Monthly Archives: July 2013

Jul 31

Spicing up the Bedroom: DIY Floating Headboard

By Mary Beth Foster | Household Management

Spicing up the Bedroom - DIY Floating Headboard

When my husband and I upgraded to a king-sized bed this spring, one of the ensuing problems we knew we’d have to tackle was the headboard.  Our old queen-sized headboard was actually one of the first home improvement project we took on together to spruce up my then-boyfriend’s bachelor pad, but it wasn’t going to fit on our new and improved sleeping space.

We found a great floating headboard we liked the look of on Hazzard’s Hypotheses.  Here’s how we worked together to make it work in our bedroom.

Materials:

  • 3 6-foot boards (see important notes on board selection below)
  • Sandpaper or orbital sander
  • Wood stain (we used Minwax Dark Walnut)
  • Protective top coat for wood surfaces (like Minwax Polycrilic Protective Finish)
  • 2 large foam brushes or paint brushes
  • 2 packages of large 3M command strips
  • Yardstick
  • Level

A few important notes on selecting boards:

  • 6-foot boards are perfect for a king-sized bed, no cutting required.  If you’re working with a differently sized bed, you might need to trim your boards or buy boards of a different length.
  • Think about how tall you want your headboard to be; in other words, how high do you want it to extend above the bed?

We wanted ours to be just slightly taller than the bedside lamps so we had a decent gap between the top of the headboard and the bottom of the framed pictures that were already hanging on the wall.  Three boards was perfect for us, but you could always make a taller headboard by adding another board or two.

  • There are several different types of 6-foot boards you can purchase at your local home improvement store.  We went with basic whitewood, the cheapest boards you can buy.

It’s a little rougher than more expensive boards like pine or poplar, and you have to dig a little to find the “good ones,” but it’s also two to three times cheaper, and we liked that the wood grain had interesting designs in it.

  • Don’t be afraid to be the crazy couple taking all the boards off the shelf and inspecting them.  Make sure you choose boards that are free of dents and marks.  Remember, you’re staining, not painting, so the wood grain will show through.

Make sure it’s pretty.  For the boards to “float” effectively, they need to sit flush against the wall, so you’ll also need to make sure you select the straightest boards you can find.

Once you’ve got all your materials home, you’re ready to work

Start by sanding your boards using sandpaper, a sanding block, or an orbital sander.  Sanding can be messy; you’ll probably want to do it outside or at least in your garage.

Sand the fronts, sides, edges and corners of the boards.  The only side you don’t need to worry about is the back, since that will sit up against the wall.  If you go with whitewood like we did, give the sides, edges and corners a little extra attention; they tend to be sharp and rough.

Sanding creates a lot of dust, so you’ll want to wipe the boards down with a dry rag after you’ve finished sanding to create a clean surface for staining.

Next, prop your boards up off the ground for staining (which you’ll definitely want to do outside). Your goal is to have them flat but elevated, sitting on something you don’t mind getting a little stain-y.

I laid mine across a pair of sawhorses, but if you don’t have those, you could lay them across a few old boards, blocks of wood, folded up cardboard: you get the idea.  Follow the directions on your stain, which are generally to brush on an even coat in the direction of the wood grain, let it sit for 10-15 minutes, and then wipe off the excess stain with a clean rag.

Make sure to get the sides, too.  Don’t worry if some stain gets on the backs of the boards; they’ll sit up against the wall, so you’ll never see it.

It takes 4-6 hours for stain to dry completely, so take a break.

After 4-6 hours, you’re ready to apply another coat of stain (if the color isn’t dark enough for your liking) or move on to a protective top coat.  Apply the top coat the same way you applied the stain: brush on a thin coat in the direction of the wood grain.  Make sure you get the sides, too.

You’ll want to apply 2-3 coats of protective top coat, waiting two hours and sanding lightly in between coats.  After applying your final layer of protective top coat, let your boards dry for a full 24 hours before bringing them in the house to hang.

It’s time to hang your new headboard!

You might think the hard part is finished, but oh no, my friends, the hardest part is yet to come.  

It turned out the hardest part of this project was the part that required working together to hang these boards on the wall.  The first important decision we had to make was where to place the first board.

Did we want it exactly lined up with the mattress?  Slightly above it?  Extending below it?

We decided to place it just slightly below the top of the mattress (so our pillows wouldn’t slide between the mattress and the board).  Once you decide where you want your first board, level it, and mark the corners with a pencil.

Remember, you’ve only decided where you want it; you’re not actually ready to attach it yet.  Make sure you mark your corners so you can put it in place without going through the deciding where you want it and leveling process again.

