I'm on Twitter. I love Twitter. I can send out little soundbites about my day, complain about aches and pains or the weather, or make little jokes, and get instant feedback. It's fun!
And I have a lot of followers, and I follow quite a few. Yesterday this Tweet came across the board from a certified Life Coach. She said:
Start by blessing yourself. “May I be safe, may I be happy, may I be healthy, may I live with ease.”
I thought this was interesting. I'm speaking at a retreat as you read this (I actually wrote this post and scheduled it to appear today), and I'm speaking exactly AGAINST all of those things.
Too often our primary prayers are for our own health, safety, happiness and well-being. And yet that was never what Jesus prayed for his followers, and it wasn't what Paul prayed for his spiritual children.
Sometimes it is only through adversity that we really grow. It's like in Finding Nemo. Remember that scene, near the end of the movie, when dad Marlin is distraught because it looks like he will never be able to rescue Nemo? And Dorrie tries to cheer him up, which makes Marlin even more irritated.
"Don't you understand?!?" he cries. "I promised him that nothing would ever happen to him!". "Well, that's a funny thing to promise," replies Dorrie. "Because if nothing ever happened to him, then nothing would ever happen to him."
I think there's a lot of spiritual wisdom in that fish. The point is not what happens to us in life; it's how we respond, and whether we allow God to turn it into good. And that's the attitude that Paul takes. He prays that God will help the Ephesians to understand how long and high and wide and deep is the love of Christ. He prays that they may grow in wisdom and understanding. In Colossians he prays that they may bear fruit in every good work, and they may know the knowledge and wisdom and will of God.
Aren't those things more important? You see, if we understand how much God loves us; if we grow in understanding; if we bear fruit; if we grow in unity and love; then no matter what happens to us, we'll be fine. But if we concentrate our prayers on good things happening, then we not only lose out on opportunities to grow; we also leave ourselves unprepared with bad things do happen.
And the same goes with prayers for our children. Are you consumed for praying for their safety? Are you constantly praying that God will give them good lives? Why not pray, instead, that they may grow in wisdom and understanding? Because if they do that, and if they understand how much God loves them, they'll be fine. They'll soar. They'll fly. No matter the circumstances.
When we worry about circumstances, we become slaves to this life. When we concentrate on God, we actually become free. So stop praying for your own safety and happiness and well-being, and pray for your heart. Of course, there's nothing wrong with asking God for safety at times, but if this is the predominant prayer, you have a problem. Your soul is worth so much more; ask God to nourish it this weekend!
And here's something else you may enjoy: an article I wrote a few years ago on how to Parent without Fear about exactly this topic!
Every Friday my syndicated column is published in a variety of places, and here's this one, about our current economic crisis. See what you think (I'll add my own thoughts at the end):
Modern economic practice involves a lot of wishful thinking. Many politicians believe that you can spend billions bailing out car companies and auto unions, and magically consumers will buy from these companies again. People aren’t much better. We think we should be able to buy whatever we want, whatever our income.
Recently two young, married friends of mine arrived back from four years of university ready to launch into their adult life. She’s got a job, he’s about to land one, and they’re living with her mother.
That may not sound like much of a success story, but they have a plan. By the end of the summer they’ll have paid off their student loans. By next spring they’ll have the downpayment for a house. They’ve scrimped and saved, paid for their used car in cash, and collected hand me down furniture. They may not have much now, but they’ll succeed, because they know how to exercise self-restraint.
Many people don’t believe in saving money for a purchase. They plop down their credit cards for everything, and then can’t make the payments. The credit card companies jack up the interest rates, and these financial dunces either take years to pay it off, or they default.
Last week, Obama decided that those with bad credit histories shouldn’t have to pay such exorbitant rates. He demanded that banks stop hiking rates without warning, and put some measures in place to protect the young. Our Finance Minister followed suit. Flaherty forced credit card companies to inform customers clearly before the rates get hiked, and he gave customers a reasonable chance to pay their bills before interest is charged. It was a good compromise.
But some opposition parties didn’t think this went far enough. One NDP proposal floating around was that credit card interest rates should be capped at 5% above prime.
Yet the banks only charge these high rates because some people are high risk. If you pay your credit card bill on time, in full, you don’t have a problem. Those high interest rates only kick in when you don’t.
Maybe you think that’s not fair. But if you limit what banks can do with their high risk clients, you run into two problems. First, banks will just charge their good customers more, in the form of higher annual fees or fewer rewards programs. Those good customers, who are only in it for the air miles, will turn to debit cards instead, reducing the profitability of credit card companies. But more importantly, banks will stop lending to those with bad credit. Only the wealthy and those with good payment histories will be eligible for credit.
It’s a similar dynamic to the recent American proposal to force employers to give their employees one week of paid vacation—rather than just give them the time off. What lawmakers seem to forget is that if a company employs 100 workers, and you suddenly tell them you have to pay each of those workers for one week of vacation time, two of those workers will likely get fired, especially during a recession where money is tight.
Too many legislators think that their policies exist in a vacuum. They mandate something, and everybody will do it, without changing anything else. Legislators want to force people to be generous, but the world doesn’t work that way. They can’t force companies to take on higher costs without repercussions, any more than they can force people to buy Chryslers again.
We are in this mess because government, banks, people and unions got too greedy. We’re not going to get out of it until everyone tightens their belts, acts responsibly, and learns basic economics. I wonder how long that will take?
I was talking about this issue last night with family when they took me out for a belated birthday dinner, and it came out that Canadian banks are still making record profits. The banking industry in Canada is the only thing not really affected by the recession. It's doing great. That's not to say that I disagree with what I wrote; just that maybe we need more competition, of people who will lend money to those with good credit histories for less. Right now, even if you have a stellar record, you can't get less than prime plus half. That's ridiculous when banks are making a ton. Anyway, that's just my take!
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I've had a lot of incoming links to my blog post a while ago about whether or not it makes sense to incur so much college debt.
My thinking: if you're into university for the experience, and you have the money, it may be okay. If you're in it for a specific career that requires it, okay. If you expect that you'll take liberal arts and then be able to get a good paying job, forget it.
I had an email from Marc Scheer, the author of No Sucker Left Behind, who blogs about this very thing. Here's a recent post which is fascinating:
the average college grad does not financially catch up to a same-aged high school grad until they are both aged 33. Those who have higher than average debt, lower than average salaries, or go to grad school may not catch up until they are in their 40's....
