Archives for Marriage

Father Knows Best: 4 Surprising Secrets to Raising Kids Who Have an Impact

In light of Father’s Day weekend, I wanted to post this article written by my husband of 38 years, Gregory. He’s a rare bird in our crazy, mixed-up world; a wholehearted, faith-filled, faithful covenant man who has weathered many storms during our decades together, while always holding fast to His core values. He chooses his words carefully and always has wisdom for me if I take the time to listen. Here are some of his insights on parenting our five sons that I know you’ll benefit from…

I was recently asked by a friend, who also happens to be a professor and well-known education, tech and media consultant, how I managed to raise such a great family of outstanding young men. It wasn’t just a polite or shallow question based on a one-time get together. He knows them well and has spent a great deal of time listening and interacting with them…not just viewing their online media persona.

Mmmmmm…how did that happen?

1. I married their mother. Good move.

The second most important decision you will ever make is the decision about who you marry. I say second, because the first is, “where will you acquire your values?” I recommend you marry someone who shares your core values, beliefs and philosophy of life, especially when it comes to raising and educating children. Shared values are what helps hold you together when facing the storms of life. Embrace them together.

2. We tried to instill the right values in them.

Everyone of us draw our values from someone, whether parents, teachers, books or the internet. Who are you getting yours from, and why?

Values and convictions are meant to protect and maintain the most important relationships in your life. If you are a husband and father, that should be your wife and children. Your values will help determine all of your decisions about life. Of course, actually living by these convictions may cause you to lose some less important relationships because you make that choice.

Culture is produced by values, vision and conviction—chaos is produced by a lack of them.

Before you make the choice, examine the outcome of the lives, families and nations of those you intend to emulate. Why would you want to imitate the lifestyle of people you don’t want to end up like?

3. I taught them to think for themselves.

Even when you grow up thinking something is right, there is nothing wrong with questioning and examining what you think you know, or why. Just because you were taught something doesn’t mean its true. Of course, it doesn’t mean it isn’t either. I have found that some values are eternal, some are merely traditional and cultural. Truth will only get brighter and stronger under cross-examination. Ideas are powerful things.

The way to communicate ideas, especially to children is to read them the right books. We read to them, and made them read and write continually. Teach your children to think for themselves without turning them loose into a minefield of poison and noxious ideologies they are not mature enough to navigate. After all, they are your children, not someone else’s…or the States. Don’t feed them to the crocodile of secular humanism or the leviathan of religious buffoonery. They should be able to articulate and defend their own convictions and values, and look you in the eye as they do.

4. I trained them and I trust them.

If you have trained your children well, they will be kind, generous, open to honest dialogue and not intimidated by anyone. Teach them the value of hard work, compassion for others, sacrifice, and most importantly the value of real covenant relationship…with God and each other. Then, there’s only one thing left to do—trust them.

Psalm 45:16 – “Your sons will take the place of your fathers; you will make them princes throughout the land.”

Gregory Mira has spent three decades teaching, training, coaching and mentoring leaders. He has served on several international leadership teams, authored books and articles, and has been a keynote speaker at numerous conferences and leadership training events. He and his wife Denise have five sons and reside in Tacoma, WA. (Read HERE for the nitty gritty on this guy 🙂

Enjoy? CLICK HERE for The SuperPower Given to Every Father

Your Two-Minute Takeaway

  1. Have YOU considered what your core values are? If you can’t write them down this very moment, it may be time for reflection and consideration.
  2. What is your vision for your family? Where are you ‘taking’ your children – what is your long range goal for them? If you don’t know where you’re heading, you may not be happy with the destination. Gregory has drilled this into our entire family: “A vision without a plan is a fantasy.”
  3. So much of what Gregory is sharing here revolves around spending time with our children to build authentic relationships, to really know each other. Our culture fights us at every turn to keep us too busy to simply BE with each other. Ponder your schedule, your actual honest time spent with your kids outside of carpools and good-night kisses and what you could tweak in order to buy you more time with your precious children.
  4. Make it happen. One step at a time.

Thank you for reading, I’m truly honored. If you’d like to read more, subscribe for my updates and grab my TRANSFORMATIVE spring freebie, 7 Steps to Cure an Unhappy Kid and Revolutionize Your Home Life by clicking HERE. 

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Mommy, when you can’t see beyond the mess…Let ME be your eyes.

After 34 years of parenting, I’ve put on a lot of miles in my journey as a mom. I’m now one of those people you young parents scratch your head and ponder…an empty nester.

Yes, I’ve crossed to that mysterious other side; that faraway place you longingly contemplate through the fog of your overwhelm, perhaps while stepping on sharp toys in the middle of the night, or when your toddler dropped your smart phone in the toilet.

Sigh.

Young mama you can’t see right now from where I am because the mess is too big and the noise is too loud and the tedium dizzying and the toilets are filthy and it’s 7:00 am and you’re out of half n’ half *&%!!! And to go get half n’ half you’d have to GAH get dressed, double gah get two toddlers dressed and in their car seats GAHHHH and then you’d have to do it 3 more times by the time you’re home with your purchase – just for half n half??!

And since you aren’t that amazing 5 a.m. yoga mom,  you all look homeless which would make you so stressed while everyone stares at you in Kroger feeling sorry for your kids, the half n’ half would curdle in your stomach anyway. And if by some chance you primped everyone, by that time you wouldn’t want coffee anyway. You’d want LUNCH and you certainly can’t afford to eat lunch out on your husband’s meager salary.

