Sheila's Books
Click on the covers to read more or order autographed copies!

My Webrings

Crazy Hip Blog Mamas Members!



Medical Billing
Medical Billing

For ALL Your Graphic Needs

Dine Without Whine - A Family 

Friendly Weekly Menu Plan
Letting Go of the Fairytale
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Here's this week's!

Bristol Palin and Levi Johnson have apparently become engaged again—and want to demonstrate their bliss by appearing on a reality TV show. Good plan. Look how well that turned out for Jon and Kate!

I don’t mean to disparage them, though. They’re still so young, and I hope for everyone’s sakes, and especially their son’s, that they’re able to build a lasting and loving relationship. Unfortunately, signs don’t point to marital bliss.

We have a propensity to believe lies as a coping mechanism. If we think that the lie will make us happier, or better able to deal with a life we’re not particularly fond of, we’ll latch onto it. Here’s Bristol, an attractive, bright woman, from a good family, who should have the world at her feet. But instead she was pregnant at sixteen, and now, while all her friends are partying in college and preparing for a better life, she’s preparing baby food.

Many have walked her road before, and it’s not an easy one, though the blessings a child brings can make the difficulties worthwhile. When you are nineteen years old, though, you don’t necessarily focus on those blessings as much as you do on what you’re missing. And here’s this gorgeous guy, who once used to love you, and now he says he loves you again, and you don’t have to do this alone anymore. You can have your own family, your own life, instead of feeling constantly like a failure to your parents.

Of course we want to believe such love is possible, and such a betrayer is redeemable. We want to believe that the guy who beat us up, the wife who lied to us, the friend who cheated on us, the husband who stole our money, really has reformed. To not believe it means not only are we alone, but we’re the ones who messed it up by trusting a loser in the first place. And that’s an ugly thing to believe about yourself.

Some fairytales do come true, and when you’re in the midst of a romantic drama, you’re sure you’re the one who’s going to beat the odds. Maybe you will. But everybody looking on isn’t quite so sure. They’re scared for you, because they love you.

Here’s what they want you to do. Recognize that a fairytale is part of a larger story that follows a logical plotline. The bad guys tend to stay bad, unless they have a true change of heart which is evidenced by something extraordinary. They do not suddenly change from bad to good with a simple “I’m sorry”, or a few tears, or a sweet text message. They have to come back from the dead, or slay the dragon, or make some huge act of contrition which really has nothing in it for them. They have to give up something big, or they have not been transformed into heroes. They have simply become schemers.

If you’re wondering whether your fairytale will have its happy ending, then, look objectively at your story. If your love has been horrid to you in the past, then it’s very unlikely that he or she will suddenly become Mr. or Mrs. Right. If they have come crawling back because whatever they betrayed you for has now turned sour, and you’re better than nothing, then you are not in a fairytale. Don’t turn it into a tragedy by accepting their overtures.

Villains do not become heroes overnight. It takes time for a plot to logically unfold so that you can witness the change of heart. It takes time for the hero to emerge. So give your love the time and distance so that you can tell whether you have a hero or a schemer. Otherwise, it’s very doubtful you will live happily ever after. I do hope Bristol is listening.

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


Subscribe to To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Labels: , ,

Wifey Wednesday: The Endless Fitness Quest

It's Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up!

Oh, no. It's another fitness post. She's turned a marriage post into a fitness post!

You're probably sick of fitness posts. Every blog you read, someone else is trying to lose weight. And you don't want to hear about it because you don't want to feel guilty.

Well, tough. I want to write about it because it will help me stay accountable, so even if you're feeling guilty, this is about ME because I'm writing this blog! :). So listen up, and I'll tell you my plans, and how it's going to impact my marriage.

Here's my problem. For the last 8 years I've gone up about 2 pounds a year. That doesn't sound too bad, except add that up and it's 20 pounds every decade. I'd like to put an end to that.

So my husband and I have decided that by the end of the summer we will both lose 10 pounds. That sounds reasonable and doable, doesn't it?

I was doing really well until the massive heat wave hit central Ontario last week, causing the temperature, with humidity factored in, to go above 40 degrees. It's really hard to exercise when it's over 40 degrees, and it gave me a great excuse not to.

Then I had a horrible computer day (I've had plenty of those lately), and I just had to buy myself a box of chocolate truffles. I'm sure you understand. Then we headed out to Calgary for 10 days and I did no exercise whatsoever.

But I'm home, the weather is normal again, and I'm going to start jogging in the morning and using my Wii Fit. And in the evenings we're going to play tennis. And I'm going to start eating normal meals. Often I skip breakfast, eat huge amounts of leftovers for lunch, and then eat a big dinner. If I just ate smaller meals, I'd be a lot better off. But I seem unable to not take that second helping. I love eating until I'm stuffed, rather than just eating until I'm satisfied.

Nevertheless, this time I think I'm going to succeed at my fitness quest, because here's the difference: my husband and I are doing it together, and we're going to hold each other accountable. It's kind of like a contest we've got going between ourselves about who is going to lose the weight first. And somehow the thought that I'm not doing it alone helps so much.

Fitness really shouldn't be something that we do alone. I think that's why most diets don't work. It has to be something that the whole family does together. I often try to pull my daughters into jogging with me, or the whole family will play tennis together. We should all be eating better. But when everybody does it together, it becomes a way of life. When it's just you, it's as if you're the one being put upon while everyone else lives high on the hog. And that's no fun.

It's also not healthy. Children need to be incorporating fitness into their everyday lives by doing sports that they can continue into adulthood--things like skiing, or tennis, or swimming, or jogging. Soccer and hockey don't help much, because how can you do that when you're 30?

But the neat thing when it comes to marriage is that if you can get active together, you find something you can do together. You're not just sitting on the couch watching a movie; you're actually experiencing something! And I've found over the last month playing tennis with Keith that we laugh a lot more when we're doing something active. Something always happens that's kind of funny.

This contest thing is really helping him, too, although it's not helping me quite as much. He lost 8 pounds while I was in Calgary (he has 7 more to go to make the 15 that he's aiming for), and I stayed exactly the same. So he's winning. And I'm not happy about that. That's going to encourage me to be smarter for the next few weeks!

I know some men just don't care, and they don't want to go along with you, but here are my suggestions in a nutshell:

1. Make it into a contest. And figure out something really good for the winner! I get back rubs every night for two weeks if I win. Think of something really great to give your husband if he wins (I'm sure you can think of something ;) ). Get the kids in on it, too, so they can root for a particular parent. Or they can even coach a particular parent! My youngest daughter is trying to help keep me on track!

