Tag Archives: sex

Thankful #6 – #12

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Today’s list of blessings is comprised entirely of websites. What an amazing time we live in, with a world of information (and misinformation) right at our fingertips. With the aid of the internet, we can be either madly clicking paragons of productivity or ravaged wastrels lounging atop a throne of empty pizza boxes in our underwear. Either way, here are some of the websites I’m thankful for:

6. WebMD. How else could I find out all the things I didn’t know were wrong with me? By the way, today I either have mild wrist swelling caused by overuse or creeping bone cancer. Could be either, according to WebMD.

7. Google. It’s the search engine whose name became synonymous with searching for things on the internet. I’ve tried a number of others, but always come back to the megalith of internet construction. Not only is it the most comprehensive and useful, but the Google doodle occasionally provides hours of entertainment.

8. I Can Has Cheezburger. Life can be brutal, man. Some days, we get knocked down so many times that staying down starts to seem like the best option. On those days, I like to fill my brain up with cute hedgehog babies in teacups and puppies wearing tiny fedoras. I like to imagine that I live in a world where my cat has something clever and pithy to say about the mess  I left in the kitchen, and where every animal, from cow to platypus, is blessed with a rapier sharp sarcastic wit. Cheezburgers for everyone!

9. Lifehacker. This too-practical-to-be-believed website has tips and tricks for everything from making your own bicycle-powered battery to optimizing your Google searches. I just recently used it to find a good (and free) language learning app. No matter what you want to do (deseed a pomegranate, interview for a job, water your plants), Lifehacker has a tip for you! Never again will I have to suffer from excess pool noodle accumulation. Thanks,  Lifehacker!

10. Wikipedia. It’s exhaustive. It’s crowd-sourced. And it’s mostly accurate. To think, my parents had to spend $300 in 1995 for an actual printed set of World Book encyclopedias. It was out of date before we received it.  And it didn’t even have an entry for the Hollywood Freeway Chickens. Well-researched accounts of roving feral chicken bands living in the urban jungles of Southern California are exactly the sort of thing I look for in a good encyclopedia.

11. Craigslist. Buy stuff. Sell stuff. Even meet people (if you’re brave/crazy), and get a chuckle out of seeing the weirdness of humanity on full display.

12. The Marriage Bed. There’s a vicious rumor going around that Christians don’t like sex. I’m pretty sure I’ve debunked that idea at length in other posts, however, if you need more convincing, check out The Marriage Bed, a website that celebrates sex in the context of Christian marriage. There are general discussion boards that are open to click through, as well as boards that address more specific interests; those can be accessed by registering on the site and opting in to the boards you’d like to read. There is also a library of articles and helpful links. Whether you’re facing challenges in your sex life or are just looking for some new ideas, The Marriage Bed is a great resource!

Letter to my Newlywed Self

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I’ve seen plenty of inspiring, wisdom-filled essays from people to their younger selves. They are generally uplifting and full of good advice about choices and chances—wisdom gleaned from painful years of wrong turns, shifting perceptions, and painful falls. Sure, their younger selves wouldn’t listen any better than they did, but it feels good to say it out loud, nonetheless, to acknowledge how far you’ve come and how much you’ve grown. Looking back over almost 18 years of marriage now, I realized that I also have a lot to say to my younger self–specifically the self I was when I married Paul at the tender age of 22 and embarked, for better or worse, on the crazy adventure that follows the choice to spend the rest of your life with the person you love.

Dear Newlywed Katrina,

The wedding was beautiful, wasn’t it? Aside from you accidentally smashing your groom’s fingers in the car door before making your getaway, the day was sheer poetry. Looking over at your new husband, I know you can’t imagine that anyone before or since has ever had a love as profound and unique as yours. And all those people who talk about marriage being hard work full of fights and frustrations and misunderstandings clearly didn’t manage to marry their perfect soulmate, as you have cleverly done.

You might want to sit down, girl.

