Monthly Archives: October 2013

Oct 28

Troubled Marriages & Technology (Part 2 of 2)

By E.J. Smith | Communication , General , Help

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So as you’ll recall, last month I wrote about two of the major ways technology can screw up marriages in Troubled Marriages and Technology (Part 1).  And to be completely honest, it was a heavy conversation.  This month, as promised, I want to talk about some of the ways that you and your spouse can use technology to further your connection, or even rekindle it!

Truth be told, there appear to be far more resources and experts out there talking about how technology, and specifically things like social media and the internet, are taking their toll on relationships.  Last month, I added my own voice to the chorus.  At the same time, I want to let you know that it doesn’t have to be that way.  The Internet, your iPhone and twitter account in and of themselves are not negative.

Believe me, as a military spouse who has endured deployments, the Internet has been a major blessing for my family.  A Facebook message from my husband could leave me grinning ear-to-ear for a week at a time.  And last year when we spent several months apart due to a training assignment, Skype/FaceTime chats allowed us to interact in a more dynamic manner.  Suffice it to say I’m a firm believer that when utilized in the right manner, technology can help couples maintain and even strengthen their marital bonds.

Marriage Affirming Uses of Technology

1)    Playful Flirtation

Remember when you were dating/engaged or first married, and there were those “little things” that each of you would do for the other?  Perhaps it was a little note left where the other person would find it, or flowers for no reason at all?  Not wanting to get off the phone (You hang up first… No, you hang up first!), or driving massively out of one’s way to visit?

Those things were great, weren’t they?

Well now you’re married, and if you’re like me, your life has gotten busier over the years.  Kid stressors, school stressors, work stressors have weaseled their way into your life, and taken up way more time than you ever intended.  Scheduled date nights and sexy time are great, but you miss the everyday romance.

Technology-Facilitated Fix: The Text Message   

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 15 years, you may be familiar with a little gadget known as a cellphone.  You more than likely have a feature on it called “text messaging”.  In addition to its practical uses, such as reminding your spouse to pick up milk on the way home, you can also use it as a tool to infuse little romantic gestures into every day life.

Picture this:  You’re having a really stressful day—whatever that looks like for you—and in the middle of that stress, all of a sudden your phone beeps indicating you have a message.  You check the message, “I love you, (pet name)!” Are you smiling at the thought?  I am. Some how in the middle of a hectic day, hearing from my husband seems to make everything a little more manageable.  The next time you’re apart from your spouse, and a loving thought about them crosses your mind—please let him/her know!  Romance doesn’t have to entail huge gestures!

Other options include snapping pictures of things that make you think of them, or even a picture of you and sending them along.

2)    A Wealth of Knowledge and Resources at Your Fingertips

This second tip is one that I think should be a “no-brainer” but at the same time, a staggering number of people email me, Facebook message me, text me asking how to go about creating a thoughtful or romantic experience for their partner.  I’m flattered they think to ask me, but the truth is—the answer is already at their fingertips, and it’s the source for probably 99% of the ideas I’m going to give them.  The answer?  “Google it!”

Technology Facilitated Fix:  Google. 

Yes, seriously.  I don’t mean to sound glib.  The answer really is that simple.  If you want an idea for creating romantic evening for your spouse, cooking a nice dinner, or topics of conversation to get you guys talking again—look no further than the Google search bar.  I’m guessing that’s how you stumbled onto EM.com to begin with—at least that’s how I first found Dustin’s page!

If you’re feeling fancy, you can also check out Pinterest.  Many people, including myself, have created specific boards full of romantic ideas, quotes and tips.  You can check out my Couples Therapy board by clicking on the link.

3) Status Symbol

You might recall that in Part I of this article series, I mentioned how Facebook posts taking vague (or not-so-vague) digs at your spouse were definitely NOT a good idea in terms of helping your marriage stay healthy.  Neither is implying that you’re getting divorced every time you have a fight by changing your status.  You’d think I was talking about teenagers, right?  But I assure you, I’ve seen full-grown adults with jobs, kids, careers and even graduate degrees behave in this manner.

Technology-Facilitated Fix:  E-go Fluffing!

Despite the fact that the older we get and the less our worlds seem to revolve around our Facebook statuses, social media provides a wonderful outlet for gushing about your spouse in a positive manner.  I call it “e-go fluffing.”  Something I hear over and over again from married folks is that they fear they’ve become dull or boring to their spouses.  Some even feel taken for granted.

While social media cannot begin to undo the totality of those thoughts or beliefs, sharing that you’re going out on a date night, or hanging at home with a cheesy movie can be a fantastic way of communicating your happiness.  Reveling in your partner’s accomplishments on a semi-public platform is also great for bolstering positive feelings.

“Out celebrating my brilliant wife and her new job!”

I particularly love when people gush about each other on their anniversaries—

“11 years ago today, I married my best friend.  What a road it has been!   I’d do it all over again, just to be with you.”

—Seriously, how cute was that?  (And yes, that was a real status I saw a few months back). Again, these are little gestures to compliment some of the more complex and time-consuming tasks of rekindling a marriage.  At the same time, I’ve yet to meet a person who didn’t enjoy seeing/hearing/reading that their partner was proud of them.

So there you have it—3 Ways to Utilize Technology to Rekindle Your Connection!

1) The Text Message

2) Google It!

3) E-go Fluffing

Now it’s your turn!  I want to hear from you in the comments!  Have you tried any of these tips?  Do you have any other uses for technology that really seem to help out your marriage?  The EM community wants to know!!!

 Image Source:  Courtesy of FreeDigitalphotos.net and anankkml (photographer)

 

Oct 27

The Tortoise and the Hare in Bed: Fertility Awareness as a Blessing

By Dustin | Sex & Family Planning

Note from Dustin: I’m excited to share today’s guest post on the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM).  You may know that my wife and I practice Natural Family Planning (NFP).  The two methods have a lot of similarities – the main difference is that NFP uses no contraception while FAM utilizes barrier methods during the fertile phase. 