In addition, after taxes, a new college grad only earns about $5,000 more per year than a same-aged high school grad. This is why it takes so long to catch up. My book features a nifty chart that displays all of this year by year. Even at the age of 40, an average college grad is 'only' $100,000 ahead of a same-aged high school grad. That's a decent amount of money, but it's much less than people expect
Interesting. Find out more about his book here:
And remember: don't send your child to college unless you have the money, have a plan, feeling a calling, and have prayed A LOT!
Have you ever wondered why with the microwave, washer and dryer, cars, vacuum cleaners, and wrinkle resistant clothing, our lives are still so busy? Why don't these time savers actually save us time? Why is that we work almost as hard as our grandmothers did?
I think the answer is that standards have completely changed. But we don't realize it. We don't realize that the way that we do home and family now wasn't always the way we did home and family. At one point, the family was much more cohesive. We all worked together. Now Mom almost always works on her own, trying to keep her brood together!
If you're tired today, listen in on this podcast to give you a new perspective on our homes! And don't miss the special pointer I have at the end which can help us out of our feelings of defeat and give us a feeling of purpose once again!
This goes along well with some of the thoughts I've been having lately, about the difference between dedication and discipline. If you haven't read that, do it now!
Finally, if you enjoyed this podcast, remember that it's a condensed version of chapter 2 of my book, To Love, Honor and Vacuum, which is 25% off for the month of May! Find out more here! You can also purchase the 45 minute version of this talk for just $2 here!
It's not often that I really, really like my columns, but last week's came out of somewhere deep in my heart. And I received so many emails on it, and I wanted to share some of those with you.
Basically, the column talked about how sometimes our lives go in very different directions than we planned, but that doesn't mean that we've failed. It means that we're called to something different.
Interestingly, a retired man I know made the comment that it's easier to say that at 40 than at 70. At 70 you have a lot of regrets.
I think that's sad, but I don't think it's inevitable. When you're a Christian, you have this feeling that God is leading you. You know it. And if God is leading you, then there aren't regrets. Without God, how do you ever judge if what you did was right?
Then I received lots of emails from moms. Here's one:
Sheila, I just had to let you know how much I enjoyed last weekends' column, Dreaming New Dreams. You hit the nail right on the head when you wrote, "I think what we miss is that we are not the same people who dreamed them".
So true!!! I am a mom of three who works very part time hours, and at two jobs, one of which gets lots of chuckles and laughs from people when I tell them what I do. I used to be almost "embarrassed" about what I did.... until I read your article. I work part time for the city and am in charge of all bar sales at our local sports centre. I also work part time serving food.
It's not glamorous, but the most important thing to me is being home with my children. I don't want them in daycare and I don't want them home alone. I took hotel and tourism admin. at college and my dream was to work in a big hotel and have some fancy title....and like you, be downtown Toronto amongst all the skyscrapers.
I went to school there and did my placement right downtown, and boy, I had some big dreams! Well, there are no big hotels here and no fancy titles either. But it's just as well because my kids are the most important thing in my life, and I have built my life around that. Your column really, really helped me realize that what I am doing IS right...and that what's important is that I am happy with what I'm doing. Even though "cafeteria lady" doesn't sound nearly as exciting as "Chief Executive Officer", it allows my children to call me "mom who is always home when we are". (and knows everything they're doing at every single hour of the day!!!) And it allows me to concentrate on my marriage too. I am able to look after myself and be there for my family. I couldn't do that if I was doing what I had dreamed of so many years ago!
Isn't that good? This woman gets it! What matters most is our relationships with our kids and families, not our jobs.
I received a bunch of other emails I'm not at liberty to share, but let me just say as an encouragement to you all:
Your legacy is not what you do at your workplace; it is the difference you make in the lives of those God has given you. So cherish your family. They are irreplaceable!
You see, I am torn about the issue. On the one hand, I think women berate themselves far too much on image issues. They say that weight is the number one thing women feel guilty about, as if God is more concerned with our waistlines than He is our hearts. And it is also definitely true that our insides matter more than our outsides. A truly beautiful woman is one who is gentle in spirit, true in character, loving in outlook. These things are biblical, and they come first.
But I'm uncomfortable with leaving it like that, because I know that when it comes to men, looks matter. So as a wife, what is our responsibility to look good for our husbands?
I was thrilled with all the comments I received, and I want to summarize my thinking on the issue, with some help from some of the commenters.
First, I think the issue is not what we look like but the effort we put in. Only about 1% of us will ever be able to look anything like supermodels. But as anyone who has ever watched the show What Not to Wear knows, all of us, regardless of body type or features, can make an effort to look attractive. We don't need to be Jennifer Aniston, but we can take pride in ourselves.
Here's a video that I did a while ago, if you haven't seen it yet, about how much women berate ourselves for our bodies. The point, again, is that we can't be Barbies.
So we don't want to do that. But we do want to make an effort to show our husbands that we care. I think Cassandra, in the comments, summed it up well. She said that early in the marriage she asked her husband these questions:
1. What can I do that will bring joy to your heart?
2. What can I do that will absolutely delight you?
3. I know I don't have to do any of this, but, if I have some extra time, are there desires that you have that I can attend to?
And that's her motivation for trying to look nice for him. It isn't because she's afraid of him straying. It isn't because she's shallow. It's just because she wants to present herself to him in a way that he will like, and feel special. And men are visual creatures, so appealing to his visual senses is important.
I think that's what it's all about. Do you make your husband feel special? Do you let him know by what you do that you're looking forward to seeing him again?
Carrie intimated about this when she said this:
He likes to see my eyes light up, for me to indicate he's still the desire of my heart after all these year...those are among the things he sees as beautiful, even when I'm in my favorite OLD cotton nightgown, face scrubbed and hair pulled back in a braid.
The important thing for her husband when he comes home is that Carrie looks like she's glad to see him. And let's be honest, here, women: many times we don't look it. Especially when we have small children, it's easy to get into the "you're home now, so you take the kids so I can finally get something done" mode. We don't delight in being with him again; we just push things on him as soon as he's in the door.
Part of being a good wife, then, I think, is to show your husband you love him and are eager to see him in a way that speaks to him. And taking the time in your very busy day to look presentable is one way to do that. Another Cassandra said this about her husband:
He says that men feel betrayed if they marry one thing (makeup, nice clothes, nice body) and wind up with something else 20 years later (way larger body, no makeup, sloppy clothes) that by caring for ourselves, it says volumes to them...that would never have occured to me unless he said it first...then i read it in a book later and thought, wow, guess that's across the board for most guys...
