Tuesday, December 16, 2014

3 Distinct Varieties of Mistletoe You Probably Haven't Heard Of

You know the tradition with mistletoe, right? If two people are standing under it they're supposed to kiss. It's a great tradition, especially when you're single.

I really enjoyed it that first Christmas Cami and I were married. Reminiscing about it now I think our ceiling must have been made out of mistletoe. Suffice it to say, it was a good Christmas season.

After that it was still fun to have the mistletoe "hung where [we] can see" it but since we can kiss each other whenever we want, and we take full advantage of that privilege, mistletoe just wasn't as big of a deal. It became just another holiday decoration.

That is until we discovered that there is more than one kind of mistletoe. So far we have discovered three.

The first kind is the traditional mistletoe. This mistletoe entitles those standing under it to one, normal kiss. It's what hangs in the majority of homes during the Christmas season.

The second kind of mistletoe is "make-out mistletoe." When two people get caught under it they are entitled, and expected, to participate in a make out session. Use this mistletoe sparingly and place it carefully in your home. If you have teenagers you may not want to even bring it out until they have moved out.

The third kind of mistletoe is "french mistletoe." You probably guessed it. If you're standing under french mistletoe you are entitled to share a piece of french toast with your companion (were you thinking something else?).

Cami and I prefer make-out mistletoe. It's especially fun once the kids are in bed.

What kind of mistletoe is hanging in your home this Christmas?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

How 3 Words & 1 Contraction Will Save Your Marriage

A few weeks one of my newsletter subscribers emailed me. She thanked me for an email that I had recently sent out and then asked a question that made me think.

Her question was simple: "have you discussed the importance of saying 'I'm sorry'?"

You know what, I don't think I have. At least not in a very long time.

I heard a story this last week in church. There were two brothers that owned adjoining farms. They lived next to each other for many years and were great friends.

One day a dispute arose between the two of them. It grew and grew and was blown out of proportion such that the two brothers stopped speaking to one another.

A short time later, after the conflict had deteriorated further, the younger brother took his tractor and dug a large ditch along the property line and diverted water from a nearby stream into the ditch.

The older brother, not wanting to be outdone, hired a carpenter to build a tall fence along the ditch so that he didn't even have to see his younger brother anymore.

When the carpenter arrived the older brother instructed him on what he wanted done and showed him where the lumber for the fence was being stored.

The older brother asked the carpenter if he understood what he wanted and asked if he had any questions. The carpenter smiled and replied that he knew exactly what needed to be done. The older brother then went into town for the day to take care of some business.

When the older brother returned home that evening the carpenter was just finishing up. But to his surprise instead of a fence the carpenter had built a bridge across the ditch. The brother was outraged!

Just as he was about to give the carpenter a severe tongue lashing out of the corner of his eye he saw a man crossing the bridge. It was his younger brother!

The younger brother ran to him and, with tears in his eyes, threw his arms around his older brother.

As they embraced the younger brother apologized for his behavior and for letting such a small disagreement grow into what it had. He then thanked his older brother for being more wise than he and building a bridge to say he was sorry.

The carpenter simply smiled as he walked away.

The reason I share this story is that someone has to start everything. Everything starts with one person making a decision and acting on it. Asking for forgiveness is the same.

The younger brother apologized for his behavior. He thought that the older brother had apologized for his actions too. One apology (though unintended) precipitated the reconciliation between the two.


So who should apologize first? Cami and I have had our fair share of disagreements. Typically I'm pretty sure that I'm right. Generally she is. But in the heat of the moment neither one of us wants to lose.

Three years into our marriage we had a pretty big disagreement. I wouldn't really call it a fight because we have several rules in place in our marriage that, when followed, prevent us from getting into fights. Nevertheless, it was a good disagreement. I don't recall what it was about but I do remember that Cami abruptly left the house visibly upset.

It took me a few minutes to realize that she'd left (I was in another room) but when I did I chased after her! At first I was even angrier that she would walk away. Almost immediately, however, the thought crossed my mind "what if she never comes back?!" I tripled my pace.

Thankfully she hadn't gone far. In the mere five minutes that had passed from when she walked out the front door I was completely repentant. As soon as I saw her I threw my arms around her and, with man tears in my eyes, began frantically apologizing. And I meant it.

All it took was the thought that it could all be over in an instant, that I could drive away the woman I love more than myself. I have been far quicker to say three little words ever since. They are "I am sorry" (sometimes I like to switch things up and I'll say "I'm sorry" too).

While it's often very difficult for us to swallow our pride, and this is true for both husbands and for wives, it is absolutely essential.

One last thought on this. Ultimately it doesn't matter if you are right or wrong if the disagreement ends your marriage. If that happens I guarantee you were wrong regardless of the issue you had argued about.

My advice: Say you're sorry. Don't hesitate. Say it often and say it sincerely. Those three words, "I am sorry," or, if you're feeling adventurous as I often am, that contraction, "I'm sorry," will save your marriage.

Give it a try today.

