Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Years Questions to Consider

Alexandra Stoddard calls it "puttering." She says every woman should make time to putter around the house, completing chores at a liesurely pace. This includes organizing a drawer or fluffing a pillow... whatever you find to do. I usually don't have time to putter, but this week has been full of puttering, cleaning, meandering, and moving slowly around our house.

It sure has been nice.

Even now, Clay and I started reading, but he fell asleep on the couch. It's a lazy vacation week and we have time for it, so why not?

Fortunately, on lazy days like this one, Clay and I have time to talk about ideas that are normally too idealistic for everyday hustle and bustle. I stumbled across a set of questions on Charrise's Blog, and we asked one another these questions. It was very insightful, so I thought I'd share them. Feel free to use them with your spouse or friend, or just journal your answers for personal reflection.

Remember to answer without editing.
Say or write the first thing that pops into your mind.

1. If you were to FULLY live your life, what is the first change you would make?

2. What do you want MORE of in your life?

3. What do you want LESS of in your life?

4. What are three things you are doing that don't serve or support you?

5. What would you try if you knew you could not fail?

6. What is missing that, if provided, would move you into a life you truly love?

7. What is the fear that most often stops you?

8. What are you willing to give up to have what you think you want?

9. What are you tolerating right now that doesn't serve you?

10. What are you pretending not to know?

11. What action are you afraid to take?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

8 Questions for the Ride to Grandma's House

Over the river and through the... snow, to Grandmother's house we go!

If you are braving the highways this holiday season, don't forget to bring extra money for a hotel (just in case) and bring some interesting conversation starters since you are bound to be delayed by the BLIZZARD sweeping across the United States.

8 Conversation Starters

1. What is the real reason you broke up with me in college? He is trapped in the car. He has nowhere to run or hide. Ask him the question he usually avoids. Be careful, though. This could backfire. Your questions will likely be turned around and asked of you, so be ready with an answer.

2. If you could change one thing about my personality, what would it be?
After a night with friends, Clay answered this question for me. He said he wishes I would not be so competitive when playing board games with company. I doubt I'll change, though.

3. If you could be an animal, what would you be and why?
The answer to this question can reveal hidden truths about your sweetie!

4. Would you rather...
More than a question, this is a game that can last for hours. Start with simple choices like, "Would you rather eat at Chick Fil-A or Zaxby's?" Both people must answer and must choose. Answers like, "both" or "neither" are forbidden. After a few minutes of food choices, move to more difficult questions like, "Would you rather live in Paris or London?" Be sure to explain why. Finally, end with gross questions like, "Would you rather swim in a pool of snakes or eat grasshoppers?"

5. Tell me something about yourself that I don't already know.
After nine years of marriage, Clay and I can always find a way to answer this question. Last week, I told Clay that when I clean the house, I feel guilty if I am not also listening to a book on my iPOD. I feel like I'm wasting time to only do one thing at a time. He was intrigued.

6. If you could relive our wedding day, what would you change?
You might be surprised by your spouse's answer to this one. After attending what seems like hundreds of weddings, we have seen tons of cool things that we did not even think to incorporate into our wedding (like the potatoes in martini glasses).

7. Who have you lost contact with that you'd like to talk to again?
Always interesting.

8. What is God teaching you lately?
This is a great question to ask once every month. It's also good to share what you are learning because maybe God wants to your spouse to learn through you.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Lord, Change Me

Do you believe that prayer is strong enough to hold a marriage together?

I don't.

Actually, the RIGHT kind of prayer will bind you together and the WRONG kind will tear you apart.

After four years of interviewing couples, publishing my first book, and now, writing my second book, this little bit of knowledge has been the most transformational for me. Chapter 3 of my new book, Cloud 9 Club, is titled, "Lord Change Me," and it describes an attitude that great couples display.

In a nutshell, happy couples are more likely to pray, "Lord, change me," while unhappy couples tend to pray, "Lord, change my spouse."

Although I am obviously not a professional movie director, I enjoyed making this little clip to illustrate how often we pray for the other person to change. Doreen even says, "Lord, I know you are going to make him into the man I need him to be." Isn't that what we want God to do?

7 Prayers Clay has probably prayed for me (to no avail)...

1. Lord, please help Emily to remember to turn off the lights in the house.

2. And while you are in a reminding mood, encourage her to charge her cell phone now and then.

3. Father, give her a heart for the Atlanta Braves... and the Hawks... and the Falcons.

4. Heavenly Father, give Emily the will to clean the shower at least once a month. If not, just place a hedge of protection around the entire bathroom.

5. Lord, could you miraculously turn her Christmas cookies into my Mother's cookies?

6. Father, you know all things, so you know how to get Emily ready for church on time, for once.

7. But mostly Lord, I just thank you for my wife. As the music group, ALABAMA, so eloquently said, "She's close enough to perfect for me." (I'm sure Clay prays that).

If your spouse were praying for you, what would he/she pray for?

Monday, November 23, 2009

10 Lessons in 10 Years

Last night, Clay and I broke tradition. We always wait until after Thanksgiving to assemble the tree and drink egg not, but we couldn't wait. We drug the tree up from the basement and made percolator punch (my new favorite holiday drink). And in lieu of It's a Wonderful Life, we watched... drumroll please... our wedding video.

Since this weekend marks ten years since he proposed, Clay surprised me by hooking up the old VCR (can't believe it actually works) and digging through old tapes like Grease, The Sound of Music, and Eight Seconds to find the wedding videos.

We couldn't help but laugh at how young and innocent we looked back then. What were we thinking to get married at ages 21 and 23? We had no idea what we were doing. Maybe that's the best that way. So, in honor of the ten year anniversary of our engagement, I have listed 10 things I've learned about marriage since that day:

1. Guys don't like it when you use their razor.

2. Fighting is not the worst thing for a marriage. The quiet, cold, bitter silence is much worse.

3. Reading the same book draws us together in a profound way.

4. Submission is a beautiful word, not an ugly one.

5. Rocking chairs on the porch are a worthwhile investment.

6. TIVO or DVR can prevent hundreds of arguments.

7. It's good to dress your man. Although they pretend to be annoyed by it, they really love it.

8. God uses marriage to shape our character.

9. Marriage can never be reduced to a list of do's and don't's. It is one of the most intriguing mysteries of the universe.

10. A breakfast of waffles and bacon goes a long way.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

11 Cures for Fan Depression

It's official. Auburn stinks this year. Clay's nonstop pouting is a sure sign that all hope is lost. If your husband is a true fan of any sports team, you know what it's like to fall victim to a bad season.

When the rankings come out at the beginning of the year, do you anxiously check to see what kind of man you will be living with for the following months? When commentators predict wins and losses, does that translates to happiness or sadness in the home? If yes, I feel your pain, sister.

I ate three bowls of ice cream when Alabama hired Nick Saban. I knew it meant Auburn would lose recruits, lose status, and ulitmately lose games. When Gene Chizik was named as the Tigers' new coach, I drowned my sorrows in Mayfield Moose Tracks.

After five pounds on the hips, I have decided to take action. There is no reason why I should have to surrender this lovely Fall season to self pity as we Auburn loses the majority of their remaining games.

I have a plan.

