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Heading in the Right Direction

Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Here's this week's, just in time for the new year!

Goal setting is big in the business world. Think of the slogans! If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there! To be good is not enough when you dream of being great! Think little goals and expect little achievements; think big goals and win big success! Or, as Tony Robbins would say, setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.

So set goals! Aim high! The sky’s the limit.

Yeah, right. And if you believe that, I have a whole pile of leftover Christmas chocolate that I’m not going to eat, either.

Let’s back up. If goal setting like that is lame in corporate life, maybe all this focus on New Year’s Resolutions can go overboard in our personal life, too. Despite what the business gurus say, much of our goal setting activity sets us up for failure, because we aim too high, and then think we’ve flunked. But as long as you’re heading in the right direction, is it really a failure? To me, your direction is more important than your current location.

For instance, let’s take a guy who looks like he has it altogether. He’s in a stable marriage; his kids are achieving straight A’s; his house is a showcase. But at the same time he’s contemplating having an affair and he’s petrified to look at the credit card bill when it comes in after Christmas.

Contrast that with someone who gave up drinking a year and a half ago. His marriage is still rocky and the kids are still reeling from the dysfunction in the family, but he’s turned his life around. For the first time in a decade he has a stable job and he’s just won two promotions back to back. He and his wife are saving up for a downpayment on a house so they can finally move out of subsidized housing. They’re starting to go to church and get involved in the YMCA.

The first family looks better on the outside; the second family may end up stronger in the end. I don’t think it’s where you’re at that’s important; it’s whether or not you’re moving forward. So if you break your New Year’s resolutions and miss jogging for three days, but at the same time you’ve exercised more in the last week than you ever have before, you haven’t failed. You’re just taking baby steps, which are sometimes awkward. Sometimes you fall down. But at least you’re moving somewhere.

We need to remember that when it comes to goals. Sure, we’ll still have the typical ones. I want to quit my Diet Pepsi addiction, for instance. I hate coffee and I need the caffeine, but I don’t want the aspartame. I want to work my way up to 5 km run (I know that’s wimpy to many, but to me that’s a lot). And I want to get more organized with my menu planning.

But I also know I have far more important goals. I want to become a wiser, gentler person. I want to become a more forgiving person. I want to gossip less and pray more. I want to savour the moments and not rush so much. I want to smile more and laugh more and take more risks.

It’s hard to measure those things, but I hope, at the end of ten years, that I can look back and say that I’ve moved in the right direction. I’ll never really arrive, but maybe we’re not supposed to. Maybe we’re just supposed to keep growing. So I’m going to point forward and take baby steps. As long as I’m moving, I think that’s more important than where I am now.

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Christmas Hat

Originally uploaded by SheilaGregoire
Just thought I'd show you all the hat I made Katie for Christmas! More knitting pictures to come soon! And blogging will resume shortly. :)
Feeling More Like a Maid than a Wife and a Mother?

I'm still absolutely loving my Christmas vacation, but I thought I'd take a moment and link to a great excerpt of my book To Love, Honor and Vacuum that was just published at Power to Change.

Here's a bit of it:

I laughed when I read a recent study done in Europe about women’s time commitments and how these commitments affected their sex lives. In Italy, women have made great strides in the workforce. Yet their progress at home has lagged behind that of other Western European nations, mostly because their culture is one in which men tend to take their wives for granted. So today, when an Italian woman comes home, she still does most of the housework. She is run off of her feet, and the end result is that she spends less time on sex than do women in Finland, Sweden or England. Italian men, who are known for their machismo, aren’t actually getting as much loving as English men are, largely because culturally they have not yet learned to respect women’s contributions.

We may not be as undervalued as our Italian sisters are, but we’re still often taken for granted. It’s hard for many men to respect what we do because they themselves aren’t reared for it and would never do it. Women typically do the lion’s share of the housework, so it’s assumed we’re not as important as the men are, since they’re able to escape the drudgery. You may even buy into some of this mentality, wondering who you are since you’re “just a mother’” or “just a wife.” Ultimately, though, everything will pass away except people. The impact we have on our kids or our neighbors is perhaps even more important than any job we could have, and this impact is only possible because of the work we do at home, whether or not we also have a job.

If you husband diminishes the value of what you do, then he perceives value outside of Christ. Have a family meeting and talk about where you’re going as a family. How does he want the children raised? What does he want for the family in the long run? What values does he want your children to have? How are they going to develop them? Many people have never answered these questions. They go through life working at their jobs without asking the reason behind what they’re doing. Throw everything on the table: his job, your job, your kids’ schooling, all your commitments and activities, and ask God for a vision for your family. Once you both have one, it’s easier for you as a couple to see how everyone’s labor, wherever it’s done, fits into that vision.

Even if your husband isn’t a believer, you can still discuss where your family is heading. Brainstorm about how you can make sure your family meets the goals you set. Chances are this will involve valuing the typical things we women do, like creating a comfortable home and nurturing the children. Once you’ve verbalized the importance of your contribution, it’s easier for him to want to be involved around the house, or, at the very least, to be grateful that you are!

Read the rest here, and get your year off to a good start!

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Merry Christmas!


I'm officially going on holiday now! I want to knit, and bake, and watch movies with my girls, so I won't be blogging until late next week. My columns will still appear on Fridays, but I may not check back in other than that until next week. I really need a break!

But you can still catch me on Facebook and Twitter!

And if you want to give ME a Christmas present, can you fill out my two "bedroom" surveys? They're for my new book, The Good Girls' Guide to Sex. One's on your wedding night and one's a "who initiates" survey. They're both completely anonymous. I'd so appreciate it!

Have a wonderful Christmas with your family. I hope you are able to enjoy at least one silent night. And speaking of silent, let me leave you with the Silent Monks singing the Hallelujah Chorus to get you in the Christmas mood!


My Man of Steel

Nineteen years ago, I was rushing around at the hairdressers and trying to step into my wedding dress, and worrying about the slush on the roads and whether it would be too slippery for guests to drive from Toronto.

But mostly I was thinking about my best friend, who was waiting for me at the end of the aisle.

Because today is my nineteenth anniversary. I am much happier today than I was then; it seems that each year we grow more and more LIKE each other, if that's possible. We're melding into one person.

On our eleventh anniversary I wrote my first column about our marriage, and I thought I'd reprint it here, even though it's eight years old. I still like it. So here you go:

My Man of Steel

This Saturday I’m supposed to give my husband something made of steel. We’re celebrating our eleventh anniversary, and for this blessed occasion whoever is in charge of anniversary gift etiquette obviously ran out of ideas. “Paper? Taken. A nice wooden chest? Taken. What about diamonds? Better save that as an incentive to stick around.” Growing increasingly desperate, she probably looked out the window, saw her husband’s ‘57 Chevy up on blocks, and yelled, “Steel!”, forever relegating us to eleventh anniversary hopelessness.