Monday, December 8, 2014

5 Magnificent Marriage Lessons Anyone Can Apply

I've made many friends during my life. Today I'd like to introduce you to one of my good friends, Ashton Swank. 

Ashton lives in North Carolina with her husband and their little girl. She blogs about desserts at SomethingSwanky.com and her recipes are amazing! Cami loves/hates looking at her pictures because everything looks fantastic. The recipes that Cami has made were delicious.


Ashton also just released a new cookbook, Party Popcorn: 75 Creative Recipes for Everyone’s Favorite Snack. Because we are popcorn fanatics we've already ordered our copy and are looking forward to getting it this week. You should pick one up to. It's a great Christmas present.

Cami and I have been friends with Ashton and her husband for the last three years and love them. Theirs is a great marriage and because of this, as well as because Ashton is a successful blogger, Cami and I thought it would be wonderful to hear the sage wisdom she has to share about both.

A big thank you to Ashton for taking the time to share with us today. Enjoy!

Interview with Ashton Swank


How long have you been married?
Over 8 years

What is your favorite thing about being married? Least favorite?
My favorite thing about being married is that I never have to carry a burden alone.

Although I frequently need to be reminded of that. I have a personality that tends towards taking on everything by myself. I like to err on the side of self-reliance to avoid being let down (my blog itself is proof of this! When we were going through a financially hard time, I decided to "take matters into my own hands." Which ended up being a blessing, albeit maybe not exactly the correct attitude to have).


But when things get really terrible and I know that I can't handle something on my own, it's such an overwhelming joy and relief to remember that I don't have to! My ever ready husband is always capable and willing to shoulder anything I give him (whether it's a sink full of dishes or something more tumultuous.... although, my dish load gets pretty tumultuous!) . And that's my favorite part of marriage.

My least favorite part? Being married to someone who likes to spend money just as much as I do. I was really hoping to have the corner on the money-spending market when we got married!

What one piece of advice would you give a couple married for one month? Why?
My one piece of advice goes against conventional, passed-down wisdom, but it works for us. GO TO BED ANGRY. 99.9% of our arguments happen after 10pm. And I know for a fact that it's because we're exhausted. And when you're exhausted, it's nearly impossible to reasonable, rational, tactful, and compassionate. And, in my case, emotions start rising pretty high once I'm tired-- it doesn't take much provocation for me to fly completely off the handle at that point.

We've found that sleeping on an argument usually results in the problem being mostly (if not entirely) dissolved my morning time when everyone is feeling sane again.

Now, the caveat to this piece of advice is: don't leave each other angry. I think going to sleep angry is fine-- partly because I know we'll wake up, safely, next to one another in the morning. But leaving the house angry? That's a different story. No matter what we're battling, we try really hard to not part ways angry with one another. I can't stand the thought that our last parting feelings towards one another (should the unthinkable happen while we're separated) be feelings of anger.

Does your blog get in the way of your marriage/family? If so, how?
I've been incredibly blessed to have a spouse who has been very supportive of my blogging, despite the fact that I've never made it easy on him! Before I earned ANY money blogging, I was spending anywhere from 30-50 hours a week trying to build it up. There were lots of emotional meltdowns. And I've invested a LOT of money that we didn't have for a few years on photography equipment, renting to create studio/office space, blog travel, graphic design, and (of course) ingredients. All of that before we were even getting any kind of return on the time and money we were investing. In the end, it was more than worth it financially. But for 2 or 3 years, we really didn't know if it would be or not. And it was no small sacrifice on my husband's part to support me without a negative word one!

So I guess the answer to the question is: blogging really could have gotten in the way of our marriage/family, but I've been blessed with a supportive family who didn't let it.

On the flip side, now that my husband is out of school and working full time, I'm making an effort to cut down on the blog time and money I spend since it's not the financial necessity it was. I can see that my efforts to do this have been really appreciated by my husband, and that is rewarding to me.

Any other nuggets of wisdom that you would like to share with your readers?
I meant to make these answers funny and witty, because that's the kind of stuff I like to read. But I guess my serious nature won out, and my responses all came out a little bit on the heavy side. So let me just add that I love the teasing, laughing, fun side of our marriage as well as the serious parts!

My husband and I love to watch TV together, and we both really appreciate the value of a good one-liner in a sitcom. I love being in the middle of something or other with my husband when a funny TV reference comes up in conversation. We can really have a good laugh over that, and those are some of my favorite moments with him. And I think you have to make sure to have some of those moments together in life. It's like the cherry on top of an already good thing.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

4 Essential Rules for Every Marriage

Don't rules suck? Who likes being told what they can't do? Since we're adults we don't really need them.

Nope, I don't agree. I am profoundly grateful for rules. If there wasn't a speed limit I am certain I would have gone around many a turn in the road to find out too late (as my car and I were flying through the air) that I was going too fast.

I remember the rule that I wasn't allowed to touch the stove when I was a child. I recall disobeying that rule and realizing too late that it was a mistake. That rule was there for a reason. Go figure.

We love freedom. And freedom is wonderful. But, as hopefully I've illustrated, rules keep us safe.