And you’re mad at HIM; that guy you pick up after, sleep with, the utility patrol who comes home after a long day and can’t walk through the room without a helpful suggestion or another request and you really don’t have a whole lot to look forward to – ok story time at the library is pretty decent but the girls with the always-helpful grandma are out shopping til they drop.

As you peer out at it all through tired eyes, it can be hard to see clearly.

BUT I CAN SEE past your present circumstances.
AND I KNOW THE TRUTH.
AND I CAN SAVE YOUR LIFE RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW IF YOU’LL LET ME.

Ain’t nothing better than what’s in front of you RIGHT NOW RIGHT HERE TODAY. I know because if you choose to skip over this inconvenient truth, you will have already lost the game.

Everything in you wants to RUN on many days.
Everything around you tells you “just do it.”
Every media outlet screams at you that your bad a$$ beautiful self has SO MUCH TO GIVE THIS WORLD – YOU CAN BE ANYTHING….and there’s always some free government program with their hands out, just waiting to take your kid.

And you think about it so much that it’s working its way into your soul….that holy place where you make good decisions or bad decisions.

Because there is a target on your back and the goal is to take you out of your little one’s lives for most of their waking hours.
Because there are powers-that-be that KNOW YOUR SUPER POWERS AS A MOM. Yes, YOU. Flawed, uncertain, fearful YOU: the perfectly imperfect mother God gave to YOUR kids because He knows who you are and how capable you are!

These enemies are cunning.

They hide behind your messes and shame you.
They lurk on social media and whisper in your ear…”who ARE you anyway?? Get a life.”

They compare you with others until you’re convinced you are a LOSER; a dumpy out-of-shape ‘housewife’ – that dirty word of the 21st century.

The narrative goes something like this: ‘girl you are better than a nanny, a maid, a cook, a mistress to your demanding not-so-helpful man, you are A WINNER WHO SHOULD BE STRUTTIN HER STUFF out there somewhere before you’re old and gray and washed up.

But I know better
I know the truth
I know what’s coming
I know who your kids are and who they are to become.

Because I’ve crossed to the other side and it’s a beautiful, even miraculous place.
My ROI (Return On Investment) as a Momma far exceeds anything my 401K could have offered me from the perfect government job I quit when my firstborn arrived 33 years ago.

Here’s a peek into my everyday world as an empty nester mom of five sons…

One son recently emailed me to say, “Momma, you gave us boys a conscience.” (401K you say??)

Another son stood in my dirty kitchen last week and declared, “Momma you’re the most empowered woman I know.” (I gave up some great benefits with that government job, you say??)

Another son came over for lunch as I wanted to encourage him about something and he spent most of the time preaching the power of ME, his momma, what I have to offer the world and how I need to go about getting it out there. (I could’ve driven new cars with all that extra money, you say??)

Another son called to check up on me because he had me on his heart and talked at length with me, sharing his wisdom. (how many Nordstrom clothes could I have afforded with that job??)

I woke to a text from another son with an offer of $500 not because I’m poor but because he saw something he thought I could benefit from and he didn’t want me to ignore it because it cost money. (wow the vacations I could have paid for with that job, you say??)

And that’s just a tiny little itty bitty sliver of my midlife mom world…

Girls, I want to shout it from the mountain tops! Popular culture and feminism tried to rob me of the most precious gifts awaiting me as an adult woman! Dream big and take action today! God will meet you.

If you enjoyed the read, there’s more! I’d love to be a voice of encouragement along your journey.

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5 Pivotal Truth Bombs to Drop on Your Kids Before They Meet Their ‘Soulmate’

Here in the USA, gittin’ hitched is averaging $25,000 – 30,000 dollars per celebration.

Gulp.

Great pains are obviously being taken to plan the Big Day, but judging by the dismal outcome of too many of these pricey unions, many of the kids marrying aren’t prepared for life after the ceremony. 

 

Building a life that stands the test over time isn’t luck and unicorns. It’s real, raw and often rugged. We must dispel popular culture’s pretty little lies about fairytale futures. Here’s a good start:

1. Marriage is a marathon. A very long, tiring, and at times, soul-crushing race. A race indicates a lengthy stretch of rough road that leads to a glorious finish line. Most modern humans I talk to want a finish-line relational experience every single day, with full make-up, goosebumps and a photo shoot.

Sans sweat. 

We’ve all heard the phrase, if not vowed it ourselves, “for better or for worse.” In real life, there’s a whole lot of ‘worse’ you’re gonna experience along with the better in this marriage thing. Yes, the ‘better’ is priceless, but it only comes with the daily investment of long suffering, hard work and compromise over the long haul. 

Nora Ephron, screenwriter of blockbuster romcoms Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, and Harry Met Sally said “most people learned their beliefs about love from my movies.” Even she knew, after 3 marriages of her own, the reality vs. fantasy of romantic love.

And while we’re on the topic, ‘conscious uncoupling’ is a sentimental fallacy created by a bazillionaire Hollywood Hamptons ditz who is not in touch with the true spirit of marriage which has it’s roots in the term ‘covenant.’ Look it up, it’s brutal. More brutal however is divorce, which, in the words of my good friend, a divorced mother of four, is, “a death that never dies.”

