My Review of Hot Holy & Humorous by J. Parker

My Review of Hot Holy & Humorous by J. Parker - Why I recommend it to all my clients struggling with intimacy in their marriage

(In case ya’ll didn’t know or haven’t explored my website fully, I have a Resource tab on my blog! Click here to check it out! On the resource page I have listed several areas of interest that I regularly address with on the blog: Marriage, parenting, military life, and mental health and wellness. Under each category I have several books that I have read and had great success sharing with my clients in those areas. (I would like to say that I was not compensated in anyway to promote any of these books. I paid for all of them with my own funds and have read each other them.) I decided that over the next few weeks I am going to do a Book Review of some of my favorites! And since Valentine’s Day is fast approaching I thought I would start with J. Parker’s book, Hot, Holy, & Humorous.

Our culture is full of opinions about sex, sexuality, and what healthy sexuality is or isn’t. But so often we turn to sources like Google, Cosmo, or any other number of sources on the internet, maybe even pornography (another topic for another day); and as would be expected none of these sources account for Godly sexuality. So where is a girl to turn when trying to better her marriage and her relationship with Christ if we can’t trust the world around us. I have read a couple of books written from a Christian perspective on healthy, Godly sexuality. The first is Sheet Music by Dr. Leman and the second is Hot, Holy, & Humorous by J. Parker. I wanted to touch on the subject of Sex because it is a necessary component to a great and satisfied marriage. Leading up to Valentine’s Day as we all prepare to celebrate our love relationships is the perfect time to think about such things too. J. Parker’s book because it is a quick, easy, funny, but extremely informative book that definitely made an impact on me and my marriage. So without Further ado…
Hot, Holy, & Humorous is a wonderful resource for all married, Christian women. Whether you are satisfied or unsatisfied with your sex life, J. Parker can help you feel more confident and knowledgeable in the bedroom. PLUS, no guy is going to be upset that you want to improve that area of your life! Hot, Holy, & Humorous is informative and insightful, while still maintaining integrity, which if you read Cosmo, is not always a given when discussing sexuality. The topics she covers are: preparing body and mind for sex, kissing, initiating sex, when sex hurts, oral sex, hand jobs, mismatched sex drives, and orgasms. So many areas in which women struggle or want improvement on. Parker makes seeking this help safe and free from judgment.
Parker not only provides practical advice, but gives a daily dose of humor as she does so. In graduate school I had to take a sexuality counseling class, while informative I rarely found resources through that class I thought would be helpful in the lives of my clients. The text book was full of sexual disorders, STIs, contraceptive methods, positions, and sexual orientation and gender expression. As this was the last class I had in my curriculum I knew I was heading to a military installation and that I was going to be working with Army couples mostly if I was to find a job (I am now a volunteer counseling intern with the Family Life Chaplain). Working through a Chaplain organization not all my clients are religious, but many are Christian and want resources that mirror that path. So very little I was learning in class was going to be helpful to my population of interest. So I was in desperate need of resources regarding sexuality for Christian married couples. I am so glad I found Hot. Holy, and Humorous. It’s a short and affordable resource that I feel confident referring to my clients for any variety of areas that they may want improvement on.
This book is written by a real woman, for real women who want help in any area of their sexual relationship with their husband. Its comical and informative. J. Parker also writes a blog by the same name, she answers questions about sexuality and other areas of intimacy. Before I found her book I was following her blog. You can check her blog out Here. Find her on Facebook and Twitter! So as I end I want to leave you with this quote from J. Parker: “If you want that deep connection with your husband, you have to open yourself up. You need to trust him with your heart and with your body.

Wellness Challenge Part 5: Living a Healthy Life

Living a Healthy Life

So I saved the hardest one for last, well at least the hardest one for me. I am not the poster child for fitness 5x a week and when my favorite online fitness and nutritional coach challenged us to 28 days no diary, gluten, added sugar, processed food, and alcohol (that is the only one I can easily omit). I actually laughed at my computer screen. That would mean 28 days without ice-cream and chocolate, 28 days without my favorite snacky foods- fruit snacks and granola bars. Sure I could replace all of those with healthier, no processed foods, but I can’t afford for my grocery bill to go up $50 or more to shop like that.

But all that being said, I am not terribly unhealthy, I eat fruits and vegetables daily, we don’t eat a lot of refined flour – my hubby doesn’t eat carbs and for the most part I eat three balanced meals a day. Most of my grocery list is fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats, so I think its ok to buy the more yummy, and probably less healthy snacks, just being honest.