If that sounds like Chinese to you, then read on and learn a LOT of great info about your (or your wife’s) fertility cycle – I promise it will have a positive impact on your marriage!

In the fabled inter-species athletic competition, the tortoise moved along steadily and slowly while the hare sprinted in bursts.  In the race for babies, the man is the tortoise and the woman is the hare.  Male fertility is constant and steady, while women’s fertility is cyclical, expressed in ovulatory bursts.

Rather than competing, however, men and women can work together to understand how fertility works, and how to manage fertility for the benefit of their relationship, their health, and their spirituality.  It is important to study and pray over use of contraception as an important aspect of stewardship in marriage.

The fertility awareness method (FAM) offers a natural, safe, and low-tech approach to fertility management.  It gives people an opportunity to see the body as an amazing creation with which we may learn to cooperate in achieving or avoiding pregnancy.  Even if a couple chooses a different method, an understanding of fertility is essential in making a well-informed choice.

***

First, it is necessary to understand human fertility.  Like the tortoise who persisted through the race, male fertility is steady and ever-present.  From puberty until old age, the testes produce 200 million sperm each day, and they are always on the move.  Immature sperm swim through a 20-foot long series of thin tubes (the epididymis) like Olympic athletes, spending twelve days perfecting their swimming technique and attaining maturity.  Ejaculations are dramatic and quick, but fertility is consistently and steadily at work inside the male body.

Fortunately, male fertility is only less than half of the pregnancy equation.  It takes a sperm, an egg, and fertile cervical fluid to make a baby.  Women are often blamed for unexpected pregnancies, but unlike men who are constantly fertile, women are only fertile 30% of the time.  Like the hare that ran the race in sprints with plenty of rest stops, a woman’s body rests until the egg literally bursts out of the ovary, ready for fertilization.  A woman is fertile for awhile (8-11 days per month), and then her reproductive system rests.

Unlike a man’s constant sperm production, a woman is born with all the eggs she will ever have.  During each menstrual cycle, 10-15 eggs develop, and one beats out the others and wins the opportunity to ovulate.  It may seem that menstruation is the most noticeable part of the female cycle, but to the body, ovulation is the main event.  Reproductive hormones are low during menstruation, and reach a coordinated peak to achieve ovulation.

The body intensively prepares for ovulation, readying a woman’s body for pregnancy each month.  Around 6-9 days after the beginning of menstruation, estrogen hormones make a woman increasingly fertile.  Often her skin is clearer, hair shinier, body stronger, and sex drive enhanced.  The cervix itself shifts in the body and becomes soft, wet, and open, an attractive gateway for sperm that must pass through the cervix, through the uterus, and into the fallopian tubes to find the egg.  The cervix begins producing cervical fluid, which becomes increasingly plentiful, strong, and stretchy as fertility peaks.  This fluid provides microscopic pathways for sperm to swim, and provides sugary nutrients that provide sustenance to the frantic swimmers.  Sperm can live inside the cervix, nourished by this fluid, for up to 5 days awaiting ovulation.  This means that a couple may have sex on Monday and conceive on Friday!  The egg lives for only 12-24 hours, but the powerful cervical fluid extends the fertile time for days.

While the egg is maturing in the ovary, a protective follicle surrounds it.  After ovulation, the follicle is left behind and soon begins producing progesterone, the hormone that is dominant in the second half of a woman’s cycle.  Progesterone is a heat-inducing hormone that slightly raises a woman’s body temperature.  If a woman becomes pregnant, the body maintains this progesterone rise, sustaining the newly-created life for several months until the endomentrium takes over this function.  If a woman is not pregnant, progesterone drops and menstruation begins.

***

Humans persistently refuse to accommodate the body’s reproductive potential.  Though a woman may ovulate 400 times during her fertile years, she may desire only a few children, or even none.  Contraceptive methods offer a variety of body metaphors, as well as techniques for preventing pregnancy.  Barrier methods, including condoms, cervical caps, and diaphragms, treat the cervix as a door.  They function by blocking sperm from entering the door.  Spermicides, often used with barrier methods, treat the sperm as enemy, killing them on contact.  Hormonal methods treat fertility as a disease to be medicated away.  Pills, injections, and implants medicate the body with synthetic hormones that abolish female fertility.

Like some diseases, fertility makes a come-back when treatment is stopped.  Similarly, permanent methods terminate fertility by snipping or blocking the reproductive anatomy of either a man or woman, with slim possibility for reversal.

FAM treats fertility as a gift to be stewarded.  It allows a couple to avoid or achieve pregnancy by making choices about intercourse based upon a woman’s fertility.  A woman daily observes and charts her fertility symptoms and interprets them according to a set of rules.  On days when she is fertile, she abstains or uses a barrier method to prevent pregnancy.  On days when she is infertile, she may have sex without any contraception.

Male fertility makes pregnancy a constant possibility, but female fertility limits the fertile time to 8-11 days per month.  Thus, contraception is totally unnecessary 2/3 of the time.

A woman using FAM observes her cervical fluid and temperature (some women use only cervical fluid).  After menstruation, a woman’s vagina is usually “dry”, like the inside of your cheek, for a few days.  Then, cervical fluid is produced and becomes increasingly plentiful, strong, and stretchy as fertility increases.

After ovulation, she becomes dry again.  A woman watches this dry-wet-dry pattern by observing the cervical fluid present at the vaginal opening.  She does this by wiping across the opening with a finger or tissue before using the bathroom.  She charts her findings each day.  If she also uses temperature as an indicator of fertility, she takes her temperature each morning and looks for a rise; the rise is sign that ovulation has occurred.

After she observes and records her fertility signs, she interprets them according to a set of rules.  The rules explain how to detect the beginning and the end of fertility each cycle.  The rules are called rules because they are not flexible.  People may break the rules by not charting daily or having unprotected sex during their fertile time, but they cannot blame the method itself for a resulting pregnancy!