I have created a fail-proof scheme to protect our home from FAN DEPRESSION.

1. Distraction - Although it only lasts a few minutes and must be used sparingly, distraction with food and beverage works in the short-term. Keep his favorite snacks hidden so that after a loss, you are armed with a surprise. Lure him away from the television with the promise of homemade cookies, and you might have a chance at a decent evening. Be careful though. If you use this too often, it can backfire. Think: Pavlov's dogs. His whining cannot be reinforced with tasty treats.

2. Cliches - Cliches become cliche for a reason. They work. Memorize the following lines:
"It's a rebuilding year."

"Ya can't win 'em all."

"Win some, lose some."

"At least we have our health."

3. Hope - Depressed fans are likely to hold onto any glimmer of hope. A ridiculous statement like, "With the right recruits, Auburn could win the national championship in three years,"might do the trick.

4. Expert Testimony - Scan blogs and local newspapers for someone who predicts your husband's team will upset a big rival. "Kirk Herbstreet said Auburn is the one team that could take down Alabama." Make sure it's a game at the end of the year so he can cling to this expert testimony throughout the entire season. And don't make it up. He will find out.

5. Miserable Company - Misery loves company, so find a team that is doing as bad or worse than your husband's. Point out their losses, especially when it makes your team look better.
Example: "Can you believe Georgia lost to Tennessee? I feel sorry for the Dawgs fans this year."

6. New Team - Deep down, your man wants to be a fan. Something is missing in his life when he can't cheer for someone wholeheartedly. Divert his passion to another team that actually has a chance. Even though this team can never truly take the place of his beloved squad, it helps.
Say, "If Auburn can't win, I am going to pull for Florida. Tim Tebow is a stand up guy. Have you seen the article about his mission trips in Sports Illustrated?"

7. One Player - It's likely that at least ONE PLAYER on your husband's sorry team shows promise. Focus on that player. Take note if he makes a great play or improves from week to week. This can be a focal point during the blow-outs.

8. Scapegoat - Milli Vanilli was right. You can blame it on the rain... Cause the rain don't mind. In fact, any weather change can serve as a scapegoat for a loss - snow, heat, wind, even astroturf.

9. Bet - By playing the devil's advocate, your sweetie can feel like he has actually won, even when his team loses. Make a ridiculous bet and make sure he wins. For example, "I bet Kentucky will beat Auburn by 30 points." When he takes the bet and wins a massage, he will not feel like such a loser when Auburn only loses by 7 points.

10. Postive Reinforcement - Anytime your spouse talks about something other than his losing team, feed him.

11. Dancing with the Stars - When all else fails, flip the channel to Dancing with the Stars and forget about football.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Baby in Six Months

The one in the middle is not pregnant :(

After more than four years of trying to have a baby, Clay and I are more hopeful than ever. We are praying to be pregnant within the next six months. So, today is September 28, 2009... that means we are praying for a baby in my belly by March 28, 2010.

We are still in the process of adopting from China, but right now, it will be at least 36 months before he or she arrives in our home. So, this seems like a great time to get pregnant!

Of course God's timing is always perfect, and we know that He may deny our request, but for the next six months, we are going to do everything within our power to make a baby (Feel free to insert your own joke here).

I love this quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, which reminds me of the importance of complete commitment:

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back-- Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.

Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.

So, we have begun a period of complete committment. That inlcudes daily prayer and inviting our friends to pray with us! We would be honored by any of your prayers. Below are some specific requests:

1. That we would fall more in love with God and each other through this process.

2. For God to bless us with a pregnancy witin six months

3. Pray for God to lead us to the right doctors, medicine, herbs, food, and information.

4. For God to be glorified through our story, no matter what.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Different Dream

“But our God turned the curse into a blessing.” Nehemiah 8:10

Who would have thought a book about chronically ill children would minister to me during this period of my life? I met the author, Jolene Philo, at a writer’s conference and was immediately attracted to her enthusiasm for life.

I was surprised to learn that she was writing a book about dealing with her son’s life-threatening birth defect. Her joy was birthed through difficulty.

Before leaving Colorado, I told her that I wanted to read her book. So, last week I had the privilege of reading A Different Dream for My Child, published by Discovery House. Honestly, I was checking it out because a dear friend has just found out that her baby has Downs Syndrome. I wanted to give my friend a copy of Jolene's book.

But I think God wanted me to read this book. For four years, Clay and I have been searching for God’s will for our family. We are in the process of adopting a little girl from China, but that will probably take three more years. So, what should we do while we wait? If I've heard one story about someone getting pregnant while they wait for an adopted child, I've heard a million of them. And deep down, I have found most of my comfort from the idea that this will certainly happen to me.

But truthfully, there is no verse in the Bible that promises me a baby.

Jolene came to the same realization about a healthy baby. In the first paragraph of her book, she recounts a typical conversation she had when she was pregnant:

“Do you want a girl or a boy?”

“I don’t care so long as the baby is healthy.”

Jolene writes, “I was convinced God would honor my selfless desire since my husband, Hiram, and I were model parents-to-be.”

Jolene and I had the same misconception and we have been learning the same principles, but through different avenues. Below are eight things God can teach us when we are given the opportunity to dream a different dream:

1. God’s grace really is sufficient.
2. The Holy Spirit prays for us when we don’t even know what to ask God.
3. Waiting for God’s will is an important part of our spiritual growth.
4. The Lord draws near to the brokenhearted.
5. God is more interested in turning me to Him than granting me the American dream.
6. Pain is a beautiful part of life.
7. Every good and perfect blessing is from the Lord.
8. I am thankful that my life is not in my control.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Favorite Kiddie Sayings

Since I started teaching younger students, Clay and I have developed a new pasttime. It's called, "Tell me what the kids said today." I hear something fall-down funny every single day and below are a few of our favorites:

Pre-K: "I wiggled the mouse, but my computer won't wake up. Should I yell at it?"

Kindergarten: (Whispering) "Mrs. Osburne, someone stole a key off this thing. There is no 'U'. I've looked everywhere."

First Grade: After they saw a picture of the Mona Lisa, one student asked, "Mrs. Osburne, did you make that in Paint?"

Second Grade: "I wish I had an Undo button for a lotta things."
Third Grade: "My Mom got a new Blackberry and she doesn't even know how to use. So, I have to show her."

Fourth Grade: "Can we play Power Point?"

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tech Gadgets Are Hotter than Purses

I have camera envy. Clay and I spent the weekend at a beautiful house in Harbor Island, South Carolina, and my camera could never capture it. I wanted to remember the beach, boats, and bike riding, but not as a fuzzy mess.

It was useless for me to point and click my little handheld toward the kids because by the time my flash woke up from his nap, the kids had turned away. Two seconds is an eternity for a one-year old.

So, Lou Lou told me exactly what camera to buy. I made a list of the accessories that will make my life complete, and now it's time to save... and convince Clay to join the effort.

A few years ago, I passed a billboard in Atlanta that read, "You look hot in that phone." It was an advertisement for the Razor, the top-selling phone at that time. Motorola struck a cord with buyers beacuse they realize that technology is not what it used to be: geeky. Technology today allows us to connect, express, and experience the world around us.

