Monthly Archives: December 2013

Dec 30

Best of 2013, Big Announcements & A Giveaway!

By Dustin | Ask the Community

“Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book.  Write a good one.” – Brad Paisley

Engaged Marriage - Best of 2013Whether 2013 has been your best year yet or a struggle, it’s that wonderful time of year when we turn the page and celebrate a fresh New Year.

To help celebrate and thank you for your support, we’ve got a great giveaway near the end of this post.

But before we get there, I want to share some highlights from 2013 for your enjoyment and also let you know about some exciting changes you can expect as we leap in 2014.

Goodbye 2013

On a personal level, it was a bit of a mixed bag for us in the Riechmann household.  We lost my Dad earlier in the year after a long struggle with his health, which is very difficult yet a blessing in its own way after sharing so much suffering with him in recent years.

Despite that loss, I can only look back on 2013 with a smile and give thanks to God for another year of good health and happiness for our family.  Our kids grew a year older, our marriage matured (in a good way!) and we enjoyed meeting many personal goals along the way.

I hope you are able to take a little time to reflect on the past year and count your blessings.  I’m sure there are many.

On the Engaged Marriage front, I’d also have to say that 2013 was a mixed bag.  On the positive front, we welcomed some amazing new writers to our team mid-year.  And in the last few months, we introduced our How To Workshops, which proved to be a real hit.

Despite our successes, I look back at the last year with a bit of regret. I wrote pretty infrequently, I feel like the site lost some of its luster and, if I’m being honest, a bit of its soul.

I miss the tight-connected community we’ve had here in the past (we’ve been going for over 4 years now!), and our blog/business/brand needs to get back to our central mission.

More on that in a moment. 🙂

The Best Posts of 2013 (and a Few Classics)

Based on the popularity among our readers, here’s a brief rundown of the Top 10 new posts of 2013:

Here are a few classics that attracted the most attention overall this year:

And here are the new programs that we introduced in 2013 to help you in new ways:

Phew, what a year it was for creation and expansion of our content!

Exciting New Changes are Coming in 2014

Like I mentioned above, for all the success we’ve shared with you this year, I know we can be doing much more for you.

To make it happen, we have some things in store in 2014 that I think you’ll love.

  • My wife Bethany is officially joining the team! 

This is my favorite news in a long time. While she’s been my unofficial confidant and helper forever, Bethany will be taking the reigns as our Editor here on the blog and our community manager on our Facebook page.  She is awesome, and I know the site will benefit big-time from her new contributions!

  • The site will be refocusing on our core mission. 

Engaged Marriage is here to serve busy couples and provide you with the practical, marriage-boosting resources you need to enjoy all the glory God wants to provide in your relationship.  We firmly believe that strong marriages make strong families and a better world, and we’re here to help you live a married life you love, no matter how hectic life gets.

You’ll see this refocus happen in a few areas.  For one, I’ll be writing much more consistently and (to make room and narrow the focus of our topic areas) we’ve cut back on the number of other team members from 8 to 4.

We’ll also be offering our How To Workshops on a monthly basis to provide you the targeted, actionable help you need in a super-useful and proven format.

  • We’re coming together as a community again and having more FUN.

We’re also putting a renewed emphasis on making Engaged Marriage a community that you’re excited to be part of again.

Aside from new awesome content here on the blog, we’ll be focused on meeting you where you are with lots of interaction on our renewed Facebook page and our growing Pinterest page.  And our email newsletter will feature more fun stuff and highlight great things going on within the EM community.

Plus, we plan to do many more giveaways, starting with today’s post.  Giveaways are fun, helpful and serve to encourage you to spread the word and invite others to join us here.  That’s a total win-win.

To make sure you don’t miss out on the giveaways or any of the new resources we’re making for you this year, make sure you’re signed up for our email insider club.  It’s free and you’ll get a bunch of free gifts just for joining.

What Are Your Goals for 2014?

We have some ambitious goals for the New Year that I’ll share in another post in a few days.

I find “stretch” goals to be most effective, and we’ve got some EM goals that will require your help (like doubling the reach of this site by sharing it with your friends) and some personal ones that I enjoy sharing since I need our community’s support (like running my first full marathon in April- yikes).

I haven’t shared it much here on EM, but I created a pretty awesome (if I do say so myself) step-by-step program that will help you set your goals and achieve them.  It was made with you in mind, so it will also show you how to find the time to accomplish your ambitions and keep your motivation high when the New Year’s rush runs out.