I figure I’m left with a new car (fat chance), the foundation for a new house, or power tools. But the only thing more ridiculous than me trying to choose a power tool would be my husband trying to use one. The one and only time he did any home improvements was his attempt, along with another doctor friend, to hang a pot rack. Instead of drilling into a stud, they drilled into my toilet drain, sending water—and I don’t know what else—into our kitchen.

Whatever I choose, though, it occurs to me that Ye Olde Marriage Etiquette Lady may have had a point. Steel is an appropriate metaphor for marriage. Steel holds houses together, keeps bridges from buckling, and forms the foundations of our cities. Steel doesn’t bend.

Over the years of our marriage we’ve had some tough times. Keith’s residency at the Hospital for Sick Children was horrendous. He always came home exhausted. Two babies demanded our attention, leaving us with no energy for anything else. In the middle of this, we had a beautiful baby boy, who lived only 29 days. Though I will treasure those precious four weeks forever, his death left a hole that can never be filled on this side of heaven.

When I walked down the aisle eleven years ago, I knew I loved Keith and that he loved me. I figured that love would be enough for forever. I was wrong. Love alone would not have seen us through these eleven years, through miscarriages and sleepless nights, through baby stresses and our son’s death. As much as I adore my husband, I don’t think it’s love that has made our marriage strong. Indeed, that idea—that love keeps us together—can actually harm a relationship.

If love is what keeps us together, then when we stop feeling all gushy towards each other we wonder if the relationship is viable. Commitment is just as important as love, and perhaps even more so. If you’re not truly committed to each other, you can’t really discuss problems. Whenever you do, the whole relationship may be at stake. But when you are committed to each other, you can hash something out until you get it right, because you know that person isn’t going anywhere.

During our first year of marriage, I was ready to kill my husband many times over, or at least bean him on the head with a frying pan. He understood nothing about my feelings, while I, of course, understood everything about his. What allowed us to get through that time was not that we loved each other—there were times we both doubted it—but that we knew we were in this for the long haul. And if you’re in it for the long haul, then you may as well work it out, because the longer you wait, the more miserable you’re going to be.

In every relationship there are times when splitting up seems like the only option. Certainly in cases of abuse or chronic infidelity this may be the case. But overall, I believe that most people will be happier if they choose to stay and work it out. And then your kids will feel free to explore and to grow, because they know their anchor to the world, their family, is secure.

My husband is the most romantic guy in the world. He’s easy to love. And as we’ve chosen to commit to each other, the steel holding up our house has grown stronger. My kids can tear all over it and it won’t collapse. They can jump and tug and pull, and we’ll stand firm. I cherish every day we have together, and I look forward to many more.


Unconditional Love Does Not Equal Unconditional Acceptance

I've had a variety of snippets of interactions going through my head over the last few days, which have led me to a certain conclusion. So let me share my thought process with you, and see what you think.

Exhibit A: I talked with a woman whose live-in boyfriend is becoming upset because her teens do no work around the house. He can't make them; he's not their father. But he gets sick of their laziness. She says, "they're teenagers!"

Exhibit B: An 18-year-old hasn't gone for his licence yet--even though he could have two years ago--for no apparent reason. I think he's just too lazy. When he's not at school, he sits around and watches TV. And that is his whole life.

Exhibit C: A youth group is attracting unchurched kids, but losing a lot of churched kids, because all rules have gone out the window. It's okay to swear, wear whatever you want, play whatever music you want, and doubt all you want. Church is about feeling accepted. Now the churched kids don't feel accepted.

Exhibit D: A high school student with bright, accomplished parents is suspended again. He is just skating by. He puts no effort in. They don't know how to motivate him.

I looked at all four of these stories, which hit me within a 24 hour period, and it seemed to me that the common denominator was a lack of expectations combined with unconditional acceptance. Everyone in these stories loves their children. There is no danger of that. But none of these parents or leaders are willing to put actual expectations of behaviour on their children--and the children are responding by simply not putting in any effort.

I look at the parents and leaders in these stories, and they're wonderful people. How is it that such wonderful people can be raising and leading such kids who are, for want of a better word, leeches?

Let's deal with the church situation first. I have spoken to some of the churched teens who don't want to go to the youth group anymore and their response is that it doesn't feel godly or safe. The message is, "church is what you want it to be". "God loves you no matter what". All of which is true. But it's also true that God has certain standards for behaviour, and that saying the F-word nonstop is not godly. The occasional swear word is not going to bother anyone; but no one wants to step into a church and have it feel like one is watching an R-rated movie. But more important than the swearing is the attitude towards faith: it's not something that is essential or that is something you have to work at; it's just what you want it to be.

If kids were being transformed, it wouldn't be an issue. But most kids aren't being transformed. It's become a "cool hangout". And the problem is that for Christians to grow, we need community--a community we will belong to even when we don't feel like it; in fact, especially when we don't feel like it. We must keep ourselves plugged in, or we risk going off track. And if a church doesn't teach that you must keep plugged in, then you're not really raising disciples. If it only teaches you should do what's fun and you should come if you enjoy it, then what's the chance that these kids are going to keep going when they're 23?

Now let's go to parents. A parent's job is not to get their child to love them or to give their child a good life. A parent's job is to raise a child who can live independently while also showing compassion and love. Letting a child skirt by with no chores and no responsibilities and letting them get away with everything is not compassionate and it's not good parenting. It's failing them.

It's hard to turn things around when children are teens, but you can prevent this from happening by one simple thing: have expectations on your children. Expect that they will do chores. Expect that they will speak and dress appropriately. Expect that they will do homework. Expect that they will succeed in life. Expect that they will love God. And communicate these expectations. When they start to move away from the expectations, change something in your family life so you promote it again.

What I have found is that it is the expectations of the parents so often that determine how the children turn out. Those who say, "teens will rebel. They won't enjoy church. They'll struggle in high school" tend to have teens who rebel, who hate church, and who struggle in high school. But I know other parents who expect that their kids will love God, and will try hard, and they do.

Now there's more to it than just expectations, of course. Those with these expectations set up family life in certain ways. They give chores, they make time for homework, they demand that kids act perhaps more maturely than age would expect. But the reason that they do these things is because they expect that their children will fulfill them and live up to them. And lo and behold, the kids tend to.

On the other hand, those who expect that, as moms, they will have to do all the laundry for everyone in the house until the day they die will tend to do all the laundry in the house until the day they die. Those who expect that, as moms, their kids will never do homework on their own but will always need a lot of help will tend to raise kids who sit passively waiting for mom to tell them the answer.

So I have a simple idea: encourage your kids to be independent, even in small things. Encourage them to pick out their own clothes. Encourage them to figure out 5 x 4 in their head without telling them what it is. Encourage them to pour their own milk or get their own cereal.