Now you’re ready to hang the first board.

Here’s the thing: command strips are harder to use than they look.  I assumed they were like tack or tape: stick them to the wall, stick your piece on it, and you’re done, right?  Not exactly.

Hanging something using command strips involves the mind-bogglingly complex process of snapping the strips together, attaching them to the board (pressing them in firmly with your thumb for 30 seconds), pressing the board to the wall, pulling the board off the wall, pressing the command strips firmly into the wall for 30 seconds, and then leaving them for an hour before you can permanently attach your board.

There are directions on the command strips themselves, but be aware that it’s probably going to be more complicated than you think.  We used two command strips on each board, one on each of the top corners.  That left us with one extra command strip, which we used on the top board, which turned out to be a little warped, so the extra command strip helped us get it flush against the wall.

Once board number one is on the wall, you’re ready to attach board number two.  

We wanted a slight gap between boards.  Here’s where a yardstick comes in handy.

Rather than measuring and marking the small gap and then leveling the second board, we simply laid the yardstick on top of board #1 and then laid board #2 on the yardstick, effectively leaving a yardstick-sized gap between boards.

Bonus: as long as board #1 was level, using this “stacking” method ensures board #2 will be as well without any additional leveling.  Remember to mark your corners because you’ll have to go through the same crazy process with the command strips.

Do it all once more with board #3, and voila!  You’ve made your own floating headboard.

This is a great weekend upgrade for couples because it’s relatively inexpensive (particularly compared to some of the fancy headboards on the market) and doesn’t require any special tools.

It’s also great for renters (or homeowners like us who like to rearrange frequently).  Because you used command strips to attach the boards to the wall, they should come off easily without leaving marks or holes.

Is this a project you’d like to tackle with your spouse to make your bedroom a romantic getaway?

Jul 29

Is There Hope for My Troubled Marriage?

By E.J. Smith | Communication , Help

Is There Hope for My Troubled Marriage?Almost every couple I see in the counseling, at some point during that first meeting, will say, “Is there hope for us?  Can this get better?

For the sake of our discussion, let’s assume the couple asking this question is not in any way, shape or form in an abusive relationship in which an [exit stage left] is not only imminent, but necessary for the health and wellbeing of at least one person in the relationship.

No, for our purposes, this is the couple that looks like the perfect American family on the outside:  Nice house, nice cars, 3 nice kids—the Soccer Mom and the Dutiful Dad.

On the inside, however, their relationship has slipped into insidious ambivalence.  Most of their time is devoted to hauling children hither, thither and yon—as all good parents try to do.

But where there is time for each other, there is no passion.   Bride and groom, even in each other’s eyes have become “Mom and Dad” or worse, simply a cohabitant.

So, Is There Hope for Us?

When someone asks me this question, I usually respond with “I don’t know.  It’s not my marriage.  Do you think there’s hope?”

I understand that people may think I’m being glib here, but honestly, asking a third party who barely knows you if they think your marriage can be saved is like asking a stranger on the street whether or not he believes you’re going to go to Heaven when you die.

Usually the couple answers somewhat exasperated, “Yes, that’s why we’re here…”

Then it’s time to assess motivation.  How motivated are you to change your marriage?  What is it about your marriage that’s worth saving?  

About that last question… What is it about your marriage that is worth saving? 

One of the saddest experiences I’ve witnessed with a couple in therapy was when the wife answered this question with a list of very pragmatic reasons that had everything to do with convenience (finances, the kids, stability, safety, social standing), and absolutely nothing to do with the person sitting next to her.  The husband was profoundly hurt, and rightfully so.

I’m sorry, but you don’t go to marriage counseling to save your kids from being a statistic, save your degrees of comfort or any other external thing.

Well, maybe that’s what got you in the door, but if we can’t adjust that mindset from saving my level of comfort to saving my marriage—my sacred bond to the person I vowed to love and cherish til death real quick, I have absolutely no idea how to help you—at least not with working on your marriage.

The Real Question to Answer

So what am I saying?  Is that person beyond help? Is that marriage doomed?

No, not necessarily.

Again, I don’t think its my role to tell you that.  At the same time, we have to realize that people cannot go around spouting off that marriage is a sacred covenant between two people and God, and then present to counseling with the idea that a marriage has to last because if it doesn’t, I can’t keep the car I want because I won’t be able to afford the payments!

It just doesn’t work like that.

As for the couple, I posed a very difficult question to the wife, “Let’s pretend that you could keep all those components that you just mentioned if you two were to separate — would you still be here working on your marriage?