It’s called Time to Thrive, and to encourage you to get going on your goals, I’ve got a special 50% discount just for our community this week.  Just click here and enter the coupon code “EM50” to get half off (expires 1/7).

Share Your Top Goal & Win Great Stuff

To encourage you to put your goals down in writing and to help you feel the love from the EM community, I have a giveaway for you.  It’s really simple to enter.

In the comments below, just share your #1 goal for 2014 and (if applicable) what we can do here at Engaged Marriage to help you achieve it. 

Is there a post that you’d love to read?  A particular How To Workshop topic/guest that you’d benefit from?  A book or resource we should give away to help?  Something we can do as a community?

Just share your thoughts..and it’s totally okay if you don’t think we can help directly. 🙂

Here’s what you’ll be eligible to win:

If you win Time to Thrive or a workshop that you own already, we’ll send you a full refund – so feel free to get started today if any of those programs interest you.

I will select one comment at random to win one of each prize.  Entries close at Noon CST on Saturday 1/4/14.

To encourage you to cheer on your fellow readers, any comments you leave in reply to others will also count!  So if you see someone who shares a similar goal as you or who is seeking to achieve something you’ve done yourself, by all means reply to their comment with your helpful thoughts.

To help us jump-start our goal of doubling the size of our community, it would mean the world to me if you’d share this post with your friends on Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter.  I’m not requiring it, but you can feel good for helping us while helping your friends, too – plus you can reply to their comment and get a bonus entry!

Thank You!

Thank you so much for being part of this community.  We look forward to sharing so much more with you in 2014 and beyond.

Cheers from our family to yours!

Dustin & Bethany

Family Christmas

Dec 23

Tis the Season… For Blindsiding Your Spouse?

By E.J. Smith | Communication , Help

Wait, what? I thought this was going to be a holiday post?!  It is a holiday post, friends.  Just not the holiday post you were expecting.ID-10045265

If you’ve been watching the news at all lately, you may’ve heard of this “game” some kids thugs are “playing” in which they run up to an innocent stranger on the street and throw a punch with the goal of knocking the person out cold.  It’s termed, “The Knockout Game”.  Lovely.

If you’re like some of my friends, fans and readers of late, you may be able to empathize with these innocent victims on a much more personal and profound level.  See, the truth is that although we typically look towards the holiday season (Thanksgiving through New Year’s) as a time of great joy, love and warmth, there is a darker side to the season.   It’s the time of year when a lot of people decide to clean out their closets—namely of the secrets they’ve been stuffing in there.  Turns out, not all the skeletons are for Halloween.

Take my friend (we’ll call her “Kate”) who recently had her husband of less than a year reveal that when they were dating, he had a one night stand with a woman from “back home” while he was visiting family.  It wasn’t the fact that he’d “cheated” per se, since they were admittedly in that kinda-sorta-not-sure-if-we’re-exclusive phase when the event happened.  It was the idea that she now had to deal with the mess of this new information, and consider how its absence had influenced subsequent decisions—like, umm… getting married.

And of course there were questions.  Questions like:

Why did you do that?

Why didn’t you tell me?

Why on earth are you telling me NOW?!

And perhaps most importantly:

How do we fix this?

I can’t quite tell if the timing is a conscious one or not, but ask almost anyone in the mental health community and they’ll tell you the holidays are notorious for “stirring the pot”.  And just in case that wasn’t enough to run a chill through your hot cocoa, consider the fact that more divorces are filed in January than any other month!  If you’re a therapist, lawyer or crisis hotline worker, you probably know the holidays by another name: “busy season”.

Of course, not all instances of bad news are marriage-endingly horrific, or worthy of “bomb” status.  In fact, there are times your spouse might drop a piece of bad news on of you that’s not even their fault!  For the sake of thematic consistency, I’ll call these smaller events “grenades”.  They’re not on the same level of devastation like an affair, but they catch you off guard, and frankly—it sucks.

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Recently, my husband took our dog to the vet for his “Senior Checkup”. As you can tell from the picture—he’s still pretty spry for an old guy!  Anyway, when I got home from work, I asked about how everything went.  Our little wonder-mutt was in perfect health, however the vet bill was not.  It was $750.  Yes. You read that right… $750 to learn that our pooch was COMPLETELY FINE.