2. Family is Complex. It’s a multi-generational conglomeration. A household of foreigners, ofttimes speaking different languages, trying to live together in harmony. Close families are not created by accident. It takes large amounts of grace extended to build a strong family.

How is it that the one family member you want to kill on Monday, saves your life on Thursday? Am I right? And you think your job is hard, but you’re a piece of work, too, even though you may not be in touch with it. We’re all like diamonds, many faceted, all having sides to us we cannot see. We see our good side; our family members see our not-so-good side. And we love each other through it all.

This is the mystery of family. This is the truth of covenant relationship. The staying power of staying when you often feel like fleeing. So much of the magic of life is simply not quitting!

3. Mothers. Are. Priceless. They cannot be rented or bought. The ‘I wanna nanny’ mantra parroted by so much of the Gen X young mama population is a worldly idea created by Hollywood starlets who are out of touch with reality and will one day, all-too-soon be found old, wrinkled, washed up and alone on the shores of Santa Monica beach. And for the rest of us overtaxed serfs of the world, surrendering our children to full time daycare centers and systemized, confining public education from age zero-18 will generally not produce the specimen of human being that our heart longs to raise. 

Do your job today, Mama, with all you have to give, and you will rest well on your pillow 20 years from today when your children are impacting the whole wide world with the heart and soul YOU gave them.

4. Fathers have super powers! The smear campaign against men over the past several decades has impacted our culture in an enormous way, redefining manhood and casting suspicion upon men who dare to display strength and leadership in most any context. Meanwhile, strong women are cheered on.

Men are not the weak, bumbling idiots media has portrayed them to be, nor are they the arseholes they’re often implied to be. The trickle down effect of this narrative has infused poison into family life where it seems to me that many men have become tentative about their role, defaulting to their very capable and dominating wives, which often leads to chaos, confusion and ultimately the breakdown of the family. 

(Conversely, ask most any single woman what she’s actually looking for in a man, and it’s not weakness. #scratchingmyhead)

After parenting for 33 years, I know the power of having a strong man at the helm of our family. Gregory is the steel beam holding up our dynasty – invisible at times, but more necessary than could possibly be imagined. We would be lost without him. Moms can do a lot, but they can’t take the place of a father.

5. Money Has Never Made a Human Heart Happy. All of creation chases the dollar bill and what do most of them have to show for it? More debt, distress and brokenness. Most double income families are spending 1/3 more than they bring in each month. Fact. The more you have, the more you spend. It’s a tireless backwards cycle, leading to chronic stress that destroys families. The love of money is still the root of all evil. Don’t love anything that can’t love you back. 

The plumb line your children measure their lives against will determine how strong, straight, tall and for how long the building stands. Let’s help them form their measuring stick with truth, not Madison Avenue myths.

Your Two-Minute Takeaway

  1. Take a moment to ponder all that your child is taking in through media, magazines, Netflix, movies and social media. What’s the life message he or she is regularly imbibing through all this input? Are you happy with this? Is there anything you’d like to adjust?
  2. Your kids are formed and fashioned by the 5 people closest to them. Are you happy with the friends they hang out with and the social extracurricular activities they’re involved in? Is there anything eating at you about their relationships? Does something need adjusting?
  3. You should be the primary force shaping your children. Is there any oxygen left in your week to spend quality time with your children, just poking around at thrift stores, walking the dog together, cooking or crafting or shooting hoops? If you don’t plan these things, they’ll never happen. Make a plan!

 

If you enjoyed the read, there’s more! I’d love to be a voice of encouragement along your journey.

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Building a Strong Foundation in Your Child: the Magic is in the Details

I’m convinced that the fundamental and distinctive characteristics and qualities of an individual – call it their moral and spiritual DNA, is formed by what is taught and trained, ingrained in them day-by-day over years and years. This process creates the very essence of their lives, the vital foundation from which future life decisions originate.

We humans like to compartmentalize everything. But life is holistic.* Everything’s connected.

For instance, our kid gets acne so we buy the cadillac of zit creams and slather it to remedy the crisis. But in actuality did you know that skin issues are most often a symptom of what lies beneath in the gut, the foundation of a healthy body?!

This revelation as it applies to our physical health is truly revolutionary – but it’s just as powerful in our parenting.

The value of a solid, healthy foundation really cannot be exaggerated. It’s essential to a solid life. It’s the result of a consistent, faithful presence doing what needs to be done over the course of someone’s life development.

Find any individual having a positive impact in the world, look over their shoulder and it’s likely you’ll see a dedicated parent or parental figure who invested a lot into their foundation. It’s precisely what made the person who the person is.

A mother and a father have such power. Super powers in fact, but the most important people on the planet are ofttimes hidden and underestimated, and eclipsed by the myths of popular culture.

Historically, many mothers dismiss their influence as inconsequential. They imagine vainly that they’re flunkie moms, glorified maids, dull nannies.

They don’t comprehend that their daily multitudinous tasks for their family’s benefit are setting the mold for their children. They reckon, “if women can have it all, why on earth would I not hire out all the unimportant tasks to someone less gifted?” But very little is unimportant in the scope of parenting.

 

It’s easy for parents to overlook the fact that the most important moment of their lives is always **NOW**!

Yes, everything matters because this is a holistic, comprehensive approach to developing a human being.