I’m not going to tell you what her answer was… her answer isn’t important.  You, my reader, who may be in a quandary about what to do—your answer is what is important.

Why There’s Still Hope for Your Marriage

And let met tell you, that even if you answered, “No.” That’s okay… even then; there is still hope for you and your marriage.

Why?  Because you were honest and you expressed your truth in this moment, there is hope.

I think you’ll find many experts that say truth and honest communication are the foundation of the most rock-solid marriages.  For you, however, our goal might not be fixing the marriage directly, but doing some personal soul searching to figure out when you lost sight of your spouse, and how you might take steps to regain vision of them as your partner for life.

Call me “fluffy” or “idealistic” but I truly believe that the couple within the marriage already possesses the answers to her fix a relationship.

Counseling doesn’t give answers as much as it gives you the space and tools to uncover them.

And if you don’t like what you find, well… we’re here to address that too.  The caveat to that is that all parties need to know where they’re starting from, and that the other will reciprocate the efforts of one.

Even from the deepest, darkest, seemingly blackest pit of a painful dysfunctional marriage, two strong individuals and partners can emerge.

Jul 24

D.R.A.B. Date Nights – It’s Not What You Think

By Debi Walter | Romance

DRAB Date NightsDating can be a lot of fun.

It’s a time when you spare no expense in having a good time with a special someone.

Many believe once you’re married you no longer have to date. After all, you live together, right? Wrong.

Dating gets better and better with age – like a fine wine.

If you’ve tossed aside the idea of dating your spouse as not necessary in your marriage, then it’s as if you’ve taken the best of wines and poured it down the drain. If you’ve never tasted of it, you won’t know what you’ve missed.

But for those of us who have…we encourage you to take that first sip. You’ll see what we mean.

Tom and I have been married for 34 years. We waited for 3 years to begin our family and had a great time together before our son came along. We had 3 children in 4 short years, so there wasn’t a whole lot of romancing going on.

It was hard. But Tom has always taken the lead in the romance department.

Shortly after our third child was born, we found a 14 year old daughter of a friend who was wanting to start babysitting. We decided to give her a try, and were we ever glad we did!

She ended up being a part of our family. She took as much joy in letting us go out each week as we did in letting her watch our children. And our kids adored her! This made regular Monday night dates a wonderful possibility for us.

However, not everyone has a Michelle like we did. You could easily say there’s no way for us to enjoy dates and allow this to be your excuse. But there is another way!

On our blog, The Romantic Vineyard, we offer what we call D.R.A.B. date night ideas. They’re not what you think.

DRAB stands for Does Not Require A Babysitter.

We love having at-home date nights, and you might be surprised to know it doesn’t include watching a different movie each week. 🙂

This is a no-no for us. Dates are a time to connect on a more intimate level than watching a movie allows. And anyone can plan a movie night!

So here’s a quick list on how to plan a perfect date night IN:

•    Decide what theme you want to use.
•    Decide what food goes with your theme.
•    Decide one thing you can do to go along with your theme.
•    Don’t allow interruptions in your plans to stop you from going through with your date.

We recently had a Downton Abbey Date Night that was incredibly fun.

To begin with, Tom took on the role of Mr. Carsen and helped pick the wine, set the table and set the mood for our dinner. I took on the role of Mrs. Patmore by cooking an authentic British meal from the Edwardian period.

Once everything was ready, we changed clothes into something more formal.

I became the Countess of Grantham and Tom became the Earl. We played the theme station from the show on Pandora, lit the candles and had a great time together. If you don’t enjoy cooking, you could always improvise by picking up a ready-made meal from a favorite restaurant.

How is this date possible with children in the house? Simple. Let them be a part of planning this romantic evening.

Have them draw you place mats and decorate the table with hand-drawn flowers. Once they go to bed, your date can begin.

If you’ve not ever tried an at-home date, you may be tempted to think it’s hokey. May we encourage you to at least give it a try?

Tom used to think this way as well, until he realized how fun it was to just be together. We’ve made some great memories – which is one of the reasons we began blogging about romancing your spouse in the first place – one date at a time.

What DRAB dates have you done in your home and how did it help your marriage? If you’ve never planned one, would you take our challenge and at least try?

You might just discover a new favorite way to connect.

Jul 22

Are You Generous and Holy in Bed?

By Julie Sibert | Sex & Family Planning

Are You Generous and Holy in Bed?I recently attended the confirmation of a close friend’s son.

As the bishop gave the homily, he looked at the confirmands and encouraged them to

“Learn to love in generous and holy ways.”

Learn to love in generous and holy ways.

You can’t get much clearer than that.

I know it sounds crazy, but the bishop’s words made me think about sex.