The next words out of my mouth were: “Why didn’t you call me?!”

My husband looked at me and calmly replied, “Because he’s fine and I took care of the bill right then.”

“Yes, but you didn’t call me.  It was over $300.  We have an agreement.”

Side note: We have an agreement that we always  usually discuss major purchases over a certain amount.

“Because you would’ve told me to pay it,” he replied sounding equally confused and slightly perturbed.

And really, he was right. I would’ve told him to pay it.  Of course I would’ve told him to pay it.  We had the money.  That wasn’t the issue.  He was right. I knew this.

But why could I not shake the feeling that someone had socked me in the gut?

After some careful thought, I realized it was because I would’ve called him.  To me, our agreement was sacrosanct.  Black and white.  Non-negotiable. And perhaps most importantly, it was an expression of equality.  I also realized it had stirred up some old hurts– not even remotely related to him—but rather in connection to the way I related to money.

In this case, he had dropped the “bomb,” but the mess was all mine.

So how do you survive a “bomb dropping” or even a “grenade”?

Here are a few things to consider—

1)   Give yourself time to react.

As I’m sure you know, when it comes to good communication—even in the face of some seriously disturbing, earth-shattering news, it’s good to curb your immediate response and take a few seconds to breathe.  This isn’t just some fluffy therapist-speak either.

Without getting too technical, when the brain processes an event that elicits a strong stress response, the limbic system (aka the “emotional brain”) takes over –overriding the logical part of the brain (aka the prefrontal cortex).  Giving yourself some time to process the news allows your brain to rebalance itself, and will hopefully prevent you from saying or doing anything you’ll likely regret later.

2)   Give yourself MORE time…

It seems to me that when things like this happen, the person who detonated the bad news often seems to want an immediate response and then later on, a clear-cut pathway to resolution one way or another.  Here’s why this makes sense:  Depending on the secret, your spouse may have been carrying it around for hours, days or even years! S/He has had plenty of time to mull it around, evaluate it from several– if not all– sides, and then drop it on you at his/her convenience.  Simply said, they want a resolution now, but they’ve also had a head start.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to point this out to your spouse. I once listened to a professor relate an experience of working with a patient who had terminal cancer.  This patient had already come to terms with her death, and was having angry response to her family’s reaction to the news. My professor said that he had to point out to her that while it was “old news” for her, it was “new news” for them.

In my situation, my husband had already had time to process the sticker shock, make logical steps towards resolving the issue, and research pet insurance to avoid the situation in the future, well before I ever knew anything about the original bill! Of course I wasn’t going to be on the same page! He was on a different chapter!

3)   Consider the Power Differential

—it may actually be in your favor.  Yes, I just said that.

Assuming your spouse just dropped a bomb on you, like the one Kate experienced—after following the advice given in Steps 1 & 2, you’ll want to follow up with an evaluation of who’s who and what’s what.

Yes, s/he just dropped the bomb—but, if your spouse isn’t already halfway out the door towards divorce, and is interested in fixing the issue, then in many cases this puts you at an advantage for setting the terms of how, when and where the relationship will be remedied.  This is the exact advice I gave my friend Kate.

A week or so after the news, Kate’s husband thought she’d be over it.  Kate was far from feeling over it, and was struggling to appease his timeline.  In no uncertain terms, I validated her struggle.  He got to choose when to “start” the issue, and she most certainly had the right to work through it to a reasonable end.

Notice the word “reasonable”.  A reasonable end is not one where you stew and simmer for some undetermined length of time with absolutely no productivity whatsoever.  Holding grudges does not a happy marriage make.  However, processing and actively grieving the news so you can figure out where to go or what to do next is a very different story.

4)    Create a Proposal.

If you want to fix your marriage after an injury, you’ll eventually need a plan of action.  Now that the logical part of your brain is back up and running, and you’ve figured out how you fit into the equation moving forward, it’s time to make a plan.  To illustrate, let’s go back to my friend Kate:

For Kate, a day or two of feeling heard and validated by friends was enough to help her confront her husband with the painful truth that she wasn’t feeling “over it”. She calmly presented her terms:  marriage counseling, and co-reading a book I’d recommended (The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work*), along with more quality time (one of her predominate love languages*) reconnecting and rekindling the trusting bond she’d come to adore and rely on as a wife and as a woman.  Her husband, being the wise man that he is, decided to accept Kate’s terms.