  • the organic green smoothie you’re blending
  •  the chore chart you’re making
  • the book you’re reading aloud
  • the iPhone you’re denying
  • the attitude you’re correcting
  • the big screen television that’s not running
  • the thank you note you’re requiring
  • the bed you’re making
  • the prayer you’re praying
  • the credit cards you’re shredding
  • the marriage vows you’re honoring
  • the political discussion you’re broaching
  • the foster child you’re nurturing
  • the meal you’re delivering to the elderly neighbor
  • the gossip you aren’t tolerating at the dinner table…is all working in synergy to produce a combined effect in your child that is greater than the sum of their separate effects to build a healthy, whole, stable individual who will in turn, build a healthy, whole, stable society with their influence on the world around them.

You are developing a culture in which your child is eternally influenced through all their five senses, soul and spirit.

Children do not primarily need the benefits of a mother bringing home an additional paycheck, but the entire household needs the influence of a mother in the home in these formative years.

We have only to scan the news headlines to see life after broken life, fool after fool, train wreck after train wreck of lives coming undone.
Unstable people without a clue.
Their foundations weren’t laid properly.
They are sorely lacking in substance.
It’s not a speech they need – too late for that.
Rehab may help. But it’s iffy.
It was the tireless, unending, laborious, exhausting, discipline and discipleship of a mother and father that was foisted off on others who didn’t have what it takes to get the job done in a youngster’s life.

Dr. Caroline Leaf, cognitive neuroscientist and best selling author confirms this principle in her book, Who Switched Off My Brain. “Childhood is a particularly crucial time for the brain because neural sculpting is at its lifetime high. Many of our abilities, tendencies, talents and reactions are hardwired in childhood and set a mental stage for adulthood.

Herein lies the root of the corruption of public morals in our day. Character is developed over time and it’s what makes the world go round. It’s what determines decisions and divorces and successes and failures, monies made, stolen and given. Character drives the course of history, the condition of nations, cities, villages, communities and neighborhoods.

The dominant, constant force in that kid’s life is going to constantly dominate in his life.
It’s really quite simple.
Who’s imparting to your children-reminding, hugging, instructing, mentoring, training, re-training, repeat?
It’s all so clear.
This is easy.
This is too easy to miss when so many have their hands outstretched to take this responsibility from you.

It’s about developing values and conscience and conviction and perceptions and judgments and discernment both intentionally and ‘accidentally’ in a human being who will, in turn, touch so many other human beings for better or worse.

Your Two-Minute Takeaway

  1. What specific, helpful thoughts came to mind as you read this post? Write these thoughts down, as they are the revelation you will be inspired by into the future so that you can be aware and take appropriate action for positive change as you build a healthy foundation in your home, for the benefit of your children.
  2. Look at the big picture of your family’s weekly and monthly schedules and evaluate what really needs to change. Are you so busy and distracted that you are missing so much of ‘The NOW!’ of daily life? I’ve been there and I understand. It could be time for a course correction. Pray and ask for wisdom to bring practical change to your weekly, monthly and quarterly schedule.

*Holistic: characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.

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Valentine’s Day Blues Gotcha?? Here’s the Cure.

Here we go again. Barely got past Christmas, then the Super Bowl and now…
Red.
Hearts.
Everywhere.

Digitized, printed, wrapped, hung and glued on the whole universe: billboards, cards, candies, candles, lingerie, jewelry, steaks, and all that our men can see is…

RED! WARNING! DANGER APPROACHING! As they prepare to walk the tightrope of yet another female expectation based on popular culture’s superficial relational demands.

Can you feel the presssssurrrre as you walk through the drugstore, Target, or Nordstrom? Click on Amazon??
Because Hallmark’s at it again, collaborating with every other media and retail force on the planet to try to define for you what love is and exactly how it should be expressed.
They’re setting the baseline and adding a price tag.
Don’t fall for it.
And, women, snap out of it. Yes, you read that right and, no, I’m not a party pooper.
And yes, I love me some romance. (and yes, monogamy should be HOT!)

But my husband’s ‘performance’ on Valentine’s Day is not the measure of his love for me!

Valentine’s Day is a phony, plastic, blip on the screen.

A massive ATM for retail outlets to peddle their made-in-China wares and for FTD to grab a windfall of profits.

 

Am I against beautiful bouquets and Belgian chocolates? He!! to the no! Am I trying to discourage men from indulging their women this coming Friday? (Please, I hope you’re smarter than that.)

But I am against Madison Avenue’s effort to present to you the image of what your man must measure up to, comparing him to the Celebrity Class, bringing unrest in your heart and mind and creating angst between partners. And really, who gives a crap what Tom Brady’s buying for Giselle??! Hashtag meaningless. Remember Brad and Angelina, Blake and Miranda, Ben and Jen, Heidi and Seal, Chris and Gwyneth, Tarek and Christina, Naomi and Liev… (should I go on???)

Expectations destroy relationships.

Think about it.
Every disappointing holiday…wherein was the disappointment?
Was the gift not enough?
The calls not verbally indulgent?
The card didn’t arrive on time?
“What card,” you ask?!

Was it…eegads…forgotten??!!
YOUR sacred day—was it not celebrated as the day the earth stood still?! With power and might and trumpets and many and varied $urpri$e$?

You showed your displeasure.
The hmph in your throat.
The sigh in your voice.
Your disappointment was evident to all, or at least to the man in your life.
The clenched teeth. The cold spirit. The pout. How divisive and devilish they are. How much distance they place between loving souls.