Exercise on the other hand kicks my butt. I hate being sweaty and am way too self-conscious to go to gym. I try to do Pilates at home, but since I hate to sweat I generally skip cardio day on the calendar (let me tell you big mistake!) I thought I was doing just fine with that arrangement… until my brother took us hiking while we were visiting them over Christmas. It was beautiful, but I struggled big time! I had no endurance, I guess I shouldn’t have skipped cardio! I gave up about 10 times, thankfully I started 11 times and so I made it to top, and I am so glad I did, just look at that view! But I was in rough shape huffing and puffing my way to the top, while my dad, brother and husband all looked cool as a cucumber. I guess there is something to be said for cardio day!

View from the top of the mountain in Hawaii Kai

I know exercise and diet are probably two of the biggest New Year’s Resolutions that Americans make each year! But they are also probably the quickest to be given up on. So this year we are not going to make them resolutions, we are going to make them goals. My fitness goal for 2017 is cardio (obviously)! Our New Year’s Resolution shouldn’t be crazy diets, or hard core work out plans. We have to start small and be realistic. I know that cross-fit isn’t for me, (hello sweating) so why would I start there? I am going start small, I can do cardio dance in the privacy of my own home! So that is where I am going to start!

So I think this goal here should be balance: you can have ice cream and chocolate and all the good stuff as long as you also eat healthy as well! You don’t have to give anything up to make room for exercise in your schedule, start small, maybe it’s at home, maybe you and a friend agree to walk the neighborhood together a few times a week!

But why do we need to live a healthy lifestyle! Well besides the idea that regular healthy diet and exercise is an obvious path to wellness, diet and exercise can reduce mental health problems especially anxiety and depression. Has anyone watched Legally Blonde? Remember, “EXERCISE GIVES YOU ENDORPHINS; ENDORPHINS MAKE YOU HAPPY” Elle Woods knew what she was talking about! Happy people are less anxious and less depressed. I am not a dietician, but from having worked with families and individuals in my time counseling, I have noticed that diet can play a huge part in mood and affect. Also having a healthy diet, and knowing you are consuming food that is good for you can increase sense of self-worth and self-esteem! Making decisions that you know are good for you will make you feel better about yourself. The same is true of exercise. Even if you don’t see immediate results, you will feel better about yourself for having done something that is a good for you!

As we finish the wellness series today as we move out of the first month of 2017 already! In writing all of these posts and making goals for myself in all these areas and am hoping that 2017 will be the best year yet! It is already shaping up to be a really great year! I hope this Wellness Challenge has been as inspiring for you as it was for me! And my final hope for you is that you can make good on your goals! Take time every few months and evaluate where you are, and if you aren’t where you want to be, don’t get yourself down, just figure out what you need to do to get back on track.

How are you going to make 2017 your healthiest year yet? Did you enjoy the wellness challenge? Let me know in the comments!

Find weeks 1, 2, 3, and 4 here for challenges for your marriage, mental wellness, making friends, and living simply!

Living the Healthy Life to feel good inside and out

Wellness Challenge Part 4: Living the Simple Life + FREE Printable Cleaning Schedule

Living the Simple Life - How to simplify our homes and our calendars + Freebie

Raise your hand if the clutter and messiness of your home overwhelm you? Raise your hand if the business of your calendar has you down? I knew I couldn’t be the only one! And that is exactly why Week 4 of the Wellness Challenge Series is going to focus on living the simple life! Simplifying your obligations, your calendar, and your home will help reduce anxiety in your life because there will be fewer tings vying for your time and energy! If you dedicate your time to a few essential tasks: work, family life, house cleaning; then you will have more energy to devote to each task. This will leave you feeling more accomplished and less anxious! If you simplify your home, keeping the necessities, and finally purging all the things you always mean to thrown away but don’t then there will be less clutter to stress you out, and will take less time to clean in general! This post will also contain my simple daily and weekly cleaning schedule that helps me keep the clutter to a minimum! There are two main places that we need to focus on when it comes to simplifying our lives: our calendars and our homes! I am going to speak to how to simplify and remove extraneous obligations and possessions and how doing so will promote wellness in you and your family! And as promised I will also be sharing how I am doing so in the New Year to help simplify my own life.

Simplifying your Calendar
Who else’s calendar already looks like this??

