise. I just don't like doing it, but I feel great after I have. So what can you do to make exercise more fun?

First, let me tell you my jogging saga. I started jogging about two years ago, and then I could barely do two minutes straight without getting out of breath. So I would run for 2 minutes, and walk for 2 minutes. Gradually it became run for 5 minutes, walk for 2 minutes. And then I got to the point where I could run for 20 minutes straight.

But I hit a brick wall. And it's because I have no attention span. After running for 20 minutes, I get REALLY REALLY bored.

I had the same problem on the treadmill that I used to have. We got rid of it because it just wasn't fun. How was I supposed to keep going when I was bored out of my skull?

I have now found the solution. I bought a Zune, which is like an iPod, it's just made by Microsoft. My daughter had one, and I thought I'd try it, too. I have some music on it, but not a lot. My big thing is podcasts.

I love podcasts. They're audio files that you can listen to. I myself produce a podcast every week (it's right here, and this week's is about How to Stop Complaining!). They're not long, but they're fun. Here's a comment from this week's that a listener left:

I LOVE your podcasts! I subscribed through iTunes and I listen to them while my oldest is in his Taekwondo class. Thanks for doing those. :)

But that's just me! There are so many other ones out there. And when I'm listening to something, I can keep going. It's just like when you're in the car, and you're listening to a fun radio program, and then you reach your house. Do you stop listening? Many times I've sat in the driveway listening for the end--because it's engaging! So if we're listening to podcasts, we may just be able to keep running.

How do you find them? Ask around on Twitter or blogs what podcasts other people listen to. I love Ravi Zacharias, and I listen to some Focus on the Family. I also search for audio sermons that are free online by some of my favourite speakers. You can just download them, and then sync them with your iPod or Zune.

I don't actually subscribe with iTunes to podcasts, because when you do they download every single episode, and if I haven't synced my Zune and iTunes in a while, you get way too much material. Instead, I subscribe with the RSS feed, that funny orange square icon. Then you can read the descriptions of all the episodes in your feed reader (located at the top left hand side of Internet Explorer. Just click the yellow star), and save the .mp3 files that you want onto your hard drive. You can then transfer them easily to your Zune.

It really does work, and it helps you exercise for longer! Plus you learn a ton! There are homeschooling podcasts, knitting podcasts, comedy podcasts, fashion podcasts, investing podcasts, even the Bible on podcast. There's everything. So have fun!

What if you want to exercise but it's hard to find that twenty minutes or half an hour because of kids? My Works for me Wednesday post a few weeks ago dealt with exactly that. Check it out!

And remember, you can subscribe to my podcast easily right here!

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Wifey Wednesday: Complaint Free Week

This is complaint free week, so let's talk about complaining in marriage!

What do you do when you're unhappy about something in the marriage? How do you bring it up in a constructive way?

The problem many of us have, I believe, is that we either nag our husbands or we sit in stony silence. Neither is productive. I believe firmly that we must accept our husbands as they are. We must love them as they are, in the same way we love our children unconditionally. But that doesn't mean we accept everything they do. And if there is something that is really bothering you, how do you bring it up in a way that works towards a solution?

Too often we complain to our husbands. That's going to backfire, baby. Men's biggest need, you see, is to feel competent. They want to know that we think they are capable of providing for the family and being a good father and husband. When we start judging their performance, they feel undermined, and they can retreat. So complaining not only is mean; it's also counterproductive.

Here's what I would suggest:

1. Before saying anything, check your heart. Don't do it out of anger for him; do it out of concern for the relationship.

2. When you do talk to him, own the problem. Don't say, "you make me so mad when you...". Say, "I feel uncomfortable when you..." It's a little thing, but then you're claiming the problem. And then together you can work on a solution.

3. Wait until you're both relaxed to bring it up. Having a weekly date night where you just connect and talk about the family and relationship is a great way to deal with some of these issues. If he doesn't seem excited about that idea, then you make it exciting! Feed the kids dinner first, and save your dinner with your husband until 8:00 or later after they go to bed. Make it into something that looks fun!