Why would I be thinking of sex, during a confirmation nonetheless?

Well, let me start by saying I wasn’t thinking about sex for those young people, of course. They have plenty of time down the road for sex after they are married.

I was thinking about sex because I blog about sexual intimacy in marriage. When the bishop spoke so authentically of learning to love in generous and holy ways, I actually thought about the heartache playing itself out in countless marriage beds.

I regularly receive emails and comments from people devastated by the lack of nurtured sexual intimacy in their marriages.

No, they do not lack for the necessities of food and water, yet they are still in a sense starving and thirsty.  They long for an intimacy they morally and biblically can receive from no one other than their spouse.

And if their spouse isn’t willing to be sexually available, let alone sexually interested, the desolation becomes almost too vast to assess.

You just can’t put barometers on that sort of emotional and spiritual pain.

What is missing in countless marriage beds (maybe even your own) is two people learning to love in generous and holy ways.

As the bishop spoke during the confirmation celebration, he was quick to point out that loving in generous and holy ways is without a doubt one of the most challenging things any of us embarks upon. Nearly impossible!

In fact, just about everything – free will, sin, emotion, selfishness and society – rails against the genuine humility that is required to love.

If we had to offer such tremendous love via our own power alone, we indeed would have no hope, right?  Fortunately, we don’t have to do this alone.

The very Author of generosity and holiness is more than ready to equip us.    And He really does care about what’s happening in your marriage sexually.

Sexual oneness, sexual wholeness and sexual pleasure – all of these were God’s idea, of course.

Sex is one of the most profound ways you can show your spouse the depth and commitment of your love.

I’ve long believed that when a husband and wife make love, it is one of the sweetest forms of worship in a marriage.

In those moments, two people who have committed their lives to each other are purposely agreeing with God on His gift of sexual intimacy.  Hopefully, they are doing that not out of mere obligation, but with enthusiasm and gratefulness for the gift sex actually is.

If generosity and holiness aren’t the words you would use to describe sex in your marriage, what brave steps can you take to change that?

A humble conversation with your spouse? A renewed commitment to understand God’s Word about sex? A willingness to face and heal from your own sexual woundedness and misconceptions?

Don’t wait until it’s too late to learn how to love in generous and holy ways in your marriage bed.  (If you are still married, it’s not too late.)

Jul 17

Make an At-Home Photo Booth for Free Family Fun!

By Amy Latta | Children

How to Make an At Home Photo Booth

The family that plays together stays together, right?

It can be a real struggle for families to find and spend quality time together these days.  Many moms and dads work long hours and are exhausted by the end of the day.  Not to mention the fact that in today’s economy, most families don’t have a lot of extra money to spend on various activities.

In our family, we are constantly trying to find the balance between giving each person time to recharge alone, getting date time as husband and wife, and having fun all together.

One of the things I’m constantly brainstorming is what kinds of family activities we all can enjoy even on weeknights that will strengthen our relationships for years to come!

Here’s a quick, easy, and totally free idea for something to do that will bring out the silly side in everyone!

At-Home Photo Booth

You’ll need:

– a camera/smartphone
– access to a computer
– props and backgrounds {optional}

Recently, my son and I were at the mall when he spotted a photo booth and asked me what it was.  I explained that you pay money, sit inside, and it takes several photos of you that print out on a strip.  He, of course, was immediately sold.  I, on the other hand, could think of lots of better uses for my $3.  Then it hit me, photo booths are fun.

 Why not do it on our own?  

To have your own photo booth experience, you can either put up a sheet or blanket to make a background, or use a plain wall behind you.  Then, pose in as many silly ways as you can imagine and take the photos either by flipping the camera on your phone or setting up a tripod.  Here are a few ideas for making your photos memorable:

1. Face It

We tried all the crazy faces we could think of: bunny ears, big grins, serious faces, “deep in thought” faces, fish faces, sticking our tongues out…well, you’ll see for yourself.   It can actually be a funny way to see how similar your facial features really are to those of your children…

2. Give Yourself Props

For New Year’s Eve, I used my Silhouette Cameo cutting machine to make hats, mustaches, masks, and more out of cardstock and popsicle sticks for us to use.

We even got the extended family, my parents, to play along!

If you don’t want to make your own props, use things you already have around the house!  Get out various sunglasses, hats, or even old Halloween costumes.

3. You’ve Been Framed

Holding an empty photo frame can add another fun element to your snapshots.

4. Strip It

There are online photo editors like PicMonkey.com and Ribbet.com where you can upload your photos and turn them into collages totally free!  If you want that authentic photo booth feel, you can have it!  Just create your collage, print, cut, and voil·!