It turns out that the finger-smashing incident was a pretty good metaphor for marriage. Even when everything is beautiful and amazing between the two of you, blood and tears inevitably make an appearance here and there. Expect them, and learn from them (For example, you’ve already learned to check for fingers before slamming the car door. Don’t tell Paul, but there are a lot of accidental injuries in his future. Watch where you put your knees and elbows, and remember that your diamond ring can scratch.)

Anyway, here are some things I wish I could tell you before you have to learn them the hard way:

1. Guess what? You’re not your husband’s mother. I know, as the oldest child, that you have spent a lifetime assuming you know the best way to do everything and bossing around the people you love (in their own best interests, of course). But that’s a habit you need to break. Your husband needs a lover and a friend, not a nagging know-it-all correcting the way he loads the dishwasher or making sure he gets his work done. Believe it or not, he even has some things to teach you. Life will start being a lot more fun for both of you when you figure this out.

2. It’s his home, too. Sure, you’ve spent hours poring over magazine articles about decorating on a budget and combing through thrift shops for those beautifully aged shabby chic end tables. You consider your home an extension of yourself, an embodiment of your unique personality, and Paul’s framed Star Wars movie poster, as attractive as it is, just doesn’t jibe with the casual neo-Grecian vibe you’re trying to create. I mean, you’ve already given him a four foot steamer trunk in which to stuff all his unsightly computer cords and gaming paraphernalia; what more does he want? Well, I’ll tell you. He wants to feel like he lives there. He wants to be comfortable and at home in his own place. He wants to be able to see his stuff, and to use it without feeling like it’s a barbaric offense to the civilized world. He wants to meld your life and his into a new life that is better and richer than before; he wants to create a home for the two of you, one that reflects both of you and this new thing that you are together. Besides, deep inside, you are a way bigger geek than you even know right now. You’ll want to hang on to that Star Wars poster.

3. Let some things go. Right now, you think that good communication means airing your every single complaint and irritation with each other immediately and in full. You don’t want to “let things fester”, and that’s good. Festering is bad. But what you don’t know yet is that a lot of those things that bother you now just aren’t very important. They aren’t even big enough to fester. They’re more like little welts on the surface of your skin that will entirely disappear by morning. For example, it’s certainly not worth killing two hours of a precious Saturday night to wage war on his annoying habit of putting empty containers back in the fridge. Just throw them away for him. Seriously. It takes two seconds. Save your energy for the big battles, because there will be a few, and you don’t want to have spent all your emotional capital on empty Miracle Whip jars.

4. Make time for each other. I know, you think you’ll always have these late Saturday mornings to lie in bed gazing into each other’s eyes and talking about everything under the sun. You can’t imagine that a time will come when you don’t call each other at work to coo adoringly into the phone or spend evenings strolling hand in hand along downtown streets, dreaming about your future selves. But life has a way of happening, filling up the hours and days with children and projects and obligations. Before you know it, you can find yourselves falling into bed after a busy day without having said more to each other than “good morning”, “goodnight”, and “don’t forget your dentist appointment at four”. You have to fight this with all of your will! Connections are much easier to maintain than they are to rebuild. Don’t ever let busy schedules and worries make you forget what you have in each other. The back burner is no place for a marriage. Keep the heat on under it, and stir it constantly. Trust me, it will be delicious.

5. Be on the same team. The world is full of adversaries – people who want to tear you down or take what you have, people who only want to win, to dominate, to stand at the top of a heap of fallen opponents and bask in their victories. That’s the opposite of marriage. You and Paul are comrades in arms, shouting encouragement and sharing canteens as you take this hill of life together. You will disagree with each other; one or the other of you will fall down and lose focus; you will encounter obstacles so big they seem to block out the sun. At such times, it’s easy to turn on your teammate, but don’t. Take turns picking each other up. Forget about blame and focus on the next step. Carry each other when the need arises. To quote Malcolm Reynolds (from the show Firefly – you’re going to love it!), “You’re on my crew. Why we still talking about this?”