Those are tips about the timing and the way to bring something up. But let's look at some other tips on how to avoid problems in the first place, or minimize those that are already there.

I believe most problems in marriages, from sex to parenting to money, stem from the fact that the couple isn't connecting either on a friendship level or on a spiritual level. In other words, if you want to connect better sexually, work on the other two fist. So here are some more tips:

1. Be your hubby's friend. Find things you can do together that you enjoy. If you hate that he spends so much time at the computer or watching TV, then come up with other things that the family can do that are fun. Take a walk. Take up jogging. Play soccer in the park. Go biking. Whatever. Just do stuff together, and then you're more likely to laugh together.

2. Connect on a spiritual level. If he isn't praying with you, you can take the initiative and pray together before bed. Read the Psalms before you go to sleep, or even better, Song of Solomon. When you connect spiritually, a lot of the other problems disappear.

That's it! Tips on how to stop complaining and do something constructive in your marriage. Build up, don't break down.

And so we're on to Assignment 2 in Complaint Free Week: Find a way to carve out time in your marriage to talk about the relationship, so you won't feel so inclined to complain. Get creative! Make it fun! But make it regular. Think today about how you can do that in a way that he will enjoy it, too.

I can't put in a Mr. Linky because my blog can only display one at a time, and I want to leave the one for Complaint Free Week up. So if you have some marriage advice, we still want to hear it! But you'll have to put your link in the comments. Thanks so much!

My book, To Love, Honor and Vacuum, has a whole chapter on how to talk to your husband without nagging or complaining. It's a great one to check your attitude! And don't forget to click on Sheila's Store (just to your left). I've got the books I've written, plus a ton of other picks that will help your marriage!

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Podcast: Complaint Free Week
Today on our podcast, we're complaining! No, wait, that's not right. We're talking about how NOT to complain, because it's complaint free week!

Here's a fun podcast with practical ways you can increase your gratitude quotient. Listen in!

And don't forget you can subscribe with iTunes or with RSS feed. I love podcasts; if you do, too, add mine to your list! Just go to my podcast, and click on the links at right hand sidebar!

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Complaint Free Week Day 2: Attitude of Gratitude

With a challenge at the bottom of this post!

For those of you who haven't heard about complaint free week yet, read this!

But in the meantime, I have been going strong for two days trying not to complain. I don't think I've managed very well, truth be told. I tend to complain without really realizing it.

Often I don't call it complaining. I call it "offering helpful observations". Or I call it "disciplining my children". But complaining is complaining!

So let's try to get a definition of complaining so it's all out in the open and we know exactly what we're talking about:

According to my dictionary, complain means: to express dissatisfaction, pain, uneasiness, censure, resentment, or grief; find fault.

It's that last one I struggle with. To find fault. I like finding fault with things. Maybe it's because it makes me feel superior, or because it deflects from my own defects. But whatever it is, I'm an expert at it.

Later in this week I'm going to talk about complaining and marriage; complaining and kids; complaining and responsibilities; and complaining vs. humility. But today I want to look at a general antidote to complaining, and that's gratitude.

There's a great Far Side cartoon that I can't reproduce here because of copyright issues, but it shows two lines at a customer service area. One says "Complaints". The other says "Gratitude". The complaints line is full, but the gratitude one is empty.

Gratitude is the polar opposite of complaining. When we feel grateful, we can't complain. If we realize how blessed we are, how can we express dissatisfaction, unease, or find fault? We're focused on what we have, not what we don't have.

So how can you cultivate gratitude today? What are you grateful for? I've been through periods of my life when it was hard to express gratitude. When my son was terminally ill, did I feel grateful? Nope. But I started writing out, every night, five things that I was grateful for that day. They may have been little things, like that he opened his eyes to look at me, or that I saw a beautiful sunset. But I wrote them down.

And the neat thing about that exercise is that I had to keep track of things during the day, so I'd have something to write down at night. I had to think about gratitude, rather than grief.