Have you suffered an emotional “knockout” or “bomb-dropping” by your spouse?  If so, I want to hear how you dealt with it!

Digital Image Source: http://www.freedigitalphotos.com Artist: digitalart

*links to affiliate source

Dec 18

A Gift You’ll BOTH Enjoy All Year

By Debi Walter | General , Romance

fire

Christmas is unbelievably busy, especially if you have children at home. Yet all of us hope this year will be different. That we’ll have moments to stop and reflect on the blessing it is to know Christ, to remember that He is the real gift at Christmas. We all would love to have extended time to snuggle up with our spouse in front of a blazing fire, sipping on hot  cocoa with nothing on our minds except how to bless them this year.

Well, I have an idea. 

What if this year you gave your spouse the gift of one date night a month for an entire year? What if you planned out each date ahead of time, wrote about it in a letter and sealed it to be opened on the first of each month. You could take all twelve envelopes and place them in a pretty box with a lid. Wrap it and give it to them either Christmas morning or on New Year’s Day. Either way would be an unexpected surprise.

Now to decide what to do each month. There are several options: (The links take you to posts with specific details.)

  • For The Foodie – Celebrate a different country each month by either cooking, if you enjoy it, or going to restaurant that cooks food from that country e.g. Italy, Japan, Germany, Africa, Canada, Mexico, etc. You could make them a passport to stamp each month along with a photo of the night you enjoyed together. You could even take a cooking class.
  • Sports Enthusiast – Visit a different sports bar to watch a game. Or you could plan to go to a game or two throughout the year. You could watch a movie about that sport, or make a list of sports you want to try to play yourself – golf, kickball, tennis, soccer, frisbee golf, putt-putt, bowling, surfing, darts, billiards, whatever your spouse would enjoy.
  • Tourist in Your Own Backyard – what if you were to pretend you were a tourist and visit some places you may not have tried in your own town – museums, art galleries, theme parks, special restaurants, etc.
  • At Home Game Night – Pick twelve different games to try playing at home. We have several classic board games that we’ve come up with a romantic twist you might want to try. Scrabble, Clue are a couple that have become quite popular.
  • For the Music Lover – Plan to watch a live concert DVD or if possible to go to a couple of concerts in your area. You could go to a karaoke bar and have fun laughing together as you listen to the music.
  • Or you could pick a couple from each category to fill twelve memorable dates.

These are a few ideas to get your mind thinking. What other dates/themes can you come up with? Wouldn’t it be fun to have twelve great dates to look forward to in 2014? How would this help your marriage become more intentional in the romance department?

Dec 16

The Sex Tragedy the Church Could Fix

By Julie Sibert | General , Sex & Family Planning

sex-tragedyA friend emailed me the other day, asking if I would be willing to meet with her friend who is engaged.

This young lady has kept herself pure as she prepares for marriage and she wants to talk to a Christian wife about sex.

Believe it or not, I pray for opportunities like this.  Who better than Christian women to encourage other women in healthy sexual intimacy in their marriages?

Sadly, I don’t know too many Christian wives who would agree with me.

If anything, I hear from more wives who loathe sex rather than love it.

They don’t want to look closely at their own intimacy, let alone encourage other Christians in embracing a healthy attitude about it.

And I hear from spouses who are sexually refused, treading through marriage under crushing pain and discouragement that often grows into resentment. They wonder if sex is indeed marriage’s biggest lie.

The sex tragedy the church could fix?

We could turn the tide on the negative perception of marital sex.

We could take back ground Satan has camped upon in countless marriages where sex is tolerated at best and outright avoided at worse — usually by one spouse, which further fuels division in the marriage covenant. (Insert Satan’s happy dance here. Division is his wheelhouse. His sweet spot. His forte).

By the “church” I do not mean only the priests and pastors and lay leaders (although they certainly carry responsibility in sharing God’s truth about sex).

More so what I mean by “church” is the body of Christ… the people. You and me.

We could better equip engaged and newly-married couples to see that sex in marriage is sacred, holy and fun — but that it won’t take care of itself.

It has to be nurtured. Pursued. Drenched in open and vulnerable communication.

We could better help those who have been married awhile to not let their intimacy fade.

And we could speak hope into marriages where sex has been a place of discouragement, distance, betrayal, indifference and confusion.

How do we do this?