My marriage is under constant attack. The world is changing rapidly and heading in a direction where the family is decreasing in importance. Often it is regarded more like a hobby and is considered a joke. I recently read (though I admit each time I see these types statistics there are different) that the average age a man gets married now is about 29 and for women it's 26.5.

The attacks aren't just limited to changing social "norms." In fact, I think the biggest threats to my marriage have nothing to do with them.

Time is a huge threat to the success and happiness of my marriage, more specifically the lack of time. I find myself being pulled in ten different directions all the time. If I'm not attending a church meeting then I'm being expected to stay late at work. Other days it's friends and family the need help and I'm called away. There's my responsibilities with community organizations of which I am a part. And the list goes on.

However, the biggest threat to my marriage is myself. My attitude and behavior could destroy my marriage faster and more effectively than anything else. Thankfully Cami and I realized this within the first six months of our marriage and we established some rules...to keep our marriage safe.

  1. Never say "divorce." The "d" word isn't welcome in our marriage. We never talk about getting divorced. We never threaten it in the heat of an argument or joke about it when we're playing around. Divorce is unacceptable, therefore, the notion is not even entertained.
  2. Never need to say "you'll just have to trust me." By the time you have to say this it's too late. You've put yourself in a position you shouldn't have. I'm not saying it will never happen, it still could. But never knowingly or intentionally put yourself in this situation and be on the lookout for things that could potentially push you into it.
  3. Don't talk to other people about problems our problems until we at least talk about it ourselves. When you talk to other people you are making private problems public. The problem is that when private matters become public the difficulty in resolving them increases dramatically. The other reason we don't talk to anyone else first is that often the other is unaware there's an issue and our mutual trust is undermined not to mention that when we talk about it together 99% of the time we are able to resolve it in 15 minutes or less.
  4. Don't spend time alone with the opposite sex. We had been married maybe four months and I gave a classmate a ride home from the library. We had been there working on a group project with other classmates and it was late so I offered her a ride home. There was no romantic interest on either side, I was only helping a friend, but it didn't appear that way. For those Christians out there the Apostle Paul taught us to avoid the appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22). Also, if you're never alone with someone of the opposite sex the possibility that a connection/attraction could form is zero.
I want to say one more thing about rule number 4. Recognizing that there are times in my professional career that I need to be alone with someone of the opposite gender (like conducting a performance evaluation with a female employee) I take precautions such as letting others know what we're doing, leaving my office door slightly open, and sitting a reasonable distance away (generally there's furniture between us as well).

So there you have it. You have the potential to destroy your own marriage. So set some rules with your spouse so that you don't go careening off the cliff because you didn't know there was a turn in the road there.


To read more about how rules strengthen relationships, and marriage especially, get a copy of my book, Uplifting Love: Secrets to Making a Good Marriage Great.

What rules do you have in your marriage?

Friday, November 28, 2014

When It's Okay for A Man to Cry...It's Not When You Think

Image Source
I am a male. I also consider myself to be a man. They are not the same thing.

Male is a designation given to individuals in a species that meet certain criteria, primarily their reproductive organs.

All men are males, but a man is more than a male. A man is dependable, trustworthy, keeps his word, is a protector and provider, respects women, in short, he is someone of integrity.

As a man there are entire series of unspoken rules about all sorts of things. One of those is crying.

Men can cry. There's nothing wrong with that. I cried each time one of our children were born. I cry when I ponder on the sacrifices that my forefathers made to allow me my political and religious freedom. I tear up when I think of the sacrifices that our current military service men and women are making.

Other times that I tear up: when I think of the possibility of losing one of my children or my sweet wife, when I'm laughing too hard, when I see extreme suffering of other people, and I am cutting onions.

I think most people would agree with me that these are okay times for a man to cry. And they are. There's nothing wrong with shedding a few tears every now and again...in the right situation.

But is it okay for a man to cry when he is feeling grateful? Yes!

When individuals, both men and women, are filled with gratitude they often feel overcome by the emotion and tears come to their eyes. Pure gratitude is a powerful emotion. And it's okay for a man to cry when he's feeling gratitude.

I'm not saying that every time a man feels grateful for something he should burst into tears. But, for example, when I ponder on how lucky I am that Cami married me it often makes my eyes a bit misty.

It's okay for a man to cry...in certain circumstances. When he's feeling gratitude is one of them.

For a more extensive handling of man tears, including a brief history, see the great post When Is It Okay for A Man to Cry? at the site ArtOfManliness.com.

Are there other times that are okay for a man to cry?



Don't miss your chance to get a copy of Uplifting Love: Secrets to Making a Good Marriage Great. This book will not only help you show your husband that you love him it will help you improve your entire marriage!

You think you're happy now, and I'm sure you are, but I challenge you to read Uplifting Love and apply what you learn today to make your marriage awesome! Don't wait another minute, start taking your marriage from good to great today!

Purchase your copy of Uplifting Love: Secrets to Making a Good Marriage Great right now and have it delivered to your inbox immediately! In just a matter of minutes you'll be on your way to having the marriage that your friends and family envy. Don't delay, get your copy today!
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