Today, thankfully, no one in my family is terminally ill. They just simply have a hard time making their beds, practising piano without being told, doing their chores, being nice to each other, and getting out of bed on time. In general they're great kids, but daily I have these annoyances.

So what is my response? Do I complain, or do I express gratitude that I have healthy, wonderful, fun children?

Gratitude doesn't mean that we don't discipline or act like a parent. It simply means that we do so with the attitude of love for them. It's a heart change.

And what about your circumstances? Maybe you're struggling with money right now, and that's getting you down. Maybe your house just isn't big enough, and it's hard to keep clean and in order. Whatever it is, it makes daily life difficult. Fair enough.

But complaining makes what is already difficult even worse. So pick several times during the day to say thanks to God. Recognize what you do enjoy. Do what you enjoy! Share what you enjoy! Focus on what you have, and you just may find that the urge to complain goes away.

So here's your challenge for Complaint Free Week Day 2: Write down five things a day that you're grateful for. If you're not a writing kind of a person, then pray them out loud before you eat dinner tonight or before you go to bed. But keep track of them! You'll find your brain starts going in a different direction!

Today's podcast will be about how to cultivate an attitude of gratitude! Check back; it will be up soon!

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Menu Plan Monday: Healthy Stuff Takes Work
It's Monday, so it's time to plan my menu!

And one thing I have realized this weekend is that healthy stuff can take longer to prepare. Not that I am complaining. That is just an observation. I would never complain during Complaint Free Week (going on right now! Want to join?).

But I have had an incredibly busy but blessed week, running around training a 15-person choir from the Kenyan orphanage we support, and speaking all over the place, and having my husband's surprise 40th birthday. And it's in these busy times that you realize it's hard to just grab food that is healthy. You can grab a piece of fruit, but vegetables need to cut up. Other stuff needs to be cooked. No wonder people eat so many chips and cookies, etc.

So what I want to do is to start preparing more food so that I have it on hand for the weeks that get out of hand. I like feeling that I am eating properly, but I don't always feel that. And I want to start eating a little bit better more consistently.

One thing I'd really like to try that I haven't tried much is Smoothies. Laura over at Mad Enough Tips has a great recipe here, and lots more at her site. I want to start reading her more and using some of her great tips!

This week, then, I'm going to do Smoothies for breakfast for myself. And what shall I do for dinner? I need to make things that give me leftovers, so that I have meals in my freezer for next time my week gets out of hand. Here goes:

Monday: Beef in the crockpot. I'm going to use beef with stock, a little bit of red wine, some golden mushroom soup, and some onion mixture in the crockpot. It tastes yummy. Add some potatoes and carrots, and you've got a meal.

Tuesday: Beef pies. With the leftovers, I'm going to make some beef pies that will do us for two meals. One I'll freeze. I usually just freeze the filling and then fill the pie crust when I need to eat it.

Wednesday: Salmon. We haven't had fish in a while, and we need to. I think fish should be eaten once a week for health reasons, though my family doesn't agree. But they'll tolerate salmon. I marinate it in soy sauce, honey, and ginger for the adults, and make it plain for the kids. Put lemon and green onion on top, and it's great.

Thursday: Hummus, black bean dip, salsa. This is my weird meal. I'm going to make a ton of hummus, black bean dip, and other dips for pita breads or vegetables. And that's going to be our dinner. Then I'm going to freeze the leftovers. They all freeze well, and then when I want a snack, I'll have some hummus on hand. Much better than chips. Eat it all with veggies and you've got a pretty balanced meal. I'll probably buy some sourdough bread to go with this meal, too, to make the kids happy. It's not a traditional dinner, but it will fill up my freezer with potential snacks.

This weekend I'm speaking at a homeschooling convention and a women's retreat, so I don't have to cook. But what about you? Have any smoothie recipes you want to share? Or any advice on healthy snacks? I'd love to hear them!

Thanks for stopping by! Do stay and look around for a bit. I've launched Complaint Free Week, and I'd love for you to join me!

