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Tuesday would have been Katie Wilson's sixteenth birthday. Katie was a vibrant, well-loved part of our small community here in eastern Ontario, when she died just a few short weeks ago after a battle with a terrible form of cancer. She was diagnosed in June, and went home to be with Jesus less than a year later.

I was thinking of her family and praying for her mom all day Tuesday. I have known the grief of losing a child, though never like that. I lost my baby before he really became a daily part of our lives, and as much as that hurt, I don't pretend to compare it to what my friend Evelyn is enduring. And yet on the same day that I was thinking about Katie's birthday I was reading on the internet about an extremely popular Mommy Blogger whose son died last year of a drug overdose. She is now threatening to sue the police department for not investigating the death more and bringing murder charges to the drug dealers.

The drug dealers do need to be brought to justice, and I fully support murder charges. But at the same time, here's a Mommy Blogger whose son started experimenting with drugs when he was 14. He was in and out of rehab, but could never win the battle. He sold drugs to others--meaning that he did almost the same thing that the mom is now accusing the drug dealers of doing (these dealers also saw him go into overdose and did not call 911, so arguably their guilt is greater). But nonetheless, this boy was not a victim. And, I would argue, neither were his parents.

When your child starts experimenting at 14, you put a stop to it. You act like a parent, especially if you yourself are a parenting expert. I'm not disputing that she feels grief; it's just that everytime I read the story (and it is all over the internet), she seems mad at everybody but herself and her son. Parents do not let kids get addicted to drugs. They just don't. They confiscate their money, homeschool them if they have to to get them away from dealers, and lay down the law. They don't let them go out to parties when they're 14. They use their own house as a hangout so they know who their kids' friends are. I'm not saying it's easy, but you have a responsibility.

I've never had to do these things because we've raised our kids to not take drugs and to not drink. If they ever started, boy would that boom fall fast. I do not believe in letting kids "experiment" or in "teenage rebellion". And when kids are involved with drugs, they're involved with shady people like the ones who let him die. They're contributing to the problem, too.

I know this makes me sound incredibly judgmental, but I think we have to get away from this victim mentality when everything is everybody else's fault. There are some things that are just plain a parent's responsibility.

 That doesn't mean that kids will always do what you want them to do; not by a longshot. In the story of the Prodigal Son in the Bible even God had a child who went off the rails, and God is a pretty good Father. So all of us, no matter how good a parent, may have a child who rebels or does something stupid. But that doesn't change the fact that we should accept some of that responsibility, or at least give some of that responsibility to the child. In this case, it was an 18-year-old boy. He made the choice to keep taking drugs, despite having a supportive family that was doing everything it could to help him. He put himself in the company of dangerous, callous people.

So what would I do if I were in this mother's shoes? Yes, I would hound the police to lay charges against that drug dealing couple. But I would probably spend more time talking to parents about how to deal with a 14-year-old who starts experimenting, because it is not innocent. Callous, evil people like those drug dealers will always be with us. I'd like to lock up as many of them as I could, certainly. But we can't really change evil; they're evil, after all!

What we can do is to influence regular, everyday parents to be more proactive, more involved, and more aggressive in fighting against their kids using drugs. Instead, she's spending all her time lambasting the police and these drug dealers, which I don't think will do much good. It's reinforcing the idea that drug use is something that people get sucked or conned into, and they're the victims. Yet as her own son's life shows, drug dealers and drug users are virtually indistinguishable from each other. It isn't like one is a victim and the other is evil; most drug users become drug dealers, too.

The best example I can think of is Cassie Bernall's parents. Do you remember Cassie? She was the girl who said "yes" during the Columbine massacre when she was asked if she believed in Jesus. And she died then and there. But what many people don't know is that in grade 8 she was involved with the wrong crowd and had started experimenting. Her parents clamped down so hard even their Chrisian friends told them they were overreacting. Yet within a year Cassie had turned around completely and given her life to God--and God used her in a mighty way, even if it was tragic.

Now perhaps these parents did everything they could--I really don't know. But what seems to be the case from reading this story is that they keep saying that someone else killed their son. Yes, the drug dealers didn't call 911. But I would say the main one responsible for this boy's death is the boy himself. He had help. He had rehab. He had people who supported him. But he still chose the drug lifestyle, and the drug lifestyle isn't exactly filled with compassionate people. It's filled with the kind of people who would do this.

He was 18. If anyone killed him, it was him. And that's probably the problem. Losing a child is terrible beyond all measure. But maybe the reason they keep blaming everyone else is because the alternative is too terrible to contemplate--that they're actually mad at their son. He's the one who left them, and who didn't take their help.

But the only way to get real healing, I think, is to admit that you're angry at him and then forgive him; it's not to deflect the blame everywhere else (even if, as I have said, the 'everywhere else' does also bear some blame).

It reminds me of the story of Charles Morris, the host of Haven Today. He also had a son die of a drug overdose. They tried everything they could, but their son went deeper and deeper into the drug culture. I heard an interview with him after his son's death, and he said that the one thing he and his wife were so grateful for is that he died before he could hurt anyone else. I thought that showed a lot of grace.

It is horrible to lose a child. I am grateful that my friend Evelyn and myself don't have to add anger to our grief; we have simple grief. To have grief that is mixed with anger, because your child caused part of the problems, is so, so much worse. But it isn't going to get better by ignoring your own child's faults. I just hope and pray that they will be able to find closure, by, yes, seeing these people brought to justice, but also by seeing the role their own son played in his own demise. And then finding a way to forgive him.

UPDATE: Okay, now I'm feeling really harsh because I'm being roasted on Twitter about this. I think I was too mean. So let me try again. I totally understand grieving your son, and I totally understand going after the drug dealers who didn't call 911. I don't have a problem with any of that. What I do have a problem with is that in all the stories I have seen (and they are all over the internet), I don't see family members admitting that the boy had any role in his own death. And I guess I just think that the best way to fight the drug culture is to say, "you are not a victim if you become an addict." It was a choice you made. If we make them into victims, we excuse them.

And that's my real problem. I hope that's not too harsh! Perhaps I should have spoken about this without the specific case so I wouldn't cause more pain to her...

I'm not exactly the most sensitive person, I guess. Sigh.

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Wifey Wednesday: Should We Be Upset when Our Husbands Are Tempted?
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!
I received an email recently from a woman who is engaged. She was absolutely flabbergasted and stunned when her fiance admitted to her that he is tempted to look at other women (even though he turns away and really tries not to). How could she marry someone who thought other women were attractive?
I think this is a common concern, and so I thought today in Wifey Wednesday I'd try to give us a way to look at how we should react when men admit that they're temped to gaze at attractive women.
First, I totally understand how hurt most women are when they find out their guys are tempted by porn, or even just a pretty woman--even if they don't do anything about it. It's totally natural to be upset because it feels like he doesn't think we're enough. But I think the reason that we women often get hurt over things like this is that we honestly don't understand men.
Their sex drives are just completely different from ours (I'm in the middle of writing a book about this right now!). They really are primarily visual. If a man sees a pretty woman, his body automatically starts to respond, in the same way that if you were to walk in the front door, even if you weren't hungry, and you smelled chocolate chip cookies just out of the oven, your mouth would start to water, whether you really wanted them or not. Even if you weren't seeking it out, you respond. There's nothing wrong with that.
It's just a temptation. It doesn't mean that he's going to do anything (and, in fact, if your hubby or fiance is talking to you about it I'd say you were luckier than 90% of women, because he's being honest and open). If he's noticing that a woman is attractive, and then he's pulling his eyes away, he's only being tempted. He's not sinning. He hasn't decided to do anything; in fact, he's decided to turn from the temptation, which is exactly what he should be doing.
I would be concerned if he's actually into pornography, because that's a huge issue for so many guys today. Every married woman should make sure there are controls on the computer. But what you don't want to do is make him feel so badly that he can't come to you when he's struggling, or that he feels like you really don't understand him.
We women have our own weaknesses that we struggle with, just in a different way. We're far more likely to gossip/bad mouth our mates to other women, thinking that we're just being helpful. We're far more likely to judge and to nag. We're far more likely to be selfish in the sexual realm, rather than giving and open as wives, mostly because we don't understand men.
If you're married or engaged to a man who really loves God, who is trying to follow Him, who is aware of his own natural weaknesses, who loves you and is trying to be accountable, and is committed to purity, then celebrate! You can't expect him not to notice an attractive woman, though, any more than you can expect yourself not to water at chocolate chip cookies. But if he doesn't stare, if he turns away, if he closes his eyes during certain scenes in movies, then he is being pure.
The temptation is not the sin; entertaining the temptation is.
On the other hand, if you're married to someone who is tempted and gives into that temptation--by staring at random strangers, or by looking at porn--then you do need to talk to him. We shouldn't tolerate our husbands watching porn, because it will jus get worse, and it will likely affect his sex drive for the worse, too. It will make real intimacy during sex that much harder to achieve. But even if he doesn't use porn, if he looks at other women, or comments on them, that's hurtful.
Tell him how you feel. Tell him you understand the temptation, but that he promised to love you and you alone. You're worth it.
And then act like a woman who is worth it! Be confident. Dress attractively. Give him something to look at! Buy lingerie and let him see it sometimes. It's hard to demand that men not look at other women if we simultaneously never really encourage them to look at us. No, you shouldn't put up with him staring at other women or lusting after other women. But if it's just a temptation, don't blow at him. And make sure that you are feeding his visual side at times, too!
I'd love to hear from women who have struggled in their marriages with this. Leave a comment (anonymously if you want) to let me know how you've dealt with this. Or, do you have something else to tell us to encourage us in our marriages today? Write your own Wifey Wednesday post that links back to here, and then leave the link of THAT POST in the Mcklinky below. Thanks!