The best part about it?  Well, there are actually a few.

It’s easy, it’s free, and it’s fun for the whole family.  Plus, you can have all the entertainment you want without even having to leave the house.

And hey, some of the photos might turn out to be useful in the future, like on your Christmas cards or to embarrass your kids in front of their prom dates.

Here’s to families and fun!

Jul 15

Budgeting Must Be Convenient

By Patrick Kansa | Finances & Careers

You Need A (Convenient) Budget!Conventional wisdom holds that money is a contentious subject for couples that can lead to disagreements, especially if the spouses are not on the same page when it comes to goals and budgeting.

We’re fortunate in this day and age that there are all manner of tools that help you to keep your budget on track.  Gone are the complicated spreadsheets and manually balancing all of your various accounts against paper statements.

In the past (prior to, and for the first years of our marriage) I relied on Quicken, but that was really not built to be a budgeting tool.  Sure, it was handy for reconciling accounts against statements (thankfully, these were easy to download and import), but it wasn’t a vehicle conducive to actually allocating expenses against income.

ynab3_icon

A few years back I ran across a piece of software called You Need a Budget (aka YNAB) that hit all the right criteria, especially when it came to allocating your income to specific segments of the budget.

You can think of it as a sort of envelope system, just done electronically (and you can read EM’s analysis of YNAB right here).

Envelope Budgeting

So, we made the shift to this new tool.  The nice thing about the licensing is once you’ve bought the application, you can install it on multiple computers, so copies went right on to both of our computers.  It took some setup to synchronize the files across the home network, but we got it up and running.

The thing was, it just wasn’t convenient to use.  Yes, I could set aside some time (generally an hour chunk or so every week) to work on it, but my wife had a much more hectic schedule, especially once our second child arrived.  Booting up a computer, getting things synced, and then loading in all the receipts just took too much time.

That is, until YNAB 4 (and a companion app for our iPods) came along.  Along with all of the performance and visual improvements you’d expect from a major version upgrade came a change that was just one bullet-point, but made a world of difference – automatic syncing via DropBox.

easy button

Setup for this within YNAB was rather simple – just tell it that you want to store the budget files in your DropBox folder (rather than an “offline” location), and it syncs just like any other file.  With this, I did setup a share on it to my wife, so she could access it easily from her DropBox account, but that was the only change outside of YNAB itself.

At first, I was nervous about having this single repository of our finances sitting out in the cloud.  Ultimately, though, the data within DropBox is encrypted, and YNAB itself isn’t storing any account logins or passwords.  To me, the risks seemed low, especially when weighed against the benefit.

dropbox

What is that benefit?  To sum it up, it’s the automatic syncing of any updates.  What this means is that, as soon as I update something (say, entering a lunch expense against a credit card) and save it, it’s synced automatically, and within a minute or so, shows up on the other devices (be it a computer or iPod).

The other great thing about the app version is that it gracefully handles being offline.  This means you can enter your expenses, and once you’re back near a wifi signal, it can sync the changes up to the cloud.

In other words, you can enter the spend as soon as you’re incurring it, rather than having to pile them up to enter at the end of the week.  This also means you get a very handy view into where you are on the budget, to help stay within the limits that you’ve set.

While we’re still tightening up our discipline with the budget, this latest version of YNAB is helping us out quite a bit.  It’s just plain simple to use, and gives the both of us almost instant transparency into what our budgeting goals are, in terms of allocation and spend.

If you need a free DropBox account, you can sign up here (using that link gets you an extra 500 MB of storage).

If you’re looking to pick up YNAB, using this link will get you the best price plus get EM a small commission for referring you.

Jul 12

Meet the New Engaged Marriage Writing Team!

By Dustin | Check This Out

It’s a proud day in Engaged Marriage history!

Since the fall of 2009, I’ve been writing most of the content here on the blog, to the tune of over 350 posts.  I love writing for you and will continue to do so.

But as our community has grown, I’ve felt the need to add some fresh perspective to the site.  I decided it was time to seek out help to make the quality of your experience with Engaged Marriage better than ever.

After sending a single email to our newsletter subscribers and then sorting through nearly 100 amazing applicants (it’s truly humbling to see the number of people with a passion and talent for writing about marriage and family), I was fortunate enough to assemble a team of eight amazing columnists.

These very talented folks have become friends as we organized our new publishing schedule, and I know you’re going to LOVE their contributions.  They each offer unique perspectives, yet they believe deeply in the core mission and theme of Engaged Marriage.  And I need to give a special shout out to Amy Latta who will also be our new Editor.