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Wifey Wednesday: How He Makes Me Feel Safe

Usually in Wifey Wednesdays we talk problems. I name a common problem in a marriage, and then offer a possible solution.

Today I want to do something different. Tell me what you love about being married! Tell me how he makes you feel safe. Tell me how he helps you to share the burden.

I have a dear friend whose marriage is falling apart, and it's not primarily her fault. I won't go into the details, but you can trust me. Last week she had a big health scare, and she had to walk through it alone.

It just reminded me of some of the neat things about marriage. Even if your marriage isn't stellar; even if you're sometimes aggravated; even if you wonder if you're ever going to feel truly loved and accepted, I hope we can all agree that there are some wonderful things about being married. Even if one is that we don't have to walk through life alone.

I know many of you struggle, but today let's turn our hearts to gratitude. What do you appreciate about being able to share the load? What do you like most about having someone to lean on?

For me, I just like someone to talk to. Even if it's just while we lay in bed at night, or while I'm getting ready in the morning and he's in the shower, I like having someone who cares about my day and whom I can share frustrations with. It's a little thing, but it makes me feel wonderful to know that there is someone else who knows what's on my heart, who knows what's on my plate, and who cares. I'm not carrying it all alone.

What about you? Why not participate in Wifey Wednesday today? Just write your own post, put my Wifey Wednesday picture up on top of it, and then come on back here and enter the URL of your post in the Mr. Linky. Or you can just leave a comment, if you don't have your own blog! But let's talk gratitude today!

This week I'm also introducing people to me a little bit more, and one of the things I want to tell you about is some of the great resources I have. I speak quite a bit to women's groups and marriage groups, and many of those talks are available for download. Today, though, can I make a recommendation? If you and your husband are stuck in a rut, why not listen to our humorous "Light My Fire" talk that Keith and I gave together? It's all about how to reignite romance in your marriage. Download it here.

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Complaint Free Week

Read to the Bottom to Find How You Can Participate!

I complain a lot.

I can find fault with just about anything.

Part of it is my personality type. I'm a heavy NTJ for those of you who know Myers Briggs, so my goal is always efficiency and thinking outside the box. I can always come up with new ways of doing things, and it always bothers me when people aren't on board.

So yesterday I was speaking at a women's retreat. I had a wonderful time. The women were great, I felt invigorated giving my message, the weather was beautiful, the setting was lovely. And at one point I took a walk outside and talked to God. And as I walked, I just felt peaceful.

Then I thought, "there must be something that I'm supposed to pray about or fix." Usually when I pray, you see, I feel that God must be bringing to mind something that's wrong in my life.

Nothing came to mind. And then this thought went through my head: "Can't you ever just enjoy something without trying to see the negative?"

Now I've had a challenging week. I took on some projects that relied on other people, which is never a good idea when you're into efficiency and organization. And all week I was itching with all the problems everyone else was causing me. And as I took that walk, and felt peaceful, it occurred to me that I complain way too much.

Sometimes I complain about other people. Often I get my blood up about politicians, or the news, or church. I complain about other kids' parents. I complain about the place where my husband works. It's not that I don't say positive things, too. I do. It's just that if there's a negative to be pointed out, I'll see it, even if I don't mention it out loud.

We live in a negative culture, where we're always judging each other. Our politics is negative. And part of me enjoys that. I love reading political blogs and seeing what the next outrageous thing is that the party I abhor is up to. But it's sick in a way, too. Because even though I'm sure they're wrong, it doesn't do me any good to dwell on it. I know how I'll vote in an election. I know how I'll tell others to vote. Why should I glory in other people's mistakes? Why should I want to see what the next bad thing they've done is to justify my opinion of them?

Or what about with family and friends? When you live in an exciting family, as I do, there's always someone doing something crazy. And I have several friends and family members that would love to analyze these missteps with me. We don't call it complaining or criticizing. We discuss things, so that we can try to come alongside and help the children, or commisserate together. Yeah, right. We're just gossiping. And it doesn't help anyone.