Here are 4 ideas:

1. Speak positively about sex.

As a married person, if you value and enjoy sex, don’t be afraid to appropriately speak about sex.  No, I’m not saying divulge specific details about your own intimacy.  Just have a heart tuned to the opportunities to paint sex in a positive light.

Don’t be the gal who goes along with the sarcastic commentary at girls’ night about husbands being “animals for wanting it so much.”

Don’t be the guy who turns a blind eye to the crude and explicit sexual jokes made by your buddies or in your workplace.

Let’s do our part to move the conversation in a healthier direction.  Baby steps count.

2. Face your own intimacy struggles.

There are so many Christian resources on this topic of sex.  Whether a marriage has felt the brutal aftershocks of porn addiction, past sexual abuse and infidelity — or has suffered from lack of pleasure and poor communication — there are resources available.  Christian resources.

We are without excuse if we individually haven’t done our part to heal sexual apathy and division in our marriage.

3. Carve out time for more sex.

I know how crazy life gets.  I live it too.

The grocery shopping, work demands, homework projects, church meetings. There are lawns to mow, bills to pay, social gatherings to attend, family commitments to keep.

It. Never. Ends.

I get it.

But if you want to be a Christian who loves sex, you need to find a way to have more sex — not just quantity sex, but quality sex.  Because quality sex does wonders to put the chaos of life into perspective.

4. Ask your church to talk about sex in marriage.

Suggest to your church leadership that they authentically and thoroughly address the importance of nurtured sexual intimacy in marriage.

We as the church have spent way too much time emphasizing the sin of sex outside of marriage — and not near enough time singing the praises of sex inside of marriage.

Where is the balance?

Where is the equal air time?

Yes, we need to tell teenagers and single adults to not have sex.  But we also need to tell them God’s beautiful and passionate design for sex in marriage.

We’ve failed young people in this regard.  It’s no wonder so many marriages start out on the wrong foot sexually — and get perpetually stuck there.

We’ve done brides (and by default, their husbands) a disservice by speaking of sex in hushed tones of being nothing more than mere “wifely duty.”

Get courageous and ask your church leaders to start speaking about the importance of sex in marriage from the pulpit — not in a superficial way, but with some genuine effort into exploring what God actually says about sex.

It is the Lord, after all, who wants a man to delight in his wife’s breasts. It is the Lord who wants a husband and wife to love and honor each other and to not withhold their bodies from each other.

It is the Lord who designed orgasm — for both a husband and a wife.  How generous of Him.  Kudos to you on that one, God.

I know that some of you may be thinking, “Well Julie, it’s easy for you! You blog about sex. You speak about it.  You just co-authored a book about sex. Not all of us are you.”

You’re right. But when all is said and done, I’m just one wife trying to do my part.  And there are others out there like me (bloggers, authors, speakers), but we still can’t reach everyone.

We can’t fix the tragedy on our own, because we don’t know your neighbors, your friends, and your family members. We likely will never get the opportunity to share personally with them a positive message about sex in marriage.

But you can.

Will you?  Will you be a part of fixing this sex tragedy?  I’m in if you’re in.

(Well, I’m in regardless of what you do, but I would just assume you be there too).

Dec 11

Felt Tree Ornaments

By Amy Latta | General

Hi, friends!  This month, I’m excited to share with you a simple tutorial for a DIY Christmas ornament the whole family can make together!
The idea {like many others} originally came from Pinterest.  My Little Crafter has his very own board and from time to time we’ll browse around and he’ll do some of his own pinning.  Thursday morning, we came across this pin {originally from Forest Fairy Crafts} and LC was immediately intrigued.  “I want that on my board, Mommy!” So, we pinned it, and several hours later, we made it since we actually had all the supplies on hand.
Here’s what you need:
– green felt
– assorted beads and/or sequins
– thread and needle
– scissors
 
That’s it.  Really.  I bet you have all that just laying around your house already.
 

The faceted multicolor beads we used as well as the sequin mix came from our friends at CraftProjectIdeas.com, so now is a good time to thank them for those!

STEP 1: Cut two tree shapes from green felt.

STEP 2: Sew beads onto one of the pieces of felt.  This was so exciting for LC because it was the first time I ever let him use a needle and thread.  I showed him how to pull the needle up from the back, thread on a few beads, then push it back down through.  Priceless.

Look at his concentration!!  He had so much fun with this, and from time to time, he’d just grin and say, “Mommy, I’m sewing!”