My busy calendar

I know I am not the only one, and those are just the regular obligations like work, that doesn’t include spontaneous events or those events yet to be planned (obviously)! But what would happen if we didn’t have something scheduled every day? You know what would happen, we wouldn’t be run ragged, we could rest, and much to contrary belief our heads won’t fall off and nobody will be disappointed in us! Now we can’t give up work or spending time with family, or taking care of our pets (that is most of what is scheduled on my calendar right now – and its already jam packed!) but, we DO NOT have to say YES every time someone asks us to help organize a function, attend a function, be classroom mom, volunteer at the homeless shelter 4 times a month, and attend every exercise class that we are invited to. While none of these things are bad in and of themselves they can distract us from our priorities in life. So Step 1 in simplifying your calendar is IDENTIFY YOUR PRIORITIES. The priorities I have are: my work, this includes babysitting (my only form of paid income at the moment), volunteer work, and my blog (which I hope to grow into a source of income); family time-  both extended and with my husband; and bible study (I attend weekly bible study one day a week – PWOC for those in the Military Family, it is a wonderful source of community).

Step 2 is now that those priorities have established, figure out what events on your calendar align with your priorities and which don’t. If you have an overwhelming amount of events on your calendar that don’t align with your priorities then it is time to examine why you are involved and if you can step back from those commitments. IF you have to step away understand that while it may be difficult and uncomfortable to have those conversations, most people will understand and appreciate your honesty. And in the long run, nobody will be disappointed in you. So know that it is 100% ok to step back from activities, committees or groups.

So now we have simplified your calendar so you can focus on your priorities! YAY! What a relief to think about starting off the year with less commitments! Leaving you more time to relax and enjoy the spontaneous parts of life (like a night out on the town with the hubby or trip to the dog park with a friend)! You will have more time to spend with the kids so you won’t look back and say with regret all the things you missed when they were little or whatever else you feel like you are missing out on now because of the business of life. Now let’s turn to simplifying your home!

Simplifying your Home

Now I am not the poster child about livin’ in a minimalism style, that’s just not me. If you were coming to my house, well right now it’s still decorated for Christmas, but normally would be a rustic chic style with lots of pictures everywhere. It’s full of memories in still life form and trinkets from all parts of our lives. But I try to declutter as often as I can. Knowing that I will be moving this summer I am already mentally prepping for the purge, even though we just went through one last summer when I moved here! So here is the list of things I will be purging this time around: duplicates of anything (I have 156 cups in my kitchen or so it seems anyway); old files, bills, pieces of paper that are not necessary; old calendars (I am so guilty of keeping my old calendars and agendas when I get a new one); anything that is broken (I am the queen of I will fix it one day); clothes I don’t wear- that don’t fit, have holes in them, stained beyond repair; books I have read and will never read again.

If I threw away (or gave away or sold) just those things, I could probably fill several garbage bags, the big black ones. And it wouldn’t take me very long if I just sat down and did it. I am a sentimental pack rat so for me I have to take emotion out of the process or find a way to consolidate –  I think this is where my scrapbooking hobby comes from! If you can’t throw it away yourself ask a friend or your husband to help, as the items may have less sentimental value to them. Now I am not talking about throwing away memorabilia from your wedding or babies or any other special moment, but do you really need to keep your notes from your high school classes (yes, I graduated in 2010 and just threw them away, still have my college ones though…) or that rock collection you have that came mostly from your grandmother’s gravel driveway (yup, guilty again).

Finally, and this is really the biggest point: Do you feel relaxed in your own home? If the answer is yes than you are doing ok! If the answer is sometimes, figure out why sometimes you just can’t unwind – is it because it’s cluttered, messy, things don’t have their own place, it’s not cozy. Then just work on that area. If it is clutter, then get rid of the unnecessary stuff, garbage on the table and counters, put pens in a jar, use baskets to organize like items so it looks neat on the shelves. If its messy then find a cleaning schedule that works for you. HERE is the cleaning schedule I try to follow in my house, it’s not a deep clean, but it makes the house feel neat and tidy. If it’s not cozy then try adding fun pillows, blankets, candles and lamps so that your living spaces are warm and inviting!

You don’t want your own home to make you anxious, you want home to be a safe haven from the crazy world outside The less your home makes you anxious, the less you will schedule to keep you out of the house (see how I put those two together)! Having down time will allow you to recuperate, relax, rest and recharge for you to tackle your next task! Without that you will run yourself into the ground! Obviously exhaustion is the opposite of wellness, our goal of happy and healthy selves in the New Year. So give yourself a break, you don’t have to do everything & you don’t have to have a Pinterest worthy home, as long as its relaxing for you!