6. When it comes to sex, say yes as often as you can. Sex is glue for your relationship. Apply liberally. A few months after your honeymoon, when you’ve worked out all the mechanical details, you will fall back into bed one night, turn your eyes to the heavens, and ask blissfully, “Can it possibly get any better than THIS?” And the answer, I am delighted to report, is “YES!” Better and better and unbelievably better! (But now I’m just bragging.) Here’s the thing. You will be tempted to set the tempo of your sex life solely to the beat of your own desire. And, female sexual response being what it is, that desire will not come knocking on your door quite as often as it does on his. But if you say yes, even if you don’t feel like dancing at first, you will usually find yourself getting caught up in the beat. Sometimes you’ll want the seven course meal, and other times, you’ll just be in the mood for a quick burger and fries. (Wow, I’ve got like three sex metaphors going here!) Either kind of meal can be satisfying. The important thing is the nourishment it gives your relationship. It’s amazing how powerful sex is. When you’re stressed out, when he’s had a setback at work, when the argument is over but the tension isn’t — sex says, “I love you. I choose you. We are in this together.” It makes the highs higher and the lows less harrowing. Plus, it’s fun. Do it a lot.

7. Show Paul how much you admire him. You picked him for a reason — lots of reasons. Does he know what they are? When you find yourself appreciating his sense of humor, or his easy way of talking to strangers, or how good he looks in his jeans, open your mouth and tell him! Say nice things about him in front of others, and try not to share stories with your girlfriends that would embarrass him. (I admit that I still struggle with this. See if you can do something about our compulsive oversharing, will you, 22 year-old me?) Be the one in his corner, the one who cheers louder than anyone else, the one who speaks into the self-doubt and discouragement with words that build up and show him who he is in your eyes. He needs that, just like you do.

8. Do new things. Sure, you don’t like football now, and the mention of tabletop gaming makes your eyes glaze over with boredom, but don’t reject his favorite activities out of hand. Give them a chance. Yes, you’ll discover that you truly never, ever want to play Shogun again in your life, but you’ll also be surprised to find out that you quite like fantasy football and computer gaming. And the effort you put into sharing his interests will pay off in a hundred little ways, like the warm smile in his eyes when he has to crown you Queen and Champion of the Fantasy Football League in your very first season..

9. Don’t give up. There will come a time when you think about it, when the wrong turn your marriage has made takes you so far into the weeds that you can’t even see your feet. Don’t give up. You get back to the road the same way you got off of it — one step at a time. In a marriage like yours, made of two people who love and trust God, there is nothing He can’t fix.

10. Finally, I know you hate that ratty plaid flannel jacket that Paul always wears, but do not throw it away and pretend it got lost in the laundry. He will know it was you, and you will still be hearing about it 18 years later. Trust me.

You’re in for a wild ride, Katrina, but the scenery is fantastic. Hang on tight and don’t let go!

Dynamic Marriage

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Paul and I had been married for a glorious eleven days before we had our first big fight.  It was over something silly, of course, but it didn’t seem like it at the time.  I felt like all our future happiness and self-respect was hanging in the balance, teetering on the outcome of our fireworks.  There was a great deal of shouting, a little theatrical crying, a dramatic exit, and a stony silent treatment that would have made Clara Bow proud.  Thankfully, it didn’t last long.  Within an hour, the clouds had blown over.  Our newlywed hearts went predictably mushy, and we approached each other sheepishly, full of regrets and apologies, ready to work out an adult solution to our impasse.

And from that day to this, we’ve never had another argument.

Okay, okay.  If you’re married, you already know that last line is laughably untrue.  In fact, I could barely type it with a straight face.  While Paul and I have what I would call a blessed marriage, we have driven a long and rugged road, full of potholes and wrong turns and flat out car wrecks.  Marriages, the best marriages, can be almost transcendent with joy, but even the happiest ones (I should say especially the happiest ones) require effort, sacrifice, and thoughtfulness to become the fairy tale.