I think that's true, too. Now men don't always care for themselves, either. Many of us are married to guys who have gained 50 pounds since the wedding, and we wish they'd lose it, too. But marriage is not about only acting loving when he first does something nice. It's about taking the initiative.
So here's your challenge this week: can you take five minutes before you see your husband again, either because he's arriving home from work or because you are, and make yourself look nice for him? Can you put the effort in to show him that you were looking forward to him coming home, and then, when he gets in the door, can you show him that? Even if he doesn't respond right away? Make the effort. And then, over the next few weeks, see what happens!
Do you have your own marriage advice for us? Or would you like to respond to this post? Why not write your own Wifey Wednesday post? Just copy the picture above by right clicking it and saving it, and then go to your own blog and write your own post. Come on back here and enter the post's URL in the Mr. Linky (if it works, it's being temperamental) or in the ocmments!
Okay, ladies, I want to start an honest discussion here.
When I had my surprise party a week ago, I was presented with a beautiful scrapbook of my life, made my one of my best friends. It really was spectacular.
And as I was looking back on the years of my life, something occurred to me. I look a whole lot better at 39 than I did at 29. I was in better shape back then, mind you. It probably came from having two small children that I used to bike all around town with, me pedaling and them sitting back there in the bike trailer. I had muscle, I tell you.
But I didn't have much make-up. And my hair was straight and style-less.
I took care of myself in university well. I always had some make-up on, and I had nice clothes, even if I bought them in second hand stores (well, I still do that!). But mainly I tried to look put together.
That all stopped when the babies came. I was just too tired, and the kids would pull at my hair and wreck any jewellery I had on anyway. I didn't see the point. I was only hanging out in groups of other moms with babies, and I didn't see why I should doll myself up just for my husband, when right before he got home I was already overwhelmed trying to get dinner on the table and keep the kids occupied at the same time.
Now that I have more time, though, I've enjoyed getting my hair coloured, and putting on make-up again, and buying clothes that are more fashionable. I often find myself touching up my make-up before my husband comes home. I think it mostly is a function of time and energy, though. I just didn't have either way back then, but I do know.
Yet I wonder: how many of us go out of our way to look pretty for our husbands? And is this necessary? I know we're supposed to be beautiful on the inside; I even talk about this quite a bit. But do we take pride in ourselves and in our marriage? And should we have to?
I know some women who have never worn make-up and look fine on their own, so I'm not saying everyone should be wearing make-up. I wonder, though, if we have given up. I think I had at one point, but the truth is I've always liked playing dressup, even as a child, so it's little wonder I like thinking about outfits in the morning or trying to look pretty in the evening. I don't think it's vain; I'm honestly thinking about Keith. But should we be doing this? Is it necessary? Is it wrong to give up? Or is it wrong to try in the first place? I'd love to know what you all think!
This week is my birthday week, and for various reasons a ton of different people are taking me out to dinner various nights of the week. I've got my mom one night, my mother-in-law another night, my best friend and a barbecue another night, and so on. So I don't actually have much to plan. So instead I'd like to share some thoughts I had about eating out and menu planning.
But first I have a little aside that's going to come around to food in just a minute. Just bear with me!
This weekend I watched several episodes of the show "Til Debt Do Us Part", a Canadian show about couples who are in debt up to their eyeballs. A professional comes in and straightens them out, and by the end of the show they at least have a plan and a better sense of reality. I don't always agree with her (she often pushes moms of young toddlers into the workplace, whereas I would push them into a smaller and cheaper place to live first), but on the whole it's a good show. But what always gets me is how far in debt these couples can get in one month. They overspend by $5000, $6000, even $9000 a MONTH! My goodness! And they don't realize at the time that they are doing it. I can't for the life of me figure out how you can be that much in denial, but I guess it's possible.
Her suggestion is always to use a cash budget, and she divides up their budget usually into 5 or 6 jars, where she places money for them to use that week. It's never very much. I've rarely seen her give a couple more than $100 a week for food, which I think is unrealistic if you have a bunch of kids. But I do think food is the hidden budget item in many of our homes.
I'm not sure if we realize how much eating out truly costs us. Sure you grab McDonald's on the run today. And tomorrow, when you're out with just one child, you pick up lunch. And then when you've got all kids at the park, you stop by the ice cream store on the way home.
Add that all up, and frequently you're looking at $100 a week without a lot of effort. That's several hundred a month.
Now it's easy to hunker down and just say: that's it. We're not eating out anymore.
But I'm not sure that's realistic, either. Sometimes, after all, you just are in a hurry. And sometimes you do want to do something special with the kids, like grabbing the ice cream.
So today, on Menu Plan Monday, I want to talk about how we can "plan" for these times when we would normally eat out.
I think we need to be realistic. Some days you just aren't going to have time to fulfill your menu plan. The kids are going to have an emergency and you're not going to be home to cook. The soccer game will go later than planned. You got talking to a friend after picking up your kids from school, and your whole plan got thrown off. These things happen.
So why not realize that sometimes you're going to need something in a hurry and just plan for it? Here are two options:
1. Double meals as much as possible when you cook and then freeze half. Don't include that other half on your menu plan. That way, when you're especially desperate, there's always something in the freezer you can just defrost, even if it's just spaghetti sauce.
2. Buy frozen pizzas or frozen dinners just for that night. I know they're expensive, but it is cheaper to eat frozen chicken kiev or fish sticks with some frozen veggies than it is to run to McDonald's. The trick is to not eat it just because it's there. Save it for the real emergencies! These frozen meals don't tend to be as healthy, and they certainly are more expensive. So keep them for necessities (and we all have those necessities).
Now, what about those times when you just need a treat? How about this?
You know those really cool backpacks you can buy that come all ready for picnics? They have a cloth for the ground, and cutlery, and plates, and all kinds of other stuff? I just love them. Why not pick up such a backpack, or even better, create your own, and then whenever you want to go for a picnic you can just stick some food inside? Then you can go for a bike ride to the waterfront, or to a park, or to a river (put bug spray in that backpack, too!), and it's an outing and an event for your kids.