2. Don't just diet; get outside and DO something. Go for walks every night. Take a jog. Take up a sport. Bike places. Diets are boring. Being active can be fun! And you create memories.

3. Remember to laugh. Don't get super serious about it. Just have fun as a family changing the way you operate. It has to be something that's sustainable, or you'll gain the weight right back, so don't make it so tough that you'll never keep it up. Just make little changes that you can all do together that are fun, and you'll find it has much more long-term impact.

What about you? Have you ever tried to work out with your husband? Ever tried to get your whole family active? Write your own Wifey Wednesday post that links back to here, and then leave the link of THAT POST in the Mcklinky below. Thanks!


Labels: , ,

Why I Love Summer
My girls and I are just back from Calgary, after a Bible quizzing competition for a week. What an amazing time! I learned a lot about them, and about teens in general. But picture this: 120 teenagers, from all over North America, who are all incredibly bright, who have spent this year memorizing 1 & 2 Corinthians (that's right; the whole books). I'm going to have to post a video of some of the quizzes or you won't believe it, but it was so amazing to see these kids who are so alive, and self-assured, and in love with Jesus, all in one place. They weren't nerds, either! In fact, I spent far too much time checking out the guys on the Western Canadian teams (and some of the Pennsylvania teams), because I figure that eventually my girls are going to have to marry someone, and better it be someone I choose for them! :)

Anyway, I walked in the door this morning at 4 a.m., after our plane was late flying into Ottawa. So I'm extremely tired. I've written a bunch of blog posts to automatically publish over the next few days, but I'm hoping that I can intersperse them with some of our great pictures of Banff and some videos of quizzing!

And my oldest daughter placed 15th (she was the #2 rookie) out of thousands of kids who do Bible quizzing with the Alliance church around North America. So we were really proud!

Until now I have felt a bit like summer hasn't begun, because the girls were studying (even if they were doing it while lying in the sun), and we were driving back and forth to practices. But now we're home and that stress is over, and we have a little more than a month to go of summer.

While we were gone my husband booked us into a campground. I told him we absolutely have to go camping, even if we only can snatch a few days (after I wrote a post about memories from previous summers it became imperative to head out in the trailer!). And Keith booked a weekend away, just him and me, for later this month, too. My girls are going to stay with my younger cousin and help her paint her new house, which will be so exciting to see them get to know each other better.

So now I see this next month stretched out in front of me, and I am so relaxed and happy! I hope that I'll write some more posts for you all other than the ones I have scheduled, but I do plan on taking some time just to enjoy the sun. While at Internationals last week Rebecca had a boy from Ohio ask her how she got so tanned, since Canada doesn't have heat. Becca thought that was pretty funny, since before we left we had had two weeks of 100+ temperatures (if you factor in the humidity). Thankfully it's cooled down to the mid-80s (or the high twenties, for my fellow Canadians who think in Celsuis), and it's absolutely lovely. Unfortunately, we don't get that kind of weather very often, so I am going to make the most of it.

I'm going to bike and play tennis and take lots of walks and sit in my garden and type in my porch. So if I don't get as much written as I normally do, please forgive me. I have to snatch what sunshine I can! But keep coming back, because I'll have a Wifey Wednesday up tomorrow, and my columns every Friday, and lots more stuff to keep you thinking!


Subscribe to To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Labels: ,

Creativity, Kids, and the Hundred Acre Woods

Did you take hikes in the Hundred Acre Wood when you were a child? I did. I skated on ponds with Kanga and Roo and Tigger, and I gazed up at trees searching for Owl. I loved Winnie The Pooh.

And when I read the Narnia books I escaped into a world of lamp-posts in the middle of woods, with Fauns who had fireplaces and yummy toast, with Beavers as friends who grilled fish in their little lodges.

Or I frolicked with Laura, watching the prairie dogs stick their heads up, trying to catch one, but always missing.

It's amazing how much of childhood literature has to do with children exploring the outdoors. The Secret Garden is probably the classic, as a little conceited, self-absorbed, pinched girl blossoms and becomes adventurous and rosy-cheeked as she explores the heather, with a boy who can tame robins and crows and rabbits.

Childhood and the outdoors go hand-in-hand. Literature spoke of it because that is what children did. In the days before mountains of toys filling toy boxes and playgrounds in the backyard, children explored streams, and fished for tadpoles, and skipped stones. They could relate to Huckleberry Finn because that was their life; today we think of it rafting on a river as something quaint and romantic.

We do our children a grave disservice. I know we're all scared that they will be abducted, or that the big, bad world out there is scary, but children learn so much just by interacting with nature; by staring at the ants, or watching the baby robins as they take their first flight, or collecting stones. These things are important. Children learn the cycle of life; they learn the breadth of God's creativity; they learn to find enjoyment and amazement at the simple things in life, rather than just the things that we can buy.

We try to get outdoors as much as possible; we hike, or we take off to the wetlands 15 minutes from our home, so we can watch the small animals at different stages of life throughout the year.

There's a farm about 15 minutes away, too, and we love watching the baby calves as they grow. Their tongues are so rough!

I grew up in downtown Toronto, and many of my friends had never seen a cow, or a horse, or even a chicken. They had read about them in books, and seen them on TV, but they had never smelt a barn. They had never seen another mammal, except squirrels scampering, or else in cages in a zoo. It's not much of a childhood.

Children need to be free to roam and explore and discover things for themselves. They need to build forts and serve tea to wood nymphs and write their stories in their little clubhouse.

My children have always done this when we camp, for as much as we love the outdoors, we don't live in the country. As a physician, my husband really can't live more than ten minutes from the hospital, so we're stuck in the city. But bike just a little bit down our lane and you get into a nice stretch of woods where all the bunnies live. My daughters discovered it a few years ago, and they love to go and sneak up on them and see all the babies. It was scary the first time I let them go on their own, because you worry about who else might be there. But they're not far from houses, and I think the benefits outweigh the risks.

Too often we are so scared of something happening to our children that we keep them indoors and they fail to discover as kids, except on the computer. That's not a real childhood.

Whenever I read The Railway Children or The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and you read about children exploring a new house, or a new countryside, or a new town, it makes me nostalgic for the days when kids exploring was far more natural than it is today. But that doesn't mean that we should accept the situation as it is now. Find times for your kids to explore. Take them to that wetland. Create an oasis in your backyard, if you have one. Let them build a fort, even if they wreck the grass. Let them learn to ride their bikes. Let them walk in a stream. Let them be kids.