Living the Simple Life - How to simplify our homes and our calendars + FREEBIE

Wellness Challenge Part 3: When Making Friends in the Military is Hard

When Making Friends in the Military is Hard

So far we have covered, marriage, mental wellness, and now onto friendships. As a marital relationship, friendships  also contribute to over all well being. Friendships increase a sense of belonging and purpose, boosts happiness, reduces stress, can help you cope with traumas, and encourage you. However, we do need to be careful about the friends we choose. Toxic friendships can influence us in negative ways, dragging us down, increasing stress, and discouraging you from positive behaviors, and encouraging negative behaviors. As you see friends are important, but its more so the quality of friends you have that make your life better.

My husband just hit his year active duty mark in the military, just two weeks after our one year wedding anniversary. I knew moving around was part of the life-style before we got into it. And I felt like I was prepared because I had moved around a bit as a child; however, I was not prepared for how quickly I would make meaningful and lasting friendships with some wonderful ladies (I guess having to rely on them when your husbands are never home for months does that to you!) and how quickly I would have to say goodbye. I have been here for 6 months and I have already made life-long friendships and I have already had to say good bye to many friends! How could 6 months bring so much change? I saw on my Facebook page this morning a video for my “2016 in Review” and in that it showed me how many friends I had added this year, 76. That is crazy to me! Basically that means 76 new ‘friends’ (I don’t hang out with most of those, but still that’s a lot of new connections in just 6 months).

So it kind of seems like friendships are hard to come, easy go; which is extremely difficult if you are not already an outgoing person, eager to constantly be putting yourself out there, making new friends. For some people this is really discouraging. How do you cope with the constant flux of friendships that we experience as military spouses? It can be difficult to deal with, especially as a new spouse, I had no idea how quickly this would hit me. I was not prepared for having made friends and them leave so quickly. Here are some simple ways I have found to cope with transitions:

  1. Celebrate the friendships
  2. Its ok to be sad they are leaving
  3. Make sure to spend some time together before they leave if possible

Finding Community
When the friends we initially make begin to move away, it is hard to find motivation to go out and cultivate new friendships. In my work as a counselor with military families I have heard many women say, “what’s the point of making friends here, we are just going to be gone in a few months anyway.” And I have felt that a few times myself. I am especially feeling that now with many of my friends having left or are about to leave. Furthermore, we are only looking at being here for a couple more months. But, I am here to tell you what the point is! The reason you make friends even if you are only going to be around a short time is that friendships help combat loneliness. And prolonged loneliness leads into depression. Now not everyone who is lonely will wind up depressed, but it certainly doesn’t help! We can’t get trapped into fearing putting ourselves out there and refuse to make new friends. As hard and uncomfortable as it is we need to continue to grow friendships regardless of how much time we have left at a duty station.

Friendships breed community. We as humans were not designed to live in isolation; we were meant to live as a community. That is why people thrive when they are plugged into their surroundings. We cannot be our best self in isolation, we will not feel good about ourselves. Self-esteem and sense of self-worth both take a hit when we try to function in prolonged isolation. Community is important no matter if you are a military family or not, but it is my experience that military families are more heavily reliant on outside communities than civilians are because they are more likely to be far from any kind of family support.

When you don’t have any family around there is no one else to rely on in times of trouble other than the community that you have built up around you. Just recently I read a Facebook post written by a spouse here at Fort Benning. She was pregnant and sick, her husband was working and unable to get home immediately, she couldn’t drive herself to the ER and had no one to watch her kids all because she had not built up a community around her. Now she is totally dependent on her husband who can’t be there for her right now. This is the kind of situation that results when you rely on far away family and friends to be your emotional support and social interactions, there is no community surrounding you when you need someone.

Just as phone and video interactions with far away family members can’t be the entirety of your social interactions, neither can your husband. Your husband cannot be your sole source of social interactions and validation. You will soon wear him out because he is not meant to be your sole emotional support; primary yes, but only, not so much. If we are not the best versions of ourselves, we cannot provide the support and validation that our husbands and children need. This creates a vicious cycle of neglect of emotional wellbeing. Now I am not saying that having friends will fill the void that might be left by relying solely on your husband, only God can do that when we lean on him. But a husband cannot be your community as much as you try to make him so. It will only leave you feeling isolated.

Your Challenge – Putting Yourself out there
I know it’s hard ladies, it takes me out of my comfort zone, just as much as yall. It can seem unfair when some really extroverted, outgoing people always seem to have friends and all the resources in the area! And you are sitting there all alone just hoping for a semblance of friendship. Now I am not saying you have to be friends with everybody. But we do have to leave our little nest of blankets and pillows on our couches (and turn off the Netflix, it will still be there when we get home) be vulnerable and open ourselves to the idea of making friends and finding community. We have to leave our comfort zone every once in a while or we will begin to feel isolated, lonely, and depressed. So maybe one day you respond and accept someone’s invitation to go to Starbucks or attend an event you normally wouldn’t. Take a chance, maybe that should be your New Year’s Resolution. You’ll probably be surprised how having a community around you will make you feel more secure.