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How to Get More Hours in the Day
Sun Dial Closeup

Photo by Josh Staiger

This post is also being linked up to Works for Me Wednesday. Head on over to We Are That Family for more Works for Me tips!

My one prayer that never seems to get answered is, "God, give me more time!" There is no more time. There is only what we have; and each day has enough time in it for what God wants us to do. If we don't feel like we're getting everything done, then we need to do something about it. Here are some thoughts:

1. As much as possible, sleep to a schedule

Last year my husband starting getting up at 6:30, every single day. Even on weekends. He found that if he trained his body to wake up at the same time each day, he felt far less tired because his body knew when it was supposed to be awake. But if you're going to get up at a certain time everyday, you've also got to go to bed at a certain time, too.

I know that's rough if you have kids who still wake up in the middle of the night, but as much as possible, establish a sleep routine. You'll find you get to sleep faster, and you don't feel as tired during the day!

2. Start your day a little earlier

Not a morning person? Just try it for a month! I find that when my day starts earlier, and I can get the major things done by 9:00 (shower, devotions, exercise, breakfast), then I have three hours to work before lunch. On the days that I get a late start, I often don't get much done before lunch and that causes panic in the afternoon.

Even if you're a stay at home mom, set a time for the day beginning, when you will commence housework, or play group, or story time, or an outing to the library, or something. Stick to it, and you'll find that you feel like you accomplish more! I'm finding this one hard right now because I'm still a little jetlagged from my trip to Alberta. But I'm going to try to start getting up at 7 again, because I know that's best for me.

3. Set a limit on your time wasters

Do you check email every 15 minutes? Update Facebook throughout the day? Check out your blogs? Don't stop all together. That's not realistic. But you can put parameters around it.

Think about it this way: if you check email every 15 minutes, you're spending a lot of time checking when there's likely nothing there (or maybe just 1 thing). Start checking just at lunch and then before you make dinner, and you'll find a whole bunch of things that you can take care of all at once. You don't miss anything, but it takes less time to go through them! It's the same thing with Facebook or blogs. Read your blogs in a reader (I love NewsRack for my iPad!). I just check once a day now, and I can skim all the blog posts to see only the ones I want to read. It's awesome!

What about television? Do you really need to watch it? I'm not trying to be a purist here; I got rid of the television about 15 years ago, but I've simply replaced it with the internet. It's not that I never waste time anymore; I just waste it differently, and I'll be totally honest with you about that. But one thing that's great about getting rid of TV is that we can watch all the good shows all in one setting once they're out on DVD! It doesn't matter that they're old; we never saw them in the first place. So instead of being glued to a TV, why not try to move your TV viewing to DVD or the internet when you control the time?

4. Put first things first

Part of the reason that we feel frazzled is that often at the end of the day we climb into bed with that unsettled feeling because we know that we have left important things undone. When the big stuff doesn't get done, it doesn't matter how much else you accomplished during the day. You don't feel fulfilled.

So what is your big stuff? I'd put having meaningful time with God and with family high up on that list. Having dinner together, if possible. Instead of making a to-do list every morning, of all the possible things that you think you should get accomplished, why not make a "must do" list? If you had to narrow your list down to three things today, what would those three things be? What is most important to you?

Often the things that are actually most important don't show up on our to-do lists because errands and busy-ness crowd them out. But that's absolutely lethal to our sense of well-being. Instead, wake up in the morning with this question for God: "What three things do you absolutely want me to do today?" Then get those three done for sure! You'll feel far less like a failure, and more like you've accomplished your main purpose in life.
I think we go about things backwards; we often feel best about ourselves when we can cross off a ton of things off of our lists. But I think spending more time on fewer things is actually better for us in the long run.

So ask yourself: what is MOST important? And then do that! You'll feel much better at the end of the day!

Which thing is hardest for you? Let me know in the comments!

This post is also being linked to Homemaking Link-Up at Raising Homemakers! Head on over there for more links on raising the next generation to care for their families!

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Monday Morning Thoughts
I've had such a busy couple of weeks, and this weekend I was away with my girls at a Bible quizzing meet in Syracuse, New York (if you haven't read my account of my utmost humiliation at the hands of my Blackberry, you really should). So I thought I'd write a post with a bunch of little things that I've found interesting lately.

First, Kamille from Redeeming the Table emailed me after reading this post on Entertaining vs. Hospitality. She's written a great post on the difference, too, with lots of links to her thoughts on real hospitality. It's worth a read!

Second, the online world is far too small. Last week I posted about my daughter growing up, and how one of these days one of the boys she chats with on Facebook is going to ask her out, and it turns out that one of those boys googled me to find out what I write, and saw the post. Becca wasn't actually upset (it all ended well, and so far she's still single :) ), but I felt really stupid as a mom. I thought her friends never read my stuff (well, except the text on the Blackberry). I shall have to be more careful.

Every now and then I look at who links to this blog. I just find it interesting what other blogs out there have me in their blogroll. And I noticed last weekend that I was getting a lot of traffic from True Femininity, a blog written by a really interesting 21-year-old girl. I'm going to send her blog to my daughter, but I thought this post about cleaning one's closet was sure to motivate some of you on a Monday morning! Love the pictures. And here's an interesting take on why she wears skirts (fashionable ones, mind you). I'm not really a skirt person except in the summer, because I find it too cold in the Canadian winter, and I can't be bothered trying to track down nylons, etc. I do love summer skirts, though. But she brings up some interesting points, and perhaps we all do need to get back to more feminine dressing, at least once in a while!

Want to make your blood boil? Apparently Abercrombie & Fitch is now selling push up bikini tops in sizes as small as child's 8. Remember: they wouldn't do this if mothers didn't buy them. And if this company is making this stuff, none of us should be buying anything there. Nothing at all.

Is video going to replace traditional teaching? Joanne Jacobs shows how the Khan Academy model might revolutionize schooling--at precisely the time when budgets need help. I think Khan Academy is awesome, and my kids have been learning this way for years. I think it's the future, and I like it. Learning at one's own pace is so much better, anyway. Let's make teaching closer to tutoring.

That's all I have for now! Have you read anything interesting lately? Let me know in the comments (just shorten the links, please, or it throws off my formatting!).


In Which My Mortification is Complete
I have to tell you what happened to me yesterday. It's worth reading if you like enjoying other people's humiliation.

But first, a little background so you can understand the scenario.

I'm writing The Good Girl's Guide to Sex, which was due in at the publisher's on the 15th, in the middle of my speaking tour in Alberta. I got it off, but a few days later my editor got back to me to say that she'd like to see some of the "Good Girl's Dares" that I'd offered to write: short little fun things that wives can do to spice things up.