Does that sound like a good argument? Hopefully Clay will go for it. Here are a few other techno needs on my list:

1. 15" MacBook Pro - 250 GB Hard Drive, 4 GB RAM, all the Apple Programs

2. Apple Final Cut Studio - Moviemaker and Pinnacle are not cutting it anymore.

3. Nikon D90 - Any Nikon D-Series Camera

4. Ipod Voice Recorder - To record my singing in the car

5. Kindle Subscriptions - Love my Kindle. I subscribe to the USA Today and New Yorker, but would love to have the AJC and Wall Street Journal come straight to it too.

My total is up to $4,500, so I'd better stop. If anyone has ideas about where to find good deals on these gadgets, I am open to anything. If you would like to offer me a part-time job to fund my technology addiction, I'm open to that, too!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

6 Questions for Couch Time

Last night, by the time I finally saw my husband, it was 9:30 PM. We try to spend 15 minutes every night talking and really listening, but we were both exhausted. I forced him to answer three questions and ask me three questions, and we were laughing within minutes. One couple we interviewed told us to have uninterrupted Couch Time every single night, to stay connected even through the busy days.

Here are six questions to choose from if you only have a few minutes to spend with your spouse. Skip the typical, "How was your day?" Most people have an automatic response to that one. It's like when you go shopping and the clerk asks, "May I help you?" We almost always respond, "No, I'm just looking." Even if we actually need help, we don't ask because we are so conditioned to say we are just looking.

1. MAD, SAD, GLAD - What made you mad today? What made you sad? What made you glad?

2. BORING - What was the most boring part of your day?

3. GROUNDHOG DAY - If you had to repeat this day, what would you do differently?

4. LEARNING - What do you think God is trying to teach you lately?

5. RATING - Rate your day from 1 to 10. Explain.

6. PRAYER - How can I pray for you tomorrow?

Friday, August 28, 2009

9 Reasons to Join Him

Clay and I proudly attended Auburn University, and we loved Game Day as students. We tailgated, dressed in orange, and cheered for the team every Saturday in the Fall. I guess I just thought that would change after we graduated.

But I didn't realize Clay's devotion to Auburn football until it was too late. I was already legally bound to him for life when I discovered that all his plans in the Fall revolve around the Auburn schedule. He is shocked when people plan weddings during a game. He checks the blogs and Web sites for inside information. He watches all the pre-game stuff and of course, the post-game analysis. There's more, but you get the point. He loves it.

I went through a few stages of dealing with his behavior.

1. Denial - "Oh, he's not that bad. This is a big game."
2. Shock - "Who have I married?"
3. Resistance - "He will just have to change."
4. Rage - "I refuse to miss my Dad's birthday party because Auburn is playing Louisiana Tech!"
5. Acceptance - "War Eagle. What time does the game start?"

Whatever stage you are in right now, I urge you to just go ahead and accept it. Join him. Buy a cute game day outfit and make some spinach dip. Plop down on the couch or load up the car. Game day is on its way!

9 Reasons to Join Your Husband in His Love for the Team:

1. It's more strategic to save your complaining for something important, like negotiating a higher clothing budget.

2. Chilli dogs at the games are delicious.

3. Game day outfits can be cute, if you use a little creativity.

4. Tailgating rocks!

5. Other guys think you are a cool wife.
6. Five hours with your spouse is always a treat, even if it involves yelling at the referees, kicking the television, crying, pouting, and shouting. At least you are together.

7. Commercials on ESPN are hilarious.

8. Falling asleep during the game is perfectly acceptable.

9. Where else can two minutes last thirty minutes? The end of a game is like the Twilight Zone where time stands still. You should experience that phenomenon for yourself.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Husband-Pleasing Recipes in 15 Minutes or Less

Clay just walked into the kitchen and watched me make Puppy Chow, aka Chex Muddy Buddies, and he was disappointed.

"I thought those took a long time to make," he laughed. "I'm not impressed anymore."

Oh well, he was impressed for ten years. The jig is up on that one, but I have plenty of treats I can whip up in a couple of minutes that make him so happy. I might sound like June Cleaver to even post something like this, but I am the opposite of her. I've never pretended to be a chef, or even a cook, but I do like to make Clay feel special.

Here are ten recipes men love, and women love to make:
1. Rice Krispie Treats - It's not rocket science, but who cares? They are easy, delicious, and quick. Throw in some sprinkles or chocolate chips and any man will be impressed.
2. No-Bake Cool Whip Pies - If you can make Jell-O, you can make these pies. Pick up some Cool Whip and a Graham Cracker Crust and you're set.
3. Homemade Salsa - The only difficult thing about this recipe is getting out the food processor. There are a million recipes like this one, but all involve diced tomatoes, lime, and cilantro. How can you go wrong?
4. Salad with Fruit and Poppyseed Dressing - Something about mixing fruit with a salad makes men thing you are very savy in the kitchen. Add almonds or pecans and they will nominate you for an appearance on a cooking show.
5. Wedge Salad - Cut some lettuce in half and drizzle ranch or blue cheese dressing on top. You're a genius!
6. Banana Split - I think this one reminds him of time with his grandparents, but it's fun for everyone. If you can find good bowls, it cuter.
7. Banana Bread - With the leftover bananas, make banana bread. It's so easy and makes the house smell like 1957.
8. Fondue - You know you got a set of fondue pots (or five) when you got married. Put those babies to good use.
9. Chocolate-Covered Strawberries - The only time involved here is letting the strawberries completely dry. Other than that, it's a five-minute process.
10. Real Cocoa - Check out the recipe on the back of the cocoa. It involves milk, so beware. Apparently cocoa is not made with water, mix and tiny freeze-dried marshmallows.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Superwife When Husband is out of Town

Why do I get so much done when Clay is out of town? I even cleaned out my junk drawer, as you can see from the BEFORE and AFTER pics.

I can't figure it out.

It's not like I have to take care of Clay (that much). He doesn't really distract me. It seems like I would get the exact amount done when he is in the house... especially on Sunday. Clay generally naps and watches golf, football, or baseball on Sunday. He stays completely out of my hair.

These are my guesses:

1. When I see him sleeping on the couch, I want to join him. I can't resist a cuddle opportunity.

2. I can't "putter" when he is here. Puttering is a word I learned from Alexandra Stoddard, and it means to wander around just doing little things in no particular order. I like to do this in fuzzy socks so that I can slide across the kitchen floor all day.

3. I feel obligated to eat something other than cereal for dinner when Clay is home.

4. I can't vacuum at the EXACT time I want to because I might wake him.

5. Clay forces me to talk to him, thus eating up my productive day.

6. If Clay pets Shelby, I feel obligated to pet her, too... so that we can have family time.

7. If he is looking for something, I alwatys help him. I'm so sweet.

8. If he finds a movie on TNT, like The Notebook, I feel compelled to watch it for the 48th time, even if we have it on DVD.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Love is a Verb

In April, Gary Chapman's book, Love is a Verb, hit the stores. One of the chapters is about Clay, me and the remote control. Actually, remove the word REMOTE because it's really about CONTROL.

Even with three televisions, DVR, and DVD players, it seems like the issue of who will control the TV will always be an issue in marriage. Now, it's just funny because we race to the "good couch" to call dibs on the "good TV" and get the best spot to watch sports or sit-coms. I love how things that once seemed so important now just make us laugh until our sides hurt!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Back to School!