When people are taught properly and use the method consistently, the fertility awareness method yields effectiveness rates of 97-99%.  This means that if 100 couples used fertility awareness correctly for one year, 1-3 of them would become pregnant.  The fertility awareness method can be more effective than condoms, and nearly as effective as the pill.

People who use fertility awareness say it enhances their intimate communication, increases a woman’s self-knowledge, and helps both partners to be involved in preventing pregnancy.  FAM helps Christians value the body as a good part of creation, and to recognize the integral wholeness of body, mind, and soul.

An additional benefit is that FAM offers a two-for-one deal.  Like a reversible winter coat that offers contrasting fashion options, FAM may be used either to avoid pregnancy or to achieve it.  It can easily be used “in reverse”, using the fertile indicators to time intercourse for pregnancy achievement.  Though reproduction is a persistent bodily pursuit, many people find it to be elusive rather than insistent.  For people who experience this heart-breaking disappointment, fertility awareness is often the first step toward exploring and resolving infertility.

***

The tortoise won the fabled race between himself and the hare.  The foolish hare raced, rushed and lost.  The wise tortoise proved that “slow and steady wins the race.”

In the race for pregnancy, the tortoise (male fertility that is steady) and the hare (female fertility that happens in bursts) don’t need to compete.  By understanding each other’s bodies and cycles, husbands and wives can cooperate in this intimate part of life.  They can thank God for sex by receiving sexuality and fertility as a gift, enjoying it with gratitude and happiness.

Jenell Paris is professor of anthropology at Messiah College in Grantham, PA.  She is author of Birth Control for Christians: Making Wise Choices (Baker 2003).

Oct 23

PVC Pipe Spider Tutorial

By Mary Beth Foster | Household Management

PVC Pipe Spider Tutorial

With Halloween approaching in just over a week, we’re getting the house ready for trick-or-treaters with a spooky giant spider!  Here’s how to make your own giant yard spider from PVC pipe.

Materials

Small plywood board (approximately 1’ x 2’)
6 10’ sections of ¾” PVC pipe cut as follows:
8 4’ lengths
8 2’ lengths
4 1’ lengths
8 ¾” 45-degree PVC elbows
8 ¾” 90-degree PVC elbows
PVC Primer
PVC Cement
4 ¾” U-shaped bolts
1-2 cans of black spray paint
2 black trash bags

Some notes on materials:

  • I used ¾” PVC pipe for this project because it was inexpensive, but if you want a bigger, more substantial spider with thicker legs, you could certainly use wider pipe.  Just make sure you also adjust the width of your elbows and u-bolts to match the width of your PVC pipe.

  • The “small plywood board” acts as a base to which to attach the legs; the measurements don’t need to be precise, nor does it need to be plywood.  I used a spare piece of plywood board I had in my garage from another project.  Just make sure it’s lightweight (the PVC “legs” don’t hold much weight), and make sure you cut the four smallest pieces of pipe as wide as the board you’ll be using.

Let’s make a spider!

  1. Attach 45-degree elbows to both ends of each 1’ pipe.

  2. Position the 4 1’ pipes where you intend to attach them to the plywood board.  Use a pencil to mark them.

PVC Pipe Spider Tutorial

  1. Drill holes for your u-bolts.  Here’s a trick for making sure you drill the holes in the right place: use a permanent marker to color the tips of your u-bolt; then press the tips to the board.  The faintly stamped impressions left on the board will show you exactly where to drill your holes.

  2. Attach the 1’ lengths of pipe to the bottom of the board.  Tighten the bolts enough to secure the pipes in place, but don’t fasten them securely yet. You’ll need to be able to slide them around to glue the 45-degree elbows in place.

PVC Pipe Spider Tutorial

  1. Glue the 45-degree elbows to the pipes using PVC primer and cement.  I’d never used these products before, but after I got the lids off the cans (which required a pair of pliers, a grip of steel, and ultimately my husband’s help), the actual gluing was pretty simple.  Apply primer to both pieces you are gluing together (the inside of the elbow and the outside of the pipe).  Immediately apply cement to both pieces; don’t wait for the primer to dry.  Push the pipe and elbow firmly together and hold for ten seconds.  Your elbow is now permanently fused to your length of 1’ pipe.  Repeat this process to attach the remaining seven elbows to each end of the 1’ pipe.  Do one at a time; the primer and cement dry fast.

  2. Use the same procedure to glue the 2’ lengths of pipe to the other side of the 45-degree elbows. At this point, the weight of the pipe will make your spider’s legs start to fall over.  To hold the legs in place, use a wrench to tighten your u-bolts.  Adjust the pipe so the legs flare out at different angles, and tighten your bolts so they stand up straight.

  3. Glue a 90-degree elbow to the end of each 2’ length of pipe.  Make sure the rounded part faces up and the open part faces down.  The remainder of your spider’s legs will extend from these joints, so you’ll want to flare them outward, like this.

PVC Pipe Spider Tutorial

  1. Firmly stick the end of each 4’ pipe into each 90 degree elbow.  Do not glue the 4’ sections of pipe in place unless you have a space in your house big enough to store something that looks like this.

PVC Pipe Spider Tutorial

Maybe now you’re thinking, “Great idea!  Why glue any of the pipes together?  It’ll be so much easier to store if I can take it apart!”  I thought the same thing: I figured I would just fit the pipes together without glue so I could disassemble it for easy storage.  Unfortunately, it quickly became clear to me that the legs weren’t sturdy enough to hold up the plywood base without glue.  Gluing everything but the 4’ sections of pipe in place leaves you with a base that’s sturdy but still a manageable size for storage.

  1. Spray paint it black (unless you want an albino spider).  I left it on sawhorses to do this, but you could just as easily set it out in the yard for painting. You’ll need to flip it over to paint the bottom.