How are you prepared to make friends this year?

Making friends can be hard. Especially when you move around every few years, and so does everyone else around you! Here are some great ways to motivate yourself to get out of the bubble!

And don’t forget to check out Week 1 and Week 2 here!

Wellness Challenge Part 2: 15 Healthy Coping Skills to try this Year

15 Healthy Coping Skills

So who is ready for part 2 of the Wellness Challenge! This week I wanted to focus on mental health and take it a step further into mental wellness. As a trained marriage and family counselor, this is my area of expertise, helping people learn how to cope with their circumstances in ways which will help them overcome and grow rather than avoid or be manipulated by their circumstances. While mental illness is definitely a big deal (it is a subject for another time because it is so important it deserves its own space), we don’t want to just avoid mental illness, we also want to thrive, and that is mental wellness. This is a preventative measure against developing mental illness.

For those struggling with anxiety and depression, many of these unhealthy coping mechanisms may look familiar to you, but it is definitely possible to incorporate the healthy coping mechanisms I listed below as well!  So that is why my week two goal is to continue to incorporate these Healthy coping strategies into my everyday life. And you should too, because mental wellness is affected and effects every part of your life. As we saw last week, it affects your relationships, especially your marriage; it affects work, parenting, it even affects your physical health.

I recently read a blog post, 15 Unhealthy Coping Skills,  written by Jackie over at Laughter & Loving Life. And it got me thinking there are so many unhealthy coping skills that we all engage in on a daily basis. I have seen so many unhealthy coping skills in my experience as a family counselor, used by both children and adults. But what I have noticed is that no matter what strategy they used, the point to these unhealthy coping skills was to avoid the problem and having to deal with it. Here are the 15 unhealthy coping skills Jackie came up with:

Unhealthy Coping Skills

  1. Leave without warning
  2. Fighting & negative comebacks
  3. Defensiveness
  4. Flight-mentally
  5. Sleeping away the problem
  6. Passive-aggressive behavior (ultimatums)
  7. Negative body language: crossed arms, rolled eyes, crossed and closed off legs and arms
  8. Not listening but jumping in waiting to talk
  9. Avoiding eye contact
  10. Over-eating
  11. Under-eating
  12. Lack of sleep
  13. Letting go of reality
  14. Lack of proper hygiene
  15. Lack of communication

If we always use unhealthy coping mechanisms, we will never feel as though we have overcome the situation that is causing the stress in the first place. In fact, it will probably cause more issues and we will continue the cycle of unhealthy coping by avoiding those extra issues by using the same unhealthy patterns. It may temporarily make us feel better, but in the long run we have solved nothing, but avoiding a problem. And until the problem is solved, we will continue to be plagued by the circumstances we are actively avoiding. That is not a way to live well; which is something we should all be striving for!

So from a family counselor here are 15 Healthy counter coping strategies to try out instead of the ones above. I have compiled this list from talking to clients about what works for them in difficult situations and other suggestions that other counselors often give their own clients, as well as things that have worked for me in the past.

Healthy Coping Skills

  1. Stay present in the moment, take in as much information as you an – it might help later
  2. Maintain a positive attitude – being negative has never solved anyone’s problems; positivity breed creativity for ways out of the issue
  3. At least try to identify the role you play in the situation – and share it if you can
  4. Maintain healthy sleep hygiene – only stay in bed to sleep, make your bedroom a safe haven
  5. Be confrontational (this is not a negative) if necessary, this simply means pointing out discrepant facts
  6. Be an active listener – engage in the Speaker-Listening technique 
  7. Eat Healthy – fruits, vegetables, protein, healthy carbs, avoid sugars and alcohol
  8. Exercise – even if it’s just a little bit, every small amount helps
  9. Talk to somebody, but don’t just bash the stressor (especially if it’s a person), but talk about your feelings about the situation
  10. Shower, brush your teeth, brush your hair, put some clothes on (other than yoga pants)
  11. Make a pro-con list, weigh the options of the whatever decisions might need to be made – don’t avoid them
  12. Take some time for self-care – pamper yourself a bit, go get a mani/pedi or do one yourself or whatever makes you feel good
  13. Check out for a bit, but don’t let it be for too long – checking out can be helpful in extreme stress situations, but maintaining that position is just avoidant
  14.  Seek support, don’t isolate yourself
  15. Relax, take a deep breath, practice any sort of relaxation technique that works for you: deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, etc.