It seems like five minutes ago, we were leaving Strong Rock for the summer and now, we are back to Pre-Planning. Clay is the Principal of the Academy and High School at Strong Rock Christian School and I am a teacher in the Elementary School there.

I never knew how much I would enjoy working with Clay until we moved to McDonough and started our new jobs. I have heard couples say, "We could never work together," but I honestly believe that I could spend 24/7 with Clay and we would be just fine. Here are 6 reasons I could spend all of my time with Clay and never get tired of it:

1. Clay keeps caffinated beverages and snacks in his office to keep me happy.

2. Clay is a morning person and I am a late person, so we compliment one another.

3. We have a secret phrase that means, "We will talk about that later"... just in case.

4. He's cute.
5. We learned early in our marriage that we cannot micro-manage one another.

6. He's cute.
Did I already mention that?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Why I Love Coming Home

At the beginning of the summer I said, "I just want to hang around the house and write for the next two months." Obviously, that did not happen! Somehow, Clay and I were out of town five of the eight weeks this summer. We went to Honduras, Orlando, Decatur and Washington DC.

Every trip was fabulous, but there is something about being home that makes me very happy. I am just sitting in my kitchen right now. The dishwasher is going. My dog is sleeping on the floor beside my chair. My To Do List is faithfully waiting for me to pay attention to it. I feel great! Here are some reasons why HOME is a great place to be.

1. I can be myself. I just seem to breathe easier in my house. There is a certain peacefulness at home that helps me to really relax, to soak in the day completely.

2. Chores give me time to think. As much as I complain about folding the laundry and vacuuming the carpet, these little household chores are actually calming. They give my brain time to wander (and wonder). It's a good thing, as Martha says.

3. Routines help me accomplish more. At home, I have my little routines for writing, cleaning, answering e-mail, and running errands. I used to think that I was such a free-thinker that I did not need routines, but actually, these little habits allow me to do my best work.

4. Shelby is at home. Of course, I hate to go anywhere without my golden retriever!

5. Cooking is nice, every now and then. Saturday night, Clay and I grilled hamburgers and sat on the porch to eat dinner. We both agreed that we missed our stove, grill, and microwave while we were gone.

6. I missed our things. I hope this doesn't sound too materialistic, but I start missing little things like my plants, artwork, and even the kitchen towels that my Mom gave me. It warms my heart to see them again.

7. Conversations are deeper here. When we are on the road, it's tough to have a conversation with my Grandmother because it's loud and I don't want to be an obnoxious cellphone user. It's not easy to chat with friends while driving in the car (especially since Clay says that I yell on the phone rather than talk on the phone). At home, I can be as loud and as honest as I need to be while catching up on phone calls.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Make the Most of Your Vacation

It's not the sand or the surf that make a vacation memorable. It's the time together that counts. How can you make sure that your get-away is everything you dreamed it would be?

Clay and I have taken two wonderful vacations lately: one to the mountains and one to the beach. Both were memorable, relaxing, and perfect for reconnection.

On the other hand, we have spent large sums of money traveling to more expensive resorts, eating more decadent foods and checking things off our "Lifetime To Do List", only to come back home tired and disconnected.

If more time and more money do not equal a more successful get-away, what are the secrets to a great vacation together? We have found that it's important to get on the same page before taking a trip. One person might be hoping to get rest while the other wants to see the sights. Knowing what your spouse needs is the first step to a harmonious trip.

Surprisingly, couples often do not communicate their expectations for holidays and breaks, so they can often experience disappointment. You have already spent money, taken time off work and invested a lot into this trip. Invest a few more minutes in good communication and it will pay off!

Questions to Ask Before Your Leave (or in the car, or at the airport)
- What are your expectations for this vacation?
- What is the most important thing you want to get out of this trip?
- Is there anything I can do to help you relax, unwind and feel a sense of peace?
- What sites do you hope to see, hear or taste?
- How much sleep do you plan to get?
- Will you need to work while we vacation? How much?
- Is there anything that could happen that could ruin this trip for you? one is RIGHT or WRONG about what they hope to gain from a vacation. Listen to what your spouse REALLY wants instead of assuming that you both have the same vision for your trip.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Playing Together

Clay and I only dated for nine month before we got engaged. I think part of the reason we fell in love so quickly was because we both had so much fun playing together. We played softball, basketball, flag football, Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit and more.

Even after nine years of marriage, we still love to play! We play Wii Sports and real sports. We run together, play tennis together and even compete in the Alphabet Game in the car.

When we moved to Lake Dow, I just knew that Clay and I would play golf together. I started going to the driving range and I played a few times. I still want to learn, but for now, I just enjoy riding in the cart.

Here are a few ways you and your spouse can play together, even if you don't share the same sporting interests:

1. Take up a new hobby together. When Clay and I moved to Marietta, neither of us had played tennis competatively. We had a blast learning together (until we lost a few matches and then we had to come up with a new set of marital rules).

2. Find a few board games that you can play with other couples. I recommend: Scene It, Taboo, Outburst, and Cranium.

3. Consider buying a Wii as an investment for everyone in the family.

4. Go to the gym together. That way, you can both run on the treadmill at your own pace.

5. Walk and hike up little mountains together. I miss our hikes at Kennesaw Mountain!

6. Train for a 5K, 10K or some other event as a couple. Even if you are running at different paces, you will most certainly bond through the experience of preparing for the big day.

7. Join a co-ed team at your local church or YMCA.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

6 Reasons I am Ready to Beat Clay in Tennis

Most of you know that I hate to lose. So, why do I continue to play my husband in tennis? Because sooner or later, I am going to win one. It didn't happen this week, though.

Clay and I are down in Orlando, celebrating our nine-year anniversary, so we have had plenty of time to hold hands and give kisses. Yesterday, we hung out at Discovery Cove, my new favorite place in the world, but after a day of swimming with the dolphins and overeating, we were both ready for some exercise.

We made a bet that whoever won the tennis match would get a massage. And yes, after two hours of tennis, I owed him a massage. It was humiliating. But after 24 hours of feeling sorry for myself, I am cheering up. I feel pretty confident that the next time we play, I will OWN HIM. This is why:

1. New Court: Although he has beaten me on concrete and clay, next time, we are playing on a grass court. That will throw him off completely.
2. New Shoes: My birthday is July 21st, so I am planning to buy some new tennis shoes that will give me the extra bounce I need.
3. Wimbledon Lessons: I have been carefully watching Roger Federer and I think I have gleened a few lessons that will keep Clay guessing.
4. Mom - My Mom has always told me that I can do anything and I believe her!
5. Tiger's Concentration - I recently read John Andrisani's book, Think Like Tiger, and even though he plays golf, he has adequately prepared me for the mental challenge of winning.
6. Strategy - I have a new secret strategy that I cannot share on the blog... even though Clay never reads it. I can't be too careful.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Grow Together through Internantional Missions

After a week in Honduras, Clay and I felt like we had grown exponentially closer to one another and to the Lord. What is it about getting on a plane for a few hours that creates the perfect environment for growth?