STEP 3: Sew top and bottom of tree together, leaving an opening to stuff it.  At this point, I got to show Little Crafter how to do a simple whip stitch.  He, of course, caught on right away.  I held the two pieces together, and he pushed the needle through and pulled all by himself.  He literally made this entire thing with very little help from me whatsoever, other than verbal guidance.  He’s four.  No wonder his Poppy calls him “Boy Genius.”

STEP 4: Stuff with polyfil and finish sewing shut.  He loved the stuffing part.

STEP 5: Add a hanger using silver cord, jute, or ribbon.  We threaded ours through using a large needle, but you could also use hot glue on the back.

Isn’t it adorable?  LC generously decided that the first one he made was for his daddy.  Then he made one for me, which has lots and lots of purple for the Ravens.  It also has an “M” for Mommy, an “E” because it will remind me of my stuffed elephant Peanut, and a “B” for “MomBy.”  This is what I was told.
Finally, he made his own.  He got into a pattern this time, doing a sequin, then a bead, then a sequin, then a bead…you can tell that his three favorite colors are red, blue, and purple!
Once they were finished, he hid them in each of our stockings.  Cute stuff!  I hope you enjoy this idea for ornaments your whole family can make together.  Have a blessed holiday season!
Happy Crafting!
Dec 09

Giving Kids Responsibility

By Patrick Kansa | Children

Giving Kids ResponsibilityLast month, I covered the topic of giving kids choices, and how we need to be responsible for both the options we give, as well as accepting the choice that the child makes.  Today, I want to dive into what is very much the flipside to the choices coin – and that is responsibility.

Tying It Together With Choices

To see how this ties together, let’s go with the picking-out-their-clothes example that I used in the previous article.  Once your child has their clothing picked out for the day, you’ll go about the activities you have planned.  What if they’ve decided to put on something that isn’t appropriate for the weather (say, shorts in the winter) or the activity (a party dress when headed out to the trails)?  Provided we stick with our earlier decision to abide by their choice (well, perhaps we’ll put a warmer coat and snow pants on in that first example), they’ll start to learn that their decisions have ramifications – and they’re responsible for those choices and their results.

This Is Important!

But why is this important?  As your child begins to pick up on the concept of responsibility, you can begin to instill the lessons that they are more than just an isolated person.  You’ll start off by teaching them to be a contributing (and responsible) member of your immediate family.  This will then be able to be extended to the larger family, perhaps your local congregation.  Ultimately, this will lead to them learning how to be a responsible member of society.

Of course, that’s the end goal.  Before we get there, we’ve got a lot of smaller steps to cover.  This is a journey we ourselves are fairly early on with, as our oldest is just about four.  That isn’t to say we don’t have her being responsible for things, though.  These can be fairly little things, but they’ll be lessons that add up.

Giving Kids ResponsibilityCleaning Up…

For example, we’ve started having her clear her plate from the dinner table once she’s been excused.  When this started out, we had to remind her each night of what was expected of her.  Now, it’s become routine – she knows it’s something she needs to do.   We had a wonderful reminder of her progress over the Thanksgiving weekend.  At both my parents’ and my sister’s house, after being excused (at every meal) she would take her dishes over to the sink without being asking.  She may not realize it yet, but she’s learning the lesson of contributing to the smooth running of our family, aka being a responsible family member.

… and Loading Up

Another lesson she’s been learning has been with what she brings along in her backpack.  We’ll try to give some guidelines for what she packs in there (coloring books, a favorite stuffed toy, etc), but she’s more or less given free reign once she’s got the specific things we want her to have packed in.  Sometimes, she’ll be ready to head out the door, and we’ll put the backpack on her shoulders, only to hear her say “it’s too heavy!”  It’s at this point that I’ll remind her that the weight is from her own activities – she packed in everything she wanted to bring.  While I’ll occasionally help her carry the bag, I’d be more inclined to help her clear things out to lighten the load.  It’s a small lesson, but she’s learning to be responsible for her own belongings, as well as some self sufficiency (in other words, pack what you can carry, not to depend on others to help).