To start, they’ll each be contributing a new post once per month (they started this week), so look for their insights every Monday and Wednesday with me filling in the gaps in between.  There’s going to be a LOT more actionable content for you to enjoy, so be sure to check back often.

I’m also going to expand our free newsletter to provide a summary of the new posts every other Saturday.  Be sure to sign up here so you don’t miss a thing.

Without further ado, I’d like to introduce your new writing team.  Please take a few minutes to reach out to them on their sites or social media profiles and say hello.

Enjoy!

Dustin

Kim Hall – Money & Career

Kim Hall

Kim Hall created Too Darn Happy to help you build stronger and more joyful relationships through offerings of fresh perspectives and practical advice. Having been a wife for thirty years and a mom for almost as long to two daughters, she also shares occasional cautionary tales of her own character building life experiences. Kim recently authored her first ebook, Practicing Gratitude and Discovering Joy-Thirty Days to a Happier You. You can connect with Kim on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, too!

Dawn Van Ness – Sex & Intimacy

Dawn Van Ness

Dawn Van Ness is a married 38-year-old with one child and is managing her own small marketing company, Shy Light Media, and a art and writing career, A Dawn Everyday. She writes for others more than for herself, but is passionate in everything that she does.

Patrick Kansa – Parenting

Patrick Kansa

I’m just a guy, married to a great woman, learning as I go how to best lead our little family of four.  I’m also a bit of a watch guy, as you can see by my articles over on WristWatchReview and ABlogToWatch.

Amy Latta – Family Fun & Crafts

Amy Latta

Amy Latta is the author of One Artsy Mama, where she shares a variety of project types including home decor, kids’ crafts, sewing, jewelry, and more. Recently, she published her first e-book, Crochet 101, to help beginners learn basic crochet stitches and techniques. She is happiest when creating something and enjoys making all kinds of projects with her 4 year old “Little Crafter.” In her spare time, Amy is a professional ballroom, latin, and swing dancer. When not on the dance floor or crafting, you can probably find her at Starbucks.

Julie Sibert – Sex & Intimacy

Julie Sibert

Julie Sibert writes and speaks about sexual intimacy in marriage. You can follow her blog at www.IntimacyInMarriage.com. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska, with her husband and their two boys.

Debi Walter – Romance & Date Nights

Debi Walter

Tom and Debi Walter have been cultivating their romantic vineyard for most of their 34 years of marriage. It has been their conviction from the start. Now they are passionate about helping other couples discover the rich harvest of romance available to them no matter the current season. Through their marriage blog, The Romantic Vineyard established in 2008, they provide regular posts about growing your marriage for God’s glory.

E.J. Smith – Help for Troubled Marriages

EJ Smith

E.J. Smith is the face (and mouth) behind SimplyEJ.com. Born in New Jersey, and transplanted to Texas, this self-professed holistic health nut is currently completing her Masters in Mental Health Counseling. Raised Catholic and the wife of an active duty Marine, E.J. uses introspection and pragmatism to help readers create loving, fulfilling relationships from the inside out.

Mary Beth Foster – Family Fun & Crafts with an emphasis on DIY home projects for couples!

Mary Beth Foster

Mary Beth Foster is a full-time high school English teacher who lives in Mint Hill, NC, with her husband of two years and their two cats. She tackles craft projects, home renovations, and culinary adventures in her free time. Read more about her creative endeavors on her blog: http://fosterhouseblog.blogspot.com/.

Jul 11

Have Great Sex by Lying to Your Spouse

By Dawn Van Ness | Sex & Family Planning

Have Great Sex by Lying to Your SpouseEven if you had some idea that sex would decline in frequency after marriage, maybe you had no idea that marriage with work, family, friends, and the C word – children – would mean sneaking sex in whenever or wherever you could.

Whether you are needing sex for intimacy and connection with your spouse, or as a personal or mutual stress relief, or as a mood lifter, you may feel dangerously close to thinking sex “just isn’t possible for us anymore,” not in any really free, fun, or satisfying way.

With all the demands life puts on you as a responsible adult, sex may have fallen off the life map all together.

And this might have already pushed away your spouse and hurt you both emotionally.

Sex Is Not What I Thought It Was!

But the first step to finding time for sex is saying this: sex is not what I thought it was.

The feelings, hormones, lifestyles, and environments that enable and drive sex are not consistent throughout life or within relationships.  That is why classic romance movies fade to black immediately after the blissful couple kiss – instead of “The End” or “La Fin” they should tack on “and then reality intruded.”

It isn’t that you won’t have your “happily ever after,” it is you will have to rethink it and how sex will be.