I think it's because we are forced to rely on one another and in our over-scheduled, frappucino land, that's rare. Clay and I have found that serving on mission teams for only one week each year improves our marriage during the other fifty-one weeks of the year.

While Clay and I were riding on the bus in Honduras. we were undoubtedly out of our usual comfort zone. We were bouncing, turning, and running red lights through the streets of Tegucigalpa...holding hands the entire way. Below are eight comfort zones you leave behind as you volunteer for an international mission trip. They are guaranteed to force you and your spouse to hold on tight to one another:

Language Comfort Zone - Communicating with your spouse suddenly doesn't seem so tough when compared to speaking Spanish, French or Italian. While you are out of the country, you start to realize that you and your honey have more in common than you thought.

Food Comfort Zone - Trying new tastes, textures and delicacies together will create memories... good, bad, sweet. sour and slimy.

Routine Comfort Zone - At home, we often fly on autopilot because our daily schedules dictate where to go and when. On a mission trip, we are more open to the gentle nudges of the Holy Spirit and you can experience God's power as you seek His call.

Cellphone Comfort Zone - Even if you carry a phone that works in foreign countries, you will not be texting, calling and e-mailing all day on a mission trip. As you look up from the technology, you might actually see your spouse as you have never seen them before.

Friend Comfort Zone - Our buddies can be like cushions, surrounding us and protecting us from outsiders. When we get out from the middle of the huddle and open ourselves to new people, we can't help but see the world anew.

Culture Comfort Zone - New sights, new sounds, new ideas... ponder them all together.

Church Comfort Zone - As join the body of Christ worldwide, you will certainly be overwhelmed by the omnipresence of God. He does not live in your little church at home or within the boundaries of your worship service from from 10:30 AM until 11:45 AM every Sunday morning.

Transportation Comfort Zone - There is nothing like placing your life in the hands of a busdriver nicknamed, "Whiplash Willie" to increase your faith and remind you how much you treasure your life and marriage.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

12 Character-Building Moments in Marriage

Our friend, Michael Wang was outside his house, working on the lawn, when I stopped by to see him and his precious wife, Ashley this afternoon. It is steaming hot in Atlanta today and their yard is enormous, but he was determined to fix the mower and finish the job.

I was laughing as he described the old mower and the way his legs shook as he rode it for THREE hours at a time. It reminded me of Clay, working on our old mower when we lived in our first house on Briar Pond Way.

Cutting the grass with a hand-me-down mower is just one of the character-building moments in a young marriage. One day, Michael and Ashley will laugh at their pain, but today, they might just sweat. Below are twelve more character builders that young couples have the priviledge of experiencing.

1. Painting a room together (or in our case, an entire house... along with some wonderful friends who probably hate us after that)

2. Creating your first budget

3. Renting a tiny apartment and loving every square inch of it

4. Taking the plunge to buy the first house... and then moving all of your junk into it

5. Taking care of your spouse when he or she has the stomach flu

6. Getting lost together, without a GPS

7. Assembling any kind of furniture

8. Potty-training a dog together

9. Scurrying to prepare for your first dinner party

10. Trying to fix your own plumbing problems

11. Rescuing your spouse whose car has died on the side of the road

12. Searching for keys together

Sunday, June 14, 2009

6 Reasons a Clemson and Auburn Marriage Might Work

I am sad to report that the Auburn family has been forced to accept a new member into our little clan. My friend Haley, a die hard Auburn fan, recently married... a Clemson graduate. I know what you are thinking - "At least she did not marry a Bama fan or dare I say, a Florida Gator." But it's still a tough situation. I mean, think about their poor children.

However, I am going out on a limb by predicting that this marriage has a chance. Generally, when I see the bumper stickers that read, "House Divided", I predict that the union will not last, but a marriage of Auburn and Clemson could prevail for the following reasons:

1. They are both Tigers.

2. They both wear orange. Who wants to walk hand-in-hand with someone wearing crimson?

3. Clemson has been called, "Auburn with a Lake", so they have a similar upbringing.

4. Clemson does not have some horrible fight song (like Rocky Top) that will drive your spouse crazy after a number of years.

5. Clemson and Auburn are not located in the same state, so residents will not force them to make a choice.

6. Auburn and Clemson are not even in the same conference so they will not necessarily play one another every year. Plus, the SEC is so dominant that comentators do not even compare these two teams.

Feel free to leave a comment if you have a prediction or if you have had the unfortunate experience of marrying someone who is not an Auburn Tiger.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY, June 9, 2009

Marybeth Whalin, a writer and speaker who works with Proverbs 31 Ministries, has a great blog and she found this method of posting from The Simple Woman's Daybook. If you are a blogger, try it one day. It's a great exercise! Also, you can register with The Simple Woman and she will link to your site!

Outside my window... Sunset on the golf course.

I am thinking...Why does Shelby come in the front door and then whine to go out the back door?

I am thankful many friends who are supporting Clay and me through the crazy world of adoption.

From the kitchen...Clay is eating Golden Grahams and watching the NBA Finals. Go Orlando!

I am striped pajama pants

I am creating...videos on my new pocket video camera. Hopefully, I will figure out how to add videos to my blog soon

I am Haley Myer's Wedding this weekend!

I am reading...Line by Line: How to Edit Your Own Writing

I am hoping... to finish the first draft of my next book very soon

I am hearing...TV and the phone telling me there is a new text and Tweet Deck saying that people are tweeting

Around the house...Stacks of books by my bed, by the couch, on the table and downstairs. Stacks everywhere!

One of my favorite things... laughing with Clay when he sings the wrong words to songs, which is everytime he sings

A few plans for the rest of the week: Hanging by the pool with Joy and Christeene, Going to the wedding in Greenville, Radio Interview with a DJ I met on Twitter

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

This is a picture of the team that is going on a mission trip to Honduras soon. I am thinking that this is the "before" pic... before God does something wonderful with a group of expectant followers. How exciting!

If you want to try The Simple Woman's Daybook, go for it, and add your name to the list:

Monday, June 8, 2009

How to Drag Your Spouse into the 21st Century

It's the same old story every time I purchase a new piece of technology. I love it. I think it is revolutionary. I can't stop talking about it. My husband thinks it's useless.

Within two weeks, he is kind of interested. Within a month, he is talking to his friends about it. At some point, he comes around and starts using the technology. Not long after he accepts the NEW THING, he thinks it was his idea all along.

This happened with the iPOD a few years ago. Clay did not see any reason to have one. But now, he is one of those runners who cannot fathom a workout without his music strapped to his arm. This happened with Facebook. He had a million and one reasons why he was too cool to be a part of the revolution. Now, he checks it everyday.

And it's happening again with our new Kindle and with Twitter. He is reluctant. He is hesitant. He is laughing at me when I post something from Tweet Deck. He rolls his eyes when I show him my newspaper on Kindle. But he will come around. This is how I do it:

1. I talk with other cool people about the technology in front of him. This lets him know that hip, happening people are using the technology.

2. I show him articles about how this equipment or Website is changing the world (like the cover of TIME Magazine for June 15th).

3. I use terms that he does not know, like "Twitterverse" or "Tweet" or "Twellow".

4. I download something he will appreciate, like a free sporting newspaper on the Kindle.

5. I use the technology in front of him without asking him if he wants to share.

6. I wait for him to ask questions.

7. Sometimes, I can't stand it and I just force him to see what he is missing. I think this might be counterproductive, but I can't help it.