Now it so happened that on the day she asked I also had two different columns due and a lot of travel time, and very little time in a hotel with a computer. So I decided to write them on my Blackberry in the car. I did, and when we arrived in Cold Lake, I copied them and pasted them into an email on my Blackberry which I then sent to myself so I could edit them on my computer and send them off. That's background one.

Here's background two: my Blackberry is new and I hadn't figured out how to lock it. It kept calling my husband by accident, for instance.

Now, here's my yesterday: my girls are in a Bible quizzing invitational tournament down in New York. We left early so we could meet up with some friends who are also quizzers at a big mall, so the teenage girls could shop for a few hours before the meet. I took my friend Kathy's cell number so I could text her when we got there and we could meet up. Which is what I did.

Kathy then gave her cell phone to her 15-year-old daughter, and the five teenage girls (including my two) went off together, while Kathy and I explored.

An hour later I looked down at my cell phone only to see, to my horror, my list of rather explicit things wives could do to spice things up. It had been texted. To Kathy's phone. Which our daughters had.

When I realized what I had done, I yelled out for Kathy, and in horror explained what I had just sent her daughter. She took it much better than I did.

When we met up with the girls we got their take. I guess they read about five before they decided they had better stop. Rebecca figured it had something to do with my book and thought it was funny. Kathy's daughter thought it was hilarious. The other mom with us wanted me to text it to her, too. But my youngest just said I had a dirty mind.

Let me reiterate: Bible quizzing. Teenage girls. Marriage sex dares. How do I get myself into these things? Here's one of the tamer ones: If you find yourself too tired at night, have fun in the morning! Surprise him in the shower and soap each other up!

The rest are way more explicit--fine if you're married; but what teenage girl wants to picture their parents doing that?

At least they know I have fun....

I have since figured out how to lock my Blackberry.

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Sheltering is Not a Bad Word
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Here's this week's!

Parents are naturally protective. We moms always carry band-aids in our purses in case of boo boos. We warn our children to steer clear of strangers, to look both ways before crossing the street, and to wash their hands carefully in public restrooms. We want our kids to stay safe when it comes to any kind of physical harm.

Yet when it comes to life and relationships, many of us do the exact opposite. We believe that if you "shelter" kids, you're dooming them to lives of geekdom and ignorance. Sheltering is seen as something cruel, perpetrated by strange, nerdy parents on their equally nerdy offspring, because those parents are scared that their children will wander too far from the nest. Trying to maintain some innocence on behalf of kids, or even some teenagers, is thus seen as bad parenting.

I've never really understood this. After all, there’s a world of difference between preparing your children for life and exposing them to that life too early. What happens when you've got tomato seedlings and you want to plant them outside? You shelter them, planting them on a cloudy day, so that they aren't exposed to the rough world all at once. Sheltering is necessary with plants, and I think it's necessary with our children, too. If we don't shelter, we're just letting our society raise our kids. And would you trust our Charlie Sheen “tiger blood” culture to do that?

Kids deserve to be kids, and that means they deserve to live a life where they’re learning, exploring, and playing, without feeling like they have to act like adults. They don’t need a boyfriend or a girlfriend. They don’t need to smoke or drink. They don’t need to understand sex jokes. But when we expose them to too much television; when we don’t monitor what we say in front of them; when we encourage them when they act in any way sexual; then we’re stealing their childhood. For an 8-year-old to be wanting a boyfriend because that's what she sees on television is just plain stupid, and I don’t know why so many adults think it’s cute.

Yet we live in a world where innocent and naïve have become synonyms. Of course being naïve, and not knowing how the world works, is bad. But being innocent is a good thing! It is simply wrong for a ten-year-old to be swearing, chasing down the opposite sex, or telling rude jokes. Let kids watch too many adult themed movies, though, and that is what they are going to believe is natural and normal.

It’s not only an issue of values, though. It’s also simply a practical issue of time. I wasted much of my childhood and a ton of my adulthood on TV. I only started writing and speaking (which is now my career) when I got rid of the box. If you want children who are creative, talented, and smart, then perhaps limiting all the junk that comes in through the media is a good first step. Give them time to read good books, to practice an instrument, to dream up new worlds or new games. That’s ever so much better than watching a television show which is going to make them feel inferior if they’re not being pursued by the opposite sex.

We can’t shelter kids from everything bad, but we can certainly try to preserve their childhood. Monitor the television (or get rid of it). Spend more time as a family doing sports, reading books, or playing board games. Get involved in their schools. Just don't let the media influence your kids too much. That's not preparing kids for life; it’s abdicating the most important job you will ever have. And it truly is a shame that so many parents think that’s okay.

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Dealing with a Sensitive Child

Sad Child Looking Down

Photo by PinkStock Photos

I wrote earlier this week about my teenage daughter's insecurity, and it got me thinking a bit about how, as parents, one of our jobs is to steer our children into a healthy sense of identity, based on who they are in God, and who they were made to be.

That's easier said than done, though, for children with certain personality traits. And as some of you commented, many of you have children who are very sensitive. That, in and of itself, isn't a bad thing. It means they are likely more open to the things that touch God's heart, and they're more compassionate. But like many personality traits, it can become a hindrance if it's not steered in a positive direction.

1. Encourage Compassion

So what could you do? First, encourage your child in a positive way to cultivate his or her sensitivity in productive ways. Help her organize a letter writing campaign for child labourers somewhere, or help him collect items for the homeless, or start a penny drive at school to give to African orphans. Help her channel her compassionate nature somewhere positive, so that it's not something you're constantly in conflict with. Praise him for caring about other people's feelings.

2. Teach Truth

But at the same time, teach your child that truth is also important, and if he or she is too sensitive, then he or she is also denying truth. For instance, if she can't tell anyone what she really thinks because she doesn't want to hurt people's feelings, or because she's afraid of being rejected, then she's also denying truth and she's cutting off an important relationship. When we can't share what we think, we're really saying, "I don't want you to know me that well". Tell her that, and then ask her what she wants out of friendships, etc. And show her how to be a good friend.

3. Avoid Passive/Aggressive Behaviour

I'd also be careful that your child's sensitivity isn't really passive/agressive behaviour. Many people claim they're just sensitive when really what they're doing is trying to manipulate people. They become hurt very easily as a way to try to force people to do things that they want to do, or to get all the attention. They won't voice what they want; they'll just make people feel guilty for doing the wrong thing. That's not a healthy dynamic at all. It's one that is often learned in a family environment, though, when children realize that if they act in a certain way, their parents tend to give them what they want. So don't feed into this!

Sometimes when parents exhibit that kind of passive/aggressive dynamic among themselves, kids pick up on it. So if your child is sensitive, really look at how you relate to your spouse. Do you speak the truth, and ask directly for what you want, or do you try to manipulate? And how do you respond to your husband? If you start doing things before you're asked simply because you don't want to feel guilty, then you could be feeding into this dynamic, too.

So give your child a positive outlet for her compassion, but then also make it a policy that you don't do anything in your house without someone making an explicit request. You don't respond to tears or to pouts or to silence; if she wants something, she has to voice it. That way she won't develop into a passive/aggressive person.

The best way to deal with it is to talk openly and set an example of the kind of interactions you want. Speak openly and plainly to your child about what you're feeling and what you expect, and ask him or her to do the same for you. And reward your child with hugs and praise when he or she is open and doesn't just sulk or look scared.

Those are my thoughts on raising sensitive kids. Do any of you have problems with other personality traits? Or experience with this kind of thing? Let me know in the comments, and maybe I'll tackle something else next!

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Things I Learned On Tour
I'm Home!!!!! Yipppeeee!!!!

I've been out in Alberta speaking for the last two weeks, and returned home at 1:00 this morning, to find that my husband and girls had cleaned the whole house for me. I think I'll keep them.

So as I'm getting back to my real life, here are some of the things that hit me:

1. Why can't life ever just stop for a bit?

I'm away for two weeks, but the emails don't stop coming. Now I have to spend at least a day taking care of them all. It would be nice if other people stuck to your schedule, but they don't seem to. And sometimes going away makes more work when you return!