At our homeschool we often bike somewhere for lunch and then do math there, just to mix things up when the weather gets nice! We all need those special times, but you can create them yourself with some forethought.
So those are my suggestions if you don't want to spend $100 a week on eating out. Plan for emergencies, and have something on hand to make a special outing. Then we don't have to go fast food places, and our wallets will thank us!
Thanks for stopping by! I have lots more posts on marriage, family, and finding our purpose. Why not look around for a bit?
In April, 8-year-old Victoria Stafford disappeared from her Woodstock, Ontario home. I'm not sure how many of my American readers heard about her, but her picture was plastered everywhere across my home province of Ontario. We were all praying for her to come home safely.
Last week they made an arrest in the case. An 18-year-old neighbour and her 28-year-old boyfriend were taken into custody. Of course, we don't know for sure whether they did it or not, but the more I read details of the case, the sadder I became.
The mother was the focus of a lot of gossip over the month that Victoria was missing with no apparent leads. A single mom, she had left her husband several years earlier, and had in the interim become addicted to Oxycontin, a drug that the 18-year-old suspect was also addicted to.
She also had an off-again, on-again boyfriend. And the father, who is heartbroken obviously, has confessed himself that he was not involved enough in Victoria's life for the last few years.
Then let's turn to the accused. The 18-year-old Terry-Lynne McClintic was the daughter to a single mother who was formerly a stripper. She was actually the biological daughter of another stripper, but was adopted by her mother as a baby. The adopted mom and her husband split up when the accused was only 3, and she hasn't seen her adopted father since.
The 28-year-old, Michael Rafferty, was also the son of a single mother with a live-in boyfriend. So all over the place we have marital breakdown, occasional drug use, cohabitation, alcoholism, and addictions of various sorts.
It is hard to raise a child alone. We were not meant to do it. Not all single parents are drug addicts, or incompetent, or sexually permissive. I know my own mother certainly wasn't. But the fact is that a child, living with a single mother and her live-in boyfriend, is 25 times more likely to be sexually abused than a child living with both biological parents. And a child is far more likely to be the victim of a crime if they grow up in a single parent household. The home is just more chaotic, and there's one less adult to keep an eye on things.
And people are also far more likely to commit crimes if they come from broken homes. There aren't very many on death row who grew up with both biological parents.
This isn't set in stone. My home province of Ontario was rocked a decade and a half ago by the case of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, a young, good-looking, professional married couple who kidnapped, raped and murdered Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffey. I don't even have to look up any of the names, I remember it so well. Both murderers were from intact families. Kristen and Leslie were also from exemplary families. It made it all so horrible. Evil can come in any package and can hit anywhere.
But just because it can doesn't mean it's equally likely. And crime is more likely to befall those who live in broken homes, and more likely to be committed by those who come from broken homes. Dysfunction stalks dysfunction.
It's not fair, but I think we need to acknowledge it. Marriage matters. It is not just a private affair; it is a public good. It gives stability to children and breeds responsibility and commitment. I'm watching what's happening to extended family where marriages have broken down, and life is much harder for everyone.
Sometimes, of course, when a marriage ends, one partner really isn't at fault. We all know divorces like that, and I don't mean to malign these people. I think when a marriage ends, but you keep the ideals of marriage and family, you can still raise your children well in a stable home, even if it's harder. But when you give up on the idea of loyalty, continuity, responsibility, fidelity, and self-control, you open you and your family up for a potential world of hurt.
I'm sure I'll get blasted in the comments for my insensitive view on this whole thing. I certainly don't mean to blame Victoria's mother or father; the blame lies entirely with the two who did this despicable deed. But it's also important for us as a society to look at the root causes of dysfunction and talk openly about them. Talking as if there's no difference between single parenthood and marriage is just not true; it's a blatant lie. People may want to believe it's true, because they don't want to believe there is a right and a wrong, but that doesn't make it so. Children need both parents to be committed to each other. If we all did that, I think we'd find far fewer cases of abuse, violence, and general pathology.
Here are some of my favourite children's books she has:
Anyway, Jeannie also sends out a beautiful prayer every Monday that I subscribe to, and it starts my week off right.
Recently, though, she had been praying for the unborn, and got some rather nasty emails back from people who are Christian. I'm not privy to what these emails said, but here is her response, which I just love. I asked for her permission to post it, because I thought it was so well put, and encapsulates how I feel exactly.
I am not political. Had you asked me thirty years ago which party I favored, Democrat or Republican, you'd have gotten a blank stare. ...
And yet, despite my political-neutrality, several people have recently accused me of the exact opposite. It started when I sent an article on abortion to my Monday Morning Prayer List. Instead of appreciating the well-reasoned arguments in the piece, one friend wrote back and requested I please not talk politics with him. Another two people huffed off my email list demanding they never get anything else from me. Not ever. Not even the Monday prayers -- because I had offended them with political propaganda.
I was stunned. Political propaganda? I don't think of abortion as a political issue, it's a moral issue. Isn't it? It used to be.
Sadly, without most of us even noticing, moral issues have morphed into political concerns. ...Same-sex marriage, the day after pill for seventeen-year-olds, embryonic stem cell research -- there's no space to list them all, but every one of those ethical and moral issues have become political matters, and as a result morally-neutral. Porn on the Internet is nothing more than free speech these days. See how easy it's become? ...It's all good, guilt-free.
Unless you come down on the politically-incorrect side of a topic. More often than not, that unpopular side is God's side. ...Make no mistake, the sharp divide in our nation that has become so apparent in recent elections runs along moral lines even though disguised as political division. Recognize that! Learn what God expects of you. If you recognize that something is politically-correct, stop and analyze it. Ask what God says about it. Is it really political or is it an ethical matter?
Study the Bible until you can recognize right from wrong. Pray for wisdom and clear sight. Make decisions based on what the Bible says and not on what feels right. Instead of voting based on party, look at morals and ethics. Any time you have the opportunity to do it, speak up for right. You will suffer for it, but God will reward you in heaven. You and I must summon our courage and do what we can to stop evil now. ...Even if it means friends and family label us "political."
What she's saying is true in my own country of Canada, too. So often we see things that should be moral issues in terms of political issues. But if they're moral imperatives, they're moral imperatives. And we shouldn't confuse the two.
I guess I feel so strongly about the abortion question because I was once pressured to abort. I was pregnant with my baby boy, and they detected a serious heart defect. I let my baby live, and I am eternally grateful for that. You can read his story here.