So…you didn’t get enough? What’s ever ‘enough?!’
Isn’t love enough?
Does loyalty count for nothing?
Is faithfulness a mere token?

What of the handful of daisies brought you on no special occasion weeks ago?


…the scrawled sticky note of encouragement waiting for you on the door that winter morning?
…that recent deep and meaningful late-night chat?
…that quick call just to say, “I love you?”
…the spontaneous stop for wine and pizza last weekend?
…the takeout latte brought you randomly for no reason?
…the diligent work ethic and the steady paychecks to support the family?
…the foot rub that put you to sleep, or whatever simple task or action or verbiage was expressed to you in love.
Are these not celebrations of YOU? The loved, yes, adored soul of great importance to him?

Expectations ruin simple moments of pleasure and random expressions of affection.

All is lost on the Big Occasion’s perceived ‘#fails.’

And our children notice and form their values according to what we value and place importance upon.

Our culture is addicted to romance but have no clue about L.O.V.E. – that four-letter all or nothing, die a thousand deaths, til the end of time, covenant word.

 

Nora Ephron, screenwriter of blockbuster romcoms Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, and Harry Met Sally said “most people learned their beliefs about love from my movies.” Even she knew, after 3 marriages of her own, the reality vs. fantasy of romantic love. Her brilliant writing apparently did not reflect her personal life, for behind the scenes she suffered decades of much relational agony.

Full Disclosure: Yes, of course I’ve received treats and surprises on occasional ‘Valentine’s Days,’ and yes, I’ve participated in the holiday every single year in some way by spoiling my children and grandchildren with fun little trinkets or gifting my adult friends with frivolous fun.

Because I’m not a legalistic, uptight chick. I love life and laughter and celebration any day of the week; I’m simply not willing to allow the systems of our world to stir up discontent and depression and strife in my home, while teaching my sons a big fat lie about LOVE, just because my husband doesn’t dance to their tune and obey their dictates.

Be wise, ladies. Be courageous, men.
Be free to be YOU as you love one another.

If you enjoyed the read, there’s more! I’d love to be a voice of encouragement along your journey.

 

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This Is Us. What I’m Sure of After 37 Years of Marriage.

Lying in bed tonight, I reached over to touch my Gregory.

I felt his warm skin at my fingertips. That same firm, broad muscled shoulder, same manly smell I’ve known for 37 years, and I wanted just to lay there, knowing he wouldn’t leave….kind of like clinging to my pink blankie.

 

Comforted and assured.

All is well with me.

 

Seeing him across the room, time and again over the years engaged in conversation…behind a podium, earnestly addressing a crowd…tickling my granddaughter, chasing her about as she giggles wildly, or sitting, brooding over sons by number…each boy furrows his brow over one thing or another….or Bible in hand, pen poised, awaiting the next underline as he reads for hours.

 

This is my man. 
The one I’ve known and watched and smelled and touched and loved and hated and boxed with and screamed at and cried to as he held me tightly to his chest.

 

Don’t ever be gone.

Don’t ever not be there for my fingers to reach.

“I never want to be away from you,” he said in the car today as we drove from Walmart. “Even though sometimes I want to kill you,” he chuckled.

“Touch my neck.” For he loves my hand on his skin just to know I’m there.

We have had our ups and downs.

Extremes, like in music scores; highs and lows.

My recently-degreed fifth born said without the lows you wouldn’t have the highs and vice versa. You need them in music, in movies, in photography, in color, in sound, in life.

It’s what makes life alive.

A flatline isn’t a good sign.

The dance of marriage is the ebb and flow, the dark and light, the valleys and the peaks.

“Husband and wife, pulled taut like rubber bands, then crashing into one another with a squabble, loving feelings rekindled, pulling back again to retract for space…repeat.”

But he doesn’t look for space from me these days.

Any space is too far.

Even as my thoughts wander, he intuitively knows and will softly say, “don’t leave me.”

 

Hiding in my office for hours, days, to write my articles and books, then emerging to grab a snack or drink…he will look up as I walk by as if the sun just arose to break through his gray clouds…countenance lift…just to spy me there.

And then he’ll ask me a question like always to solve a mystery of his.

To get some practical info.

To cause me to linger a while longer.

That’s when I playfully call him the ‘yard frog;’ that decorative garden creature at Home Depot who ribbits as motion is detected.

 

At times his doting is more than my crowded, busy, driven self can bear and I wish him away…but now I don’t do that.

I wish him here.

Not just til morning, or the next night, or til the weekend or over the holidays; not through the upcoming family festivities or Happy New Year, but forever.

I don’t want to be the widow who rolls over to a cold pillow next to me.

I don’t want the same for him.

I resist the pull of such melancholy, yet I’m sobered by my thoughts; this deep affection is so real to me at this moment.

 

I roll to the left to snuggle to his back until I doze, even through his numerous, irritating restless movements, late night games of solitaire on his iphone…to cling because I can, until he stirs so that I cannot sleep, then I roll to the right and he turns off his light and scoots up to my back and clings to me.

 

This is us.
This is our love.
This is our silent cry never to be apart, never to be forced to fall in love with another because one’s left.