Stretch your kids; don't stretch yourself. Don't do everything for your children; encourage them to act responsibly, even in little things, when they are very young. They do have brains and arm muscles, you know, so they are capable of learning to tie shoes or of putting their coats on a hanger or a hook by themselves.

If we did this when children were 6 or 8 or even 10, I bet we'd see fewer 18-year-olds sitting on couches like lumps refusing to do anything that would even be beneficial in their lives. I see so many teens who are putting off things that would actually be fun because they can't be bothered. They have become addicted to doing absolutely nothing. They haven't understood the joy of accomplishment or independence or ownership, and so they have no incentive to go ahead and grow up and reach for that milestone.

Teach kids that joy. Teach them that you expect them to reach high, and then equip them for it. It takes a real mindset on behalf of parents, but believe me, you don't ever want to be in the situation where you sit across the table from friends talking about your teenage child, saying, "I don't know how to motivate him." You're right. It's awfully hard when they're a teen.

Of course, no matter what you do, some kids will go off the rails. Some kids will make poor choices even if you do everything right. But don't use that as an excuse not to try, because while some kids will go off the rails, most will not.

So to sum up: we are to unconditionally love our children, but I firmly believe the way to do that is to expect that they will live godly, independent lives. Put some expectations on them! Make some demands of them! It's not being mean. It doesn't mean you don't love them. It means you're equipping them.

An airy-fairy style of parenting where parents do everything for kids, or an airy fairy style of Christianity where we just want to get people in the doors does not serve the goal of growth or maturity. We have to find a middle ground where we love and attract people, but where we also point and motivate towards growth. And I think that middle ground is expectations mixed with encouragement: "You can do it! It's within your grasp! God is there to help you! Now let's get going!"

What do you think? Can you combine expectations with unconditional love? Let's talk!

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Christmas Greetings

Photo by Lauren Manning

Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. This week's is so much like Wifey Wednesday that I thought I'd republish an older one instead, just for variety. So here's one from two years ago. The sentiments are still the same.

I am decorating my Christmas tree. I am trying to persuade my husband to hang our Christmas lights. I am going shopping for Christmas presents. And I am doing my Christmas baking.

I am not doing holiday baking. I am not erecting a Seasonal Tree. I am not buying Winter Presents, or Holiday gifts, or putting up Seasonal lights. They are Christmas lights, and I’m proud of it.

It drives me around the bend how the word “Christmas” has become something to be embarrassed about. Companies don’t throw Christmas parties; they hold Holiday Get-Togethers. We receive “Best Wishes for the Holidays” cards from politicians and mechanics and charities we’ve supported this year. And worst of all, stores advertise their “Holiday Specials”, or attempt to share the “Joy”, as if we’re all magically joyful about this time of year when slush and freezing rain abound.

I understand that nobody wants to offend people who don’t celebrate Christmas, and that desire is very admirable. I think, though, that this is taking things a little too far. The vast majority of Canadians celebrate Christmas in some way, even those who aren’t religious or don’t go in for eggnog. So why can’t we acknowledge that?

Besides, “Season’s Greetings” makes no sense. Did you send people cards on June 21 wishing them “Season’s Greetings” now that summer was here? I’m pretty sure most people are far happier at the cusp of summer than they are at the cusp of winter, but we don’t celebrate that. So it’s not the “season” that’s special.

Or what about “holidays”? When’s the last time you sent someone a card wishing them “happy holidays” because they were taking a four day weekend? We just don’t do it. And that’s the problem with a lot of political correctness. It really makes no sense.

I recently saw a poster advertising the “Year of the Older Person”. I suppose they didn’t want to say “Year of the Elderly” or “Year of the Senior Citizen”, but their choice of politically correct words just made the whole thing laughable. After all, my daughter Rebecca is older than her sister Katie. Katie is older than her cousin Jessica. In fact, since there are approximately five babies born every second in their world, we all only have a micro-second of our lives in which we are not an older person. But someone decided to bestow that name upon the celebration so as not to offend. In the process, they stripped it of all meaning. I think we’re doing the same thing when we refuse to acknowledge the existence of Christmas.

In fact, what if not saying Christmas is actually offensive to more people than saying it is? If Christmas is people’s most significant celebration, then to pretend it isn’t happening is denying something that’s vitally important to them. One study out of the United States found that 67% of American adults preferred stores to use “Merry Christmas” in their seasonal advertising rather than the innocuous and meaningless “Season’s Greetings”. No matter how you cut the demographics—whether it was men, women, unmarried, married, investors, or not—in all categories a majority liked Merry Christmas better.

This year Sears has their “Wish Book” title written in a huge font, but at least the word Christmas is there, on the cover, though you may need your reading glasses to make it out. Wal-Mart in 2005 was holiday neutral; in 2006 they switched back to Merry Christmas, in the hope of luring more customers back to their stores. And the Toronto City Council had eggnog on their faces after their “holiday tree” fiasco last year, which they had to switch back to “Christmas Tree”, since that is, of course, what it is.

Our family isn’t spending very much this year. We’re taking a vacation instead, and I’m hoping to head back to Africa in a month. But when we do shop, I’ll stay away from the stores who want me to “share the joy of the season”. I’ll be heading to those who aren’t afraid to mention why I’m shopping. When people start to acknowledge that it is, indeed, Christmas, then the merriment begins. So Merry Christmas, to all of you. I hope you all have a blessed celebration.

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Announcement: The Good Girl's Guide to Sex

It's my big announcement day! And today I am about to sign on the dotted line a contract with Zondervan (one of the largest Christian publishers) to write The Good Girl's Guide to Sex.

I didn't exactly plan on becoming known as the sex lady, but over the last few years that seems to have been what has happened. I first wrote Honey, I Don't Have a Headache Tonight: Help for women who want to feel more in the mood, and then after that I was asked by different TV and radio shows to come on and be their "sex expert". I guess there just weren't that many people willing to talk about it.

Promise Keepers asked me to become their "women's sex columnist" for their Canadian men's magazine, and so that's what I've done. And now Zondervan wants me to write the definitive book for women, the kind that you would give at a bridal shower, or buy in your first few years of marriage (or later if you want to figure it out some more!).

I have to have it written by March, and I imagine it will be out in early 2012. So you won't see it for a while. But it's all I'm going to be thinking about for the next few months!

What I want to write is something that's more realistic than most of the books that are out there. When I was married, for instance, I read a book that focused almost completely on how to have an orgasm on your wedding night. I hated that book. I felt like it was so much pressure. And I've had 1000 women answer a survey about their wedding night, and I've discovered that hardly any actually do reach orgasm on their wedding night. So I figure, why add pressure? Why not treat sex as something that's a journey of discovery you go on together, that will take decades, rather than something that YOU HAVE TO GET PERFECT RIGHT OFF THE BAT OR YOU'RE DOING SOMETHING WRONG AND YOU'RE A FAILURE. I've never liked that approach very much.