I get way too into politics. I fret over elections, and polls, and the news. And yet, when all is said and done, political parties don't matter. They don't last beyond this world. But abortion does matter. God matters. How we handle our own charitable giving matters (rather than leaving it all to the government). How we live out our own marriages, and encourage other people's marriages, matters. So let's reclaim the moral, and stop trying to make things into political issues just to silence others. Let's do what we can to live out our values and morals in our homes, in our workplaces, in our cities, and in our countries. Maybe I sound political; I don't mean to. But these things matter. And we had better make sure we don't sweep them all under the rug because they're just about "politics".
I'm in Moncton as we speak, giving a talk on how to figure out God's priorities to a group of several hundred women!
I'm excited, because eastern Canada is where my husband's roots are, and I don't get out here nearly enough!
Anyway, the subject of my talk today is really about how to figure out where God is leading you. What really is important? It goes well with my column this week about dreaming the right dreams for ourselves.
But I think the problem that we as women have is that we put too much on ourselves, and then we end up feeling exhausted because we're not necessarily putting our energy into the things that God had for us. Of course we need to do laundry and get dinner on and get kids to dentist's appointments, but if we're not feeling like we're really in sync with what God has for our lives, then we're going to feel like something's missing.
Here's a little glimpse of the opening about how we sometimes worry about the wrong things:
If you're feeling like you're spinning your wheels and not really getting anywhere, I wish you could be in Moncton and join me today! But even if you're not, you can hear my talk. It's very similar to the one that I have on as my special download of the month! It's only $2, and it's 45 minutes long, filled with practical advice and spiritual insight. You can download right to your computer, or save it on CD or your iPod.
Every Friday my syndicated column "Reality Check" appears in a variety of newspapers. This week's is based on a blog post I wrote earlier this week. Amazingly, my husband gave me permission for the first paragraph!
Last weekend my husband brought home the movie Marley & Me thinking that since it was romantic, it would naturally lead to romance. Unfortunately, the length of the movie threatened his intended result, and he confessed later that he found himself whispering under his breath, “Die, already dog. Hurry up and die!” But Marley took a while to succumb, and I, who am not particularly a dog person, found myself tearing up.
Marley & Me, though, isn’t really a dog movie. It’s more about what it means to be at peace, even with a dog that eats answering machines without chewing. The focus is on columnist John Grogan, who has made all the right choices. He marries a good woman; he lands a good job; he has wonderful children. But despite making these correct choices he's restless. He had a certain vision of himself, and now he’s hitting forty and he’s not that person. And as he stares at his friends and family at his surprise birthday party, he wonders if he has failed.
Last weekend, right before we watched this movie, my family and friends threw me a “Forever Thirty-Nine” party. They figured doing it next year, when I really will be forty, would be too difficult because I’d be expecting it. So last Sunday my best friend unveiled a scrapbook of my life, people told stories and roasted me, and in general I felt extremely appreciated.
Such events, though, do cause you to examine your choices. And all too often, when we go through this exercise, we look back on our lives and find them wanting. Yet perhaps the reason this examination is so painful is because we use the wrong measuring stick.
In that scrapbook, the 23-year-old version of me in the graduation gown had a certain vision for my life. I was supposed to be the CEO of a hospital, or the director of a think tank foundation. But here I am, homeschooling my kids, putting dinner in the crockpot, folding laundry, writing columns, and raising money for an orphanage in Kenya. Not exactly what I had planned. That doesn’t mean, though, that it’s wrong.
Many of us feel restless because we haven’t achieved our dreams, but I think what we miss is that we are not the same people who dreamed them. I am not fresh out of graduate school with visions of Toronto skyscrapers in my head. I’m a small town mom with a tent trailer.
There’s nothing wrong with dreaming, but the dreams should be about looking forward, not looking back. When I hit forty, I won’t have achieved many of the things I thought I would. But I’ve achieved different things. True peace comes not when we tick off everything on our life’s to-do list; it comes when we get comfortable in our skin, make choices that reflect our values and who we are, and then live out those choices, in the nitty gritty, day by day. There’s nothing wrong with assessing your life and making changes, but make sure those changes reflect who you are now, not who you thought you’d be once.
I am not who I was. And my dreams, though they seemed big then, were really quite small. They didn’t involve two blonde teenagers who still like to hold my hand when we walk. They couldn’t see the changes trips to Kenya would make in me. They didn’t know how a small tombstone tucked in a country cemetery would change my heart. They didn’t realize how being married to my best friend could bring a satisfaction so much deeper than any paycheque or title. And so I am different today, but I’m comfortable with it. And as I approach middle age, that’s really the best gift I could have.
Reality Check is also a book! You can get 85 of my favourite columns to read in the bathroom (at least that's where everybody tells me they read them!). Find out more here.
Normally, every Tuesday or Thursday I upload a podcast. I've been trying to do that, but my podcast provider is down again. You can download and listen, but you can't upload new ones. We ran into this problem in February, too, and it's very frustrating.
So I thought I'd post links to oldies but goodies! And the really good one I have recorded for today will have to wait.
Last night I went to sleep when my children did. It was only 9:30, but I was tired.
My husband was on call last night, too, (he's a pediatrician), and I swear his pager went off every hour. It was definitely not the best sleep for me, let alone for him (he had to go in for two hours in the middle of the night).
Then this morning I didn't get up until 8, which is late for me. And it got me thinking: if I hadn't gone to sleep early, I'd be in even worse shape. My body obviously needed the sleep. So why do we scrimp on sleep so much?
I think it's because we want to have fun. Once the kids go to bed, we really want some time to ourselves, even if we are tired. So we stay up way too late.
The pioneers used to get tons of sleep. They'd go to bed with the sun, and up with the sun, and often they slept eleven hours a day in the winter, even the adults. That doesn't sound like such a bad idea to me. But now that we have electric lights and televisions, staying up until midnight is normal for most of us.
I just don't think it's good for us. I get so grumpy when I'm tired, and by two in the afternoon I'm really lethargic. I've always needed a lot of sleep. Even today, eight hours often doesn't cut it. I need a good nine hours to feel like myself, which means I should be going to bed by 10:30 every night, though I don't. My youngest daughter doesn't need that much sleep. She never has. As a baby she only slept 9 hours over the entire day, including naps. I was absolutely exhausted. But she wasn't. She was happy as a clam. At one point I actually made a chart of how much she slept in a week, and when, and took it into my doctor and said, "You have to make her sleep! This is ridiculous!" But there was nothing my doctor could do, and Katie got rid of her naps in the day pretty early and put in her nine and a half hours at night. So that was okay.