 

How can I possibly articulate these deep feelings to those wandering souls who pledge their love, fingers crossed behind their backs as they hold stubbornly to their independence? Living with their options open— this language I speak is foreign to them, the country I live in is not theirs, and yet…our apartment is three doors away.

 

How can they know that sex and relationship are only two-dimensional without a love that’s birthed through the darkest of days, over time, children sick with fevers burning hot in the night, bills, oh bills, fears, anguish, anger, multiple birthdays and anniversaries, the drone of the dailies, the tempo of tedium…way beyond goosebumps, convenience and frivolous emotion?

 

How can they understand what it means to stay…when they keep leaving?

How could they relate to my eighty thousand family pictures and videos, packed carefully in a myriad of cartons and boxes, copied on hard drives, all taken since 1980 at our inception which I’ve dragged across the map of our innumerable moves?

Young, strapping, serious, muscle-bound dark-headed man takes vivacious, optimistic bouncing blonde girl to be his lawfully wedded wife. Then comes one boy child, then two, then three, then four and five…photos show the same man, now graying, the same girl, now a grannie, both slightly rounder, in 37 years’ worth of family albums, yellowing around the edges.

Same immediate family unit intact.

Stuck together like glue.

 

Years and pain and marathons soften the edges of our personalities, making us flexible enough to surrender, despite our intense displeasure for the moment, knowing somehow this too shall pass and we shall love each other fresh, yet again.

 

Now, my wish is his command.

He is smitten, as am I…no end in sight. We are each other’s muse.

I’ve been trying to get back to my borrowed, downtown Seattle writing retreat and my solitude, but I’m finding it so very difficult.

I’m afraid.

I wish I could call my recently deceased almost-ninety neighbor, Joyce, on the phone and commiserate.

I used to find her so irritating at times as she clung so tightly to Paul, her husband of 63 years. She would almost certainly strangle him under her iron grip…for she feared losing him. Every breath, every second, every jaunt, every move he made was under her watchful eye with baited breath and subject to her random and irrational outbursts and rants.

Now, at this moment, I feel her anxiety.

I don’t know where to be at times for I fear I will have been in the wrong place at the wrong time and will look back and wish I’d stayed, or that he went away to give me space and never came back and why did I wish him away that weekend?

We are no longer in our 30s or 40s; as the wrinkles define our features and our hair thins, our mortality is highlighted.

I don’t want to face the day he is not there when I reach over for him.

Who would rescue me from my haunting nightmares as he has, jolting me from my blanket of terror, wrapping me in his safe arms of love; reassuring me?

I sleep differently when I know he’s there. My whole body sleeps.

Without him, only my eyes sleep — the rest of me doesn’t rest.

He is the Papa our three-year old granddaughter hotly pursues through the house until she finds him, calling through the locked bathroom door or interrupting him as he studies, his earplugs in for soundproofing.

 

He is the steel beam holding up our dynasty — invisible on many days but more necessary than could possibly be imagined.
We would be lost without him.

 

In the light of day, funny how every car whizzing by grabs my attention…then my eye turns to see…is that him?

And I feel elated to think that he is coming home to me…again…predictably, like a horse to the barn these 37 years. And as happy as I was that he was out and about all morning, giving me much-needed solace…I’m more happy to hear his familiar gait as he makes his way into the house all kerfuffle. He’s Italian, after all…not the kind of guy who tiptoes around in life.

As I watched him in action today hoisting items, shifting, working, as we relocate yet again, replay kicked in on my inner reel.

How many times he’s organized, lifted and shifted over 37 years of progress and forward motion.

Now I know these movements and sounds as a comfort.

My strong man exists to make things right, to adjust the crooked and toss the needless and prepare what’s necessary. To bark out commands and get things done.

Such a masculine man.

A visionary.

A leader.

A passionate soul.

A deep thinker.

An intentional man.

Perhaps I could find a warm body to snuggle; a well-heeled businessman to pay my bills and care that I’m on his arm, to buy me dinner anytime, anywhere. To never complain about my spending.

But this is My Man. He is not simply good looking or stylish or sharp or clever, he is The One I have loved more deeply than I thought possible.

The love of my life since my teens.

Child bride was I.

Next to me as I birthed each of our five sons, then next to me through postpartum blues, baby fat and my copious stretch marks he calls “beautiful.”

Every morning for the last 13,505 mornings I have waked knowing…he is.

Trusting.

Assured.

Together with him.

My husband, my friend, my co-laborer, my covenant man.

I’m so glad we’ve endured the hardest things in life to get to the sweetest things in life.

You are my heart, my life, my ballast…my home. Happy Anniversary, my love.

Want MORE? Grab my tried and true TRANSFORMATIVE  gift 7  Simple Steps to Raising Happy Kids Who Persevere HERE.

 

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Your Discomfort Zone – Where the Magic Happens

Yesterday I walked into the kitchen to prep my daily green smoothie. I suddenly remembered – facepalm – I was out of power greens and celery. Hmmm. I’m not easily dissuaded, so I shook down the fridge and found baby arugula and romaine lettuce (surprisingly, romaine lettuce is a solid source of protein).

I packed my Vitamix full of these optional greens, blueberries, a chunk of fresh ginger, chia seeds, maca powder, avocado, organic protein powder and pure water. It was disgusting. And I guzzled every drop to get it down the hatch quick. Why? Because the goal wasn’t pleasure, but nourishment.