It is only in the last few decades that we have forgotten what childhood is supposed to be. I think it's time to remember again.
The Real Roots of Empathy

Every now and then I read a bizarre article in a magazine that fails to mention the one big elephant in the room. You know the ones: articles that talk about how women make less than men, but they fail to talk about how women take time off to have children. Or articles that talk about how badly certain racial communities do in school, but they fail to talk about the family makeup of many within that community.

A while ago I found an article in Time magazine, and I bookmarked it to come back to later.

Here's the argument, and you tell me if you can figure out what's missing:

Children need to learn empathy to avoid growing up as a bully. Children who are raised impersonally, like in an orphanage or in Sparta, often lose the ability to have any empathy at all. Certain school curricula can teach children empathy.

See anything absent? I sure do. How about this? The biggest difference between toddlers who are sent to day care and children who are raised by a parent is the ability to feel empathy. The article goes on and on about how schools can raise children's levels of empathy, but fails to point out that perhaps the reason we're in the mess we're in is that parents aren't raising their children in the first place.

Now, let me put a caveat in here. I know daycare is sometimes necessary. I grew up in daycare, and I turned out rather well (though I hated being in daycare; I don't remember much from when I was 3, but I do remember that). My mother was single, and she had no choice.

I also know that parents who have their children in a small, family run daycare, where they are cared for by a friend, often do fine. I'm not talking about them. But I know lots of parents who have more than enough money for one parent to stay at home who instead opt for their child to go to day care so that the parents can pursue a career. Here's a paragraph in that article that stood out to me:

Institutionalized infants do not experience being the center of a loving family's attention; instead, they are cared for by a rotating staff of workers, which is inherently neglectful. The infants miss out on intensive, one-on-one affection and attachment with a parental figure, which babies need at that vulnerable age. Without that experience, they learn early on that the world is a cold, insecure and untrustworthy place. Their emotional needs having gone unmet, they frequently have trouble understanding or appreciating the feelings of others.

The author is referring to Romanian orphanages, but I see little difference between that and daycares, where you have a ratio of four babies to one caregiver. Who honestly thinks those babies are getting personalized attention? I have several friends who work at a daycare, and all are uncomfortable with the care. Two have recently quit; one to do foster care, and one to do something else entirely. Both women raised their children at home, and the contrast between the care that they gave their own kids and the care that they were able to give all these kids at a large daycare was stark. They felt that it was wrong to exacerbate the situation by actually helping parents leave their children at the daycare which they knew was not good quality for the children, even though these women are amazing moms.

And it was hard on them, too. They were hit. They were bitten. They were routinely smacked. And not by children from "bad" homes, either. On the whole, these are kids from two-parent homes, where the parents go to church. But daycare is not a fun place to work, because the children often are quite violent.

Home daycares can be a different story, but when there are cribs lined up everywhere, so all the children can go to sleep at the same time, even if there are also colourful toys and stimulating pictures and loads of books, there's something wrong. And studies show that.

In order to develop empathy, children must feel a sense of attachment to their caregiver. They have to have long interactions where they "converse", even if it consists of just cooing and the parent figure gushing over them and tickling them. It's hard to attach when daycare workers change as frequently as they do (turnover is horrible in daycares). And you can't have one-on-one time when there are just so many kids who need your attention. It isn't the daycare workers' fault.

I feel as if there is a conspiracy of silence around this, and it isn't just hurting kids. It's hurting families, too. I know many women who want to stay home with their kids, but they're being told by husbands and parents that kids in daycare do fine. In fact, they do better in school because they're so stimulated! So you should work. How can they refute that?

You are enough for your child. In fact, you are indispensable for your child. And rather than relying on schools to teach your children empathy and attachment, I think we should rely on ourselves. Certainly it is hard to survive on one income, and you might need part-time care. But on the whole, try to be the primary caregiver for your child. Hire friends or family to care for your children if necessary. And remember that there really is no substitute for a loving Mommy.


Labels: , ,

Wifey Wednesday: Living Under Your Parents' Thumb

It's Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up!

One of the biggest sources of conflict in marriage is the relationship with the couple's parents. It is all too easy for in-laws to drive a wedge between two people who otherwise love each other more than anyone else in the world. Our loyalty to our family is just really hard to break, and sometimes takes precedence over what should be our primary loyalty to our spouse.

Now I have a great relationship with my in-laws. They have never tried to interfere, and as such we've always gotten along! We play cards together, we take vacations together, we laugh together. And my mother gets along with my mother-in-law, too, although the two could not be more different. But everybody in my family has decided that it is best just to get along. It's easier for everyone. So we let things go, and we have fun.

Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way in all marriages. Many people, when they get married, still feel closely tied to their parents--even if their parents weren't great parents. In fact, especially if their parents weren't great. We're still looking to be approved by them.

After one Wifey Wednesday recently, I received an email from a woman who's in a difficult situation. Here it is, in a nutshell (I'm summarizing because I don't want to give identifying details away):

She and her husband have been promised the family farm, at some date in the future. So for now, they live for free in a run-down abode on the land where her parents live in a wonderful, big, comfy farmhouse. The husband (the son-in-law) works on the farm all day. And one day they will get everything.

But this "one day" has never been spelled out. And meanwhile, the house is so tiny, and it's really pretty gross (single men with cats with incontinence issues used to have the run of the place). No matter how hard you try to clean, it's stained. And it's tiny. And there are small kids everywhere. What do you do?

She asks, "Also, any advice on how to talk to my parents about this without sounding like I feel entitled to something? Any time I mention it they tell me that they've lived in worse with more kids. The whole "I walked uphill to school both ways" speech."

Then she says:
My mom is very uptight about her house. She says she's not attached to it but then in the next breath she says that she wouldn't change her life or leave even if she felt God calling her to Romania to be a missionary or something. I think that the only thing my parents owe us is some plans. We plan to work hard for the farm and don't expect it to be handed over to us. But it would just be really nice to know that we are actually working toward a goal on paper (my parents don't believe in writing down their goals/plans, though the succesion planner is making them do exactly that).
As for the "started from nothing," I've mentioned to them "didn't you do that to give your kids a better life?" Or "did you like living in that house with 3 little kids?" To which the response is usually something like "we didn't have a choice."

Do you see her issue? I do. Here's a dynamic that's very common in families. The parents want to keep some sense that the children are indebted to them, and so they promise something--we will give you a house, we will give you a business, we will baby-sit for you, we will lend you money--but nothing is ever actually specified. They want to keep you on your toes, and they want to have you come to them, asking for something, so that they can still feel indispensable.