  2. Stuff two black garbage bags with leaves, one about ¾ full, the other about half full.  Use duct tape to to tape the corners of the back in so it’s more ovular and less, well, like a garbage bag full of leaves.

  3. Use duct tape to attach the garbage bags to the “platform” formed by the plywood board.  Viola!  A spider.

PVC Pipe Spider Tutorial

Even with glue reinforcing most of the joints, this was still a little less sturdy than I imagined it would be, so we did two more things to support it.  First, we dug each leg into the ground about ½”.  Second, we added a leftover piece of PVC pipe under the board to support it (it’s held in place by a long nail driven into the top of the board).

Here it is at night.  Spooky!  How are you preparing your house for trick-or-treaters?

PVC Pipe Spider Tutorial

Oct 21

Wives: Do You Know Why Your Orgasm Matters?

By Julie Sibert | General , Sex & Family Planning

sexual pleasureHow many husbands would continue to have sex if they rarely or never had an orgasm?

Inconceivable, right?

We snicker at such a scenario because it’s just so… well, crazy!  Who among us can even remotely imagine any husband consistently having sex without the likelihood of climaxing?

Not me. Not you. Not anyone, really.

Yet, many wives experience sex with no pleasure on a regular basis. They rarely or never climax during sexual intimacy.

The reasons for a wife’s lack of sexual pleasure vary.

Some don’t think they deserve it.   Some  have yet to learn enough about their own bodies to understand what it will take for them to climax.  Other wives have husbands who are selfish lovers, devoting not even an ounce of compassion toward their wife’s orgasm.

Of course, there are more than a few wives who entered marriage with distorted theology — that sex is gross or wrong or “just for him” or serves no other purpose beyond baby-making.

For a wife peering through the lens of skewed theology, she remains entrenched in a Christian rhetoric void of the biblical message that her sexual pleasure in marriage is good and sacred — even God-designed.

And then there also are wives who just see no value in having an orgasm. Maybe they’ve had one; maybe they haven’t. For whatever reason, though, they are too tired, too spent, too done to give even a passing glance at sex in general, let alone sex that is soul-drenching and mind-blowing.

Are you in any of the above camps?

If so, here are three reasons why your orgasm matters:

1. God designed it.

He could have left it out, you know.

He is the creator of the universe, after all.  It’s His gig.  He called all the shots.  He spoke and things appeared.  Animals, plants, water, sky, people.  The very design of your body was His idea alone.

Your clitoris was His idea. And it serves no other purpose but sexual pleasure. No. Other. Purpose.

Clearly, sexual pleasure isn’t just for your husband. It is for you too.

If we as married Christians long to have His truths flood our hearts, then why do we stumble in embracing His gift of orgasm?  The Lord has vested interest in your sexual pleasure. Do you?

2. Orgasm will make your marriage better.

I can tell when my husband and I have gone too long without sex.  We just aren’t very nice to each other.

On the other hand, when we are regularly enjoying and nurturing our sexual intimacy, it softens us to each other.  We are able to extend more grace.  We like each other better.  It makes our house run smoother and it sets a good example for our kids.

Yes, you climaxing is good for your marriage.

If you are experiencing sexual pleasure, then sex isn’t just something on your “to do” list.  It becomes a priority.

And if your husband is like most husbands, he enjoys sex more when you climax.  (If you are a husband reading this and you are a selfish lover, stop it.  You are robbing your marriage and your wife.  And dishonoring the Lord.)

3. Orgasm is an exclusive privilege.

I could have written that orgasm is a great stress reducer and that all these wonderfully healthy things happen in your body when you climax.  That’s all true, by the way.

BUT, at the core of those benefits (and #1 and #2 mentioned above) is this element of exclusivity.

A husband and wife being able to bring each other sexual pleasure is an experience exclusive to their marriage relationship.  They can’t get it some place else, at least not biblically or morally.

Why does that matter? Because something reserved only for the two of you carries with it profound and tender significance. Climaxing is a spiritual, physical and emotional manifestation of your covenant relationship.

Yes, your orgasm matters.  If you are sexually inhibited or simply want to know the best kept secret to mind-blowing sex, then decide today to right the ship on making sexual pleasure less of an “extra” and more of a “sure thing.”

Oct 16

From Drab to Fab E-Book Bundle – 15 Awesome Books for $1 Each!

By Dustin | Book & Product Reviews

From Drab to Fab E-Book Bundle - 15 Awesome Books for $1 Each!

I’m really excited to share a fun and super-useful e-book bundle sale that’s being hosted by our friends at the Dating Divas this week.  Check out the details below (our book is included)!

Hello from the Divas!  We want to bring out the FABULOUS in all of you! With the help of a bunch of our amazing blogger friends, we gathered up 15 of our favorite ebooks – and we’re offering a KILLER deal on them. The focus of this particular ebook bundle? To bring out the FABULOUS in YOU!

From improving your hairstyle, wardrobe, or marriage, to releasing weight and eating healthier for YOU to wowing the holiday company with delicious food and gifts and improving your family life with family dinner, delicious cookies, a more organized home, and fun journaling time with your kids… this ebook bundle is for you!

The Drab to Fab Ebook Bundle: Letting the Fabulous In You Shine Through this Fall includes 15 ebooks for just $15!!!! That’s a steal! With individual prices ranging from $2.99 to $37, this is one deal you just can’t pass up.

This collection is only available until 8 a.m. PST on October 20th. There will be no late sales offered.

Get Your E-book Bundle!Click Here to Check Out the Bundle and Get All 15 Books for Only $1 Each!

  1. The A to Z Guide: 26 Ways in 26 Days to a Happier Healthier Marriage by The Dating Divas {$9.97} This ebook shared the heart and soul of the Dating Divas and all our best tips for having a healthy and happy marriage. Real women sharing real success stories and advice, put it to use and it could change your marriage forever!

  2. Cookie Cravings: 30 All Time Favorite Recipes by Maria of Two Peas and Their Pod and Heidi of Foodie Crush {$7.99} DROOL! You will never have a need to go in search of a cookie recipe again. This recipe book has every cookie recipe you could possibly need!