Mark Hyman, MD, director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine says, “Food is the most powerful drug on the planet. It can improve the expression of thousands of genes, balance dozens of hormones, optimize tens of thousands of protein networks, reduce inflammation, and optimize your microbiome (gut flora) with every single bite. It can cure most chronic diseases; it works faster, better, and cheaper than any drug ever discovered; and the only side effects are good ones – prevention, reversal, and even treatment of disease, not to mention vibrant optimal health.”

I’m determined to do everything in my power to maintain optimum health and that means enduring some discomfort on a daily basis, whether that be a nasty green sludge smoothie, a power walk including steep inclines, or an early bedtime to get plenty of sleep. (Click here for a quick read on feeding your kids for best outcomes.)

It occurred to me that much of my life has been spent living intentionally in my discomfort zone, from which I’ve reaped many priceless benefits.

Anything you want outside of normal is likely going to be produced in the discomfort zone – that awkward, uncomfortable, at times miserable, redundant, tedious, costly, trying, testing, lonely, d..r..y place.

The place average achievers intentionally avoid.

It’s really the only place to be often if you want to initiate real living, bring about true change in your life and family, and have an impact in the world. All that accomplishment doesn’t take place binge-watching Netflix with a bag of chips and soda every night, yet stats tell us the average person spends 3-8 hours on the internet daily.

Marriage

When I got married 6 months out of high school to a self-confident Italian 11 years my senior, I was walking the razor edge of heresy according to some. Was I ready for marriage? Is anyone ready for marriage?! Because, let’s be honest, strong marriages that last are not built in you and your partner’s comfort zones. Can I get an ‘amen’?! 38 years later, I’m so glad we determined to push through all the uncomfortable days. (You can read more about that HERE.)

Motherhood and Home Education

When I found the joy of motherhood and continued having babies, one after another to the dismay of some vocal family members – you guessed it, discomfort zone. Then when I decided to homeschool them all with no formal training, well, let’s just say it was unfamiliar territory I had to learn to navigate on a daily basis, despite the jeers in my ears. Life found us pioneering, blazing trails; trudging along bumpy and lonely roads at times over the years, but one step always led to the next, even when it seemed like we’d hit the wall.  33 years later, the outcomes were worth any discomfort. (Read HERE for a glimpse…)

 

Your New Normal: the discomfort zone

If you’ve got your sights set on building a strong marriage, raising great kids, growing healthy bodies, serving your fellowman, increasing your intelligence, achieving the dreams in your heart, and conquering life’s mountains along the way – just remember the motto of the U.S. Navy SEALs, “The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday,” and gird up for extended periods in the discomfort zone. 

Your Two-Minute Takeaway

  1. List the top 10 accomplishments you see as paramount in your life. Ponder how much time and energy and emotion was spent in your discomfort zone that bore such fruit. How can you apply this same determination in your marriage, child rearing and physical health? Make a plan!
  2. The average person looks at their smartphone at least 100 times a day where they find delicious, comfortable, indulgent, audio and visual delights every millisecond to anesthetize them briefly and distract them from real life and real relationships. Refuse to use your phone for anything more than an absolutely necessary call or text for the first two hours of your day for a week and jot down the affects of your mini-fast.
  3. Embrace the effects of your discomfort zone-you aren’t failing, weak or going backwards. Reframe the thoughts and emotions that feel so heavy and dark – turning them into a buoyant victory march toward the finish line of success. Be the badass you know you ARE deep down inside.

Thank you for reading, I’m truly honored. If you’d like to read more, subscribe for my updates and grab my TRANSFORMATIVE spring freebie, 7 Steps to Cure an Unhappy Kid and Revolutionize Your Home Life by clicking HERE. 

 

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The Magnifying Mirror of Marriage

When someone next to you is shining brightly, it reveals what needs to change in you.

Recently I’ve had a fresh glimpse of the good things in my man…this man I’ve lived with for nearly four decades.

His quiet, unabashed confidence and backbone of steel.

His insane ability to streamline and organize-to ruthlessly purge clutter of every kind, bringing peace and productivity.

His stick-to-itiveness, resourcefulness and dogged determination when his eye is on the prize.

His dependability – he plans ahead and shows up on time every time, never leaving me wondering of his whereabouts in body or in heart.

 

His wholehearted devotion and uncompromising loyalty to those he loves.

Jim Rohn says, “Don’t join an easy crowd; you won’t grow. Go where the expectations and the demands to perform are high.”

My husband has never been ‘an easy crowd’ sort of guy; just being in his presence places a demand on those around him to excel. It’s born good fruit in my life.

And as his wave of glory overshadows me at the moment, I’m confronted with my own shortcomings.

Marriage is like that.
We take turns being wonderful and just when we think WE are the shizz, the tables turn.
And we are humbled.
It’s sort of like taking a naked painful look in a lighted 10X mirror in midlife.
Ugh.
We want to look away, hoping the imperfections we see aren’t real.

But they are.

And we swallow hard and thank God for the unbelievable grace we’ve been shown.
And then we get out the relevant DIY kit and make efforts to adjust what needs a tune-up.

This is the beauty of covenant.
His strengths balance out my weaknesses today…my strengths balance out his weaknesses tomorrow.

No one’s going anywhere.

I have to wonder if millions of people quit too soon on their mate…just before their ‘wonderful’ emerges?