I know some parents who deal with the sleep issue by just putting their children to bed at 7. That way they have the evening to themselves. But their kids get up at 5:30 or 6, and I simply could not handle that. I always put my kids to bed a little late, like 9, just so they'd sleep until 7.
But this sleep problem is a big one for us, because we also need couple time, don't we? And that's hard to have while the kids are awake. So as the kids have gotten older, we've instituted the "you have to be in your room at 9" rule, even if they're not sleeping, just so that we can be on our own.
Tonight I'm going to go to bed early again. I'm off to speak at a conference this weekend, and I don't want to start the weekend exhausted. But I wish I'd just get into the habit of sleeping well all the time!
What about you? What do you do about sleep? And how do your kids sleep? Let's talk about it!
Just a quick thing for Works for Me Wednesday this week--
When I was in grade 9, my history teacher taught us how to write essays. She drilled it into our heads so much that we couldn't forget: thesis statement, three points, topic sentence for each, concluding sentence. She also drummed the proper way to write a book report into our heads, too. Don't retell the plot: analyze the book. I hated her with a passion. And now, looking back, she was my favourite teacher. She helped me immeasurably.
I've taken what she taught and turned it into outlines for book reports and essays that you can download for FREE here. They're great for grades 5-12. I use them in our homeschool, but even if your kids aren't homeschooled, if you want them to write awesome essays, or help them plan book reports, they'll be useful! Just pick them up here. (scroll down for the links).
Have a great day!
Thanks for dropping by! I have lots of other posts on marriage, parenting, finding our purpose, and more! Why not stay and look around a while?
Last week, on Wifey Wednesday, we were talking about things we wished we had known before we were married. And my guest, Christine Pembleton, said that she wished that she had known that you wouldn't be "one" right away. That takes time.
Her statement started a discussion in the comments section, since as one woman correctly pointed out, spiritually we are automatically one upon marriage, based on the verse:
And the man shall leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
Absolutely. They are one. But that doesn't mean that we FEEL like we're one, which is what Christine was trying to say. So I want to take up that discussion today and get it going again.
Before we are married, we only have ourselves to worry about. We don't have to consider another's feelings; we're all bent on making decisions that will make ME happy. I am the focus of my life.
At marriage, that feeling naturally continues. When we're first married, we start to wonder, "is he making me happy?", or "is he treating me well?", "is he acting like a good husband should?". We're new at this, so it's only natural that we should question whether he's doing what he's supposed to. After all, we have images of what being the proper wife is, and we're doing that, but is he holding up his end of the bargain?
We're focused on what he is doing, not what we are doing, because we're used to giving ourselves a pass. We can always find reasons why it was okay for us not to be giving in that particular situation. We can always justify ourselves. But our husbands are a different matter.
The other issue, I think, is a gender one. Deep inside we want him to make the first move. So if we feel like he's not treating us appropriately, we may withdraw and wait for him to make it up. And we think that's okay because he's supposed to treat us better than that.
What we don't see is what he is feeling. Chances are he's just as disillusioned as we are, because he had expectations going into the marriage, too, that aren't being met. And while this situation is quite typical for many newly married couples, whether or not it keeps going on is up to us. Because for many couples, this is the constant state. For decades this is how they relate to each other: judgment, justification, resentment, withholding. It's all about my feelings and my rights.
And so we face a choice. Our husbands will always disappoint us because they are not US. They don't have the same opinions or values or expectations, so they can never live up to ours. So what are we going to do: are we going to continue this cycle, or are we going to become one?
The ball, I think, is in your court. Don't wait for your husband to act. But here is the key to turning on this "oneness" part of marriage: you have to understand that his feelings are now your feelings. His cares are now your cares. His concerns are now your concerns. Spiritually, that is a fact. And when we recognize the spiritual fact, we can start to act on it. And when we act on it, we may eventually start to feel it.
He doesn't need to justify his feelings; they are his feelings. And now that you are married, they should matter to you just as much as yours do. It matters when he's upset. Don't try to get him to justify it or talk him out it; be concerned about it. Because when he's upset, part of you is upset. It matters if he feels lonely or frustrated, because that means you are lonely and frustrated.
If you can start putting as much weight on his feelings as you do yours, or even 50% as much weight on his feelings, you'll likely find that your marriage will improve exponentially, because you're reaching out.
We women are very good at DOING things for other people, but we often keep our hearts in reserve. We may do all the laundry, and cook him nice meals, but we do it on our terms, not his. Sometimes it's harder to feel than to do. And as a wife, his feelings and cares do matter.
When you start valuing those, he's likely to reach out to you more. And as he reaches out to you, you are going to start feeling like one. It doesn't happen overnight. And I'm not saying you should accept sin, or not confront him on things that are important. I'm only saying that his viewpoint counts, and you need to give it the weight it deserves. Then, and only then, will you begin to feel like you're one.
What about you? Do you feel like you're one in marriage? How did that happen? Write your own Wifey Wednesday post, and then come back here and leave your URL in the Mr. Linky, or leave a comment if you don't have a blog! Let's keep the discussion going!
This weekend, over two nights, my husband and I watched Marley & Me. Cute movie, not stupendous or anything, but good enough. It gets better towards the ending.
Of course, my husband was only watching the movie because he was hoping to spend quality time with me so that we would do something OTHER than watch a movie, and it was a LOOONG movie. By the end Keith was saying to himself, "Die, already, dog. Just die!" Because really, the dog did take a long time to go.
But the point wasn't the dog. The point of the movie, which is based on a true story, was one man's search for peace and happiness.
Throughout the show he makes all the right choices. He marries; he gets a good job; he tries hard at that job to support his family; he has children. Of course, he gets a dog. But despite making these right choices he's restless. He always feels that the grass is greener on the other side.
I'm not saying he wanted to have an affair; that never entered the movie at all. It's just that when the normal problems come with life, they drag him down. When the babies are young and difficult, and his wife is hormonal and difficult, he wonders if this is really what he wanted. And he wonders that throughout the movie. He ends up quitting his job as a columnist because what he really wanted was to be a reporter. So he becomes a reporter.