  3. Discovering Your Style: In 7 Days or Less by Ashley of Flats to Flip Flops {$6.99} Unless you are a total fashionista, your life may be too busy to stay up-to-date on the latest trends. Enter in: Ashley and her ebook! Fashion isn’t always about the latest trends at it is more about YOU – your wardrobe is a reflection of you! Discover your style in this ebook!

  4. The Family Dinner Project by Stephanie of Somewhat Simple and Becca of Blue Cricket Design {$9.95} Looking for a way to have some quality family time? Get your family excited to be around the dinner table together with all of Stephanie and Becca’s fun ideas!

  5. Family Favorites Cookbook by Ruthie of What’s Cooking with Ruthie {$5.99} Ever wish you could cook like the best cook in your family that everyone talks about? Now you can! This book contains the best tried and true family favorites!

  6. Healthy Eating the Happy Gal Way by Jenny of The Happy Gal {$29.97} Tired of diets that don’t last? Try Healthy Eating The Happy Gal Way. More than a collection of recipes, this is a how-to guide for eating healthy, losing weight, and feeling great. The Happy Gal makes it easy!

  7. How to Be a Super Hero Family: The Roadmap by Mom It Forward {$2.99} This eBook provides tips for creating a family mission statement, setting family goals, and information on holding family meetings, identifying roles and responsibilities, and having the right balance of family activities on your monthly calendar.

  8. Life According to Me by Steph of Somewhat Simple {$9.97} Maybe you aren’t the best at capturing your kid’s cute personalities through blog posts and photos, or maybe you just want their life shared through their own eyes. This is the CUTEST journal you could buy and your kids will have a BLAST with it!

  9. No Brainer Wardrobe by Hayley of The Tiny Twig {$7.99} The No Brainer Wardrobe is a book to help women learn to love the clothes they have, lose the clothes they hate, and shop for items to fill the gaps. The book contains over 80 pages of content, including images outlining outfit selections, how to shop, and how to build a lookbook.

  10. Organized in 20 Days by Sarah of Organized Mom {$6.99} The name says it all and we’re even including her “tasks and habits” to do lists!

  11. The Ultimate Date Night Book by The Dating Divas {$37.00} Dating your spouse doesn’t get easier than this! The Dating Divas compiled their TOP Date ideas in one beautiful ebook to help you and your spouse have more FUN on date night.

  12. Reuse-Refresh, Repurpose: 20 Ways to Breathe New Life into Old Clothes by Kristen of The Frugal Girl {$3.99} 57-page ebook, is filled with 20 useful, practical, manageable ideas that will help you get the most out of your clothes.

  13. The Ultimate Hairstyle Handbook: Everyday Hairstyles for the EveryDay Girl by Abby of Twist me Pretty {$10.00} You’ve probably pinned Abby’s hairstyles on Pinterest but haven’t taken the time yet to look at the steps and do it – here you have it all in one place and her beautiful photos show you exactly how to create the cutest hairstyles!

  14. 15 Minute Marriage Makeover by Dustin of Engaged Marriage {$7.99} Explore the Four Pillars of a happy marriage, spending one week on each: Communication that Counts, Real Romance for Real Busy Couples, Better Sex & Deeper Intimacy, Control Your Finances…Together. Watch your marriage improve with these extra 15 minutes a day spent on it!

  15. 20 Gifts Under $5 by Kristyn of Lil’ Luna & Jamielyn of I Heart Naptime {$9.97} Easy and fabulous gift idea for anyone on your list, for any occasion. This E-book will save you so much time and every single project looks like so fun to make. Includes all the printables needed for each project!

Get Your E-book Bundle!Click Here to Check Out the Bundle and Get All 15 Books for Only $1 Each!

**Remember, this deal only lasts THREE MORE DAYS!**

Hurry & grab your bundle today!

Oct 16

A Romantic Reference Guide: 36 Easy Ideas to Romance Your Spouse Today

By Debi Walter | Romance

The Romantic Vineyard

Romance is often misunderstood.

We can either think it’s more than it really is, or that it is not worth doing–after all, we’re married right? What’s the point?

The point is, romance is what makes marriage fun and what helps keep your friendship alive and well, even during the most difficult seasons. But it requires intentionality.

There are so many ways to romance our spouse in little ways throughout the day. This is why I’ve come up with a Romantic Reference Guide to help you find the perfect way to romance your spouse today, with little or no planning. Which one could you do today?