Giving Kids Responsibility

Drawing The Line

Don’t get me wrong – we help our kids as much as we can with many things, especially in areas they’re still learning.  Here and there, though, we’ll take that small step back just to see what happens – what they’re learning, where we need to focus – that sort of thing.  I’ve said it before in these articles, and I’m sure I’ll say it again:  this is yet another one of those areas that we’re working through, and it’s definitely a trial-by-error.  Even for those of you reading this – you might try my examples, and they may or may not work for your kids or your parenting style.  Every child is different, and of course that changes the dynamics of this thing called parenting.

Enjoying the Journey

That all said, I’m curious what other situations our readers have come across with giving their kids more responsibility.  I’m sure there are plenty of stories (good, funny, or otherwise) that we could ultimately all learn from.  In our house, we’re learning as we go, and seeing how our kids react to what we’re opening up to them.  The ultimate goal is to have a productive and responsible member of our family and society.  We’re just enjoying the fun and rolling with the bumps and bruises as we travel the path to getting them there.

 

Dec 04

Wedded Mess Versus Wedded Bliss: How a wedding can more than throw libido

By Dawn Van Ness | Sex & Family Planning

The stress we bring to important moments like marriage is terrible.  And stress isn’t good for sex and intimacy.

 

In fact, Christmas stress is what inspired this article.

 

Stress breaks us down.  It breaks us apart.  It is bad for our health.  It is bad for our relationships.  We can’t even think clearly after prolonged stress, especially if it disrupts our sleep.

 

And a marriage ceremony, no matter how perfect, is stressful.  I’ve seen mother-in-laws who are particularly in denial about the stress they’ve foisted on the couples and instead are just focused on how the wedding was everything they wanted it to be.

 

Yet, in the end of everything, it is about the union of two, who are forging a life together.  And for the purposes of this column, I will focus on the obstacles of wonderful sex and intimacy for the couple.

 

Of the hurdles before the wonderful, there is the notable wedding ceremony.  Whether big or small, fancy or simple, fanciful or traditional, there is stress.  Stress seems to attract stress.

 

And stress breaks us down.

 

The high expectations of the honeymoon, with the high expectations of the wedding ceremony and the high expectations of the union means high stress.

 

Be aware of the stress and where it is coming from.

 

Then do something about it, even if it is letting go of the high expectations.  Be in the moment.  Enjoy the freshness of the flowers.  Enjoy the excitement in the eyes of friends and families.  Celebrate in your heart!

 

The temptation to stress is all around you and at once inside you.   But the shut off valve is ultimately inside you.  And if it is your partner who is stressing, pull them into your calm however you can.

 

Don’t focus on the perfection of your nails or your hair, but the human touch going into it, like the feeling of getting your hair washed or the lotion massaged into your hands and feet.  Remember the champaign coming?  The cold, crisp bubbles are fun on your tongue.  But if your mind is racing around about all that could go wrong or what is wrong, you are robbing yourself of the enjoyment and excitement of the ceremony and tradition.

 

You are amping up the stress.

 

I already mentioned the external stress brought by others’ expectations, but one of the biggest harbingers of stress is famously brought by the bride!

Isn't she lovely?

Isn’t she lovely?

For women I’ll venture that want, want, want mistakenly turns into the feeling of need, need, need.

 

Realty check!  You need air.  You need water.  You need food.  Stress and the perfect shade of pink for your six bridesmaids? Those are wants.  So the stress that is being hefted around?

 

Drop it.  Stop wanting. Stop needing.  Stop ranting, worrying, and whining.

 

Sorry, I’m more versed on the woman’s side of things and the pitfalls.  Hollywood has dramatized the craziness or made the event a fairy tale.  But hearing friends freak out over everything, and hearing more about the wonderful white sand of their vacations, I’m not particularly surprised that I don’t hear more stories about how great it all was and how it brought two people closer together.

Holding hands or holding each other accountable for our stress?

Holding hands or holding each other accountable for our stress?

I can think of one couple that claimed to have stopped talking so much to each other when they returned from their honeymoon that they had had two great big fights.

 

Be realistic about stress.

 

If you are not great at handling stress, you should wake up and face reality!  A wedding ceremony and expensive honeymoon with travel and time changes may not be good for you and your relationship.

 

Is your partner pushing you into something you don’t want?  Not that you don’t want to be together, but is the wedding and honeymoon out of control and are they not listening to you anymore?  Are you getting resentful?

 

If you can’t handle the stress, what kind of life are you two going to have?  How is the sex and intimacy?  Any faking?  Shutting down?  Avoidance?  Is this ceremony and honeymoon just a warning about the high stress household in the near future?