So there you have it, 15 healthy coping mechanisms that I would recommend to any of my clients. Not all coping skills will work for everyone in all situations, but I am sure there is at least one or two that can be used in any situation by any person. With the New Year just starting, here is my challenge to you, try to replace one of your unhealthy coping skills with one of the healthy choices from the 2nd list. Try it out and see if it helps!

Let me know if it does or doesn’t and why it did or didn’t work for you! But it is my suspicion that while it may be more uncomfortable in the moment, it will help you solve the issue more quickly which will remove an even bigger discomfort! So choose emotional health this New Year! And don’t just settle for the absense of mental illness or lessened severity of mental illness, strive for mental health and above that mental wellness, and just maybe you’ll find yourself growing in the year 20171

So your challenge this week: pick 2 to 3 unhealthy coping mechanisms and try to replace them with 1 or 2 Healthy Coping Mechanisms. Try it for a week and see if it makes a difference for you! For more detailed tips see my Guest Post for the Military Wife & Mom on how Military Spouses can Reduce Anxiety in Times of High Stress
​What are your go to coping mechanisms?

Stress can be hard to deal with, but with these 15 Healthy Coping skills you can grow from your challenges!

Check out Week 1 and Week 3 here!

Wellness Challenge Part 1: Do you have goals for you marriage? Well you should!

Do you have goals for your marriage this year? Here are some reasons why you should!

So who is ready for the first part of the wellness challenge! I thought the first place to start was with one of our most important relationships (after our relationship with God), our marriage! The health of our marriages is extremely important! People in healthy marriages live longer (250% longer for married men and 50% longer for married women), promotes mental wellness and protects against mental illness (are less anxious and depressed), it lowers your chance of being a victim of violence both for men and women, there are financial benefits as earning potential increases for maried couples, and a better sex life (which can boost immunity, reduce stress, ease tension and headaces and all sorts of other physical benefits, as well as increasing intimacy with our spouse), leading to great self-esteem, self-worth, and feeling desired and wanted.

When our marriages are happy and healthy, we are more happy and healthy individuals and when we are more happy and healthy individuals we have happy and healthy marriages (we don’t really know what comes first, its like the chicken and the egg – but regardless they occur together). Marital health and satisfaction is directly related to our overall wellbeing, which in turn will make our marriages better! But, a good marriage doesn’t come without work. We need to put effort into our marriage, pray with and for our spouse, listen to them, talk to them, respect them, and cherish them. Sometimes we let our marriage fall to the way side because we become so comfortable with our partner that we stop striving to make our marriages better, but this is just harming your wellness and your spouses!

So now we know why it is important to our overall wellness to have a happy marriage, here comes the challenge!

Do you have goals for your marriage for 2017? I recently got a new planner and I am so excited! One of my favorite things about a new year is getting a new planer, looking at all the vast possibilities. This year my planner has an area exclusively dedicated to goals. What your goals for the year in several different categories: financial, personal, social, and business. It then breaks it down quarterly so you can break down your overall goals into manageable chunks. And as I was preparing my planner for the year I started to think about what I want my goals for 2017 to be! I want to grow my blog, develop professionally, learn how to save some money, and nurture my relationships. Those would be my big overall goals, and then break them down into manageable chunks.

New Year Resolutions v. Goals
Now I know everyone makes a New Year’s Resolution, but those are often broken before mid-January. Goals are more impactful, and longer lasting than a New Year’s Resolution, especially if you put it in writing. As we enter January and prepare ourselves for the coming year focusing on wellness and how we are going to live well this year remember all facets of life are important.

As you can see in the categories above my planner didn’t have a space for any marital, or relational goals. I know that not everyone purchasing the planner would be married or in a relationship, but I think this area of our lives often gets overlooked when we make goals, especially if things are already going well. We don’t really try to improve unless the relationship is on the brink of dissolution. Goals often focus on health, financial success, work, or academics. But those of us who are married or in committed relationships need to make goals concerning where we want our relationship to end up. That is why I am making goals for my marriage this year! As I am just entering my second year of marriage I want it to be even better than the first. And after all, I ask my clients to make goals for their relationship all the time in counseling so we know what we are working towards. Why would I recommend to my clients to make goals concerning their relationship if I do not do so in my relationship. I ask them to make goals because it is an effective method of charting where you want to end up and the progress you are making to get there. In counseling this is particularly effective because there is someone to hold you accountable to working towards your goal. So here are my marriage goals for 2017:

  • Attend church at least twice a month, if not more;
  • Have at least one real date night a month, you know more than take out and Netflix;
  •  Pray together as a couple;
  • And finally, try something new once a month, go somewhere new, on a new adventure, get creative!