It's like the story of Jacob and Laban. Laban told Jacob that if he worked for him for 7 years, he could marry Rachel. So he worked, and got Leah. Then he was told, "just another 7 years." So he did that, too. Then Laban continued to treat Jacob as if he should somehow be indebted to his father-in-law, until God miraculously put a stop to the whole dysfunctional charade. But Laban wanted to keep Jacob there, under his thumb.

Parents don't always do this because they're mean. Often they're just insecure. You're the baby, and you're leaving, and you were their whole life. Does this mean they're not worth as much anymore? And so they continue to get their identity from you needing them. So they say they'll baby-sit, and you don't even need to worry, you go ahead and find the job, but then when you do find the job, your mother acts as if you're imposing on her, and she sighs, and says, "well, I have a life, too, you know. But I'll do it because I have to." If you had known that would have been her reaction, you would have stayed home or arranged for other childcare. But you took her at her word, and now she's making you feel guilty.

Or what about this woman from the email? She's been told she'll have the family farm, but in the meantime, the parents expect her to live in a shack and be grateful. So what's the answer?

First, we need to be clear what "leaving" means. Leaving means that your parents no longer owe you anything. You are an adult. Your father does NOT owe you the family farm (even if it has always been passed on). Your mother does NOT owe you baby-sitting, even if every other grandma you know helps with baby-sitting. Your parents do NOT owe you a downpayment, even if they've always promised it. You are an adult, and you should stand on your own two feet. Therefore, you should be completely prepared and at peace to live without any help at all.

Then, if they do offer help, and you decide you want it (it's hard to pass up a family farm), you can approach them in a better way. You can say something like this:

That is very generous of you. I so respect what you have done to build up the business, and I would be honoured to take it over. I will always be grateful for this. So can we sit down and write out what the expectations and time-lines are, so that I can plan and be responsible for my family?

If they take offense that you're asking for an end-date, or for something in writing, then you can say,

I never meant to cause offense. I do so appreciate the offer. It's just that I have to plan for my family. We have to have a clear sense of where we're going and what is required of all of us. If you can't do that, because you haven't decided yet, that is entirely your prerogative. You don't owe me anything, and I completely understand. So I'm grateful for the offer, but I'll have to decline. But if you ever do want to talk about details, I would love to still be considered.

See? What you're doing is drawing boundaries around the relationship. You're acknowledging that it's their farm--or business, or money, or time, or whatever the issue is--and you don't have a right to it. This is their generosity. But you're also saying that, as a new family, you have certain needs, too. And if they can't mesh, you'll have to decline the offer. And you must be willing to do that--decline the offer.

So many couples have lived in awful conditions, in awful accommodations, working slave hours, because of a vague understanding that "one day all this will be yours". But really the parents are just taking advantage of you or trying to control you or keep you attached to them. It's not healthy. What happens is that you get frustrated with your spouse because you don't have anything that's truly yours. And then your spouse gets frustrated at your parents, at which point you get frustrated at your spouse for being mad at your parents, even though you're mad at them, too. And the whole thing just spirals into silliness.

When it comes to parents, those two truths need to be kept in mind: once you're married, they honestly don't owe you anything. And once you're married, the welfare of your own nuclear family comes first. That can be hard to digest if your parents are wealthy. You may really want some of their things, or their business. But it isn't worth wrecking your marriage over.

Perhaps it isn't about money. Perhaps it's just your mother calling three times a day "just to talk", but really she's getting in the way of your marriage. Or perhaps your father still won't talk to your husband, except through you. These things need to end. You are to leave your parents, and build your own family.

So, with that being said, what advice would you give to this woman who does honestly want the farm, but is finding it very difficult to live in this dirty, rundown home? Or do you have another dilemma with in-laws to share with us? Let's talk in the comments, or write your own Wifey Wednesday post and add the URL in the mckliny below!


Subscribe to To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Labels: , ,

Should We Celebrate the Modern Family?

My children have been busy at a practice all weekend and today for an international Bible quiz meet in Calgary next week, and I'm sitting here in a hotel writing as many columns as possible in a three day period. It's going remarkably well! Got 11 done so far; four more to go.

Over lunch Saturday I decided to switch on the TV, and regretted it almost immediately. Most shows are inane, and the commercials are worse. But one commercial which I keep seeing is for "The Kids Are Alright", an "invigorating and heartfelt" look at the "modern family".

Here's how they define a modern family: married lesbians used a sperm donor to each conceive a child. Those children are now teenagers. The daughter tracks down the sperm donor, and chaos ensues.

Perhaps it is heartwarming. I have no doubt that lesbians in committed relationships truly want to have a child. But let's be honest: while the media loves to talk about this, it isn't that common. Most homosexuals, when given the choice to marry, did not. Homosexual relationships break up at a far greater rate than heterosexual relationships. While some homosexual couples are committed, it isn't the norm. Why should we treat it as if it were?

What I am glad about, though, is that they are showing the quest for the sperm donor, because they're showing that it shouldn't be taken lightly. It's become normal in our culture to assume that sperm donation is a viable option if you want to have a child and your husband is infertile, or you're in a homosexual relationship. But why use a sperm donor? Why not just adopt then?

Because they want a child that is biologically theirs. It is vitally important to them to have that biological link. Yet even though the mother agrees that biology is important to her, by using a sperm donor she makes the decision for her child that biology should not be important, because she creates a child who will never, ever know his or her father. She's saying biology is important to me, but it shouldn't be to you. It's ridiculous and completely wrong.

And thus we have the plot of the movie, where the teenage girl tracks down the sperm donor, who appears to be a bit of a carefree loser who was in it for the money.

I assume it all has a happy ending, but why Hollywood should call this the "modern family" is beyond me. Most families look nothing like this, no matter how prevalent Hollywood tries to make them seem. And that's a good thing. It is chaotic to create a child who will never know one parent. It is one thing to adopt a child and take them away from their biological roots; that child already has been separated by necessity, and that child needs a parent now. But to create a child deliberately? That is entirely a different story.

And then to assume that that child has no need of both parents, or has no need of both a mother and a father, that love is all that matters, is to disregard millennia of knowledge of human behaviour. The mother and father perform unique roles in the family, and are not interchangeable. At times a single mother must raise a child, but we would never say that this is the ideal. And yet with homosexual couples we're supposed to ignore the problem of the lack of the other sex parent and announce that all is hunky dorey to show that we support the lifestyle!