We all believe in the fairy tale, or we did at one time.  If we hadn’t, we wouldn’t have gotten married.  In our hearts, we carry around a beautiful picture of married love: best friends, shared joys, warm affection, great sex, acceptance, supportive encouragement, meaningful conversation.

Unfortunately, many married people have given up on that picture.  Natural conflicts and unmet expectations dull the focus.  Disenchantment sets in.  Some unhappy people leave their spouses, sure that they can create a better picture by starting over with somebody new.  Others, disappointed, simply resign themselves to the idea that “good enough” must be as good as it gets.

I am happy to tell you that it’s not true.  Anybody can have a wonderful marriage.  And if your marriage is already wonderful, believe me:  it can get even better!

This summer, Paul and I traveled to Vancouver to be trained as facilitators for an extraordinary course called Dynamic Marriage.  Dynamic Marriage is an 8-week, interactive course developed by the nationally recognized experts at Family Dynamics Institute .  It meets for a couple of hours once a week and is directed by trained facilitators (like yours truly), who are not just leading the class but are actively participating in it.  It is not just another marriage seminar or lecture.  It’s an experience, one that over the years has changed the trajectories of thousands of marriages across the country.

During our three days of training, we joined a group of other facilitator couples and met in a separate classroom to experience the Dynamic Marriage materials firsthand, as participants.  We had homework to do, both together and by ourselves, just like class participants.  The sessions were structured just like every other Dynamic Marriage session.  What took place was astounding.  Although all the couples in the training already considered themselves to have good marriages, we each found that there were areas of our marriage that needed attention.  Some of the breakthroughs that we witnessed were life-changing.  Paul and I were able to talk to each other about things that had never come up before in our marriage, and as a result, we’ve made changes that have blessed our friendship and our romance.  If this kind of transformation can take place over one weekend, I can’t wait to take part in the 8-week experience.

I came home with a big “Wow!” bubble hanging over my head, frothing over to tell everyone who asked me how great this resource could be for marriages in our community.

Now comes the fun part:  You are invited. We have our first course starting this fall, on September 23rd.  The class is open to any married couple who lives close enough to Coeur d’Alene to attend.  Old or young, Christians or non-Christians, even engaged couples who are soon to be married are welcome.  If your marriage is struggling, you can find healing.  If your marriage is good, it can be great.  If you know of a young couple just starting their married life, encourage them to join; a scholarship to Dynamic Marriage would make a perfect wedding gift!  Unfortunately, there is only space for 12 couples in each session, so registrations will be first come, first served.  But if you don’t make it into this fall’s class, don’t worry; we have another session coming up in February, led by our friends and fellow facilitators, Mike and Cindy Woods.  The registration fee of $150 per couple covers all the class materials and is easily the best investment you’ll ever make in your future marital happiness.

Click here for more information, and please contact us or leave a message in the comments if you have any questions.  We are so excited to be able to offer this resource to our community; we can’t wait for class to begin!

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Dynamic Marriage Q&A

*Note: This video is older, so the price of materials has gone up $10 from the price mentioned in the video.

The Sperm, the Egg, and Viva Piñata

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I wasn’t planning on giving the sex talk today.

But then again, does anyone really put that on their calendar?

Tuesday, August28: Dentist appointment. Call water heater repairman. Tell 8 year-old, in moderate detail, about the physical, emotional, and spiritual workings of sexual intercourse.

I knew the time was coming, of course. Eight years old is about the age I was when I nearly caused my Dad to run our car off the road by asking my parents the meaning of a certain Very Bad Word. I’d heard it at school, where it was accompanied by rude hand gestures and uproarious laughter, laughter in which I joined, to cover up the fact that I didn’t get the joke. Mom and Dad didn’t laugh when I said it to them, but, after safely navigating the car back into its own lane, they did give me The Talk. I don’t remember much of anything after the first five minutes of The Talk; when my hazy mental picture swam suddenly into focus, I was so mortified that I immediately devoted my full attention to counting the cars flying by outside my window. My sex education, half begun, was completed over the years through a variety of books and a Girl Scout field trip to Fernbank Science Center.