Friday, June 5, 2009

7 Reasons You and Your Spouse Should Have a Pet

I remember the day, eight years ago, when Clay brought our golden retriever home. We named her Molly, but after two weeks, we knew that she was a Shelby. Shelby has moved with us from Marietta to Woodstock to McDonough. She was there for Clay when he had his shoulder surgery and she cuddled with me when I had a stomach flu. She has been such a wonderful part of our married life.
It's hard to believe that I had to convince Clay to get a dog. If you are trying to decide whether or not to adopt a pet, here are seven reasons why you should:
1. It's good practice if you do not have kids and good entertainment if you do have them.
2. You always have someone to blame the farts on ("Shelby, what did you eat tonight?")
3. A dog wakes up every morning with the excitement of a little kid on Christmas morning.
4. You can ask serious questions with a lighthearted tone in the presence of a puppy ("Shelby, does your Daddy think money grows on trees?")
5. You feel like the most important person in the world when you arrive home after a long day at work and your beloved pet knocks you down with kisses (picture Dino on the cartoon, The Flinstones, attacking Fred as he enters the house).
6. Dogs are a great example of unconditional love.
7. They make the cutest pictures for your scrapbook, blog and facebook pages.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Why I am a Better Wife in the Summer

Today is the first full day of summer and no one is happier about that than Clay. Even though he is still working, he gets to live with SUMMER EMILY for two whole months. Summer Emily, aka "The Summer Wife" comes alive during the months of June and July and she goes back into hibernation in the Fall.

I must admit that it's nice to be a stay-at-home wife for two months out of the year. Here are 10 Reasons Why I am a Better Wife in the Summer:

1. Once my closets are clean, I am more at peace.

2. When I make dinner, I am not too tired to clean the dishes.

3. Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy! John Denver was right after all.

4. I am at home. Clay is at work. When he comes home, I feel like June Cleaver waiting for him.

5. I feel good about myself when I am tan and have time to exercise!

6. My birthday is in the summer so I have to be really nice and butter him up for a good present.

7. Time for tennis = Emily is happy.

8. Clay and I sit on the porch for dinner and watch the golfers stroll by. It's very relaxing.

9. We grill. We sip lemonade. We take more time to chat.

10. Beach time is the best time to reconnect.

Monday, June 1, 2009

4 Times Clay has Unconditionally Loved Me This Week

Our Lifegroup at Eagles Landing First Baptist just finished the Fireproof Curriculum, and the last chapter described "unconditional love." That phrase is used so often that I am almost numb to it.

We all assume that we love our spouses unconditionally, but do we really? Do we love them unconditionally when their socks are in the kitchen sink (yes, that has happened)? What about when they forget our anniversary (Clay has never done that, but I imagine I would be pretty upset).

This week, I have been a bit of a mess. I had a hundred things to do and no time to do them. And I noticed that Clay was loving me and supporting me unconditionally. And I must say... it felt great. Below are 4 ways Clay has unconditionally loved me in small ways that made a big difference.

1. He volunteered at a charity event with me - and did not complain (to my face).

2. He told me how pretty I looked every morning, even though I know I looked terrible.

3. He witheld sarcastic comments about the tornado that came through the house.

4. He rubbed my shoulders as I was working feverishly at the computer.

Friday, May 29, 2009

9 Ways God Has Spoken to Me

As many of you know, Clay and I have been praying for wisdom and direction concerning our adoption. To give you an update, we are continuing the adoption process from China, but we know that it could take years until our baby arrives. Beijing has temporarily closed adoptions right now due to the Swine Flu, so what should we do while we wait?

Only God knows, so it is up to us to listen.

Jennifer Schuchmann's book, 9 Ways God Always Speaks, has been such an encouragement to me that prayer is not a one-way conversation. In fact, prayer is most alive when we learn to become active listeners, engaged in dialogue with the One who knows us best.

As Clay and I reminisce, we realize that there have been many times when God was trying to tell us something. Below is a list of 9 memorable ways God has spoken to me.

1. Through Peace - When praying about where to attend college, I felt unrest when I visited other campuses, but I felt a peace when visiting Auburn. That might just be because the Holy Spirit lives in Auburn and it is the greatest place on earth, but still, I knew it was the place for me.
2. Through Conviction - When struggling through my first year of marriage, I stayed awake to pray one night and God opened my heart to my own sin. This revelation was a relief to me. I thought Clay and I were from different planets, but God showed me that if I allow Him to mold me, we were going to be alright.

3. Through Scripture - When making a career decision, God kept bringing Colossians 3:23 to my mind. Everytime I prayed, God reminded me of the verse. "Whatever you do, do it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not men." It was as if God was saying, "I give you the free will to choose the job, but whatever you choose, give it 110%... all for me!"

4. Through Circumstances - There are times when the stars align and you just know that this is not a coincidence.

5. Through Godly Counsel - I am very thankful for friends who are not afraid to speak the truth boldly. Even when I did not want to hear it, I wanted to hear it.

6. Through Faith - Bill Boldt, our Campus Crusade director at Auburn (where the Holy Spirit lives), told us that when he was thinking about marrying his wife, he was 80% sure that she was "THE ONE". He had to trust God for the other 20%. I have always remembered that story and when it is time to make a decision, I have often trusted God for the other 10%, 20% or 30%. After that, it just doesn't make mathematical sense!

7. Through Contemplation - This is a Christian's way of saying, "Worry", but it doesn't count if you turn your worry heavenward.

8. Through Books - So many of my stories begin with the words, "I was reading this book the other day when I realized..." Jennifer's book is another example of a read that has changed my perspective and given me direction.

9. Through Quiet Prayer - Nothing is more powerful than quiet. In the stillness, God's answer is often revealed.

Feel free to leave a comment about a time when God has spoken to you. If you are looking for a great book to take to the beach, check out 9 Ways God Always Speaks.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

7 Reasons to Pick up Your Spouse at the Airport

After six days in Estes Park at the Colorado Christian Writers' Conference, I was thrilled to arrive, safe and sound, at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta. I was exhausted from the trip, excited about all I had learned and looking forward to seeing Clay. I expected him to drive up to the curb and throw my suitcases in the car, but he was actually waiting for me in baggage claim. What a great surprise! We ate together in the airport and exchanged presents and starred adoringly into one another's eyes (okay, the last part is an exaggeration). Below are 7 reasons to park the car and walk into the airport and pick up your spouse:

1. The reunion is more dramatic when you can run, hug and take time to reunite without the excessive honking of the carline.

2. The weary traveler is oh so thankful for someone to help with the suitcases.

3. If there are any problems with lost luggage, it is nice to go through it with someone who is calm.

4. Travelers are generally tired and lonely and never more excited to see a familiar face.

5. In the movies, true love always happens at the terminal. That is because the two lovers cannot wait another second... they must see their sweetheart as soon as possible. Maybe I have seen too many movies and so, I'm spoiled. And now, with the security risk, you cannot wait at the terminal... but you can wait in baggage claim.