Romantic Reference Guide

  1. Put toothpaste on your spouse’s toothbrush before they wake up. This lets them know you were thinking of them while they were still sleeping.
  2. On cold mornings when they have to leave, start their car and get the inside warmed up for them.
  3. On cold winter nights use the blow dryer to warm the sheets on your spouse’s side of the bed. Do this while they’re washing up so they’ll be surprised at what you’ve done.
  4. Do one of their chores for them without saying a word, like unload the dishwasher, make the bed, mow the yard or rake the leaves.
  5. Buy them their favorite candy and place it where you know they’ll find it. You could include a note that says, “just because you’re sweet.”
  6. Post something on their Facebook page complimenting one thing you love most about them.
  7. Rent a movie you know they’ll enjoy watching, and when they ask the question, “So what do you want to do tonight?” you’ll already have an answer.
  8. Prepare their favorite birthday dinner when it’s not their birthday. Let them discover the surprise on their own.
  9. Plan a year of celebrating the date of their birthday–Tom’s birthday is on the 18th, so I would plan a surprise each month on the 18th.
  10. Learn the meaning of different flowers. Go to a local florist and buy one flower. Give it to your spouse and have them look on the internet to see what message you’re giving them.
  11. Make an appointment for your spouse to have a massage, manicure, pedicure or any other spa service. Have them get in the car and take them to their appointment.
  12. If your spouse loves to shop, give them a little cash and a couple of hours all to themselves to buy something just for them.
  13. If your spouse enjoys fishing, kayaking, playing golf or tennis or any other outdoor activity, set up a time for them to have the day to do this with a friend or two.
  14. Text your spouse your Top Ten List for what you love most about them. Do it one at a time throughout the day counting down to #1.
  15. Make arrangements for someone to take your kids for the night. Have a relaxing night at home to pretend it’s back when you were first dating.
  16. Make a list of all the places you’d like to make love. As long as you’re dreaming there is no limit–enjoy!
  17. Make a playlist of all the songs that have meaning to you and your spouse. Turn it on one night after the kids are in bed and light candles all over the house.
  18. Draw your spouse a rose petal bath with their favorite music and a glass of wine or sparkling juice. Afterwards rub body oil or lotion all over their clean skin.
  19. Ask your spouse what is one thing you could do that they’ve been wanting you to do for a long time? Then purpose to do it right away with no excuses or interruptions.
  20. Open the door for your wife wherever you go. Wives–let him.
  21. When your spouse is talking to you, stop what you’re doing and look at them.
  22. Limit social media when you’re together. The best conversation happens when you have no distractions.
  23. Commit to spend 15 minutes everyday talking specifically about what’s on your heart.
  24. Play with their hair, rub or scratch their back, whatever non-sexual touch you know your spouse enjoys. Do it without them asking.
  25. Go to your spouse’s place of employment and set up a card table in the parking lot for lunch. Make it nice with romantic music playing in the car. Use a table cloth and real dishes and silverware. When you arrive to take your spouse to lunch let them be surprised at the thought you put into setting up such a thoughtful lunch.
  26. Be in the habit of always planning a surprise for your spouse using something from this list or any other ideas. Check out our Only Husbands and Only Wives section on The Romantic Vineyard for current ideas.
  27. Place one chocolate or favorite candy on their pillow. Or try an ounce of brandy.
  28. Roast marshmallows on an outdoor fire.
  29. If possible, go to a drive-in movie and don’t watch it. Make your own storyline inside the steamy windows!
  30. Finger paint together with your hands overlapping. Make it more fun by using chocolate pudding.
  31. See how long you can kiss. Set a timer for 7 minutes and see if you can make out that long. Practice makes perfect
  32. Eat an entire meal using only your hands. Better yet, feed your spouse and let them feed you.
  33. Give your spouse a real foot massage. Invest in some foot salts and lotion.
  34. When your spouse is troubled and you don’t know what to do to help–hold them close and pray earnestly for them, lifting their burden before the Lord for them.
  35. Read a book you know your spouse has read and enjoyed so you can discuss it with them.
  36. Have a growing list of great questions to facilitate good conversation. Check out our iPhone app that features over a hundred questions to use on the go.

What ideas could you add to this Reference Guide? Let’s purpose to do all we can to express our love in romantic ways in order to continue building our love and friendship as the years pass. What a privilege God has given us!

Posted by Debi Walter–The Romantic Vineyard.

Oct 14

Be Careful of What You Say

By Patrick Kansa | Children , Communication

Be Careful of What You SayBe Careful of What You SayRemember that old phrase “little pitchers have big ears” ? That’s a phrase that my wife and I have really gained a better appreciation for in our house. And, no, it’s not that we’re worried about them picking up bad language (since we simply don’t use it). But we’ve really be quite surprised by what our oldest will pick up, even when we think she’s not really paying attention.

Of course, it’s a bit of fine line to walk, with what she listens to or not. For example, many times I’ll be talking directly to her, and think that’s she’s listening, only to have her response be “What did you say?” Now, depending on what else is going on, I might repeat myself. Or, as I’ve been doing more frequently, I’ll ask her what she thought I said. Nine times out of ten, she picked up most (if not all) of what I was saying. I use this not so much as an example of daily life communicating with a child (as most parents likely go through this repeatedly), but as an illustration of what she’s picking up on, even when she doesn’t think she was listening.

What Are You Guys Talking About?

The next example pops up from when my wife and I are talking about something that we just need to cover (upcoming plans, what needs to get done, that sort of thing), while our daughter is occupied playing with some toys or doing some coloring. She’s pretty good about diving into some of those sorts of things, so it can be easier for us to forget that she’s nearby as our conversation continues. That is, until we hear a little voice pipe up asking for some clarification on something that was just said.

On one hand, this is a good thing. She’s there, somewhat listening, as mom and dad talk about things relevant and important to the functioning of our family. This lets her know that things are moving along as they should be, in harmony. In some measure, this should also stick with her as a point of reference that we work together as a family to accomplish things, rather than everyone doing what they think needs to be done, then recapping after all is said and done to see what was missed (I think that’s just the nature of our household, though – my wife and I are both planners, and like to know things in advance going into them).

Be Careful of What You SayThe flip side of that coin is that perhaps it isn’t a conversation those little ears need to be picking up on, or it’s just plain something she’s not quite ready (developmentally) to understand. And, on a basic level, we already self-censor some things. There are topics that are ok to talk about in front of the kids, and then there’s the other category of stuff (good, bad, or otherwise) that you simply wait until the kids are asleep to dive into. Then there’s a third category, that gives you some (generally funny) unintended consequences.

Sometimes, It’s Funny!

That third category recently came to light on a recent trip to a toy store. Now, as some background to this, we’ve been talking about (and making steps towards) simplifying things in our house and lives. This mostly entails going over what things we truly need to have in a particular room (or in the house, to begin with), or what things we can get rid of (sell, donate, etc). In short, we think it’s the right path for our family to take – get rid of unnecessary clutter, and focus on quality and enjoyment of the things we do hold on to.clutt

Now, back to the toy store. My daughter loves going in to toy stores, primarily to go and play with their train table (for a long time, she would bring along her own Thomas and Percy). At some point while my wife, father-in-law, and kids were in the store, my oldest told her grandfather that it was ok to look around, but he couldn’t buy her anything, as she had too many things. Needless to say, this sounds pretty funny coming from a little kid! But it also demonstrates that she’s listening and processing in everything that goes on around her at home.