We all grow up with expectations and with attitudes of “that won’t happen to us,” but when you look up from your planner or smart phone calendar app and find yourself in a sex desert, you realize with a big “!” it happened!

It Happened!

What happened?

You did not find time for sex.

Why?

Work was stressful.  Deadlines and due dates were pressing.  The kids were sick.  The grass was getting high.  The air conditioner broke.  The dog threw up in the bedroom.  Your mother died.  You were terminated from your job.

You didn’t feel like shaving because you were tired from dealing with your kid’s angst and you just don’t feel desirable because of the extra weight you are both carrying around and you sometimes don’t even hold hands anymore so how can you ask your spouse to do the things you use to not have to ask to have done?!

Why should you have to ask?  Isn’t there something wrong with that?  Shouldn’t sex be intuitive?

Maybe you are thinking you won’t ask because it would be so unnatural after how natural you came together.  There was attraction.  There was intuition.  Maybe you never had to ask for a deep, slow kiss before.

But now, you have to ask your spouse to listen to the words coming out of your mouth no matter what you are saying.  You feel tuned out and that turns you off.

I understand how this happens from my own life experiences and the experiences shared with me from male and female friends.

So what can you do?

Lie to Your Spouse!

If you and your spouse are physically and psychologically in a healthy space, meaning you don’t need medical, mental, or spiritual intervention, you are going to have to lie to your spouse – at least it will feel like a lie.

Text or message or whisper to your spouse while they butter their bagel, in a relaxed moment or any moment you can catch, “I still desire you” or  “I miss you”  “I miss being with you.”  If you are more racy and bold, tell them what act or body parts you are missing.  Then fantasize about sex.  Then repeat.

You are priming the pump, so to speak, with no pun or dirty entendre intended.  Maybe.

Express Your Sexual Self

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Start expressing sexual desire.  Letting the person know you crave them is sometimes all that is needed, and saying that you crave your partner will race your heart or warm your body.

If it is difficult to get the message through, keep it up.

Ok, that was a cheap pun.   But you might be smiling now?

Flirting with your spouse is a skill and is another step back into the bedroom, or living room couch, or the home-office chair without the arm rests.

Be silly.  Be serious.  Be naughty.  Take a few risks like touching your spouse above their clothes but in an intimate area.  And invite them to do the same.  Go beneath their clothes if preferable.  Hold each other close intimately even if sex is off the table.  On the floor…  On the rug…

Keep smiling.

Be giving with expectations of being given in return.

Tell your spouse, “If the kids weren’t around, I’d so do ….”

Say you want them.

Say that you need them.

Say you want and need sex.

Say what you want to do.

Say what you will do.

Say what you will allow.

Or if you lack the vocabulary (and you should really work on it if you don’t have it yet!) just let their imagination wander in any fantasy rich way that gets them wanting you.

You and Your Spouse Deserve Great Sex

Sex, really good sex, “jump up and slap your mother because she never told you how fun it was” sex should always be a priority for you and your spouse – you deserve it and it is your right as a couple, no matter how much responsibility you have, to have really good sex.

You are in the most intimate, and thereby comfortable, of all relationships, you are sexually healthy, you know how to prevent pregnancy, you can find time for sex, and you should.

On The Porch

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Because one day, you will be old, wrinkled, and weak, wouldn’t it be fun to be on the porch with the one you shared your life with and recall all the fun things you did together.   Especially what you shared with no one else!

It’s time to make some “Remember when…” memories.

It’s time for you to start finding time for sex.

 

(Photos provided free of copywrite by Fotolio, a partner of Microsoft.)

Jul 09

How Counting Your Blessings Can Help Lower Your Debt

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

How Counting Your Blessings Can Help Lower Your DebtYou have decided to get on board the Dave Ramsey debt freedom train, but you are having trouble keeping up your momentum.

Every time you start to make a bit of progress, you get derailed.

You might have trouble resisting the siren call of I deserve this, or My kids shouldn’t have to suffer because of my bad decisions, or Everybody goes to Disney.

Perhaps it’s painful emotions that stop you in your tracks: fear, anger, anxiousness, bitterness, deprivation, or even hopelessness.

Whatever the case, you need a different approach, because what you are doing just isn’t working.

You are powering your new journey with the same old engine

While you made the conscious decision to take control of your money, you may not have addressed the automatic behaviors that have been years in the making. We all have scripts running behind the scenes in our minds, often without our knowledge or consent. Somewhere, somehow, someway, these scripts were laid down as the the playbook for how things are done.