It will be more of a chatty book than a medical book; the kind that represents the talk you'd love to have with your older sister or your girlfriends, but you never really can. And I hope you'll love it!

So that's what I'm devoting my time to these days! I'll still post on this blog, but I imagine that on Tuesdays and Thursdays I'll have shorter posts, like links to things I find interesting or just quick thoughts to start discussion.

And now, I'd like to give away some prizes! I'm going to give away two copies of my audio download, Honey, I Don't Have a Headache Tonight, to two people who commented on Tuesday's post. I picked two numbers at random from the comments, and they were Ellen from 2 Little Monkeys and Jennifer from Thinking Christian. Congratulations, ladies!

And remember, you all can help me with the research for this book! Have you taken my surveys yet? Here's the one on the wedding night, and here's the one on sex drives/initiating. Thanks so much, for your help and your support!

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Wifey Wednesday: The Gift Giving Landmine

It's Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage!

Today I want to take a break from our "intimacy" run we've been on lately and talk about presents.

Christmas presents are a landmine in most homes because women fall into two categories:

1. Those who honestly, truly do not want their husband to spend a ton of money or buy a lot of stuff, because if we want it we get it ourselves;

2. Those who really, really want a nice present under the tree.

Photo by metaphysicalplatypus

Which group you're in often depends upon disposable income; if a family has enough that she tends to buy what she wants, she often doesn't want presents. If the family has been tight for money, presents are nice because it's him agreeing to spend money on something she wants.

The problem is, however, that those in group 1 have husbands who believe they're actually in group 2, and those in group 2 have husbands who believe they're actually in group 1. We can never seem to get on the same page.

I've been telling my husband for years, for instance, that I really don't want anything for Christmas. And I mean it. I have everything I need, and I don't want him spending money without us talking about it together. What I'd really like is just some time together, or to play games with the kids, or a more relaxed Christmas season. I don't want to stress trying to find something to buy him when he already has what he wants, too (and we both have hobbies that are so specific that to buy for each other is really hard).

He, on the other hand, thinks that it's all a test, so every year when we vow not to buy anything for each other, presents for me end up under the tree anyway, causing me to have to buy something for him.

I have a friend, however, who is in the opposite situation. Money has been tight, and there are a few things she would desperately like to spend money on. She's hinted to her husband what those things would be, but he doesn't get the hint. And he usually buys her something small, that she already has 15 of. She, on the other hand, keeps track of what he wants, and she saves money all year to buy him something nice, like a nice TV to replace the one they've had for twenty years.

I think she's really in the worse position, because on Christmas morning she feels hurt that he didn't put more thought into it, whereas I just feel a little perturbed when my kids whisper to me on December 22 that Daddy did, actually, get me a present and I now have to go shopping. Hurt is worse than perturbed by far.

What I don't understand is why we can't seem to get on the same page. I have explained this to my husband many times, but he still feels that it is his duty to buy me a present. My friend has told her husband after birthdays, or anniversaries, or Christmases when the present was lame that she would appreciate some thought, but it doesn't come.

So, here's my question today: what do you suggest? What should women do to create a Christmas that is more peaceful and satisfying?

Here are a few extra thoughts:

1. What does the husband want? I've been focusing on the wife's feelings, but what does he want? Maybe my friend's husband honestly is simply worried about money and wants to keep the family afloat.

2. How do you communicate things well to your husband? I have heard of one woman who asked two close friends to email her husband a month before birthday, anniversary, and Christmas to give him gift suggestions and stores to get those gifts at. She hasn't had a problem since. But I'm not sure how many husbands would appreciate it!

What are your thoughts? What do you do in your family? And is it stressful? Let me know!

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It's Coming....

I have a HUGE announcement that I'm going to make on this blog--on Thursday! And on that day, I'll also give away a bunch of my audio downloads to a few people who comment on THIS post! So leave a comment do check back in.

Wanna hint? It has to do with my next big project. I've been signed on to do something big, and I so want to share it with you. I just need to sign on the dotted line first.

It's been a whirlwind of a journey around my house for the last few months as I've been trying to get this finalized, but I'm really excited (and I hope you will be, too!). But in my other life online I don't blog for moms, I blog for speakers and writers. I have training for those who want to develop a speaking or writing ministry.

And last week I wrote a long post about my journey. I thought you may want to read it, just for some inspiration and to understand where I come from a little better. Here's the beginning:

My story starts in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, back in August of 1996. My son Christopher was sleeping in a bassinette after I had given him his bottle. He was born with a serious heart defect, and would never come home (until he reached his ultimate home with Jesus a month later). But on that particular afternoon I was just enjoying him, singing to him, letting him rest, memorizing his face.

And as I was doing that, I overheard one of the nurses tell another nurse an absolutely hilarious story of something that had happened to her the weekend before.

I went home, wrote up that story, and sent it to Reader’s Digest.

A month later I received a cheque for $200 (which I split with that nurse). And I thought to myself: I wonder if there are other magazines that take little anecdotes like that, because I’m sure I can think of more!

So I started doing research on the internet for markets for writers, and lo and behold, Sally Stuart’s annual book Christian Writers’ Market Guide came up. I ordered it.

It arrived shortly after my son’s death. And in those months where I couldn’t do much else I started to leaf through it. And I found a whole host of magazines that I had never heard of that wanted Christian articles–even some that wanted articles on grief.

I had never met any other writers before. I had never written for publication before (except in academic journals). But I figured I could do it, and I sent off a query to Today’s Christian Woman, then the largest of the Christian magazines. No one told me you weren’t supposed to target the biggest first. They took my query, and I started writing articles. Lots of them.

For the next few years, as my babies napped, I wrote. I was published in all the major magazines (many of which, unfortunately, have since gone under), and five years later I decided it was time to start a book. So I pulled out Sally Stuart’s book again (I had a more recent version), and I looked at all the Christian publishers who would take a book proposal without an agent. I bought a book on how to write a book proposal, and I spent six months writing as good a one as I could. I sent it to eight publishers. One took it.

Here's the rest. And now you know so much more about me! Leave a comment to enter my contest, and then come back Thursday and you'll know even more! (tomorrow's Wifey Wednesday will still be here, too!)

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Stressing Out our Children

Photo by openpad

I have a dear 17-year-old friend named Rachel. She is a delight; intelligent, articulate, motivated, kind, funny. We can have conversations about literature, morality, God, and just plain life. She's in the youth program that I run at church.

But right now Rachel is completely stressed, and it's all because of a magazine.

You see, in her senior philosophy class, she has an assignment whereby she has to create a 20-page magazine using a computer software no one has taught them how to use. The magazine must portray a philosophical theme. It must contain a table of contents, several advertisements, and several different types of articles (how-to, interview, essay, fiction).

That may not sound like much, but she showed me the prototype yesterday in church and I just gulped. They want it to look like a magazine--complete with graphics, photographs, appropriate fonts, etc. etc. And it's 20 freaking pages.