This really has nothing to do with whether or not you think homosexual relationships are fine (I have an opinion, obviously, but that's not pertinent to the issue at hand, and I'd really appreciate it if the comments don't go in that direction, because I think that can be needlessly hurtful). It has everything to do with the rights of a child to be raised by his or her biological parents, or by the next best substitute. And as soon as we begin to say that the substitute need not be an actual mother or an actual father, but could be absolutely anybody, then we destroy the notion of "family". All we have left is love, and love is not all a child needs.

A child also needs a sense of identity, and that identity is best passed on by two parents--one male, and one female. A child needs a sense of commitment and loyalty, which is best found in a committed marriage relationship, not in an ad hoc arrangement of whichever adults happen to love each other at any given time. And a child needs a sense of society, which again, is best found within the family.

As we give up on marriage and replace it with voluntary adult relationships which are not necessarily lifelong, that child loses the sense of community that a committed marriage relationship used to give him. Cohabiting couples who have children, for instance, are six times more likely to break up than married couples with children. And homosexual couples are about twenty times more likely to be unfaithful in their relationships, or to break up, than heterosexual couples. Heterosexual marriage matters.

So perhaps Hollywood wants to believe that this is the modern family, but I don't believe it. It's a modern reality, but thankfully it's still not a common one. And I hope we don't give too much credence to this movie, because I want to believe that we can go back to what is best for the child, not what is best for the adult. We are, after all, adults, and we should start acting that way.


Labels: , ,

Going with the Flow Sometimes Gets You Flushed

Are you a go with the flow person?

Some of us are. We're not comfortable with plans. We want to leave life open to possibilities. We want to be open to God, not put constraints on Him, and just let life happen!

I think that attitude definitely has positive aspects. I know there are times in my life when I need to learn to go with the flow more and I need to stop trying to control everything. Sometimes things just aren't working, and we need to throw up our arms in exasperation and head to Dairy Queen.

I've done that on some homeschooling days, when nobody is getting anything done, everybody is sniping at everybody else, and it's better just to call it a day. So we head out on an impromptu field trip, or we decide to scrap the books and curl up under a blanket to watch a Jane Austen movie.

Sometimes you need to go with the flow at other times. You have your week planned ahead of you, and a friend calls. Her little boy has had an accident, and she has to be at the hospital with him. Can you take her two little girls? You can't say no, but there go all of your plans. Rather than stressing about it, it's better just to realize that your plans are toast, and embrace your new reality! Otherwise you'll just end up grumpy at everybody.

But even though we need to go with the flow at times, and even though we need to open to God's Spirit, I don't think this lackadaisical attitude towards life is the best one. Most of life has to be intentional. When we are not intentional about where we are going, or why we are going there, we're going to end up going nowhere, and then wonder why.

I mentioned in my column last Friday that nobody ever drifts together; they only ever drift apart.Many people are living their lives without really being intentional. They're raising their kids, but they don't have a good idea what they're raising them for. They believe in God, but they haven't ever thought through how they're going to pass on that belief to their children. They want a good marriage, but they haven't though through what that entails.

And until we do, we won't be effective. You can have all the emotional and spiritual resources in the world to make your family strong, but unless you sit down and intentionally use those resources, your family won't benefit.

Too many things pull us apart: time, technology, jobs, responsibilities. Very few pull us together. I know so many families who let their teens work so hard at part-time jobs that they don't have time for youth group or church. Those kids are making all their friends at school, but don't really have a Christian peer group. Or then there are the dads who are super-involved at church and super-involved in their work, and they figure that their kids will somehow pick up their faith by osmosis, even though they take no time to talk to their kids or mentor their kids or even play with their kids.

One of the best ways to counter the drift that so often happens in our lives is long term planning. I have two friends, a husband and wife team, who spend much of August strategically planning for their family. They ask themselves:

1. Where do we want to be in five years?
2. Where do we want to be in two years?
3. Where do we want to be in one year?

And then they figure out how to get there! And over the last few years, as their daughters have grown and they've realized that their time as a family is short before everyone grows up and moves on, they've made it a priority to spend more time as a family. They've gone on medical missions trips together. They've taken vacations. They've deliberately done things, even in the midst of their busy lives, because they had to.

This family lives in a small town where large churches with mega resources for great youth groups don't exist. They've had to create a youth group out of the kids' friends, and make sure that they have a good set of peers who are being discipled. They've had to take the responsibility for their kids' Christian education, because it wasn't happening at their church.

And in the meantime, they've made sure that their children learned some job skills and other skills they would need when they left home. But they did it by taking August to plan.

They mapped out their vacation schedules, months in advance. They are both professionals (they're both doctors), so they've figured out what conferences they would go to that year based on whether the kids could go and whether it could be a family activity. They've scheduled in the kids' stuff.

And they've decided what extra-curricular activities they were going to do, and when. If they saw a certain month was getting busy for work, they deliberately planned some romantic nights and weekends the month before and the month after.

And they prayed. They brought their multi-coloured highlighters, their full sized calendars, and their Bibles and journals, and they spent a weekend praying through their year.

It's a great idea, because when you don't, life happens, and you drift along with the current. You don't realize that you don't actually want to be swimming in that direction.

When your child comes to you in September and announces he wants to take karate, you can't think of a good reason to say no, so you sign him up. But you don't realize that lessons are Thursday nights, and Thursday is the only night all of you have free during November and December, so that was supposed to be your family games' night. If you had planned, you would have known that.

I find men often appreciate a bit of strategic planning because it's already how they think. They like having things mapped out, perhaps more than we do. They like knowing where they're going. And if you can turn it into a romantic getaway with multi-coloured highlighters, more power to you!

I have found more and more that time is sneaking up on me, and I have to be intentional about what we're doing as a family. So this August, Keith and I are taking off for a four-day trip to be together and to pray through this year, while doing a bunch of biking, too. Don't let the summer go by without thinking about what you really want your next year to look like. Take some time and pray and plan with your honey. Make it fun for him, too. Ask the important questions. And then you're far less likely to feel swept away by tides you can't control.


Subscribe to To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Labels: , , ,

Countering the Drift

Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. I've been writing these columns every week for 8 years now. I've written almost 500 of them. That's a lot. And sometimes I wonder why I keep doing it. But it's columns like these that make it matter to me. It's not that I think it's particularly great; it's just the opportunity to speak what I know is truth into people's lives, in the hopes that they may make even a small change. I like the columns that simply challenge people's thinking (like last week's), but it's the ones that challenge behaviour that I really pray have an impact. And this is one of those!

Here's this week's!

Messages in bottles have been the stuff of folklore for centuries. Dying, desperate sailors have hurled them. Curious children have launched them. Nicholas Sparks wrote a novel based on them, but don’t read it—or watch the movie—unless you already have a prescription for antidepressants.