2. Sometimes it's fun to have "another" life

It can be really fun on the road, meeting new people, and just feeling like a different person. At home I'm supervising homeschooling, and schedules, and chauffeuring, and volunteering at church, and cooking, and doing laundry, and on the road I don't have to do any of that. I get to speak, and do some TV and radio appearances, and people tell me how great I am.

It's loads of laughter, but it's not REAL, if you know what I mean (I am great, of course, but I don't need to be told it all the time). But I really do understand why so many women find it hard to give up careers. I have a very strange career, in that I speak and write. Every now and then I'm away from home, but usually I'm here, plugging away, just like everybody else does. But when you're gone and you're able to use your gifts in another way, it is a little intoxicating.

One thing that I really appreciated, though, was that my family flew out to Alberta and actually saw two shows. It was the first time Keith had seen me speak in my usual "venue"--to women--rather than just at the marriage conferences when we speak together. And that was awesome. It was also great because on that particular night when this picture was taken my oldest daughter did my eye makeup, and she is way better at eye makeup than I am.

But that's beside the point. It was neat to combine my two lives, and have them see who I am up on stage, but also have me not get too full of myself or too comfortable away from them. So I'm glad they came. I didn't announce on the blog or on Facebook when they were there, because I didn't want to put up a big sign online that said, "my house is now empty!", but they did fly out last week.

3. Boston Pizza has really awful food.

I'm sorry if you're a Boston Pizza fan, but it really is lousy. We usually didn't eat until 11 at night, after the shows, and BP was the only thing open. I ate through the menu and still didn't find anything I liked. Except the dessert.

4. The Winnipeg airport is boring.

It just is. And the internet is hard to get onto. So don't ever have a stopover in Winnipeg if you can help it.

5. I missed my crockpot.

I like having homecooked meals. I know we women just love the idea of being taken out for dinner, but it's amazing how when you eat out for ten days straight all you can do is dream of vegetables and a crockpot. I'm going to put dinner in mine as soon as I hit send on this post.

6. There's no place like home.

I love being back, even though it's not nearly as exciting. But sometimes not exciting is very, very good. Last night, when I tiptoed into the girls' bedrooms and kissed their foreheads, everything felt right with the world again. And tonight I get to have a date with my hubby!

I'm working on developing a new event when I come into churches and talk to women about marriage and s-e-x. It'll be fun, upbeat, but also have some very practical and challenging teaching. So I may be on the road a lot more in the next few years. But each time I am, it will remind me how great it is to be back again!

And now I'm home for a few weeks, before I have to leave for just a weekend again, and I am going to enjoy it.


Thoughts on My Baby Growing Up
This afternoon I'm heading out to The Miracle Channel headquarters in Lethbridge, Alberta, to tape a TV show, and then tonight I'm speaking at my last (of 9) Girls Night Out events in Alberta! It's been an amazing tour, and tons of fun, but it really is time to get home.

Anyway, one of the things that's been on my mind lately as we've been driving all over this province is just where my life is heading in the next few years--and my oldest daughter is a big part of that. She'll be leaving home in just two short years, and while I'm excited for her, I'm also a wee mite sad. But when I think about her future, my mind naturally turns to who she's going to marry.

My husband and I are very progressive, and we have decided to let her choose her own husband :) . Here's how it will work: when she's 21, we'll present her with a pool of 20 men, and she can choose from those! See? Isn't that a great idea?

We joke about this a lot in the house, but the truth is that all the guys that she is friends with now would definitely be on the list, as far as I'm concerned. She has a lot of male friends that she talks theology with, and life with, and intellectual stuff with. She seems to gravitate more towards guy friends than girl friends because they're more interested in talking about "stuff that matters" (in her opinion).

While I admire her desire to talk about "stuff that matters", though, I don't think she understands that the guys may actually be thinking about her in a different way. I asked the guys on my road crew this week if it's possible for a teenage guy to have a perfectly platonic relationship with a teenage girl, and the reply I got was, "Of course. If he's gay." Which is pretty much what I thought, too.

So when they were up visiting me last week here in Alberta I had a bit of a talk with her, and told her that I thought it was great she had such a wide circle of friends, but she had to be prepared that one of them was likely going to ask her out soon (it's kind of inevitable), and she had better be prepared about what to say (my preference would be, not now, let's see how things go when we're older). And then she said something rather curious. She said that she didn't think any of them ever would ask her out, because no good guy could ever like her.

Here's a girl who is pretty, who is smart, who is very fun (if I do say so myself), and she's grown up in an extremely secure family. She knows her dad loves her (and he's very affectionate with her). We talk all the time. And she's still insecure about this. It made me rather sad.

I was insecure as a teen, but I had reason to be. My dad had left, my stepfather had left, and I had rather lousy relationships with male role models. But she doesn't. And she still feels like no one good will ever pay her attention.

Why do teenage girls feel this way? What has our society done to them? Is it because she feels as if she'll never be pretty enough? Or she's just not popular enough? Objectively, looking at her, neither of these things could possibly be true, but since when does logic play a part in a teenage girl's emotions?

Now please understand: it is not that I want her to date now. On the contrary, I'd rather she wait until she's 18 or so and marriage is at least a little more possible on the horizon. I think dating at 16, even if it's the guy you're going to eventually marry, is silly, because you can't get married for quite a few years still, and that's a lot of temptation if you're really in love. But at the same time, I know that she'd like to feel that she is at least attractive to the opposite sex, and I don't know that she feels that.

Perhaps this is something that every teenage girl goes through, but it still makes me sad, because she is such a lovely girl in every sense of the word. I wish we females weren't so dependent on males for our self-esteem, but it seems as if that is an intrinsic part of our personality. And so now I am left still trying to convince my daughter that someone is, at some point soon, going to ask her out, and that she had better think about how she is going to handle it and be careful of the signals that she is throwing out there, when she doesn't think that anybody could possibly be interested.

What were you like as a teen? And do you see this in the teen girls you know? When I get home I think I'll take her out for a long dinner and I'll talk to her again about how much God loves her, and how much God has gifted her, and how other people will see that, too. But I do wish she could feel it already.

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Keeping Up Appearances
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. But for the last two weeks I've been touring around Alberta for Girls Night Out, and trying to get my book manuscript in, so I haven't had time to write anything brilliant! Here's one I hope squeaked through without anyone thinking it was too lame. It was based on a conversation I had in a van with some guys on the road crew. See what you think of this one, compared to my usual columns!

Today I was sucked into a heated discussion with a guy about appreciating feminine beauty. “You know what really bugs me?” he said. “I hate it when men say ‘my wife looks prettier today than she did the day I met her.’ He met her at 22! Now she’s got a walker!” Sure, he acknowledges, her husband may love her more, but that doesn’t mean she’s prettier.

Then I asked that very dangerous question, “when do women stop getting prettier?”, to which he refused to give a straight answer, which was probably in his best interests since at the time he was talking to a woman now past forty. I wanted some assurance that I still had some good years left.

Despite what that guy thinks (and what does he know, anyway, since he’s only a guy), I don’t think I’m completely over the hill yet. A study of 2000 British men and women released last summer found that women are at their most beautiful not at 18 or 21 but at 31. It takes a while for women to find their stride, where they’re comfortable enough in their bodies, and they’re not trying to be skanky anymore.

I suppose theoretically 31 may be the perfect age, though it definitely wasn’t for me. I think I’ll look better at 41 (which is now only a few short months away) than I did at 31. At least I sure hope I do, since the photo we have of me at 31 up on the wall causes my kids to burst into laughter every time they pass it by. Sometimes they deliberately take their friends upstairs to gaze at it: “See, my mom was hideous once!”

Beauty has much less to do with age and much more to do with stage in life. When you’re young and insecure, you may have a nice figure, but you’re not necessarily dressing it the best. Then when children come, everyone is so harried that beauty comes last on the list. But when the kids get older, and know how to tie their own shoes and don’t rush into the bathroom to bother you, you finally have time to try to look attractive again. Most of my friends looked better when the youngest child left toddlerhood than when the first child was born.