Here's my question: what is the educational value of this assignment? It's a philosophy class. I can understand the teacher wanting to see if they can carry a theme over into different types of articles and ads, but then ask them to just write the articles, and do some sample ads. Why set it up as a magazine? It is not, after all, an art class or a computer graphics class.

Rachel is trying to keep her average in the mid-90s to get scholarships to universities next year. So she is putting a ton of work into this magazine, so much so that it is all she has talked about in over a month, despite the fact that she has other work. Think about real magazine editors; they work full-time to create such a magazine. Rachel is supposed to do one for homework over the course of a month.

How is she supposed to get it done? And done to her standards (she never does things halfway).

It reminds me of the time that my oldest daughter took a grade 9 French class online through our Board of Education (we homeschool, so it was her first exposure to public schooling). One of her first assignments was to create a poster, complete with graphics, that explained ten things about her. She had to write sentences (like I have one sister, or I do not have any pets), but then she needed to put pictures with the sentences and make it interesting to look at.

She spent hours on this assignment, getting the right graphics and creating a poster. But what did searching out graphics on the internet have to do with a French class? She wrote the sentences in 5 minutes flat. She didn't learn any extra French using Flickr Creative Commons to find the right pictures. It was a make work project.

I think often teachers assign these sorts of things because they think it will make them more interesting, but all it does is add hours to homework assignments for little benefit. I have no problem with creating nice graphics, by the way--but those were not the learning objectives for the course. And in Rachel's case, the learning objectives included understanding basic tenets of philosophy, not spending a ton of time understanding how to use the professional version of Adobe Publisher, or whatever it's called.

The high school students I know seem to fall into two camps: the ones who do the minimum amount of work, and still pull off 75-80, and the ones who are up until 2 every morning trying to finish their entire assignment, and pull off 92s and 93s. The amount of work you have to put in to get a 93 instead of an 80 is insane. And it doesn't teach you anything more about the subject matter.

It doesn't begin in high school, either. I have spoken to kids in middle school and below who also had ridiculous assignments, involving copious amounts of glue and magazines and scissors and other things that did nothing to teach you the subject matter. I remember one child who had to present the multiplication tables in a 12-page booklet, teaching them 12 different ways. I have no problem with that; so far so good. But they also had to use 12 different art mediums, and they had to use different fonts and different looks for each page.

Why not just spend a few hours forcing the children to actually memorize their times tables (this child didn't know them by heart, and this exercise wasn't helping). We spent far less time on multiplication than this child did, but my kids can rattle off 32 * 64 or 78 * 12 pretty easily, because they learned the basics first and can do it in their heads easily. And they didn't learn it by creating booklets with glue. They learned it through tons of timed drills.

And so I repeat: what is the point of all of this homework? If it has an educational value, with a learning outcome attached, I am fine with it. But so much of it seems like a make work project to keep the kids busy, rather than actually showing that they have mastered something significant.

I have no problem with art, by the way; what I do have a problem with is insisting that children create something visually appealing in a class that has nothing to do with that.

Our kids have too much homework, in the sense that they have too many ridiculous assignments. If they were bringing home book reports and essays and creative writing assignments and history timelines and maps to fill in, I'd be okay with it. But too much of what they do doesn't teach the content area anyway; it just keeps them busy and--most importantly--it steals family time.

My friend Rachel has other things she'd like to do this year. She wants to work more to earn money for university, but she doesn't have time. She'd like to socialize a bit more (she hardly has any time for that). She'd like to make it out to youth group more. She'd like to be on the rugby team, or some other sports teams. But there simply is no time.

Why are we stealing the life of 17-year-old kids with ridiculous assignments? High school should not be only about work; it should be about preparing kids for life, which includes having an active volunteer life at church, earning money, saving money, negotiating and navigating relationships, getting exercise, and spending time with family.

I hope that her teacher reads this and apologizes, because she could really use an apology right now.

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Go to Your Room!
Barney, Purple Dinosaur (Nightmare)
Photo by woodleywonderworks

Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Here's this week's! It's inspired by a blog post from a few weeks ago:

Disciplining children is a minefield for parents today. You’re not supposed to spank. You’re not supposed to yell. So when a 13-year-old child is tormenting his 9-year-old brother, parents utter the greatest threat that’s still acceptable: “Go to your room!”

Yeah, that’ll teach him. Here’s a kid who obviously does not want to be with the family, and, in punishment, you send him to a place where, according to the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, 50% have their own television, and another 25% have a computer. “Go to your room!” is no longer sentencing a child to hours of boredom; it’s sending a child to a place where they have access to the outside world, with no parental interference, and often no parental guidance.

Traditionally, the living room was for living; the bedroom was for sleeping. Being banished to the bedroom was harsh indeed. Today, many children prefer to cocoon in their rooms, which they’re trying to turn into entertainment central. It’s not unusual for most kids’ Christmas lists to have “electronics” highlighted right at the top. The Santa in you may be tempted to oblige. The Scrooge in me is asking you to reconsider.

After all, what happens when kids have a television in their bedroom? According to a University of Haifa study, middle schoolers with TVs in their room sleep thirty minutes less a night, on average, than children without a television. The Canadian Pediatric Society calls televisions in bedrooms one of the biggest factors in childhood obesity. These children also score lower on reading and math tests. And perhaps most importantly, they're twice as likely to start smoking and get involved in other delinquent activities, even controlling for all other factors.

While the health and educational detriments of television are important, it's that last one that concerns me most. When kids have televisions and computers in their room, they are more likely to make lifestyle and moral choices that parents don’t approve of because their lives have now become more and more independent. Kids with TVs in their rooms live in their rooms, not in the kitchen or the family room, where they can hang out with their parents. And perhaps just as importantly, they tend to live solitary lives, not lives with their siblings. If you've ever wondered why kids squabble so much, perhaps it's because they aren't forced to play together or cure boredom together. Instead, they just retreat to their rooms to be entertained on their own.

I really can't think of anything much more destructive in a family than encouraging your child to cocoon. Kids need input from parents. They need conversation. They need meal times. They need to have fun! But we're letting them grow up by themselves, in their wonderfully decorated rooms with every little gadget. It's wrong.

If your lives consist mostly of gathering the children for the practical functions of life, like putting food on their plates or collecting homework or ascertaining everybody's schedules, and then you separate during your leisure times, I doubt real conversation or sharing will happen. If your children hang out in their own rooms, rather than in the family room with siblings, I doubt great friendships will develop.

Before you shop this Christmas, then, ask yourself: what values do you want your children to have? Do electronics in their bedrooms contribute to your vision? Probably not. So maybe the Santa in you should invest in board games for the whole family or comfortable furniture for the living room, rather than for bedrooms. Your kids may think you’ve turned into Scrooge, but they’ll be better people for it.