6. Everyone likes to see their special someone waiting with flowers, or a sign, or chocolate... you get the point.

7. It's a great way to go the extra mile for the person you love most in the world.

Friday, May 8, 2009

8 Birthday Presents for Men

Clay's birthday was last week and the girl in me REALLY wanted to throw a big party. I wanted to buy him clothes and send him on a scavenger hunt, but he honestly does not want any of the hoopla. More than anything, he wants to relax (or chillax as the students say). He does not want me to blow the budget. And he certainly does not need the typical presents like cologne, ties, or a man bag. However, he does like to get some attention and he does appreciate thoughtful presents. So, with those stipulations in mind I have compiled a list (with the input of Clay and some other MANLY MEN) of gifts that almost any man would appreciate:

1. Good golf balls and a round of golf at a new course - Apparantly, certain golf balls are better than others.

2. Sports Massage - The masseuse will focus on overworked muscles or old injuries due to exercise. Even if your spouse is not a serious athlete, men often have scar tissue or pain around their shoulders, lower back and knees that can be helped by this kind of massage.

3. Concert tickets - You know your man's favorite group. Check out for upcoming events.

4. The Andretti Experience - Men can go 180 mph and feel like racecar driver for only $22.95. Didn't every little boy want toy cars for his birthday? He still likes them!

5. Car Detail - Speaking of cars, more than one man told me that he would love to have his car detailed. At first I was surprised to hear this, but now that I think back to my brother washing his car in our driveway, I realize that this must be one of those man things.

6. Guy Time - Of course your man loves to be with you, but they also need quality time with buddies. Your husband will love it if you plan time for him to watch the game with just a FEW friends. Be sure to invite the people he REALLY likes (not just your friends' husbands and boyfriends). Provide the food and cigars and stay out of the way!

7. Letter Describing Your Respect for Him - Even though you tell him what you admire about him, writing it is more permanent. Make a list of all the ways you think he is the greatest. He can read it again and again.

8. Cold, Hard Cash - You know your man. If he likes to save money, nothing will surprise him more than your ability to save money or make extra money that he can spend anywhere. This takes true dedication because it requires planning and work, but it is a gift that fits everytime.

Friday, May 1, 2009

6 Indicators that You are On the Same Team

Every Friday morning, Clay and I play basketball with some friends. Well, the guys play and I run up and down the court and they let me shoot now and then. Usually, Clay and I are on opposite teams and I have to guard him (since Clay is the dork who brings his wife to play, they force him to guard me).

This morning was different because we played on the same team, and I have decided that it's a better that way. I would rather be excited when my husband grabs a rebound or hits a three-pointer. I like running in the same direction that he is running rather than trying to get in his way, stop him, foul him or steal the ball from him (yeah right).

The game this morning was so much more enjoyable since we were working together toward the same goal. I would like to think that Clay and I are always on the same team, but below are six ways to check my actions and make sure. You know that you and your spouse are playing like teammates when:

1. You cheer for his/her success even if it means more work for you.

2. You pick up the slack and work harder when your teammate is having an off-day, or even an off-season.

3. There is an unwritten understanding that the team is more important than the individual glory of a single team member.

4. If a team member is hurt, he still shows up for practice to support the others.

5. Everyone understands their role on the team.

6. Success and failure are met together. Your teammate's success is your success. Your teammate's failure is yours as well. Blame is useless on a team. You work together to fill the gaps.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

8 Reasons Why Your Dog Should Not Sleep with You

Our golden retriever, Shebly, is a notorious snuggler. She loves to be close to Clay and me at all times, including nighttime. I have to admit that I was disappointed when my husband refused to let a DOG sleep in the bed. As a puppy, Shelby whined almost as much as I did, but I showed her the doggie bed and she quickly learned to love her special place.

Recently, this issue resurfaced when some friends asked us to referee an argument between them about their chocolate lab. One spouse wanted the dog in the bed while the other thought it was hurting their marriage. Although we usually try not to take a position, Clay and I were adament about the dog. It needs to stay out of the marriage bed. Here is why:

1. The most obvious reason... how can you two be spontaneous with another creature lying next to you? Intimacy, including simple snuggling, should not be interrupted!

2. Chiropractors agree that dogs cause unnecesary strain on your back as you manuever around them throughout the night.

3. You will wake up more refreshed without the interruption of a dog wiggling, scratching, licking and playing throughout the night.

4. As Ceasar Milan always says, "Your dog should not be your master." It is up to you to show the pet its boundaries instead of allowing him/her to rule over you.

5. You can still show your dogs how much you love them by cuddling a little bit before time to sleep and giving them attention when you wake up. This rule does not mean that you are a stern, heartless pet owner.

6. Although allowing the dog in the bed does not guarantee that he will feel like the master, it is a consideration. Read advice from an expert on

7. For sanitary reasons alone, the dog should stay on the floor. Think of the hair, the odor, and the germs. You take a shower everyday but how often does your dog bathe... once every three months? Gross!

8. If you insist on having your dog in bed, allow them to join you when invited. This way, you can enjoy him and give him attention. Then, command him to go back to his bed as you snuggle with your spouse and enjoy and peaceful night of sleep.

Check out other thoughts on

I am interested to hear your opinion on this one. Let me know your house rules for pets at bedtime. What are your suggestions?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

6 Lessons About the Cross

Even after all the books we have read, classes we have taught and resolutions we have made, Clay and I still hurt one another. We have been married for nine years and we even teach classes on conflict resolution. But the other day, all the lessons went out the window. We had a good ole fashioned silent fight. And somehow, miraculously, after two days of childishness, we forgave one another completely. It was the closest I have ever felt to my husband.

It made me realize, even more, that forgiveness is the true path to intimacy. God's design for forgiveness was revealed to me through our relationship and below are six lessons I have learned about the beauty of the cross through my marriage to Clay.

1. Undeserved forgiveness is a powerful force.

2. Painful sacrifice is a love language that everyone understands.

3. Sin can cause wounds far deeper than knives or swords.

4. The strength of persevering love influences change.

5. The history of countries, cities and families are changed when intense loves intervenes.

6. A close relationship with someone who really knows you is so worth the effort.

Monday, March 30, 2009

9 Takeaways from the Marriage Conference

Thanks to Dan and Susan Evans, along with a great team of volunteers at ELFBC and Lifeway, I was tremendously blessed by The Great Marriage Experience this weekend. Dr. Gary and Barb Rosberg challenged Clay and me to a deeper, more purposeful marriage. The following thoughts have been simmering in my mind since this weekend:

1. It is impossible to be the mate I am meant to be whenI have a hard heart toward my husband. A list of marital do's and don'ts cannot will not be sufficient. We need a soft heart that loves out of grace, not out of duty.

2. It is critical that I support my husband and encourage him, especially during stressful times at work.

3. Children should see their parents ask one another for forgiveness. If they witness good conflict resolution skills, they will know how to "close the loop" on their own disagreements.

4. Remember, at all times, that the relationship trumps the issue. Dr. Rosberg even left an NCAA Final Four Game one time because his wife was more important to him!

5. Try praying over your spouse's side of the bed. Start at the pillow and pray for his/her mind. Then, move to the heart, the hands and feet.