Perhaps it’s mean to talk of women and beauty, though, since I’m only adding to the pressure too many feel to keep up appearances. We react to this pressure in different ways: we either put too much emphasis on beauty, starving and bankrupting ourselves to live up to Barbie’s 44-12-22 standard, or we just give up and let ourselves go.

Personally, I wasn’t happy when I let myself go. During those years I would have told you I was too busy to find earrings or apply makeup or do something as mundane as brushing my hair, but looking back, I think I could have taken the time. And it would have helped me to feel more confident as a woman. Yes, beauty is fleeting, and yes, it should never be the standard for a woman’s worth. But there is something innate about women that makes us want to be beautiful. And there is something innate about men that wants to appreciate it. And so I will continue to explore all the different hair colours Revlon has to offer, and have fun at Mary Kay parties, and buy pampering, scented bubble bath, because I like looking my best. After all, I want my husband to look at me and still think he’s the luckiest man in the world—even when I’m in a walker.

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Thoughts on Being On Tour
I'm sorry there's no Wifey Wednesday post up this week! I'm currently in the middle of a twelve day tour in Alberta with Girls Night Out, and it's been hard to find time to post! We get up early, drive for several hours to the next venue, set up the show, and then perform. We don't even get dinner until 10:30 at night.

So I thought instead of writing a typical post for you all, I'd show you some pictures of what I've been up to. Here are pictures from Monday night's show:

GNO Edmonton Sheila 11

GNO Edmonton Sheila 10

GNO Edmonton Sheila 8

See the whole thing here.

We've got nine shows over the twelve days (actually 10, but I didn't do last night's; I got a day off and another speaker, Connie Cavanaugh, did it). And it really is quite hectic! It's a lot of fun on the road, but you don't get much time to yourself. And the eating is a challenge. It's often hard to grab lunch because we're driving somewhere and the guys need to set up, and then we can't eat dinner until after the show.

The other day in Red Deer, Alberta, we went to Boston Pizza (the only restaurant that's open at 11 at night), and saw the poster for our show on the window.

And I got to meet Tessa W in Sylvan Lake the other night! Tessa comments all the time on this blog, and for some reason I always pictured her in Nebraska!

So I've met a bunch of blog readers on this tour, and had a ton of fun, but I'm getting a little tired. My family, however, is flying out for two days to see me (which is awesome)!

But until then I'm stuck on the road with three guys who are trying to figure out who is the Alpha Male by doing PX90 (is that the term?) workouts everyday in the hotel, and then spending the rest of the time complaining how much they hurt. I did one of those workouts on tour in the Maritimes just to see what all the fuss is about, and man, did it hurt the next day! I don't know why these guys do it when they have to be setting up and tearing down all the time, but it must have something to do with a need to be cool or something.

Anyway, I'm having a great time, love meeting new people, but I do miss my kids and especially my hubby. But if you're in Alberta, come and say hi! And regular blogging will resume next week (hopefully).

By the way, I sent my manuscript for The Good Girl's Guide to Sex in on Monday! Woo hoo! It's all done! So I hopefully will have some more information for you on when that will be out soon!

Why not tell me what's going on in your life?


Start Your Week Right!

I'm in the final month before "The Good Girl's Guide to Sex" is due at the publisher, so I'm going to be reprinting some of my older posts two or three times over the next few weeks, simply due to lack of time! I found some I really liked, so I wanted to let some of you, who haven't been following me that long, read them!

I know today is Valentine's Day, but I always do romance on Wifey Wednesdays, so today I'd rather talk about Monday mornings. Here's a post from 2009:

Last week I started my week thinking about busy-ness. I was too busy. But I concluded that the "busy" feeling was largely one of my own making. It wasn't only that I had too much on my plate--though I did have a lot--it was also that I was letting the computer steal a bunch of my time.

So what's the alternative? Right now, I'm sitting at my kitchen table with five days in front of me. And the question is, how am I going to make those five days count? How am I going to make sure that what needs to get done does indeed get done?

I've done the to-do list thing. Many of us have. And I don't always find them helpful. Sometimes they can just be stifling, because there's so much on there it gets discouraging. When you go to make a to-do list, you often think of all the things you wish you would just complete, and those go on the list. And then your to-do list stretches a mile.

I think there's a better way to handle it, and so today I'm going to sketch out what I'd like my days to look like. I'm not saying I always achieve this, but this is the aim. And if you would like to comment and add your thoughts, too, that would be great! Maybe together we'd figure out how to use our days more productively, but also how to savour the downtime and just enjoy being with those we love. So here goes:

1. Have a morning routine. I've written about this before, because mornings are my test. If I can start the morning off right, the rest of the day tends to go well. If I dither or start too late, I become discouraged and often give up on my plans for the day! So I suggest that everyone adopt some sort of a morning routine. When we have a routine we don't need a to-do list. We know what to do, when. It becomes habit.

So, for instance, I often get up, write a blog post, read my Bible and sip hot chocolate, exercise, shower, and make my bed, in that order. It takes about an hour and a half. Now my children are older now, so I don't have to get up with them, or get them dressed, or even get them breakfast. They can get their own. I know it's tough when you have smaller children. But even then I did have a routine. I would often put on a certain video, or put them in the playpen, while I showered. I tended to have breakfast at a certain time. When we had a routine, the kids knew what to expect and didn't complain too much.

What do you do in the morning to get your day off right?

2. Put first things first. Part of my morning routine involves reading the Bible. I need to have that time just talking to God and praying, and having some quiet, peaceful time before the day begins. For a while I tried to do this before blogging, but I gave up, because frankly I'm too tired when I first wake up to have productive time being quiet. And quiet time can definitely be productive! We think things through, we pray about important things. But I can't do that when I'm almost falling asleep. So I try to do something else first that wakes me up, so that I can concentrate more and give my full attention to God.

It's important to be quiet, at least for a little bit, at the beginning of the day. Assess your priorities. Bring your worries before God. Examine your heart. When we do these things, the day tends to flow better.

3. Get active. I can't tell you how much happier I've been since I started working out in the morning! It was always something I wanted to do, but getting to the gym was so impossible. With the Wii Fit Plus, I can just workout in my own home. I'm probably not getting as strenuous a workout as I would at the gym, but the point is that I'm doing it. And I've been really consistent for about a month now. It does mean that my school day (since we homeschool) begins about a half hour later than I would otherwise, but because I've exercised I tend to have more energy!

4. Figure out what your "one thing" is. I read a great article on time management recently that said that successful people don't make to-do lists. They simply know what the one biggest priority is, and they work that priority. So their to-do list is only one thing long. I think that's brilliant, and to tell you the truth, it really does work. My one thing right now is my column. I need to get that written and sent in. When that's done, I'll have another one thing. But I find that I can worry about one thing far better than I can worry about twenty. So I try to figure out what the one thing is that is causing me the most stress and worry, and work on getting that out of the way first.

5. Have routines for "routine" things. Sounds basic, but few of us do it. You have to do laundry. You have to do grocery shopping. You have to do ironing (even if you try to reduce the amount of ironing you do as much as possible). You have to change your sheets and mop the floors. I don't think of these as to-dos, really, because they occur all the time. So do you have a routine for laundry? I throw a load in everyday when I get out of the shower. I make my bed everyday when I get dressed. I change my sheets every Friday. I iron every Tuesday. Since I know when I do these things, I don't have to think about them. They automatically get built into my day.

The more we have routines for the routine things, the less busy we feel. You know everything will get done on its day, and you don't have to do everything all at once. The problem with not having routines is that often things get out of control, and then you try to tackle everything at once. That truly is exhausting. So, as much as possible, work routines for these routine things into your week. Then they're not a source of stress. If you want some planning charts to plan your housework, I have some free ones here.

6. Be disciplined. No one likes discipline. It's not fun. But it really does help. You know what needs to be done. You know what you should be doing. Don't work too hard. Your house doesn't need to be spotless. But when you know something needs to get done, just do it. Carve out time in your day when you will get necessary things done. Don't spend your life on a computer or in front of a screen. When we're disciplined, work doesn't have to take that much time. Discipline isn't boring; it actually lets you have more fun because you live in a more organized environment and life is not so chaotic.

So there you are. My pointers for how to have a more peaceful week. I'd love to hear yours! What makes you feel more peaceful? What makes you more organized? Let me know!