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Survivor Christmas Tree Challenge Part 3

It's Survivor Christmas Tree Challenge at my house! Every week we're voting off one hideous decoration off of the tree. Today I need you to vote something else off! I'm in the middle of a major writing project, so I don't have time to write a really important post today (although you could really help me by filling out my bedroom survey or my Wedding Night Survey), but I think it's still an important work I am doing by ridding my tree of ugliness.

So far you all have helped get rid of the two pictured in the top of this post.

But my husband has just nominated these three for our next batch. First up is a wooden stocking, painted, with odd pom poms affixed in strange places:


Next up is a strange star, made by we're not sure at this point, out of plastic rings.


Finally we have my husband's pick, though you are free to disagree. I believe this is supposed to be peppermint or something, but it's made of glass, and looks really odd.


Here's another angle:


So what will it be? What goes off of the tree today?

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Wifey Wednesday: Sometimes It's Just Tough

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 in the comments!

For the last few weeks I've been madly embarking on a new writing project. I have a new book on marriage that's due at the publishers in March (I'll tell you more about it soon, hopefully in the next few weeks, once everything is signed), and I have thus been contemplating this strange and wonderful relationship called marriage.

Truthfully, I believe that for many people, it just isn't that wonderful. For many of us it is, but quite a few of us are walking through life feeling as if the person who should care most for us in the world really doesn't. They love and value what we can do FOR them, but they don't necessarily love and value US--or at least that's what it feels like.

They want us to keep the house clean, look after the kids, and care for their sexual needs, but they aren't really willing to care for our own emotional needs, or to help out around the house or just show common courtesy. I've witnessed a lot of these relationships in real life, and it just makes me sad.

God did not intend for us to use each other. He didn't intend for us to complete each other in the sense that we lose ourselves caring for another person who doesn't care back. I'm not saying that if you're in a relationship like that that the relationship is thus not valid, and you should leave it. Not at all. I'm just a little sad right now.

I've received some emails from readers of this blog commenting on my post "Lean on Me" from Monday, where I talked about how I needed friends. And I wrote about how I've decided I'm going to get together with other women more. But what do you do, they asked independently of each other, if your husband resents you going out? If he gets mad if he has to make his own dinner?

How do you reply to that? I sent some suggestions, and I prayed, but it's difficult, isn't it? If you have a wonderfully caring husband, that's great, but the truth is that many of us don't.

And that's why I want to write this next book--to hopefully offer some suggestions that people can take early in their marriage, before these patterns of behaviour get set, that can help us establish a relationship that is truly loving, where both partners long to give to one another.

It's not easy, and one of the hardest areas is sex. I don't know very many couples who don't end up fighting over frequency. One partner wants to make love more often than the other, and compromise isn't always easy or even possible. What do you do when one never wants to, and one wants to all the time? And it isn't always the man who wants it constantly--in about 30% of relationships it's the woman with the larger sex drive.

I'm trying to compile some actual statistics about this, and so I've set up a survey that's completely anonymous and very quick to take. If you would be so kind as to fill it out, I'd so appreciate it!

But here is one thought to leave you with, if you're struggling today: concentrate on an area of strength for you. If your husband and you often fight over frequency of sex, or over whether you get enough time for yourself, or whether he listens to you enough, let that go for the rest of the week. And ask yourself: what do we do well together? Do we play board games well together? Do we love debating? Do we have a great time working out together? Find something that you do well together, and then just do it. Often we relate so much in our areas of weakness that our areas of strength fall by the wayside.

So try, for the rest of the week, just to have fun, however you do that together. When you can build goodwill, then the other areas of conflict tend to either diminish in importance or become easier to solve.

Here, then, are your assignments:

1. Have fun with your husband in some way this week! Plan it, think about it, and do it.

2. And fill out my survey!!!!

3. Tell me, in the comments, if you've ever felt lonely in your marriage (or if you still do). What did you do to overcome that? Have any tips? You can comment anonymously if you want to.

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Presents for Adults
Just a tip: if at all possible, try not to spend the evening in the Emergency Department. Thought that might be a useful thing to keep in mind.

It's not really that fun, especially when they poke you. And it's especially not fun when you've had your third bladder infection in six months, and they want you to pee into a cup, which is what hurts in the first place.

But I am very grateful my husband is a doctor who can get me seen faster than most, and this morning I'm actually not feeling too badly.

Nevertheless, this isn't going to be a long post, because "not feeling too badly" does not actually mean "feeling pretty well". It more means "I no longer what to kill myself when I have to go to the bathroom, but I still don't want to move".

So I think I'll just introduce a topic of conversation, and then I'd love your comments!

Here's the scenario: I don't like buying junk for adults for Christmas. Never have. I figure that we're adults, thus we can buy stuff for ourselves. Buying things for those who can't afford it seems nice, but buying things for people who make a decent income seems a little strange. Knitting a scarf or making something yourself is different; picking up a coffee maker from Wal Mart is just plain odd.

Nevertheless, there are those in my family who are very committed to the Christmas gift giving frenzy, and so for the first decade or so of our marriage we dutifully bought gifts for everyone because as much as we suggested that this was silly, no one seemed to go along.

Now they seem to, which is nice. So we're left with just getting presents for parents and children, and I can live with that.

But even buying something for my husband seems weird, because I know if he wants something, he just buys it. He doesn't need me to buy it for him.

So here's our question: what do you do about gifts for adults? How did you negotiate a new gift giving tradition? Or do you enjoy getting gifts for people, and I'm just Scrooge? Let me know in the comments! I'll read them while I am feeling sorry for myself in bed.


Lean on Me

Last week I had the most amazing epiphany, and I am now cured of my grumpiness. I hope.

Let me explain. For the last few months, probably since August, I have felt like something just isn't quite right in my life, but I could never put my finger on it. I felt right with God. I was talking to Him, I was praying, I was listening.

My family was going great, and I was spending a ton of time with my girls' friends. Our house was becoming the hangout, and I had no problem with that.

My marriage was great. My speaking & writing ministry was positively taking off. But something was just nibbling at the edges of my heart, and I could never get really excited about anything. And I often fell into quite negative moods, even when there was no apparent reason to do so.

Then last Friday morning I was getting ready to take my youngest to our homeschool skate social, which happens every week. For an hour and a half, the kids skate, while we parents watch. And talk. And I realized that morning that I was seriously looking forward to it. I was counting down the hours before we could go. And I started asking myself why, because while I enjoy the people at the skating rink, it's not like we're best friends.

And then it hit me: they may not be my best friends, but they are friends. And for an hour and a half, I get to do nothing but talk.

For the last several months, I have talked to my mother, my husband, my best friend, my kids, and then a whole pile of their friends. But I have not talked to anybody else.

Usually, in the summer, we go camping with another family and have a great time. But for the last two summers, we've gone camping just the four of us, and while it's been fun, it hasn't been the social outlet it once was.