 

If the stress is coming from your partner, are you going to desire sex and intimacy from this person for very long?  Or will you learn to avoid one another?

 

How you handle stress separately and as a couple is connected to your sex life and intimacy.

 

And if your sex life and intimacy are faulty, and your life is stressful, and you have frequently been the dumper or dumpee of stress, you have just been given a chance.

 

If you make de-stressing your lives a priority, you will be rewarded in your relationship.  If sex and intimacy have been hurting, and you reduce the stress in your relationship and prioritize time to be intimate, you will succeed.

 

De-stress is easiest sought by simplifying.

De-stress is easiest sought by simplifying.

Do I believe people are by and large going to embrace this movement of de-stressing their lives and relationships?    No, but I can still hope it happens.

 

But I do want to stress that by de-stressing you will be able to improve your sex life and intimacy, and it will further de-stress you and your relationship.

 

Simplifying and de-stressing rewards your relationship, making wonderful sex and intimacy that much more attainable.

Simplifying and de-stressing rewards your relationship, making wonderful sex and intimacy that much more attainable.

It is wonderfully cyclic.

Dec 02

10 Occasions to wear your Walk Away Shoes

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

10 occasions to wear your walk away shoesHave you ever worn figure skates or downhill ski boots?

Both provide very snug support for your feet and ankles.

While they may feel unusually tighter than your everyday footwear, their very support allows you to be more accomplished and comfortable at either sport.

The same goes for your Walk Away Shoes, which I wrote about previously.

They take a little getting used to, but their support is invaluable towards being successful in achieving your goals.

Now that you’ve completed the three simple steps to create your Walk Away Shoes (if you haven’t just go here), I’m sharing ten occasions to wear this uniquely helpful footwear.

10 Occasions to wear your Walk Away Shoes

1.  Yard sales. How often do you say, “It’s only a quarter, a dollar, a few bucks. What a bargain! I might need this one day!” Leave those items behind unless they meet a need you have already noted.

2.  Christmas. The season is notorious for overbuying. Use your shoes—and your budget—to walk unscathed through the minefield of marketing.

3.  Anniversaries. Bigger is better! If you love your spouse, you’ll buy them this very expensive gift! No, no, no. There can be much more value in providing what money can’t buy.

4.  Hostessing. I understand fretting over guests and being afraid of how they’ll judge you based on your home and what you serve. I’ve been there, done that, got the sleepless nights to prove it. My guests never did that, and if they did, they were not folks I’d want to spend time with anyway. I imagine the same is true for you.

5.  Vacations. Again, bigger is not necessarily better, especially if you have to go into debt to travel. Remember it’s the experiences that create the warm memories, not the pile of money you’re burning through.

6.  Activities. How full is your calendar? Are you living on the road because of everything you’ve signed on to do, especially if you have children in sports? Time to cut back, or at least begin to say no. Just as your car engine will overheat and shutdown when there’s no downtime, so will you.

7.  Career searches. I understand being very unhappy at work. When you go looking for something new, be sure to set your parameters in advance so you don’t end up with, for instance, a miserably long, two hour a day commute in good weather, when gas was at its most expensive ever, and you work nights and weekends when your goal was to get some sort of regular schedule in your life again. Not that I ever did that.

8.  Promotions. Yes, getting a promotion can feed your soul and fill your bank account. However, the cost may be more than you realized you would have to pay. Weigh your options and your life and family goals carefully  before moving up.

9.  Buying a home. Oftentimes, pride wants to take the lead in choosing your home. Bad idea. Focus instead on your long term goals, needs, and wants. Be sure to keep those Walk Away Shoes handy as you include quality questions as part of your research.

10.  Giving of yourself. When you become overwhelmed, discouraged, and resentful because of your giving, it’s time to take a deeper look at what’s going on. Perhaps it’s time to let go of one or more things to make room for something better.

Dr. Seuss wrote in Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

And so you do, have feet in your very unusual shoes.

These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg.

The more you grow accustomed to this custom-made footwear, the more occasions you will find to wear them.

Remember that when you use your Walk Away Shoes, you are focusing on the continuing hits of gratitude, joy, and flat-out satisfaction from making the best decision you knew how instead of allowing emotions to rule the day.

Question: Where will you use your Walk Away Shoes this week, or where have you worn them recently? We’d love to have you share in the comments!

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