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The Upper Hand
mandy bw  129
Photo by Jeremy Rose

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

The image of the twenty-something man living out of his parents’ basement while practising to be a Guitar Hero champion is quintessential to our society. Young men are lazier than they ever have been. And we tend to blame this on the schools, the parents, or even the men themselves.

What if, instead, it’s a perfectly logical reaction to the way our society is changing?

Rather than asking why today’s generation is so lazy, maybe we should be asking why prior generations were not. Certainly The Great Depression, when people were desperate to work to eat, had an impact. Two World Wars forced millions of young men to grow up all too fast. But it isn’t only in this century that young men have become responsible earlier. It’s throughout our cultural history.

What made them mature? I think it was the fact that they could not get what they most wanted—a secure future with a wife and children—unless they were financially stable. Marriage was pretty much everyone’s goal, since it was the only way to experience any kind of romantic relationship, and so most people strove for it.

Today marriage is superfluous. Marriage is only to be desired after people have had time to find themselves and spend years partying. Even after that point many don’t want to marry. There’s often no real incentive. Romantic relationships are certainly not confined to marriage anymore. It’s relatively easy to find a partner even if you’re not offering a lifetime commitment. And lifetime commitments can be risky—she might have an affair and take half your money! With so many women running around today, it’s often rational for men not to want to commit. And if you don’t have to offer a lifetime commitment, then you also don’t have to grow up. You don’t have to get your own place. You don’t have to get a real job. There’s no downside to staying a kid.

Of course, laziness is not limited to the male gender. Plenty of females don’t want to grow up, either. We all know women who ditch marriages frivolously, or refuse to commit to willing young men. But eschewing marriage altogether is still largely a male phenomenon, for the simple reason that women have biological clocks. If they want babies, they have to get to it before they’re 35. Men don’t have a time limit.

And in any transaction, the one who wants it the most has the least bargaining power. If the woman wants a lifetime commitment, but the man doesn’t, he ends up calling the shots because she needs him more than he needs her. And on a population wide basis, when women want marriage more than men do, men on the whole decide how relationships should go.

At one point women had the upper hand, because if men wanted access to sex they had to commit. Now we’ve lost that upper hand. And interestingly, it’s largely been done in the name of feminism. Women don’t need men, the feminists cried. Marriage is an oppressive institution. Women’s sexuality needs to be freed!
Well, we’ve won freedom, girls. This is what it looks like. We can get any job we want, any role we want, any salary we want. We can do whatever we want in bed with whomever we want. We just can’t always get the marriage we want.

Is this what life was supposed to look like?

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Weird Thoughts About Travel
Last night I flew from Ottawa to Calgary, getting ready for a twelve day, 9 gig speaking tour with Girls Night Out in Albert. (I'm coming to Texas in May! More about that soon!).

Anyway, I'm sitting now in a church in Medicine Hat while the guys on the road crew set up, and I'm trying to get some editing done on my book and prepare for tonight.

But I had just a very few thoughts I would share with you.

I still think it's amazing that you can get into a plane in one part of the country and wind up thousands of miles away in just a matter of hours. That's such a tremendous blessing. Even a century ago a move of a few hundred miles often mean you never saw certain family members again. Now travel is so relatively simple. I've flown a lot in my life, but I never cease to marvel at it.

I love plane rides. I love them because once you're actually at the airport, and then actually on the plane, there is absolutely nothing you can do except relax. You can't fold laundry, even if you think you should. You can't chauffeur someone, or answer the phone to find a telemarketer, or do dishes. You can't feel guilty for not vacuuming or not ironing. It's time just for you! Sure, I did some editing on the plane, but it was wonderful to just get to sit down.

Yet, as great as sitting is, it is not so great when the stewardess offers to let you keep the can of Coke Zero--twice--and then the pilot keeps the seat belt sign on for pretty much the entire four hour flight. Finally, in desperation twenty minutes before landing I got up anyway and went to the bathroom. A girl can only sit still so long.

That's about it! I hear a crazy group of women from Saskatchewan are driving across the border to Alberta to hear me tonight, so it will be great to see some prairie women! I'll tell you all when I'll be in Texas once I get the dates finalized!


Wifey Wednesday: When You Think He's a Bad Parent

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!

I've been talking a bit about parenting toddlers on the blog lately, and in the meantime I've received some emails by women who are exasperated with their husbands as fathers. This is a really common conflict in marriage. You think you should discipline one way, and he thinks you should discipline another. You're sure you're right. He's sure he's right. You're at a standstill.

In this situation, instead of looking for a marriage resolution, most people just try to convince the other that they are a bad parent. If you're at that point, can I ask you this question: what is your desired outcome? Is it that he admit he was completely wrong and that you are completely right and that he needs to change?

Imagine if that happened. Would that actually be the best thing? It seems to me that what a marriage needs is for both partners to respect and love each other, and what a child needs is to feel that her parents love her and love each other.

When you think you're right, and he's morally wrong, though, it's all too easy to set up a situation where it's you and your children against him. You triangulate him out of the picture. You drive a wedge between him and his kids. And even if he isn't parenting appropriately, he has a right to a good relationship with his kids without you undermining it.

I've been in a similar situation with my husband and my oldest daughter a few years ago. I felt he was being overly harsh with her, and I found myself constantly going into her room and apologizing for what her dad did. After a few months of that, I found that she got mad at him far more easily than she ever had before because she had confirmation from me that he was a bad father. I had meant to just console her and make her feel better about herself, but instead I made the rift between her and her father greater. And even if her father was wrong, she still owed him some respect (again, we're not talking about abuse; we're just talking about someone being overly harsh). I realized that she would do better respecting him and loving him, even if he were overly harsh, than she would if I was always telling her what a bad father he was.

Instead, I worked at having fun as a family. I made sure we laughed together a lot, to try to break up some of this dynamic of the two of them not wanting to be together. And, once we had laughed a lot more as a family for several months, and there was a lot of goodwill between us, I talked to my husband about the fact that I felt he was being too harsh. He didn't like it, but he listened, and now they're really close again.

But I realized in all of that how easy it is to drive a rift between a spouse and your children. It's natural to do; we're worried about our kids, we think our spouse is wrong, and so we gravitate towards our kids and get their affirmation. We start emotionally aligning with our children instead of our spouse, which is dangerous.

When you drive a wedge between your kids and your husband, you don’t actually improve anybody’s relationship, even if your concern is that your children's emotional health will be harmed with your husband’s attitude. You’re really driving them even further apart.

You also give your husband the impression that he is the “extra” one in the relationship, the one that isn’t needed. The only way for him to now cope is to double down and be even more harsh to try to assert his authority. The thought process that is going through this head now is, “I’m going to make them listen to me!”, even if it’s not at a conscious level. He is fighting to make himself relevant, because he’s being pushed aside.

What I would suggest is that you change the dynamic. Why don’t you consider yourself an ally with your husband? He is your husband, after all. Work on that relationship before you even address the issue with your kids. He isn’t going to be willing to talk until he knows that you also respect him, and he likely currently doesn’t feel that you do. You may think that there’s nothing he’s doing that’s worthy of respect, but by having that attitude you’re driving him away and making him even less likely to help.

So why not find some common ground? Try to start doing fun things together. Play board games. Suggest that after dinner you do something fun. Go for a walk (when it warms up). Play Monopoly. Play on the Wii. I don’t know what you as a family like to do, but if you don’t have any hobbies, develop some! Spend some time just laughing together and building memories. Be a family again. It may take some time to think of something like this, but it sounds like you are stuck where you never do anything fun together. And if your kids and your husband never laugh together, they are not going to solve your differences. You simply must find things to do as a family.

And then, stick up for your husband. When your children are disrespecting him (even if your husband is in the wrong), tell your kids that they should not be speaking to their father that way. If your children are old enough to negotiate a relationship with their dad, then talk to them. Tell them,

“I know you’re angry at him. But living your life angry at your father is not a good life. You need to find a way to relate to him. So why not start thanking him for one thing that he does a day? Just one thing. Start thinking of him more positively. Be nice to him. You owe that to him. He is your father. And part of the reason you are always fighting is that you don’t give him what you owe him. If you feel hurt by what he says, then you need to go to him and explain that. But think about this: he is far more likely to listen to you if you have taken time to give him the respect and love he deserves as your father. So for the next month, smile at him. Thank him. Give him respect. And once you see the dynamic of your relationship change, then talk to him. Tell him when something he says hurts you. Because you do not want to live your life separate from your dad.”