At church, one of my very good friends, with whom I used to split the responsibilities of running of our youth program, moved away. And so now that program is entirely on my shoulders. While Sunday morning used to be a social time for me (I was teaching the youth, but I was also hanging out with my friend), it now has become almost entirely about kids.

And while we used to have people over for dinner quite frequently, that's become harder this year, because I'm away almost every weekend, and my oldest daughter now teaches piano several nights a week. Juggle in youth group, and we don't have a night to socialize.

So last Friday it finally hit me. I'm lonely.

I was able to get by for almost six months without something cracking, but it finally did. I have a wonderful relationship with my husband, and a great one with my best friend, with whom I talk on the phone several times a day. I talk to my kids all the time. But I do need other people.

Ironically, I had others more when the children were young. We went out almost every day just to keep ourselves active and amused. I went to a women's Bible study, where I talked to a whole bunch of women every week. We went to play groups, where I talked to other women almost every day. They weren't women that I would have chosen to be friends in other circumstances, perhaps, but because we were at the playgroup, we formed a bond. So I talked.

And when children are young, I found I had people over more because then the kids are entertained and it's not so much work for you. They have friends to play with, and you don't have to play with them constantly. You can get adult time.

Now my kids are at the age where not only do they not need to be entertained, they're actually quite entertaining themselves. So it's very easy to cocoon. And that's what I've been doing.

I've never been one who needs a whole pile of best friends. I've usually only had one or two, and that's been fine. But I have had other social outlets where I get to talk to other adults, and lately I feel as if I lost them.

Humans are very interesting in our need for friends. Some of us are introverts, and one of our greatest needs is time alone to rejuvenate. Others of us are extraverts, and we desperately need friends to bounce ideas off of or to laugh with. We don't relax well unless we're with others. And then there are those of us who are in between, like me. We like having friends, but we like our alone time, too.

I guess I thought I was okay, and I didn't need anybody else. But I was wrong. And so yesterday at church I asked a woman to have lunch with me on Thursday, and I'm very excited about it. I get to talk to someone else, and even though it's going to cut into my writing time, I think I will end up being a better writer for it, because it's something that I need.

Having a social outlet is a legitimate need for all women. Some of us need it more than others, depending on our personalities. I don't actually need it as much as many do, which is probably why it took a good half a year for me to finally get so grumpy that I realized what was wrong. But God did not make us to be alone, and we should seek out friends and companions. Our husbands are not supposed to be our only outlet (though my husband is really my best friend, and always will be).

My husband doesn't have a lot of time to socialize, either (and he's far more extraverted than I am ), but what he does have is people to talk to constantly during the day: nurses, other doctors, his secretary, even some of his favourite patients. He gets to joke around, even just for a few minutes with each person, and he can grab lunch occasionally with a colleague.

When you're at home, you don't get that. And it really wore on me.

The funny thing was that while I was feeling out of sorts I started to question whether it was my family that was bothering me. Was I upset at my husband (I didn't think so, but that's always where your mind turns first ;) ). Was I upset at my kids? And you start to question your family commitments, even if you totally love your family. When something is wrong, you immediately turn the blame on those you love.

And that's one reason why I think it's so important that we do get this social outlet. When we don't, and we becoming vaguely unhappy, we'll often blame our family for that unhappiness, even when it's not their fault. Be careful of that tendency. If you have legitimate needs, it is important for you to get those met. If you don't, it will jeopardize how you act with your family, and how you think of your family. That's when the danger in families starts.

So I am going to make more of an effort once a week to actually talk to some adult women. I think I will be better for it. And I'm very happy that I finally figured out what's been bothering me.

What about you? Do you have adult conversation in your life? How do you deal with loneliness? Let me know!


Survivor Christmas Tree Challenge Part 2
It's Survivor Christmas in December at our house, and each night we're voting a different decoration off of the tree!

I'm not letting you, dear readers, vote on everything, because some my girls are voting on with their friends.

But here's our weekend challenge.

Katie, my youngest, nominated these three. First up we have, well, I really don't know what it is. I think a little bell used to hang from it. Words cannot convey, so here's the picture:

Decoration 1

Next up is a wooden bell the girls painted and then stuck pom poms to. These aren't exactly special to them (since Katie nominated it). They have other homemade ones we've reserved. So here it is:

Decoration 2

Finally, we have a store-bought decoration with yet another bell theme. Can you tell that it was Katie who nominated it?

Decoration 3

So vote! And thank you!

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Following the Plan
Bride down the stairs
Photo by Tostado Photo

Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Here's this week's!

Did you follow The Plan? You know the one; our parents drilled it into us. Get an education, get a job, get married, have a baby. And do it in that order! No marriage before a diploma, no babies before a job, but most of all, no babies before marriage.

According to a new Time/Pew study, 39% of us are giving up on the Plan because we think marriage is superfluous. Yet statisticians will tell us that The Plan makes sense. Those who follow it are far more likely to escape poverty, be personally happy, and raise kids who are well-adjusted. But here’s the even bigger kicker: they’re far less likely to get divorced.

Why does this happen? Kay Hymowitz, author of The Marriage Gap, has found that while divorce rates may be high today, they tend to be high for a certain subset of the population: those who didn’t follow The Plan. Those who wait until they’re married to have children, and those who get their education first, tend to make it a priority to stay married.

At face value, this seems counterintuitive. It’s the educated women, after all, who don’t need a husband to support a child; they can afford to raise one on their own. Yet these women are waiting for marriage to have children, while other women don’t tend to in the same numbers. And when the latter group does marry, those marriages tend to be more fragile.

Essentially, Hymowitz argues, we are dealing with two different cultures: those that still believe in The Plan our grandmothers would have recognized, and those who think it’s archaic. Those who accept The Plan tend to be careful sexually, because the thing that would most upset their goals would be to get pregnant without being married.

On the other hand, if marriage really is considered superfluous, then the order in which you do things suddenly doesn’t matter. If you’re not waiting for the right spouse, but instead you’re more interested in finding a guy now, then you may enter into relationships which aren’t stable or healthy, and you’re more likely to end up pregnant. And this can easily derail many educational plans—and even romantic plans.

Sociologist Charles Murray crunched the numbers, and found that among American university educated women in families making more than $100,000 a year, the rate of illegitimacy was only about 2%. They’re still living in Leave it to Beaver days. Go down to the working class, who have a high school education but earn less than $60,000 a year in family income, and the illegitimacy rate is up to 10%. But among the underclass, who never graduated high school? It’s 45%. And that’s not because those girls got dropped out because they were pregnant; most of those pregnancies happened long after they left school. And since single parenthood is one of the highest indicators for childhood poverty and abuse, that’s a problem.

Not only this, but if choices around marriage and parenting really are primarily cultural ones, then these mini-cultures are likely to be replicated. People who believe in The Plan—even if they themselves made mistakes in the past—will raise kids who follow it. People who don’t believe in it will raise kids who likely won’t follow it. And it will be increasingly difficult to cross over into these two groups. Rising out of poverty, then, is not just an educational issue; it’s also a cultural one.