The story I find most interesting about such bottles, though, comes from an experiment when two bottles were dropped off the Brazilian coast simultaneously. One drifted east, washing up one hundred and thirty days later off the coast of Africa. The other drifted northwest, landing in Nicaragua one hundred and ninety days later. They started in exactly the same place. They ended up half a world away from each other.

Something similar is at play with human relationships. We can never drift together; we can only ever drift apart. When you’re not paying attention to your relationship, you won’t end up closer. You’ll only end up separate. If you want to go through life in tandem with someone, you have to be intentional about it.

Have you ever been misty-eyed at a wedding, knowing that this couple was perfectly compatible and would last forever, only to be blown away fifteen years later by the divorce announcement? How did that happen? How can two people who were so close end up so far apart?

It happens little by little, wave by wave, as different currents catch you. One night he staggers home from work, exhausted, and instead of eating at the table with her, he grabs dinner, puts his feet up, and watches TV. She’s tired, too, so after the kids go to bed she retreats into the study to surf internet blogs. A few more times that week they recreate the scene, and soon it’s become the evening routine. Once couples stop communicating, laughing, and sharing, then the only thing that binds them together is the children. And eventually children aren’t enough.

Too many of us drift through life. We figure our spouses are always going to be there, our kids are always going to love us, and our jobs are always going to be secure. So we don’t put in the hard work of keeping lines of communication open, or building up goodwill, because we’d rather concentrate on ourselves, and what we want. We are, after all, selfish beings, and most of us, if we can get by with laziness, will try. We’re naturally drawn to drifting.

Young adults are today’s quintessential drifters. About 30% of twenty-somethings still live at home, hanging out in their parents’ basement, not pursuing career plans because they’re enjoying the carefree life of computers and video games. Eventually real life will sort itself out, right? Wrong. In those drifting years, they’re missing out on valuable time when they could be saving for a downpayment, increasing their marketable skills, or building meaningful relationships. Drifting is preventing real life—adult life—from arriving.

Drifting is destructive, and I don’t think it’s even that fun. We’ve become so accustomed in our society to think that the absence of work is the pinnacle of happiness that we’ve forgotten that it’s sometimes in that work—whether it’s work on relationships, work on stretching ourselves to achieve a goal, or working at our jobs—that we derive the deepest satisfaction.

Summer is a time to relax, and most of us desperately need it. But in your relaxation, don’t drift. Instead, take the time to plan. Go for walks in the beautiful sunshine and figure out what’s important to you. What is your purpose here? What are you aiming for? How are you going to get there? Since we can’t drift towards happiness, we had better start being more deliberate about it.

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


Subscribe to To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Labels: , , ,

How Bad Were the Awards at Your Child's School?

Since writing the two columns on the "terrific kid" awards, I've received a bunch of emails telling the latest story of woe from different schools. The emails seem to be divided into categories roughly like this:

1. We're upset because everyone gets an award. The grade 8 graduation ceremonies at my child's school took two hours because of all the awards--and one child got 34! Why can't they give out fewer?


2. It's always the bullies and the loud mouths who win the citizenship awards, because they talk loudest on their own behalf. The quiet kids who are just kind in the background don't win anything, and it's infuriating!

Now I homeschool, so I haven't seen this firsthand except through my nieces and nephews and the stories fo my friends whose children are in school. So I'm curious about two things: how bad is it at your school, and what is the alternative?

What's happened during the self-esteem movement in schools, I think, is that schools have decided that the best way to motivate kids is to give them awards, and the more awards the better! It used to be that we had the Math Award and the English Award and the Athlete Award, and that was it. But now the awards get multiplied so that more kids can win awards--although what usually happens is that one child still wins about 90% of the academic awards. Introducing more academic awards doesn't cause more children to win, it just causes one child to win more, resulting in even more trophies that will get thrown out as soon as she moves out.

I can understand the frustration parents have when the same child, or often the same family, wins the Citizenship Awards all the time, but what's the alternative? I'm not sure just passing it around to different kids every year improves the situation. Personally, I'd be more in favour of scrapping a lot of the awards entirely and, to teach citizenship, getting the kids behind one big project you do all year, like raising money for a Haitian orphanage, or writing letters to soldiers overseas, or soemthing. And then, at the end of the year, you have a slide show of what the class has done so that everyone feels like they have been a part of something important.

In other words, I'm not sure the slanted nature of the decisions regarding who gets what award is really the problem. I think it's the philosophy that we need to be giving all these awards in the first place. The smartest kid knows he or she is the smartest kid. Give them the "top marks" award and leave it at that. They need to be commended for that, sure, but it's humiliating when one kid wins 15 of them. And as for all the other awards, what's the point?

Perhaps I'm a fuddy-duddy and I'm depriving children of the thrill of winning something, but I do think we've over-hyped children's achievements. I remember one 10-year-old I know having her picture in the paper for drawing a great picture for Earth Day, that won the district's competition. She doesn't even believe in Earth Day particularly. She did it because she was required to in school. And her picture wasn't even good. It was randomly chosen. But there she was, pleased as punch, to have her picture in the paper.

I have no problem recognizing kids when they truly do extraordinary things, but I don't know that school is the best way to do that. Often churches and service clubs are better at that. I know one boy, for instance, who single-handedly raised tens of thousands of dollars from all the elementary schools in his town to build dormitories for the Kenyan orphanage we support. The Rotary Club ended up giving him an honorary award, and that makes sense to me.

One of the books I'm reading this summer is one my daughter has already read, Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris.

Here's their thesis: we have such low expectations on teens. We think they're all going to rebel, and waste time, and veg in front of the TV, and nothing is further from the truth. Teens can change the world by discovering their gifts and passions and using them for God in these years when they don't have mortgages and families to take care of. I love it! It's something I can totally get behind, and I'll have to give you a full review when I'm through.

I think kids should be doing extraordinary things. I think they should be trying to change the world, or at least their corner of it. They should be grappling with injustice, because kids understand it at a visceral level perhaps in a way better than we adults do.

But giving kids awards for silly things that they should be doing anyway does nothing to encourage this; on the contrary, it just encourages mediocrity. We think kids are extraordinary when they get a B in math! We think kids are extraordinary for drawing pictures for Earth Day, even though it's a school assignment! We think kids are extraordinary for saying please and thank you! And then we wonder why kids think they don't have to try in this life.