You need to put the onus on your children (if they're old enough) to talk to their father and do their part to repair the relationship. Then you can say the same thing to your husband:

“You are driving your kids away, and I know you don’t want to do that. So for a month, why don’t you try just praising them whenever they do something good? Watch for the good things. And as you notice more good things, then they'll be happier with you and more willing to listen when you have changes you want them to make.”

He is parenting differently from the way you would. That doesn’t mean he’s right; but he is their father, and you are his wife. So try to build goodwill and make sure that you have time to laugh as a family. Do that first. Then talk to them each individually and tell them that it is up to them to repair the rift. Get out of the way. Right now, you are hurting your relationship with them because you are driving him out of his children's life (even if you are right).

Remember, too, that you may not be right. I know many women who are far too permissive with the children, never disciplining them, and the husband becomes harsh in response. He overcompensates. Frequently when we have these arguments, that's the dynamic; we're overcompensating for each other, instead of finding a happy medium. If your husband is calling your kids names, that obviously is an issue. But you aren't going to be able to address it until you build some goodwill and show him some respect.

There may be times you do need to intervene to protect your kids from your husband. If he calls kids hurtful names routinely and with a mean spirit, or if he hits them, then you need to take steps to protect them. Talk to a mentor or pastor about this. But often we women label things "abusive" that are not actually abusive. They're simply different from the way we would do them, and we build up in our minds how bad our husbands are because we think we're the good parent. So please, before you take harsh action, really look at the situation. Is he abusive, or is he merely harsher than you want him to be?

I have friends who grew up with harsh parents, but they love those parents today because they know that their parents loved them when they grew up. Harshness, in and of itself, does not ruin a child’s life or personality, as long as it is accompanied by love (it is not ideal, but it is also not as psychologically destructive as other things). On the other hand, I have seen many adults very messed up because their parents played them off against each other, rather than presenting a united front and loving each other.

Remember that one day your children will move out, and you will be left with your husband. Your whole life cannot be your children; you have to build intimacy, goodwill, and friendship in your marriage. He may not be an overly willing partner, but you can try just to change the dynamic and have some fun. Show him you respect him. Thank him for things he does do that are good. That will do a lot more for your children's relationship with him than for you to be always trying to get in between the two of them!

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!

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Things I Do Not Understand

I'm packing for a 12-day Girls Night Out tour across Alberta, which I leave for tomorrow! If you happen to live in Alberta, do check us out! It's a fun evening of faith and fellowship, and I'd love to meet some of my blog readers!

But in the meantime, I'm inundated with laundry and suitcases, and so I can't really put a profound thought together in my head. And so I thought I'd just post some observations I have about life and things that I don't understand, and see if you can enlighten me!

1. Why do Catholic schools insist that girls wear kilts?

I asked this on my Facebook Page last night after driving by a Catholic high school yesterday when school let out. I saw at least fifty teenage girls in kilts, and none of them, and I mean none of them, came more than 3 inches below the underwear line. I'm pretty sure I could see some panties there. Now I know this school has a rule that the kilt has to be a certain length, but that rule is obviously not being obeyed. Why not switch to pants? You may want to encourage femininity, but this is going a little far. So I don't get that. I really don't. (Plus it's so COLD in winter!)

2. Why doesn't America just drill for oil?

Sorry for getting political, but this is something we Canadians don't understand about you Americans. We extract our oil--in Newfoundland, in the Arctic, in Alberta. We're your biggest oil supplier, I believe. But instead of drilling for your own, you put your nation at risk because of all the Middle East turmoil. Sorry, but I don't get it. And we all know American oil would be drilled in a more environmentally friendly manner than Nigeria or Venezuela or even Saudi Arabia drills it, so overall American oil would help the environment, not hurt it, if we stopped relying on these terrible states for oil. So I don't understand that one.

3. How can parents walk away from their kids?

I guess this one should be its own blog post, but I've been watching as formerly completely involved dads (and in one case, a mom) has stepped completely back from parenting after a marriage split. My own dad walked out and barely had anything to do with me (though he did send money). I just don't understand how a parent could WANT to live without a child. I like to think that if my husband and I split (not that we would), I would fight for every second with them. How come some parents don't?

4. Why do irresponsible people get so much from the state?

I'm quite close to a number of foster parents, and hearing how much the Children's Aid Society tries to keep families together--how much money they pay families, how much stuff they buy for families (even hiring maids to clean the house), just so that the kids don't need to be removed. Why is it that women who have 5 children by 5 different fathers, and don't feed the kids, and live off of welfare, can get a ton of stuff from the state, while married parents, where one parent stays at home, who survive on one low income by scrimping and saving, don't get the state paying for maids, or for cribs, or for clothes, or for transportation, let alone medical & dental. There's something wrong when people who play by the rules are penalized for doing so, so that there is no incentive to do what's right.

5. Why can't I always feel God?

Again, this one should probably be its own blog post, but I'm in one of those crazy periods in my life where I'm busy, and I desperately need His peace and strength, and I'm not feeling it. It's my own fault; I've let busy-ness crowd out too much of my quiet time. But I pray that sometime today I could hear that still, small voice again and feel strengthened, because I'm tired.

Those are some of the things I wonder about, in no particular order. Anyone have any answers for me?

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Why I'm at Home
Photo by Shaggy Paul

A little while ago I started a firestorm when I wrote about planning my daughter's future--and how we should consider a career choice that would make it easier to stay home with kids, should she choose to do that.

It made me think back to my own decision to stay at home, which was definitely NOT something I thought I would be doing. And then I read this article called "Why I'm at Home" by an educated woman whose journey sounds identical to mine. Heather Koerner writes,

I'm sure it started in my own day care experience. After attending a group day care for much of my childhood, I took different jobs during my college breaks as a child care worker and nanny. Though most of my co-workers were nice, sweet ladies who tried to make the day pleasant for kids, I still began to see that there was something unique and special about a parent's love that a child care worker could never duplicate. Even with my one-on-one time as a nanny, I saw that, as much as I cared about my job, it was still that — a job.

But what about me, I would wonder. I'm a well-adjusted, productive member of society and I came through day care just fine. What's the problem?

I thought about that — hard. Then the answer came to me in three little words: in spite of. Day care had not made my childhood happy. My childhood was happy in spite of my time in day care. It was my parents' individual attention each night and on weekends that helped me to thrive. It wasn't that the days were always bad, but that my parents' love was always best.

I started to ask myself the hard questions: Who is going to raise my child someday? Will the nights and weekends be enough?

Her whole article is really worth reading, but I thought I'd take her example and tell you all my journey.

My earliest memories are of lying on a cot in a day care, with a teacher rubbing my back. I loved that teacher. I was scared of everyone else (even the other kids), but that teacher (I believe she was an immigrant from Romania who didn't speak much English) loved me and I loved her. She was the only good thing about day care. I remember crying until she would hold my hand. I remember hiding in corners. I remember being forced to eat cheese (I HATE cheese).

I was in day care because my father had left us and my mother had to work. She had looked into becoming a foster parent to see if that could give us enough money so she could stay home, and it didn't. So she hated to leave me behind, and she marched off to work.

I grew up with a single, professional mother who worked hard to provide. The rest of my relatives (most of whom are women; we don't do boys in my family) also are very well educated, most with at least a Master's degree. My aunt had worked part time as a doctor, with a nanny the other half of the time. My role models were not stay at home moms.

So I always assumed I would be a professor. I would work part-time, write amazing papers, and still have summers off and time with the kids.

I pursued higher education, and did well. I earned scholarships. I kept wracking up degrees (I have three). We married in our fourth year of university, because we knew there was no point in waiting; we both would be in school for years. And I was earning enough money in graduate scholarships and research positions that we didn't really need to wait.