Our schools preach that students should get an education, but maybe they need to start talking about marriage, too. Wait until you’re married to have kids, and you are dramatically less likely to end up poor, more likely to be in stable marriages, and more likely to be happy in the long run. We need to get back to The Plan. Marriage is good for you. It’s good for your kids. Let’s stop pretending it doesn’t matter, and maybe we’d be the land of opportunity once again.

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Weird Culture Alert #312
Ever get the feeling you're living in a parallel universe? Where the things that you see can't possibly be true?

I had that feeling this week. My husband is a physician, and as such, the Canadian Medical Association sent him a ton of their consumer magazines to put in his waiting room. And there, on the front cover, was prominently advertised the article "Pole Dancing: For Fun and Fitness".

I thought this was strange, so I tweeted about it. And the CMA tweeted back.

Get a load of this (my initial tweet is on the bottom. Theirs is on the top):

Where to start?

First, they didn't pick pole dancing because it was a great exercise trend. They picked it because they wanted to put something about sex on the cover because sex sells.

Second, pole dancing is something which married couples are not exactly famous for. It's what the young twenty-somethings do in their promiscuous days. Pole dancing = promiscuity in most people's minds. I mean, honestly, how many of you with kids own a pole in your bedroom? Can you imagine what those kids would think? "Cool! Mommy and Daddy want to play fire station! Can we slide down the pole, too?"

The only people who have poles are those who are pretty much immersed in the promiscuous lifestyle. And call me crazy, but I kind of assumed the promiscuous lifestyle was a little, well, unhealthy, what with all those diseases and all.

So is this really something the Canadian Medical Association should be touting?

Don't get me wrong: I have nothing against having fun in the bedroom as a married couple. But that's not what this is about.

I haven't figured out how to respond yet to that tweet. If you have any good response that's under 140 characters, leave it in the comments! Or just tell me what you think!

(And if you want to follow me on Twitter, I'm right here!)

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Wifey Wednesday: Why You've Got to Initiate, Baby

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!

Ladies, today I am going to totally tick a bunch of you off. I understand that, and believe me when I say that this is not my intention. It's just that I think this is such a vital part of marriage, and it's something that we women often get totally wrong.

Let me start with some personal history that might make this pill a little easier to swallow. When Keith and I were first married, we used to get into a lot of fights about one thing: He wanted me to want him, and I never really understood what he meant.

He would say, "I just want you to want me!" and I would yell back, "But I do want you! I want you as my husband! I want you to be happy! I want you with me always!" etc. etc. etc.

What he really wanted was just for me to jump him.

And I couldn't do that, because it felt somehow like lying. I really didn't particularly want to make love. Sure I'd do it if he started it, but it wasn't like I was sitting there, jets ready to go, just waiting to take off. I would much rather watch a movie, or read a book, or cuddle, or just about anything. I was frequently tired. I was still new at this so it didn't always work all that well. And I was so, so tired of him wanting it all the time.

What I only understood later was how intrinsic to a man's self-esteem is the idea that his wife actually desires him sexually. Most men really struggle with questions like, "Am I good enough?", or "Does she really love me?". What they want to know, more than anything, is that we think they are the best.

It's not really so surprising. Remember all the books talking about how important respect is to a guy? Even more important than love? A man needs to feel like we are glad we married him not because we love him, but because we've looked around, and we've honestly concluded that he is the perfect one for us. We appreciate who he is and what he does.

Tied up in all of that is his sexuality. It's hard for him to believe that you're proud of him, and that you're happy to be married to him, if you don't also want him sexually. If you don't want him like that, then you really don't think he can take on the world. You really don't think he's a capable guy, a strong guy, an amazing guy. You just want to be married to somebody, but you don't actually respect him anymore.

It's men's ultimate self-esteem issue. And the best way to address it is if we, every now and then, actually initiate.

That may be the last thing you want to do, for a host of reasons. You may be tired. You may be angry at him because he doesn't really pay attention to you, so why should you pay attention to him? You may be tired of sex because it just doesn't work well for you, and he gets all the fun.

Let me suggest that if you start initiating, a lot of those issues will diminish in importance.

Let's take just one: whether or not it feels good for you. The nice thing is that if you initiate, you get to set the tone and the direction for what you do! Perhaps one of the reasons it hasn't felt that good is because he's been rushing things. If you initiate, you can figure out what you want him to do. You can do it yourself! You can control things a little better. So why not jump in with the express purpose of figuring out what's nice for you?

Or, conversely, if you're tired of the stress of making sure that sex is nice for you (because many couples get locked into this quest to make sure that she climaxes, for instance, and then it becomes too goal oriented for you to enjoy), you can initiate so that he can feel good. You can throw yourself into making sure that he enjoys it and giving him a gift. And he'll feel ten feet tall. When sex becomes about him feeling good, but you're the one who initiated it, it's okay. When he initiates it and you don't enjoy it as much, he can feel like a failure. It's just a different dynamic.

What about the other problems? Let's say that you feel as if he is distant, and you're a little ticked at him. Part of the reason that he might feel distant, though, is because he feels as if you don't want him. Truly, we need to understand how important this is to most men. They marry thinking that we will want them all the time, and when real life intrudes and it doesn't work out that way, they have nowhere to go but to retreat. I'm not saying it's right; I'm just saying that's what a lot of men do. So if you're feeling distant, why not take that first step to repairing the rift?

Men really don't want to be married to someone who will comply when they suggest sex. They want to be married to someone who is actually enthusiastic about it. I know it's hard to be enthusiastic sometimes, but I think we can talk ourselves into it. Make it a priority to think about sex in a positive light throughout the day. Try to figure out what you'd enjoy doing. Touch him throughout the day. And then, when the kids are in bed, you be the one to lead him to the bedroom.

Try to remember the last five times you made love. If you didn't initiate at least one of those, you've likely got a problem. So why not rectify that by deciding that tonight is going to be different? Just try for a month being the one to initiate every now and then, and see if, at the end of that month, you both feel differently about the relationship. I'm pretty sure you'll both have a lot more goodwill towards the marriage, and things will be better!

UPDATE: Now, one caveat: I know a lot of women who would actually love to have this problem. They DO initiate, but their husbands reject them (Like the first commenter!). You've got a slightly different problem, that I'll deal with in future Wifey Wednesdays (and that I have addressed before). For various reasons, men's libidos are diminishing in our society. In many marriages it's actually HER who has the higher sex drive. If that's the case, then excuse this post and my emphasis on women in a different situation than the one you find yourselves in. I'll try to post for you soon, too!

UPDATE 2: I revised this post a bit from this morning and added a thought or two I had while in the shower. But the gist is pretty much the same!

So here's my question: do you have trouble initiating? Why? Leave a comment (anonymously if you want to), and let's talk about it!

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

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

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