Be Careful of What You SayYes, the clutter and chaos in some parts of the house comes from the kids’ stuff, but it’s not like my wife and I were living some spartan existence prior to their arrival. And while I appreciate that she’s picking up on the concept of what we’re trying to do, things like this can be tricky for her to put into the proper words (though, with her, vocabulary is certainly not an issue!) And while this is a fairly benign sort of thing going on in our house, it’s underscoring the fact that she’s picking up (intentionally or not) the conversations and activities going on around her, no matter how involved it may seem she is in something else.

Something To Nuture

While this hasn’t forced any drastic changes in when (or what) we talk about at the dinner table, it does give us another thing to be aware of – this little child of ours is growing up, and very aware of what’s going on around her. Rather than see this as something working against us, I choose to see it as a strength, albeit one we have to carefully nurture. For you parents out there, I’m curious to hear what your experiences are around this subject, be it a funny story, or some practical tips you’d like to share.

 

Oct 09

Festive Fall Cupcakes

By Amy Latta | Children

Fall is officially here, and what better way to celebrate than with some festive cupcakes the whole family can help create?  Since Halloween is just around the corner, Jack-o-Lanterns and monsters are everywhere, so you might as well have some on your plate too {or in your tummy}!


pkin6

You’ll need:
– 12-24 cupcakes
– assorted candies {we used jelly beans, gumdrops, and shoestring licorice, but you could substitute all kinds of other things}
– canned frosting
– food coloring

We made our Jack-o-Lanterns first, so we started by mixing red and yellow food coloring into our canned white frosting until we had a nice shade of orange.  This is a great job for little helpers, who will enjoy dropping the coloring in as well as mixing it all up!

pkin1

The next step was frosting a dozen of our cupcakes…this part was a Mommy-job, but luckily I had a good supervisor to oversee my work and make sure I was doing everything just right.

pkin2

Then, it was time to add the faces!  My Little Crafter loved giving each pumpkin eyes, nose, a mouth, and a stem using various pieces of candy.

pkin3

To make the gumdrops into the shapes we wanted, I laid down some parchment paper, put the gumdrop on top, then rolled it flat with a rolling pin.  Then, I took a knife and cut it into a triangle or whatever shape we wanted it to be.  Little Crafter had fun choosing the colors he wanted for each part and making the pumpkins have different expressions, like happy, silly, and serious.

pkin5

But of course, we couldn’t make the whole batch into Jack-o-Lanterns because how do you make cupcakes without having some chocolate?!  Since the only brown pumpkins I’ve ever seen are rotten ones, we decided to get creative and make some monsters out of these instead.

pkin4

We used our same candy supplies here, but I think LC actually enjoyed making these even more because of the creative freedom he had…I mean, monsters can have one eye or four, or anything in between!  They can have antennae, ears, or whatever you like.  Noses and mouths are optional.  LC’s favorite thing was looping the licorice to make it look like a few of them were sticking out their tongues.

pkin7

Seriously, now.  How fun are these?!  And they couldn’t be easier to make, even for your smallest helpers.

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If you’re looking for a relatively easy fall activity, this is a great one, especially because when you’re done, you get to EAT them!  I’d love for you to stop by One Artsy Mama for more Fall Fun inspiration like our Candy Corn Treat Jars, BOO Bottles, Fall Coasters, and more!

Hugs & Glitter,

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Oct 07

Got Talent . . . or Doubts?

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

Got talent or doubts?It’s a brand new week with the same old job.

Ugh.

Yet again, you dig deep for your gratitude attitude so you can do more than just slog through another awful workday.

But still, you might be thinking these thoughts:

Must be nice to have a job you love.

Must be nice to be so good at what you do.

Must be nice to have a financially rewarding career.

These sentiments are all too common in a let’s-settle-for-safe world while continuing to envy others.

You stay in a job where you are unhappy because you know you couldn’t find anything that pays better.

You are content with good enough because you don’t believe you have the talent to be something more.

You keep your head down and do what you’re told because you are afraid of the consequences if you do otherwise.

It is here you run smack dab into the Myth of Talent.

This is the lie that claims only other people have natural abilities that take them to amazing places, leaving everyone else condemned to workaday lives on the treadmill of mediocrity.

I was introduced to the phrase The Myth of Talent in an article written by Craig Tanner. In that piece, Tanner shared his journey from feeling “trapped, depressed and burnt out” to a fulfilling life as a professional photographer and more.

One nugget really resonated with me:

The truth about talent is this – talent is a set of skills you develop over time through desire.

Think about that simple premise:

Talent is a set of skills you develop over time through desire.

In So Good They Can’t Ignore You, author Cal Newport writes about career capital.

He argues that “traits that make a great job great are rare and valuable, and therefore, if you want a great job, you need to build up rare and valuable skills—which I call career capital—to offer in return.”

Talent—that set of skills you develop over time through desire—becomes career capital you can use to invest towards a better life.

Does this mean that you can be absolutely anything you want to be?

Of course not, as there is something to be said for other circumstances, such as the importance of physical traits to some career choices.

However, it does mean you can take a fresh look at where you are today and choose an area on which to focus.

Through this intentional pursuit you will grow your skills and have much more to offer in the workplace.

Plus, when you are more competent, you are happier.

Where is the best place to begin?

Right where you are, whether that is un- or underemployed, re-entering the workforce, or creating an entrepreneurial enterprise.

It’s time to give your doubts the heave-ho, because you do have talent.

Just imagine finally bringing this treasure chest of currency to light!

You may have already become deeply knowledgable about research, organization, problem-solving, or an area such as finances, relationships, or on how to do/create/build something, and you have become the go-to person for help.

If you look back, you know it came through lots and lots of deliberate practice, even though you may not have recognized it as such. This is the simple version of the path you took:

Learn.