My husband was from a blue collar family. His mom had stayed home, and that was all he knew. I always felt sorry for her that she didn't have more opportunities (I thought of her as a "stay at home mom" then, as a category, not really as the mom I know now). I was enlightened. I could take on the world, and the kids would fit right in!

Keith wasn't so sure, but he held back his reservations because how can you argue against a woman working? That would be sexist.

And so it was that I started applying for Ph.D. positions in Toronto, where Keith would be doing his residency in pediatrics. I won another scholarship. I was on the right track.

Then one day I had to deliver a presentation to my Master's class about a certain sociologist. I couldn't understand a word this guy was talking about. It was all so vague, and airy fairy, and convuluted, but I had to present it, so I did the best I could.

At the end of the presentation everyone applauded. I got 100%. The professor said that was the best he'd ever seen; that I just made Baudrillard come to life and explained him so well.


Excuse the term, but there is no other adequate substitute: I had BS'ed my way through. And everyone thought it was great.

It became clear to me that the professor didn't know what this guy was talking about, either (even though the professor was a specialist in this particular guy). And I thought to myself: do I really want to spend my life in academia, pretending the whole time?

Five minutes after that presentation I called Keith and said, "let's get pregnant instead."

And so ended my academic career.

We did get pregnant, and we moved to Toronto. I was so sick with Rebecca. Have you ever just prayed to throw up? I prayed that prayer straight for nine months and I never did. With Katie I could throw up like clockwork, every morning at 8:30, and felt so much better. It is way worse to not throw up than to throw up.

But in the meantime, even though I had decided to have kids and I had decided not to pursue a Ph.D., I hadn't really decided anything else. My future was still open.

And in Toronto, I had a job working with a consultant company doing their graphic design and databases. It paid fairly well, but it was a half hour subway ride away.

After doing this for three months (during which I had become indispensable), I sat on the subway one morning, praying not to puke before I got off (at which point I would begin the prayer again that I would indeed puke), and I asked myself, "why am I doing this? Why am I going on a subway an hour a day when I feel horrible?" We didn't really need the money. And I felt lousy.

So I quit. And was promptly hired to work from home by the same company, which I did for the next five years, off an on, just on little projects.

Then Rebecca was born, and I started going out to parks with her, and playing with her, and having a grand old time. And I realized, I don't want to go to work. I want to stay right where I am.

My commitment to being a stay at home mom came gradually. It wasn't something I ever thought I'd do. I was following the path I was told I should follow: I was getting an education, I was working, I was making something of myself. And even though it was silly, I never questioned it until a breaking point came, and then I realized, "I don't have to do this. No one is making me do this except for me."

So we decided not to buy a car. We didn't buy a house. We shopped at thrift stores and didn't go out to eat very much. We saved as much as we could, and then we moved to a cheaper city, where Keith's family was, as soon as we could get out of Toronto. HIs classmates were buying homes and cars and everything expensive, and we were living in a small apartment. But we had a great time, and the lack of money didn't really bother us at all.

I would occasionally chat with his female colleagues about the problems they were having with their nannies, who didn't like to stay after 6, and who didn't like to do housework. Why couldn't these women mop the floors and care for the kids and get dinner ready? Was that too much to ask?

And I would listen and wonder what planet they were on, because I didn't have time to do most of that, either. I spent a lot of the time out with my kids, because the apartment was small. She was asking the nanny to stop playing with the kids and clean the house all day. And then I just stopped listening.

I'm like Heather, who wrote that first article. I'm okay in spite of the day care, not because of it. But I don't want my kids to grow up and be okay in spite of anything. I want to give them the best, and the best is me. They need their mom.

I know some women will make different choices, but I guess my question is this: are they really your choices? I never really understood that staying at home was a valid choice. I never even really made it; I drifted into it, little by little. It was only in retrospect that I am passionate about it. I did what I was supposed to do, and didn't think twice about it. Is that really a choice?

When women sign up for a postgraduate degree, are they making a true choice for themselves, or are they doing what is expected of them? When they go back to work after the baby comes, is it a true choice, or have they never really thought that maybe there is an alternative?

It sounds silly, but I never saw the alternative. I always thought I'd get a Ph.D. because that's what you're supposed to do. So I'd encourage young women everywhere: MAKE A CHOICE. A real choice. Recognize that you could honestly do either: you could have a career, or you could stay at home. They both are legitimate. (I know some Christians argue the career isn't, but just let that go for a minute for the sake of argument).

They are not both presented as legitimate in our education system or in many of our families. Instead, it's assumed that women will work, will make a ton of money, will make a name for themselves. And thus, staying at home isn't really a choice.

But it is. It is your life. What do you want to do with it? Or more importantly, what is God calling you to do with it? Wrestle it out. I'm not going to tell you what to do, because I believe God can do that when you go to Him. All I'm going to say is that you have permission to make a choice. You do not HAVE to pursue a career. You do not HAVE to pursue a ton of education. You can choose, either way, to go the way that God wants you to go.

Are you open to leaving it in His hands, and maybe bucking the tide? I hope you are. It was so freeing once I said, I can make my own path in my life. And I'm so glad I did.

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History Without All Those Nasty Bits
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. This is one of those columns I wrote ages ago and never had the guts to publish. I made a few changes to bring it up to date and sent it in last week because I didn't have time to write a new one. I think I'm going to blasted in the Letters to the Editor section for this week's!

When I ask my young friends what their least favourite subject is, they invariably say “history”. I’m always amazed, because history’s so exciting! But perhaps the problem is not our illustrious and rather violent ancestors, but instead the way schools teach it.

In England, for instance, Vikings were once rightfully depicted as fierce raiders. But not anymore. Since 1994, England’s textbooks have depicted them as farmers who settled in Scandinavia and “expanded” from there (no word about how that expansion was carried out). That’s too bad, because Vikings are great fun to study! There’s blood, gore, pillaging, backstabbing, and all kinds of hair-raising tales. Yet kids will now be forced to learn about how the Vikings wanted to settle in France because of the longer growing season. It’s history without all those nasty bits, which, not uncoincidentally, is history without all the action.

It’s also history without any context. Although almost all students will hear about America’s history with slavery, for instance, fewer will learn that slavery was practised by almost all cultures until relatively recently. Nor will they hear that slavery is still practised in some parts of North Africa, two hundred years after it was abolished in the British empire, largely by the crusade of several Christian politicians, and one hundred and fifty years after it was abolished in the United States by the blood of both black and white. Yet don’t these facts matter if we’re going to try to understand slavery’s causes and legacy?

I don’t know what Canadian textbooks are like, though I had a peek with some geography resources we purchased at a library sale. The University of Toronto published a series of pamphlets covering all the countries in the world. We bought about 80 of them, and while perusing them I came across several interesting “facts”. Did you know that Cuba has complete freedom of religion? It’s too bad those priests and pastors in Castro’s jails haven’t been informed of that. And that after Israel declared independence in May 1948 a civil war broke out? I thought it generally was not called a civil war when five foreign powers invade you (in this case, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq). That’s like calling World War II the French Civil War.

It’s as if the goal is not to teach facts, but to make sure kids have the right opinions. We’ve begun censoring ourselves horribly. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is being rewritten, with the infamous “n-word” changed to “slave”. CNN recently apologized for using the word “crosshairs” on its broadcast, since reminding people of Sarah Palin’s supposedly vitriolic rhetoric might inspire violence, forgetting that they themselves recently had a news show called “Crossfire”. We’re so interested in advancing the right opinions that we’re changing history. Yet how can kids—or anyone for that matter—form a coherent opinion without the facts?

I am reminded of a story a professor at NYU once told. On the first day of classes every year, he asks the students, “Who said, ‘religion is the opiate of the masses’?” Usually no one hazards a guess. So one year he gave a hint. “He was German.” An African-American girl offered, “Martin Luther?”, at which point all the students started to snicker. The professor was flabbergasted. Martin Luther was a German, and he did write about religion, so it was actually a good guess. Then he heard one boy whisper, “Don’t you know he was black?” The students assumed she meant Martin Luther King, Jr. What saddened the professor was not that they didn’t know the answer (it’s Karl Marx); it was that they didn’t even understand their own ignorance. I hope we put a stop to this historical revisionism, before ignorance is all we have left.

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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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