I don't like this streak in me. So I have decided that with God's help I am going to have a complaint free week, where I focus on what is beautiful in the world. I'm not sure if I'll make it, because it's a little out of character for me, but I'm going to try.

For one week, I will not say anything negative. I will see the good in people, I will thank them for what they do, I will smile, I will be a blessing. I will learn to hold my tongue and enjoy the world.

But I don't want to do this alone, because I know I'm not the only one. So would you like to join me? Do you complain about your spouse way too much, even if it's only in your head? Do you complain about your job, or your in-laws, or taxes? Let's try not to. For one week, let's be positive, and see how it changes our lives and our outlooks!

Here's a great cartoon that summarizes the whole thing, too!

So will you join me in Complaint Free Week? Starting today, until next Saturday at midnight, I'm going to pray that God will help me not to complain. Why don't you do the same? And fill in the Mr. Linky to tell us all about it!

Now up: Complaint Free Week Day 2: With your daily challenge!
Complaint Free Podcast!

Don't Worry, Be Happy? audio download
Wifey Wednesday: How to Bring Up Problems in your marriage without complaining (with daily assignment!)
Watch What You Say to Your Friends (with 3rd daily challenge!)
Laugh with your Family (4th daily challenge!)

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Accidentally on Purpose
Every Friday I write a syndicated column that appears in a number of newspapers. Here's today's, and I hope you enjoy it!

Most of the really important moments in our lives happen by accident.

Some of these accidents have a negative connotation: she winds up pregnant; his car slams into a tree; he says something biting in the midst of a fight, and she never forgives him for it.

But accidents go the other way, too. A few years ago we were driving home from Ottawa when the sky suddenly darkened and the air began to vibrate. We pulled over, stepped out of the car, and looked up at thousands upon thousands of geese in V’s, honking as they headed south. We watched, in silence, in awe of nature. I’ll never forget it.

I still remember, too, the last time one of my children fell asleep in my arms, or when, as toddlers, they hugged me and said, “I’m so glad you’re my mommy.” I also recall the first conversation I ever had with Rebecca. Only four months of age, she was lying on a playmat, peering at me intensely and cooing. I would reply, pause, and then she would begin again, kicking her little legs as she “talked”. She kept up her end for quite some time. She told me she loved me, and I reciprocated.

I even fell in love by accident. Keith was my best friend for a year first, and one day, as we were walking, I realized we were more than that. I told him, and he eventually realized it, too, even if he took longer to admit it to himself. But it all started by accident.

We don’t tend to like accidents. We like goals, mission statements, and schedules. We like to know what’s going to happen, when, so we can be sure to pack for it. But what if some things can’t be scheduled? What if the beauty of life really is in the random moments that we share?

Yet are these moments completely random? After all, I couldn’t have fallen in love with my husband if I hadn’t been spending hours and hours with him, just talking. I couldn’t have had that conversation with my baby daughter if I hadn’t been playing on the floor with her. And my daughter couldn’t have fallen asleep in my arms if we hadn’t spent time cuddling, for no reason. Accidents, in other words, take time. Lots and lots of it.

We may think quality time is better than quantity time, but that’s a crock. Let’s say that you decide that Tuesday afternoon you are going to dedicate to quality time with your children after school to connect with your monosyllabic-speaking teenager and your hyper preteen. If those children, however, have not shared with you in a while, they may not want to open up right then. They need time to process things before they talk. They need to trust you, and that only happens when you spend time with no agenda in mind except being with them.

Besides, often the funniest moments in our lives happen just because we’re together, hanging out in the same room when someone farts outrageously loudly by accident, or makes a really pithy retort to a telemarketer, or falls out of a chair. It’s these silly things that become family legend, but only because you were together to notice them.

Most good accidents occur on purpose. They happen because we stop spending so much time in front of the screen and start hanging out with those we love. They happen when we stop being so busy. They happen when we laugh together. So I want to leave room for accidents, because true memories are priceless. And that kind of beauty is better than anything I could have planned anyway.

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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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