6. Wash your spouse's feet. Ask them to forgive you for all the times you did not support them completely. Resolve to love and serve your mate with all your heart, soul and mind.

7. Anger is a secondary emotion. If you are angry with your spouse, dig deeper and you might find that you are actually hurt.

8. Spiritual intimacy is closely related to sexual intimacy.

9. Marriage is either growing deeper and richer or stagnating and decaying. We should take time regularly to assess the direction of our marriage.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

13 Recession Concessions Every Woman Should Make

My two college roommates are visiting this weekend and one of them, Jaime, used a term that keeps bouncing around in my mind. She said that she has made various "recession concessions" and I think she is on the right track. In fact, every woman should be willing to concede the following luxuries as we hunker down in a slumping economy. The picture above is a celebration of Haley's good deal on eBay.

1. Do your own mani / pedi. With a cuticle cutter, nail file and pumis stone, you can shape those fingers and toes yourself.

2. Spread out the haircuts. Split ends will not bankrupt you.

3. Shop generic. Try all generic brands until you decide that the expensive brand is worth it.

4. Groom your dog. You can do it! Buy the clippers and google, "How to groom a dog."

5. Skip the coffeehouse. Make your breakfast at home and save dollars a day.

6. You do not NEED a new purse every season. Buy your purse at Target or even check out homemade wonders on Keep the bag for an entire year... gasp.

7. Make presents for your girlfriends. A little thought can save a lot of dough.
8. Sprinkle. Don't shower. When throwing parties for friends who are engaged or pregnant, consider a low-profile party. You can celebrate the upcoming event without breaking the bank.

9. Exchange your DIVA attitude for that of a TEAM PLAYER. Face it ladies. Diva days are long gone. It is no longer hip or sophisticated to be a spoiled brat. Take a hard look at your spending habits and make decisions based on what is best for your marriage and family.

10. Try borrowing first. Next, check eBay. Then, hit the sales racks. If nothing works, consider buying something at full price.

11. Before purchasing those salon shampoos and conditioners, try a grocery store brand. If you cannot see or feel a difference, make the switch.

12. Speak up when planning an outing with friends. If the restaurant is too expensive, be honest.

13. Send e-cards or emails for birthdays. You can save on the card and the postage and your friends and family will still feel special.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Eight Spring Dates

Today is the first official day of Spring, so get out there and enjoy it with the one you love most.

1. Grill out on the back porch. Throw some steaks, chicken or portabella mushrooms on the grill and watch the sunset together.

2. Stroll around the block after dinner and make time to chat with neighbors who have been hybernating all winter.

3. Order tickets to an outdoor concert.

4. Pack a picnic and invite another couple to join you. Take frisbees, footballs and those little paddle games that people normally take to the beach (you know what I am talking about).

5. Get ice cream or coffee and sit outside for a good game of "People Watching".

6. Relax by a lake or pond, even if you cannot dive in yet.

7. Catch a little league baseball game, even if your children are not playing. The sights and sounds at the game will spark interesting conversation abuot your childhood.

8. Pick flowers together as you walk on a trail. Come home and arrange them in a vase.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

10 Reasons My Bracket Always Beats My Husband's

Every year, my husband and I create NCAA brackets and we bet dinner and a massage on our ability to predict the best college basketball teams in the nation. Since Clay watches ESPN almost as often as he checks his phone for scores, you would think he'd win easily. But I almost always win! And below, you will find 11 reasons why:

1. I don't believe the announcers when they predict an upset (actually, I don't even hear them because they are not on Bravo, Lifetime or E!).
2. The color of a team's uniform is as good a reason as any to choose one team over another.
3. I have no loyalties to any team because I don't know any of them.
4. I have no pride to drag me down.
5. I make my pick and never look back. In fact, I don't think about the bracket for more than 2 minutes).
6. I am not influenced by pointless issues like strategy, match-ups or injuries.
7. If a team name sounds weird (like Akron or Stephen F. Austin) I don't pick them.
8. I don't hate any coaches, teams, conferences or players.
9. My choices are mainly based on feelings and tinglings in my spine (generally very accurate)
10. I have no idea why I win, but it is so fun to see him shake his head and roll his eyes when I do!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

7 Reasons to Dance with Your Wife

What is the common denominator between Fred Astaire, Justin Timberlake and Bill Cosby? All three share a love of music and dance that cause women to swoon with every tap, twirl and thrust. Clay and I took Swing Dance Lessons at an ASEDA Event last night and I felt like an adoring fan as he swung me around the dance floor. What is it about dancing that drives women crazy?

1. Dancing reminds women of the carefree days of youth, hopping down the sidewalk with their buddies or dancing on their dad's feet in the living room.

2. All a woman really wants is the undivided attention of her loved one. Dancing requires the eye contact and face-to-face connection that she dreams about.

3. The fairy tale of being swept off your feet can actually come true on the dance floor.

4. Dancing makes a woman feel like you two are in sync, connected and tuned in to one another.

5. Happy days often include dancing - include wedding day, prom night, and great dates. Every time you dance with your wife, she remembers other wonderful moments.

6. When a man dances, he has to be strong AND sensative. Your wife falls in love with you all over again on the dance floor.

7. Finally, and most is impossible to watch ESPN while dancing.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Jeff Foxworthy on Educators

Anyone who has worked in a school will relate to one or more of the following Foxworthy Quotes:

Jeff Foxworthy on educators:

YOU might be a school employee if you believe the playground should be equipped with a Ritalin salt lick.

YOU might be a school employee if you want to slap the next person who says, 'Must be nice to work 8 to 3:30 and have summers off.

YOU might be a school employee if it is difficult to name your newborn because there's no name you can come up with that doesn't bring high blood pressure as it is uttered.

YOU might be a school employee if you can tell it's a full moon or if it going to rain, snow, hail....(ANYTHING) without ever looking outside.

YOU might be a school employee if you believe, 'shallow gene pool' should have its own box on a report card.

YOU might be a school employee if you believe that unspeakable evils will befall you if anyone says, 'Boy, the kids sure are mellow today.'

YOU might be a school employee if when out in public, you feel the urge to snap your fingers at children you do not know and correct their behavior.

YOU might be a school employee if you have no social life between August and June.

YOU might be a school employee if you think people should have a government permit before being allowed to reproduce.

YOU might be a school employee if you wonder how some parents MANAGED to reproduce.

YOU might be a school employee if you laugh uncontrollably when people refer to the staff room as the 'lounge.'

YOU might be a school employee if you encourage an obnoxious parent to check into charter schools or home schooling and are willing to donate the UHAUL boxes should they decided to move out of district.

YOU might be a school employee if you think caffeine should be available in intravenous form.

YOU might be a school employee if you can't imagine how the ACLU could think that covering your student's chair with Velcro and then requiring uniforms made out of the corresponding Velcro could ever be misunderstood by the public

YOU might be a school employee if meeting a child's parent instantly answers this question, 'Why is this kid like this?'

YOU might be a school employee if you would choose a mammogram over a parent conference.

YOU might be a school employee if you think someone should invent antibacterial pencils and crayons...and desks and chairs for that matter!

YOU might be a school employee if the words 'I have college debt for this?' have ever come out of your mouth.

YOU might be a school employee if you know how many days, minutes, and seconds are left in the school year!