There must be something about the car, though, because that’s where Katie asked me The Question. I definitely wasn’t expecting it. Don’t get me wrong—my daughter and I do have lots of great talks. Of course, 95% of our conversations inevitably come back around to Katie’s current fixation: video games. It doesn’t matter what we’re talking about; sooner or later, it reminds Katie of something she did on Viva Piñata or Spyro the Dragon. Still, we’ve managed to touch on puberty, death, her Asperger’s Syndrome, cancer, divorce, and the proper way to install a new roll of toilet tissue. I guess sex was just the next thing on the list.

I believe it started with some curiosity about the feminine products Katie had seen under our bathroom sink. Soon we were talking about periods (a discussion I checked off my mental list with relief, knowing that Katie would at least be more prepared than Stephen King’s Carrie for that milestone.) I didn’t even break a sweat as I reeled off the information from my sixth grade health class: your body is practicing for when it has to nourish a baby, every girl experiences it, yadda, yadda, yadda. I noticed in the rearview mirror that she looked a little worried, so I asked her what was wrong.

“Well, when will I have a baby?” she asked.

“Later, honey. Much later, when you’re married,” I answered decisively, thinking that we’d probably covered enough sensitive material for the day. I guess I was wrong.

Enter Katie, the fact regurgitator. “But I heard on a TV commercial that Washington had eleven thousand teenage pregnancies last year. They aren’t married, so how does that happen?”

I was glad to have the road to attend to as I collected my thoughts.

“Well,” I explained slowly, “the way that people make a baby is called sex. Um, some people choose to have sex before they should, and sometimes they get pregnant. But don’t worry–you’re not going to just suddenly have a baby out of the blue, okay?”

I stopped there, mindful of some advice I’d heard once about answering your child’s sticky questions: give them the most straightforward and basic answer. If they want more detail, they will ask for it.

And ask she did.

“But what is sex? I mean, what do you do?”

There it was. The words were hanging in the air, daring me to be nonchalant as, finally, we got down to the nitty gritty. It was time for The Talk, and my mind was aflutter as I tried to think of all the important points I wanted to cover. There was nothing else for it. I dove in, headfirst.

The next few minutes are a blur in my memory. I certainly wasn’t eloquent. I know I stumbled over my words, lost my train of thought, and kept repeating myself. I’m not sure exactly what I ended up saying, but here (I think) are the salient points:

I told her that sex is a wonderful gift from God, that it is meant to be enjoyed by married people, and that it is the closest a man and a woman who love each other can be.

I explained exactly how Tab A goes into Slot B (except, being a grown-up, I actually used the words “penis” and “vagina”, trying hard to remain casual and unaffected, as if I were saying “paper clip” and “shrubbery.”)

I clarified the whole egg and sperm recipe, and who contributes what, and how, to make a baby. I even gave a rudimentary genetics lesson.

I mentioned that the reason some people find it hard to wait until marriage to have sex is that it feels totally great!

Finally, I wrapped it all up by asking Katie if she had any questions.

I hadn’t been watching her during my extensive presentation, but now, as I looked back, I could see her chewing something over in her mind. The silent seconds ticked by. After a moment, she confessed, “Mom, I think I’m kind of scared of all that.”

I smiled a little, remembering my first reaction to the same information.

“It’s okay, honey. You’re supposed to be a little scared at eight. I promise, by the time you’re all grown up and marrying a man you love, you’ll want to do it.”

She accepted that, and we drove on, headed for home, both of us lost in our own thoughts.

As we turned into the driveway, she wanted one more clarification on the matter.

“Hey, Mom—remember how you were talking about the sperm and the egg and all that DNA mixing up?”

“Yes?”

“Well, is that why Daddy and I are both obsessed with video games?”