The Bible says, it’s good for two to walk together then, when one is weak, the other is strong, and they help each other.
This is marriage.
This is covenant.
This is genuine love between a man and a woman.

 

It’s not Father’s Day, or our Anniversary, or his birthday; it’s just another day in the unfolding story of Gregory and Denise and Co. And I had to mark this spot and highlight it, before we turn the page to tomorrow.

Love you so, my man.

Your Two-Minute Takeaway

  1. Pause and ponder: Life is busy, demanding, and often incredibly stressful. Our marriage relationships bear the brunt of all the overwhelm of modern life. How you ‘feel’ today may not reflect the truth of your commitment to your man or woman. 
  2. Make a list right now of the things you appreciate about your partner – what was it you fell in love with in the beginning? It’s still there, even when it’s hiding under the noise of negativity.
  3. Dismiss what’s bugging you about ‘them’ for a moment and look humbly into that ‘magnifying mirror’ and consider what you could adjust to make your relationship to your mate even better. Then, act on it asap!

Thank you for reading – I’m honored! Want more? Subscribe for exclusive content and grab my spring freebie HERE>> How to Cure an Unhappy Kid and Revolutionize Your Homelife

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The Super Power Given to Every Father

“Dad is destiny. More than virtually any other factor, a biological father’s presence in the family will determine a child’s success and happiness.”*1

In 1995 when this quote appeared in a popular news magazine, 68 percent of black children and 30 percent of all children in America were being born outside of marriage, which typically translates into this scenario: single mothers as primary caregivers and absentee biological fathers.

These words are hard on the ears. Especially because so many children are being raised solo by mothers. These are loving, devoted, smart, gifted, hard-working, and entrepreneurial women. Some of them are my dearest friends. They feel their vulnerability and lack, even with strong support systems intact, and they often experience the lonely and empty void where an engaged father once participated. Nevertheless, we must face the cruel facts of fatherlessness.

If we fast forward 20 years to 2015, here’s an update on the fruit of fatherlessness.

20 million children in the U.S. are living in a fatherless home, making it an epidemic…and the negative implications are dizzying:

  • Fatherless families are 4X more likely to be raised in poverty
  • 90% of all homeless and runaway children are fatherless
  • Fatherless children are 10X more likely to abuse chemical substances
  • 71% of all adolescent substance abusers come from a fatherless home
  • 80% of adolescents in psychiatric hospitals come from fatherless homes
  • Fatherless kids are 2X more likely to commit suicide
  • Fatherless children experience more accidents and a higher rate of chronic asthma, headaches, and speech defects
  • Fatherless kids are 9X more likely to drop out of school
  • Fatherless children are more likely to score lower than the norm in reading and math
  • 70% of adolescents in juvenile correctional facilities come from fatherless homes
  • 70% of men incarcerated in U.S. prisons never had a relationship with their natural fathers
  • Fatherless kids are 11X more likely to display violent behavior
  • 60% of rapists were raised in fatherless homes
  • Fatherless kids are 20% more likely to be incarcerated
  • Kids raised in a home without a biological father are 9X more likely to be raped or sexually abused *2
    AND THE KICKER….70% of teen pregnancies occur in fatherless homes…powerfully perpetuating this cycle of troubling, even disastrous societal trends.

As we can see from these numbers, Dad not only determines the fate of his own family, but the impact from his choices in fathering for good or bad will be felt like an earthquake, reverberating out his front door and into the streets of our communities.

In my opinion, a father carries an authority that is natural, inherent, just because they’re Daddy. A blessing bestowed upon them.

There is a commanding influence with which God has equipped Dad for the immense role he is to play in the life of his family. When Dad simply lives life amongst his kids, there is power.

I appeal to women, don’t despise your husbands, the father of your children. Even if you’re divorced from the man, and his glaring flaws and bad decisions keep you up at night, my advice is this: don’t tear them down, trash them, shame them, dissect them, and expose their ‘nakedness’ to your children. Your actions and words may feel good to you for the moment; you may seem justified, but you are driving an irreparable chasm between the kids and their Dad. And, you are further damaging your precious children! Our culture encourages this behavior in women and it is diabolical. Leave room for God, for time, for circumstances to play out. Pray and believe for healing, revealing and restoration.

Moms, remember this, you can do a lot, but you can’t take the place of a father.

In recent decades, we’ve watched the role of Anemic Dad played out in too many television sitcoms to list here! Not to mention the innumerable insipid characters stumping as the impotent heads of households, advertising everything from pain medication to laundry soap. These castrated men limp along to the drumbeat of their aggressive, decisive, and very capable wives. In each instance, Mom is running the show. These homes are dysfunctional and out of order, and a horrific model for the next generation.

In my opinion, fathers have super powers! A capacity for the mission they’ve been given – men are not the bumbling idiots media has portrayed them to be unless they decide to degenerate to those low levels.

I would beg you fathers, don’t settle for merely built-in clout, but take advantage of your God-given assets and wildly enhance them with all of your strength and passion as you engage with the children God has given you. Be the world-changer you are called to be, and your children will sky-rocket from your broad shoulders of strong leadership into the galaxies beyond.

Thank you for reading! Share your thoughts with me below – want to read more? Grab my free e-book JUST until the end of February HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*1 U.S. New and World Report 2/27/1995
*2 http://fathers.com/wp39/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/fatherlessInfographic.pdf National Center for Fathering

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