Act on the information. Check results.

Learn from your mistakes. Do it again, better.

Rinse and repeat.

A helpful resource to reveal your own talent(s) is the worksheet What do they know? from life/career coach Joel Boggess.

You’ll need just three of your closest friends and/or family to answer a few short questions that will provide you with lots of great food for thought.

Speaking from experience, the information I gathered from my family was priceless in helping me identify potential career capital. Let’s face it: sometimes people who know us and love us can see us more clearly than we can see ourselves.

Another great question courtesy of Joel was “What is it you just can’t not do?”

Read that again: What is it you just can’t not do?

What that means is that wild horses can’t keep you from doing these things, it is such second nature for you.

Sometimes your family tells you to stop, thank you very much, even though others find your contribution very helpful.

For me, that meant offering practical information to help people live happier lives. I’ve done it as far back as I can remember. As a matter of fact, I’ve joked that when I hear two moms talking in the supermarket in the next aisle over about a problem, it takes all the willpower I can muster to keep from speed walking on over and offering a resource or two.

I think my husband and children used to live in fear I would actually do that one day.

Be prepared for pushback from family, friends, and fellow business people, and especially from yourself.

You’ve heard him, that inner naysayer that says you aren’t good enough, it’s too hard, or that it won’t matter anyway.

When you hear that voice, it’s time to fight back.

As author Mel Robbins writes in Stop Saying You’re Fine“To grow, you have to do the stuff that feels hard right now, not later.”

That being said, there are managers and/or companies that just won’t ever recognize the capital you offer as legal tender.

To quote Newport, they:

1. Present few opportunities to distinguish yourself by developing relevant skills that are rare and valuable

2. Focus on something you think is useless or perhaps even actively bad for the world

3. Force you to work with people you really dislike

At one point in my life, I was on a first name basis with #1 and #3.

I was sure that if I developed even more rare and valuable skills, my employer would appreciate my contribution, pay me more, and treat me better.

I’m also sure I don’t have to tell you how that worked out, but I will.

It didn’t.

If you recognize any of these three, it may be time to re-evaluate how and where you are spending a third of your life.

To help you through that process, refer also to The Three Door Rule.

Remember as well you will reap benefits in your marriage  by making a change.

Got talent?

You bet you do, and there is a world waiting for you to share it.

 

Question: What has been your experience with searching for and/or discovering your talents?

 

Image credit:  Paul Inkles via Flickr

Oct 02

How to Have More Sex & Better Intimacy In Your Marriage

By Dustin | Sex & Family Planning

How to Have More Sex and Better Intimacy in Your Marriage“I want to feel closer before I’m in the mood for sex with him.”

“I want to have sex with her so we can feel closer.”

“He’s just not romantic anymore – we need a spark in our intimacy.”

“Our love life is just so routine & monotonous – I wish she was more open to new things.”

“His sex drive is just so low.” “She has no interest anymore.”

“WE DON’T HAVE TIME FOR SEX!”

As busy married couples, we know that healthy intimacy is SO important to our relationships.  Heck, a great sex life makes our whole family happier.

This is one area of your marriage where “good enough” isn’t and seemingly small problems can create some really major issues.

Yet, I hear these statements every week from members of our Engaged Marriage community – from newlyweds to those who have been married for decades.  And we know the reality is that the majority of couples never speak up at all about their sex lives…not even to each other.

Well, I’m excited to share that help is on the way – real, practical help that I know is going to leave you excited and reengaged.  We’re hosting a very special online event next week called “How to Have More Sex & Better Intimacy in Your Marriage.

I’ll be joined by the fabulous Alisa DiLorenzo who will be our main presenter.  If you don’t know Alisa, you’re in for a real treat.  She is a Christian wife and mom who is uniquely knowledgeable and remarkably approachable when it comes to this topic.  Here’s a little bio:

Alisa DiLorenzoAlisa DiLorenzo is co-host of the #1 marriage podcast in iTunes. She speaks to a worldwide audience about sex, love and commitment, as she challenges every listener to make their relationship a priority. Author of Stripped Down: 13 Keys to Unlocking Intimacy in Your Marriage and The 7 Days of Sex Challenge, Alisa is transparent as she takes a no-nonsense, tough love approach to the issues that all marriages face.

Alisa is an in-demand speaker on the topic of intimacy, and she recently presented at the National Association of Relationship and Marriage Experts. Prepare yourself to step out of the ordinary and into the extraordinary with your relationships!

Here’s a sneak peek of what we’ll be covering in this live workshop:

  • How to Romance Your Spouse Throughout the Day in Anticipation of Sex at Night
  • What It Means to Take the Lead Inside the Bedroom
  • How to Deal with Low Sex Drive in Your Marriage (yours or your spouses)
  • How to Think Outside of the Bedroom for Sex
  • How to Schedule Sex and Keep Your Love Life Spontaneous

We’ve decided to keep the cost of this workshop very reasonable, and in addition to some fabulous “take action tonight” live training and lifetime access to the recordings of the event, you’ll also have the opportunity to ask any question you’d like of Alisa and me.  Plus, Alisa is including a copy of her popular “7 Days of Sex Challenge” e-book for everyone who joins in the fun.

The live event takes place next Thursday evening, but if you already have plans, no worries – everyone who registers gets a full recording to enjoy at your convenience and you can submit questions in advance.  That said, we have to limit the number of “seats” to the event because our webinar service can only accommodate so many live attendees.

Reserve Your Seat!

Click here to reserve your seat to this special event 

By the way, I’m all about delivering the goods and making sure you love your experience with this event.  So, even though I’m sure you’ll love what Alisa has to share, I’m covering all attendees with a 100% guarantee.  If you’re not blown away by the workshop, I’ll refund your money – and you can keep the 7 Days of Sex book to enjoy!

I’m so excited for this first Engaged Marriage “How-to” Workshop, and I hope you will join us for a marriage-enriching event!