For example, you might have some scripts that sound like this:

Being a good parent translates into buying everything on your child’s Christmas list.

Taking a great vacation equals spending thousands on a family getaway.

Having a positive self-image requires regular and large investments in clothes, makeup, and jewelry.

The fuel for these scripts is supplied by emotions, such as pride, jealousy, insecurity and more.

You are allowing others to plot your path

While emotions provide the fuel, culture ignites it.

Marketers conduct exhaustive studies of what causes people to spend money. Companies spend billions of dollars using that information to convince you that what you are and what you have is not enough, and that you should be able to have whatever you want. When you buy into their message of discontent, you effectively give up control of your spending.

The solution is to create a firewall of gratitude

Firewalls have one purpose: to keep dangerous things out.

Robert Emmons, author of Thanks! How the new science of gratitude can make you happier, described another type of protection:

Gratitude can serve as a firewall of protection against some of the effects of these insidious advertising messages. When a person wants what they have, they are less susceptible to messages that encourage them to want what they don’t have or what others have.

Such a simple concept with such powerful possibilities!

When you develop a firewall of gratitude, you are erecting a barrier of thankfulness which effectively blocks those negative, cultural messages of the necessity of being, doing and having more.

Learning how to practice gratitude

Most importantly, understand that gratitude is not conditional.

wrote previously on this subject:

At its core, gratitude is about learning to be deeply grateful in the midst of the storms, whether relational, spiritual, vocational or financial.

The apostle Paul wrote a letter of joy and gratitude—from prison—to the Philippians: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.”

Former Prisoner of War Commander Paul Galanti, said “There’s no such thing as a bad day when you have a door knob on the inside of the door.”

Another wartime prisoner in a concentration camp, Corrie ten Boom, wrote of being grateful for the continual infestation of fleas in her barracks, because it kept the guards away. She and her sister were thus able to read and share the encouragement of the Bible with the other women.

Being grateful for discovering weakness revealed, for a working doorknob, for the torment of fleas.

Gratitude simply requires regular practice in seeing all things with a fresh perspective.

Below are five ways you can begin:

1. Write down three things a day for which you are grateful. To quote Robert Emmons again, “This practice works, I think, because it consciously, intentionally focuses our attention on developing more grateful thinking and on eliminating ungrateful thoughts. It helps guard against taking things for granted; instead, we see gifts in life as new and exciting. I do believe that people who live a life of pervasive thankfulness really do experience life differently than people who cheat themselves out of life by not feeling grateful.”

2. At dinnertime, go around the table and take turns sharing a “thorn and a rose”. This means recalling a difficult point in your day, plus one thing for which you were grateful. As time goes on, you may discover what others have: finding gratitude in every situation becomes easier, and the focus on the negatives fades.

3. Keep a Thanks-Giving Journal for your spouse. Darren Hardy of Success Magazine relayed a story of having a tiff with his wife and later writing a card to her in which he shared his gratitude for her. While he struggled at first to look for those blessings, he found his attitude towards her had completely changed to one of deep love and thankfulness once he finished with his message. He expanded his writing to a year long journal of notes of gratitude to and for his wife. This project caused him to look for the good every day in his wife,  which in turn changed the way she responded to him. The process produced absolutely the best year of their marriage, and it has just kept getting better and better.

4. Make a game of gratitude. If you are traveling with your family, you can call out anything you see for which you are grateful. It can be simple, like a green light, or more difficult, like a pile of manure (fertilizes crops!). You can take turns calling out objects along the way, and asking members to see how they might be grateful for them. This is great practice for seeing things in a fresh perspective.

5. Find gratitude right where you are. If you are having difficulty finding your blessings, here is a snippet from my free Practicing Gratitude ebook to get you rolling:

Draw an imaginary circle six feet around where you are right now. Carefully view everything in that space as a potential object of your thankfulness. Here are just a few things you might see: a floor, a roof, windows, air, appliances, clothing, your hands and feet. Think beyond the object to what it represents: freedom, relationships, the ability to work or to hold a loved one’s hand, security, safety, warmth, etc. Express your gratitude for those things. Nothing is too big or small to qualify.

Take note of who or what is bothering you today. Change your perspective so you can see the good, and express your gratitude. Did you have a run-in with a surly person? Give thanks for the reminder to always be gracious and respectful.

The firewall of gratitude is a force so mighty it will make you faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Ok. Maybe not.

However, counting your blessings certainly will strengthen your marriage and provide a shield against over-spending. In essence, it will help you find happiness wherever you are, so that you can apply your combined energy, joy and optimism to lowering your debt!

How can you be more intentional about practicing gratitude?

(Photo by latteda)