A Challenge to All
I encourage each of you to make goals for your marriage this year, write them down, and post them somewhere in your house where they can be seen on a regular basis. When making your own goals, keep it to three to minimum and five at a maximum. A manageable number will ensure that you will not get overwhelmed and forgo your goals. Make them measurable. For example, one of my goals was “to attend church at least twice a month, if not more” not just “attend church more.” This is specific and measureable. I will know if I have achieved this. Make sure your partner is on board, this helps if you sit down together to make the goals. This could be a fun date idea for ya’ll to start off the New Year. If they are joint goals they will be much easier to accomplish, you can hold each other accountable to achieve your goals. If you need further help staying accountable maybe you can partner up with another couple that you trust, share your goals with another couple and ask them to help you stay accountable, check in regularly; and you can do the same for them.

What are some of your goals for your marriage this year? Let me know in the comments!

It is so important to have goals for your marriage! Marriages can be a great source of comfort or a great source of stress. So we need to be ready. By having goals in your marriage can help you map where you are going!

Check out Week 2 and Week 3 here!

Welcome to the Wellness Challenge: Taking Control of the New Year

Welcome to the Wellness Chalenge

We have made it to 2017! It is going to be a great year! And to help it start off on the right foot (because we all know that when we have a good morning, our day is better off), each week the during month of January I am going to flesh out the biggest, most common new year’s resolutions: better marriage, mental wellness, friendships, healthy living, and more organized life and living space! Every year we pick one resolution: exercise every day, eat healthy, be a better, wife, mother and friend, be more organized, and get rid of our junk – living more simply. The problem with New Year’s Resolutions is that often even before Jan 15th we have left them behind! Why? Well A) because change is hard! And B) because we don’t always understand the holistic benefits to our wellness. While they are all great resolutions and all good things for us, really they are all just sub-components of living a lifestyle of wellness! They all work together to create a whole happy, and healthy person! Dieting is great, but are you doing it to lose a few pounds or to be a healthy person? And answering that question is why I am doing this wellness challenge.

Rather than having the best job, marriage, or body our New Year’s Resolution to be a happy person, a whole person! And all of those things listed above are great! But the ultimate goal is to be a happy and whole person! So that I what I want to help all of us accomplish this New Year, in a way that might last past Jan. 15th (even if in part it’s just because the Series goes through the end of January!) We can all do this, if we just keep that goal in mind, we don’t need to reinvent ourselves, we are already lovely and wonderful people! That is the mindset we need to maintain. So often our New Year’s Resolutions fail because we are trying to be something other than ourselves, and we are not made to do that; but we are made to be wonderful versions of ourselves, happy people!

So Week one we will look at our marriages and how they influence our overall wellbeing! Week 2, our mental wellness and how coping in healthy ways can help us grow and be bigger and better than our circumstances. Week 3, friendships and how we cannot live in isolation and our community is important. Week 4, living organized life, by taking control of our surroundings and our calendar we can prioritize our life, simplicity is all we need. And finally Week 5, healthy eating and exercise, saved this one for last because food is my kryptonite and I hate exercising!
So let’s do this together and hold each other accountable. Each week I want everyone to answer the call, and I will do the same!

How to Embrace Conflict in your Relationship and Come out Stronger

How to embrace conflict in your relationship and come out stronger

A week or so ago I wrote a post about why we need to stop husband bashing as a way of maintaining fondness and admiration for them. The is one of Gottman’s The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert. When counseling couples, this is one of the main books and works that I draw on because his advice is well backed by science and research, and it works. I thought I would draw out one of his other principles for a successful marriage today: Solving solvable problems.

Many of the problems we face in our relationship are things we simply cannot change. We cannot change our personalities, they are pretty well set. Nor can we change extraneous circumstances, they are outside our control. We can’t change our extended family; we are pretty much just stuck with them. However, we can change how we relate to one another, and that can make all the difference when you and your spouse are trying to solve a problem. Remember, in a marriage you are a team, and you either win together or lose together; if one person ever walks away feeling like they lost, then both people lost. So practicing (and I choose this word specifically) practical conflict resolution skills can help you and your partner solve the solvable problems and overcome the non-solvable problems.

While Gottman’s unique approach to marriage counseling doesn’t focus solely on communication skills as more traditional models might. Rather he uses softening startups, making and receiving repair attempts, soothing yourself and your spouse, compromise, and tolerating each other’s faults. Now I am sure you are familiar with the last two or three components, but, the first two I think are the most important, so that is where I am going to focus.