But once he takes that job something inside him changes. He understands that it's not about what you want or dream about; it's about what you are. And he is a columnist. He is a father. He is a husband. And by the end of the movie he's made peace with that.
It's funny, because on the same evening we also watched Karate Kid with the kids. I'm not sure it was the best move; too much teenage dating for my taste compared to what we're trying to teach our kids, but a good movie nonetheless. (There is swearing, if you don't remember, so think before showing it to your own). But I'm reminded about how many movies in the 80s depicted broken families and the ugly side of life. No matter how much we complain about Hollywood these days, there are movies that depict the nuclear family in a good way, and this is one of them.
Anyway, the point that I took home, and that I want to talk about, is this idea that we can make all the right choices for all the right reasons and still not feel peace. Have you ever been there? You know kids were part of the plan. You know that you're supposed to be married. But you're restless. I spend my life being restless (though more about my vocation than about my kids).
Some people are more prone to restlessness than others. And restlessness is not necessarily a bad thing, or a sin, or something that you need to be ashamed of. Some of us are idea people, and our heads are filled with all the other things we could, or even should, be doing. It doesn't mean that we aren't called here, or aren't satisfied with what we have. It's just that we can't shut off that part of our brain which keeps seeing different things to spend our energy on. And there's only so much time in the day, so we're forever feeling like failures. This isn't what we were meant to do.
But maybe it is. All that dreaming isn't a waste; there may be times when you can fulfill some of those plans. For right now, though, we have to look and say, "is this where I'm supposed to be?". It may not be part of the plan I had for my life. Maybe I thought I'd be further ahead by now. Maybe I thought I'd be married differently, or have more (or fewer!) kids. Maybe I thought I'd live somewhere else, have my own house, be financially stable. But it doesn't matter what you thought. The point is, for right now, is this where you're supposed to be? Is this what you're supposed to be doing?
God doesn't measure your life by how much you lived up to your plans. He measures your life by whether you're living for Him in the little things. And what I've had to do to turn off those voices is not just take it a day at a time, but an hour at a time, and ask God, "is this what You want me to do for this hour?" And I'm starting to realize that it is.
You see, I have dreams that I should have written another book this year, or started back up at my radio program, or done more for Africa. And I feel restless about these things. But when I start going to God and saying, "Okay, Lord, for this hour, what should I be doing?", and I realize I should be putting dinner in the crockpot, or teaching my kids math, or even taking some time to knit, then it's quite clear I didn't have time to write that book. And that's okay. I don't need to be restless.
I can dream, and maybe those dreams will come to fruition one day. But I need to find my peace here, and I can't do that unless I'm going to God and keeping up with Him about His priorities on a day to day, hour by hour basis. It may sound anal, always asking God, "is this it? Is this it?" But if I don't, I waste time. And I also feel unsatisfied. When I stay in contact, I spend my time better, and I'm more at peace with my choices.
Peace doesn't automatically come from making the right choices. It only comes when we learn to live, day by day, within the parameters of those choices. And for that, I think, we need God.
Cassandra read my post on Dedication or Discipline regarding listening in prayer, and she sent me a link to a lovely post about listening like Elijah. I really related to it because I used similar imagery in my book How Big Is Your Umbrella. Think about it: Elijah had just seen God send down fire and consume the sacrifice, and yet God said He wasn't in the fire, He was in the whisper. Are we listening to hear God's whispers?
If you're into social science research, here's a really interesting post on the rates of illegitimacy in different demographic groups. Hint: it's not money that separates us into different classes as much as it is our attitudes about marriage. I think I may turn this into a column soon.
If you're Canadian, and you want to write, I'm going to be teaching at the Write Canada conference in June. Find out more here.
If you're looking for a post-Mother's Day gift to make you smile, and help you get organized, don't miss my Download of the Month! It's 45 minutes of humour and practical advice on how to keep your priorities straight in your home! Find out about the To Love, Honor and Vacuum talk here.
I have my meals planned this week. But rather than posting my plan (it's just pasta Monday, fish Tuesday, meatless on Wednesday, frozen leftovers on Thursday), I thought I'd post my rationale for eating together.
When I was out walking recently, my daughter Katie said to me, "You know what I like about our family, Mommy? We eat together."
It's such a little thing, but when the girls have friends over, it's amazing how many confess that it's a new experience for them. Most people eat in front of the TV, or they grab dinner on the run.
And that's not good. It's over food that we connect, talk, share, and bond.
But I know meal planning takes time, especially when everyone has busy schedules. But it is more important for your family to eat dinner together at least 3 times a week than it is for your kids to all be in soccer, or to all be on the baseball team. Family trumps sports. It really does. As adults, kids will remember sitting with family and the relationships that grew from that far more than they will anything else.
If you don't have time to eat dinner together, you're doing something wrong. You have to change your schedule. No ifs, ands, or buts. And if you don't believe me, read on! Here are 10 benefits from eating together:
It's Good for the Body!
1. When families eat together, everyone tends to eat healthier. People who have frequent family meals consume more calcium, fiber, iron, and vitamins B6, B12, C and E. It could be because home-cooked meals are healthier than fast food and restaurant meals. (Source: Archives of Family Medicine)
2. Children tend to eat more fruits and vegetables when they frequently have dinner with their families. They also tend to eat fewer snack foods. (Source: American Dietetic Association) When we eat all together, we cook meatloaf with veggies on the side or we make stew. When the kids eat alone, we heat up chicken fingers. Not good.
3. Children in families who eat dinner together are less likely to be overweight (Source: Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine). I think this is also because parents are watching what they eat! And when we snack in front of the TV, we eat way more than if we were sitting at a table.
Good For The Brain
4. Children from families who eat meals together get better grades than their peers who don't have lots of family meal times (Source: Lou Harris-Reader's Digest National Poll).
5. When families eat together frequently, children have better language skills compared to kids from families who don't have family mealtimes often. (Source: Harvard University) TV doesn't teach language skills well. When we eat at the table, kids hear their parents talking to each other, too. It's great!
Good For Emotional Health
6. Children of families who eat together report feeling happier and are more optimistic about the future, than their peers who have infrequent family meals. (Source: Lou Harris- Reader's Digest National Poll)
7. Teenagers are less likely to use drugs, smoke, and drink alcoholic drinks, when their families eat together regularly. (Source: Columbia University) I read this study a few years ago and have quoted it frequently. When we eat dinner, we catch up with our kids. They know we care. So they're less likely to give in to peer pressure!