I would rather we stop giving awards and simply encouraged kids towards excellence. Yes, let's recognize milestones, like graduating from elementary school, or turning 13, or hitting 16. But let's do it in a way taht encourages them to be who God made them, not that says, "you have arrived. We are proud of you just for breathing." That's not enough.

Not every kid is going to throw themselves into combatting world hunger, but some may. Some may organize the 30 Hour Famine through World Vision. Some may organize a penny drive to buy toys for a missions team going to an orphanage. Some may simply decide to befriend the new immigrant kids on the block. These are important things because they represent character issues, and it is parents and churches who should be recognizing this, not necessarily schools.

So I wish schools would stop with silly awards, and get back to teaching. And then maybe we, as parents, could reclaim our proper role in teaching character and recognizing it and acknowledging it when we see it. That, I think, would make me more at peace with the world.

What's your story? How do awards work at your child's school? Has your child ever done something extraordinary? Has your school ever done anything dumb? Let's talk about it!


Subscribe to To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Labels: , , ,

Wifey Wednesday: Too Tired to Have Sex?

It's Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up!

Okay, on Wifey Wednesday we often get rather "intimate", so to speak, because I think it's important to have a safe place where we can talk about sex in a Christian environment. If you all are having issues, I really don't want you googling it and ending up at some porn site or some site that will tell you to watch porn! So I think it's best to be open and honest, since God created it, after all.

Photo by Mi Pah

And here's an interesting study I came across recently: 25% of people reported being too tired to have sex. That doesn't surprise me, actually. In fact, I'm surprised it's not higher. I remember when the children were little, and didn't sleep, and I was so desperate to get at least 6 hours a night (even if it was broken up), that sex was far down on my priority list. It didn't mean we weren't intimate; it's just that I was far more attuned to my need for sleep than I was my need for sex.

So let's talk about that today: what do you do when you're exhausted and you have no time for sex?

I don't actually think the sex part is the key to solving this dilemma. I think it's the tired part. How do you get to the point where you are actually available to yourself and to your husband, both with time and energy? So many things demand our attention and our energy during the day that it's just difficult to be available at night.

I talked about this in my book, Honey, I Don't Have a Headache Tonight.

We all have internal batteries that need to be replenished. And too often we drain them, but we do nothing to recharge. So if you want to feel alert with your hubby:

1. Recharge Your Batteries Appropriately. You know the things that drain you: talking to certain people, housework, running around after kids, paid work, chauffeuring, scheduling, all the things that go into a normal life. These things aren't necessarily bad, but you need to figure out what also charges you.

Much of this is based on personality. Some people are real extraverts, and they won't be charged unless they get a lot of time to actually talk to people. If you need it, you don't have to feel ashamed of it. Just schedule in some time everyday to talk with a friend, or go out for coffee after dinner with her. If you're an introvert, and you need time alone, tell your husband this, and ask if he can do the bedtime routine so that you can have a bubble bath. In other words, be realistic about what you need.

If you don't need time alone to feel invigorated, but you need time outside, then take a jog. But don't feel guilty for taking time away from the kids! They can stand to be with their dad for a while, and he'll be happier if you're available to him later.

2. Find Someone to Watch the Kids. Hopefully your husband will cooperate, especially when he realizes that he's getting something out of the deal! But if he won't, take the intiative to get some help. Find a teenager in your neighbourhood to watch the children for two hours after school a few times a week so you can get some time to yourself. Don't just use the time to do errands that won't replenish you; put a priority on doing what you need to do to feel awake. Or ask your mother or your sister to watch the children for a while. Find someone to be your ally!

3. Snatch Time to Rejuvenate. Don't let yourself come last in your list of priorities. Schedule time in now, during the day, for you to rejuvenate, whether it means taking a jog, doing a craft, having a bubble bath, or just praying. When you do have free time, use it for you, don't only fill it up with more "things" that you really should get done. The most important thing to get done, after all, is to pay attention to your marriage.

4. Keep the Long Term in View. It's easier to spend time on yourself when you see the benefit in it. You know your marriage is important, but realistically how much time do you dedicate to nurturing it? Do you only pay attention to all the "things" you can do for your family, rather than just being there for your husband? He needs you, not just clean laundry. And when you feel connected to your husband, you also feel more energetic and more excited to get that housework done later!

5. Say No to Overcommitment. We all know this, but do we do it? What is making you too busy today? Is it your church? Your children's schedule? Your hobbies? Whatever it is that is causing you to stop thinking about your husband and start thinking about other things needs to stop. We all need downtime. Make sure you have some.

6. Practice the art of compartmentalization. Men are wonderful at keeping things in their place. They're not as distracted nearly as much as we are because they're not naturally trying to multi-task. We do. We multitask naturally, all the time. And believe me, sex is not a good time for multitasking! You should not be writing grocery lists in your head while you're being intimate. You should not be planning vacations while he's kissing you. When you're with your husband, practice being with him. Concentrate on what he's saying. Concentrate on how he feels. And above all, stop thinking!

Here's the truth: often we think we're exhausted when the issue is we just have too much on our plate, and thus too much constantly going through our brains. Turn off the constant noise in your brain telling you to do more, and turn on that part of your brain telling you to slow down, and practice being in the moment. You'll find you're less tired, and much more in the mood than when you're always focusing on all the things you "should" be doing.

The biggest "should" in your life is about your marriage. You should be enjoying your husband. Are you? If not, learn to! Make it a priority. And turn everything else off!

Now, what advice do you have for us today? Have you ever had to confront your fantasies and throw them aside? How did you do it? Or do you have something else to tell us? Write your own Wifey Wednesday post that links back to here, and then leave the link of THAT POST in the Mcklinky below. Thanks!

Want more intimacy tips on how to get in the mood? Listen to Sheila's audio download, Honey, I Don't Have a Headache Tonight! Filled with lots of laughs and practical tips to boost your marriage!
Download it now!


Subscribe to To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Labels: , , ,

Why Do We Struggle So Much with Organization?

I've been talking lately to Deb Mantel, a professional organzier dedicated to "making women's lives more manageable. She's been taking some of my speaking training, and I've been drooling over her organizing skills, like this picture of "spaces with soul" up on her website. I love art like that on the walls, but I've never figured out how to get it there. The whole picture says peace to me, but I can never seem to achieve that in my house.

But even if I'm not perfectly decorated (I have too much of an ADD personality to be a decorator), I have gotten a lot more organized over the last few years. And so I thought I'd ask Deb some of the questions that we deal with a lot at To Love, Honor and Vacuum, since she knows so much about organizing. So here goes:

Are women more organized today or less organized today than our grandmothers were?