8. It may come as a surprise, but among Moms who work outside the home, those who have family mealtimes reported feeling less stress than those who had family dinners less often. (Source: Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal) When we feel that our priorities are being met, we feel less stress.
9. The more often teen girls had meals with their families, the less likely they were to have symptoms of depression and suicidal behaviors. (Source: University of Minnesota) And fewer teenage pregnancies!
Good For Family Bonding
10. Eating together gives family members the chance to communicate and build relationships, something that both adults and children appreciate very much. (Source: Nutrition Education Network of Washington & Oprah Winfrey's "Family Dinner Experiment")
I hope these reasons motivate you and your family to try and eat together more often. We're all busy - even children have plenty of after-school activities. But as the list above shows, family meals are worth every effort we put into them.
It helps to plan ahead so that we're not scrambling to get dinner ready or panicking because we don't have all the ingredients we need. To make it easier to get the family around the table with a home-cooked meal, check out Dine Without Whine's menu planning service. It cost just a penny to try it out!
And check out Org Junkie every Monday for her Meal Plan Monday! But get eating
Every now and then I go on a rampage on how I just need more discipline.
I can see all kinds of areas of my life which would be more productive and effective if I did things better. I need more discipline in my homeschool. I need to make healthier snacks. I need to spend more time in prayer. I need to jog more.
You know the drill.
But I also know that's not God's voice. God, I don't believe, is up in heaven saying, "You should just try a little harder." No, God is calling us to a relationship with Him.
Self-control and discipline are fruits of the spirit. We are called, for instance, to abstain from gluttony, and sexual excess, and drunkenness, and laziness. We are called to abstain from excess of any kind.
But that doesn't mean that self-control can be the goal for our lives. I don't think you can pursue self-control any more than you can pursue any others of the fruits of the Spirit, like love or joy. Can you pursue joy and be joyful? No. But you can pursue God.
And I think that's the point. The reason I sometimes feel out of whack is not because my schedule is wrong or I'm not trying hard enough. It's because I don't have enough time in prayer.
Look at Jesus. He was disciplined. He was effective. But He didn't have a schedule which said that He was going to spend this much time on one thing, and then this much time on something else. You get the feeling that He didn't have much of an agenda. Instead, He spend a lot of time in prayer, and then went where God moved.
I am not saying we shouldn't have schedules. I think they're necessary for many things, including responsible homeschooling and homemaking, and I even some free organizational charts you can download here!
What I am saying is that my problem is not so much with discipline as it is with dedication. I need to be more dedicated to God, because I believe that if I spend more time just in prayer, I will be led more by Him. I will be able to hear His voice. I will waste less time, I will be more effective with what I do have, and I will not feel that I have wasted my day if I haven't reached my goals, because I will know I have reached God's goals.
Rick Warren once said that there is enough time in the day to do everything God wants you to do today, and I think that is so true. If there are too many things on your plate, and you can't possibly get them all done, then realize that God knows that. He doesn't want you to get them all done. But the ones He does want you to concentrate on He does give you time for.
The trick is to be able to hear His voice. And that means spending more time in prayer. I am very disciplined at blogging, and having my shower, and making my bed. I'm not disciplined at listening enough to God. I don't want to add something else to my "to-do" list, but I don't think prayer is actually adding to a to-do list. I think it's subtracting. Because the more we pray, the more our priorities are clarified, and our spirit is renewed.
But prayer isn't spending five minutes listing all the things that we need. It has to be an interaction with God that we take some time with. I believe that God speaks the deepest when we have spent the time and energy to listen. So that's my new spring and summer goal. I'm going to pray, instead of surfing all kinds of blogs. I'm not going to be more disciplined and try harder; I'm simply going to be more dedicated to Him.
What do you think? How do you hear His voice? And do you struggle with feeling like you should "try harder"? How do you reconcile that? Let's get the conversation going!
Lots in the news lately about the crushing debt college graduates have. Here's one:
And in July, a new federal program that allows former students to cap their monthly loan payments at 15 percent of their income kicks in. The program is designed to provide relief to graduates who enter traditionally lower-paying sectors like teaching or social work. In some fields, public service loan forgiveness will be available after 10 years of payments, and graduates working in any field will have their remaining balances forgiven after 25 years.
"Graduates should look into all their options," Draut said. Income-based repayment can be a lifeline for some graduates, she said, and the 25-year limit provides light at the end of the tunnel.
Look, I don't mean to be sadistic. But if they lower the interest rates on loans students have to pay, or lower the payments that students have to pay, you CREATE MORE PROBLEMS and EXTEND THE RACKET.
The best way to get rid of the student debt problem is for students to actually feel the consequences of their debt. Then people would start to protest, fewer would go to college, we'd realize how overrated so many degrees are, and people would start businesses and become entrepreneurs again. And maybe companies would stop requiring useless degrees for a job that at one time not too long ago was done by a high school dropout. (I wrote about that here).
It's simple demand and supply. Right now there's high demand, even at ridiculous prices, because we think we need degrees, and governments will bail you out. But if we let people feel the consequences of the debt, we'd lower demand. And then prices would go down.
But if we let students off the hook, we simply increase the amounts colleges can charge, because people think "eventually my debt will be forgiven". And then more and more get into huge debt! We make the problem worse!
And if Congress starts telling banks they can't charge students who are late on their payments high fees, then the banks will start passing those costs on to everyone else.
College debt is a huge problem, but it's not a huge problem because of the banks. It is a huge problem because students are willing to take on that debt in the first place hoping to get jobs which just aren't there. If people truly did the risk/benefit analysis, we'd all be better off.
The only ones who are winning right now are the colleges which teach horribly and fail to prepare students for real life.
It's time we parents stopped shelling out $100,000 for an education that won't really get them anywhere.
Now I'm not against education. My kids will go to university. But they have a plan for a specific career, and we've saved the money for it. I would never let my child get a liberal arts degree on credit with no plan. That's ridiculous. And it's time we North Americans woke up to what a racket most universities are running. And it's time that Congress stopped trying to make it easier for universities to bankrupt us, which is what they're doing if they start lowering interest rates.
The only way to stop the racket is to let students feel the depths of the financial pain. It's cruel, I know. But what else are we going to do?
I'd really like to know what you think. Let's get a debate going! Maybe I'm wrong, but I do think this is getting ridiculous.
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.