I think women are less organized than our grandmothers simply because the options and choices of how to spend their time, energy and money are overwhelming. Women in earlier generations may have had a lot on their plate, but it was all related around the home and family. Usually they were stay-at-home moms and there was not a lot of carpooling or activities to keep them running around.

I often hear women complain that they’re too busy. Are we, or have we just not figured out how to organize our lives best?

I think we are too busy. In his book Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, Dr. Richard Swenson defines margin as the space that should exist between our load and our limits. Whether it’s our finances, our emotions, our health or our schedules, we need margin for several reasons. First, because life happens. If we are filled to the brim emotionally, maxed out financially, and booked solid, then we have no room to respond to the stuff of life that happens all around us. Second, as Christians, margin allows us to have room to hear God and to respond to what He brings into our lives. Ideally, we have margin in our lives so that we (and all that we have) are available to God and His plans and purposes.

Do you think we have too much stuff? I know I have too much stuff, and I spend my life weeding it out. What’s the psychological effect of too much stuff?

We have way too much stuff and it can really sap us of energy. We struggle with always wanting more, often because we think it will fill us. But too much stuff can actually rob us in many ways—our time (it takes time to shop for things, to take care of things), our health (too much stuff often leads to disorganization which causes stress), our space (instead of having room in our lives and homes, we often need to rent storage units to house the excess), and even relationships (the more we are managing our “stuff,” the less time we have to build relationships). Relationships should always trump stuff!

I think I’m more organized the older I get (and the older my children get). Can you give any tips for being organized when you have very little ones underfoot?

Clear away as much clutter as you can so that you have less to maintain. Set up very simple storage systems so that kids know what goes where and can access things and put them away easily. Keep your schedule as free as possible and try not to over-schedule your kids. I remind women that our children look at us to see what a life with Jesus is like. When they look at us, do they get a glimpse of the Good Shepherd, who leads us beside the still waters? Or do they view Jesus as a hard taskmaster, always driving us to do more, be more, have more! The question is not can Jesus give us rest (Matt. 11:28), but do we want what he offers ENOUGH to let go of what He ISN’T calling us to.

What do you do when you want to keep an organized home and your husband feels it’s entirely your job? What about when he leaves dirty socks all over the house, for instance, or doesn’t encourage the kids to do chores because it’s “mom’s job”. Any advice?

That’s a hard situation to be in. Ideally, some healthy communication needs to happen so that the husband can understand that keeping a house organized is not something one family member can do alone. It’s like any team effort (husbands can usually understand sports!). It takes the entire “team” to win the game. Everyone has a role to play. As early as possible, children should be shown how to take care of their belongings and how to respect common living spaces (by keeping them neat and not leaving personal items/messes around).

How can we teach kids to be organized, especially when it comes to schoolwork and responsibilities?

It’s important to help children learn the connection between “responsibilities” and “privileges” from an early age. This can help down the road when the tendency is for Mom to nag at the kids all the time. Besides the responsibility of helping the home “team” keep the house running smoothly, children need to learn that their main “job” during this season in their lives is to study and develop their minds (school). Whether they are home-schooled or attend public or private school, homework and staying on top of their studies is one of the “responsibilities” that come with that “job.” Privileges (special outings, activities with friends, movies, tv, etc. are tied to responsibilities). When we can help our children to see that it is their “choice” whether they earn the privilege or not, it takes the onus off of Mom to stay after them all the time. It takes a lot of time and effort, but it’s worth making this clear when they are young!

I think that's all great advice! What resonated with you most? What do you want to talk about some more? Let me know in the comments, so we can keep helping each other!

Deb Mantel is a professional organizer and a songwriter and speaker. Find her at


Subscribe to To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Labels: , , ,

Do You Feel Rich?
Do you feel rich? You likely don't. Few of us do, and especially in this recession, many of us are understandably worried about money. We're not sure how the bills will get paid. We're wondering when our husbands will find work, or better work. It's tough.

And I don't mean to diminish that. I just want to add some perspective. Here's something I read on the Sarcastic Christian blog that made me think:

If you make $25,000 per year (about $12.50/hr) you are in one of the top 10% richest people in the world!
If you make $35,000 per year, that puts in in the top 5%.
If you make $45,000 per year, you are in top 1.72% richest people in the world!

Wow. You probably think you're stretched, but most of us, reading this blog, are at least in the top 10% of the world, at least when it comes to family income.

Most people in the world wonder where their next meal is coming from. We worry about what takeout we might order tonight.

When I was in Kenya recently, one of the biggest delights was sitting with several Kenyan women just chatting as I taught them how to use knitting machines to start a micro business. (Here's my mother with two of our "students"). One woman, who had been rescued from the street when she was 10, and was now a married mom, asked me what we "plant" here in Canada. She wanted to know what crops my husband and I grow, because in Kenya, that's the main thing. Everyone grows something, and one's crops determine one's wealth. It's inconceivable that one wouldn't grow crops.

I explained the kind of crops that grow in my area of Ontario, without going into detail that the only crop I actually grow rather well is dandelions.

Another shocker from our first trip to Africa was how expensive sanitary pads are. They run about the same price as they do here, with the only difference being that there people only make about $1 a day. If you made $1 a day, could you afford pads? Probably not. And that's why many Third World girls and women miss a week of school and work every month because they literally have nothing to use.

One of my pet projects in Africa was showing the women how to sew sanitary pads out of rags (and fabric scraps from their sewing school). We got quite good at them!

They're just flannel on top, two layers of towel (or four layers of flannel) in the middle, and then fleece on the bottom. Here's another one:

Kind of cute, aren't they?

Here's a stack all cut out and ready to go on the sewing table at the orphanage. They just loved them (although everyone acknowledged they're a pain to wash). But women have been washing them for centuries, and they'll figure it out.

It's a little thing, sanitary pads. We take them for granted. But that just shows how rich we really are!

I know many of you are struggling with money right now. Remember, though, that we have been given so much here, and no matter how bad things get, God has still given us so many blessings. If you're burdened with worry today, think of these girls in Africa, so thrilled just from a little piece of flannel. We have much to be grateful for, and remember that this, too, shall pass.


Labels: , ,

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.

See my complete profile

Follow This Blog:

 Subscribe to To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Follow on Twitter:
Follow on Facebook:

Important Links
Previous Posts

Popular Archived Posts
Christian Blogs
Mom Blogs
Marriage/Intimacy Blogs
Blogs For Younger/Not Yet Married Readers
Housework Blogs
Cooking/Homemaking Blogs
Writing Links
Blog Design by Christi Gifford

Images from

Related Posts with Thumbnails