Softening Startups

I am going to be the first to admit that I am not great at this; I tend to get very defensive, very quickly. However, I notice a radical difference in my husband’s response to me when I am soft and when I am defensive. Nothing can be resolved when one or both partners are in a defensive mode, this very quickly leads to arguments. We can’t avoid difficult conversations for fear of creating conflict either. Avoiding conflict will not bring us closer to our spouses, rather it will drive a wedge in between us making us feel ever more distant.

That is why we need to use soft startups when we know we are broaching a difficult subjects. Softening means no accusations. “Why didn’t you do…”; “How come you can never do….” Instead say, “I would really appreciate if you could help me do…”, “I really could use an extra set of hands on this project.” Often we feel underappreciated or a lack of help from our spouses simply because we haven’t asked for their help. They can’t read our minds, it is not a sign of disrespect, more of ignorance. When we use I-statements and avoid blaming our spouses we are more likely to get the response we desire, they come and help us. Be polite, this is important, as we are more likely to oblige someone who is polite, rather than demanding.

Making repair attempts

Gottman has said it is not the number of fights a couple has that impacts relationship satisfaction, rather it is how well a couple can reconnect after the argument. This is the idea behind making and receiving repair attempts. Couples have to practice both, it is not enough for one person to continually make repair attempts if the other partner makes not effort to receive and accept them.

A repair attempt can take many forms, but it is a way of turning toward your spouse (one of Gottman’s 7 Principles) after an argument. Repair attempts can be humorous jokes to break the tension after a fight, an apology, validating your partner’s emotions, and showing empathy. These can be done in the moment, during an argument. However, we are stubborn creatures, or at least I am! And often, we do not make repair attempts at the time because we feel justified in our position.

Repair attempts can also be made later: apologize, tell your spouse you love him, and make sincere efforts to let them know you are sorry. And well we’ve all heard that making up is the best part of fighting… if you know what I mean!
Not only do you need to make repair attempts, but you also need to be able to accept them when your spouse makes them! This requires being mature, and to stop dwelling on the argument and accept their apology. Give up your stubbornness, as hard as I know it is, believe me! If you want to know how well you are making and receiving repair attempts in your relationship, go to The Gottman Institute Blog and use the questionnaire and see how you rate.

How We Can Grow Closer

These tools can help make conflict within the marriage (which is inevitable, I don’t care how much you love each other, at some point there will be conflict). Remember, don’t avoid conflict in attempt to keep peace. It will only drive a wedge in between you and your spouse. If you soften your approach to complaints, it will lessen your partner’s defensiveness. Then you will be more likely to be able to solve your problems.

Remember, not all conflicts can be solved. There will always be gender differences, personality clashes, family members we don’t get along with. So try to come to compromises with those issues. Solve the ones you can so your relationship is not plagued with insolvable and solvable problems! I highly recommend reading Gottman’s Book. It is full of questionnaires and assessments that can be used to monitor how you are behaving in your relationship.

What are some of your conflict resolution strategies??

Conflict is a natural part of relationships! But it doesn't have break them! Here are some ways to embrace conflict in your relationship and come out stronger on the other side.

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5 Ways to Keep the Interest Alive In a Long Distance Relationship

Are you in a long distance relationship or spend a lot of time apart? Here is how you can keep the romantic spark alive even when you spend a lot of time apart!

“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times with the same person”

Such a beautiful and wonderful quote; and something I think we all start out striving for. But lets me honest, it is a lot easier to fall in love with a person who is present, one that is there when you wake up and fall asleep, home for dinner, who is there to help put the kids to bed and someone who can help around the house. A partner because that is what a marriage is, a partnership. But enter military life, and suddenly that does not always happen. There are lots of separations in military life: i.e. deployments, trainings, TDYs, field time; and they are never there in the mornings because of PT. And suddenly, because of that we become incredible self-sufficient, which don’t get me wrong is not a bad thing. But when we become so self-sufficient, it can begin to interfere with the romance. Sure everyone thinks having a military relationship is so romantic with the grand homecomings after long absences. But what you don’t realize until you live it, is that it is never as romantic as it seems. It can be hard to keep the romance alive after that first initial homecoming.

So how do you keep the romance alive in your military (or long distance) marriage

1. Communicate Whenever You Can, However You Can

 Sometimes all we have are letters, sometimes we can Facetime, Skype, text, call each other. Regardless of what methods are available to you, utilize them. Don’t just send letters or emails, include pictures of you and what you are doing. This goes both ways. By sharing pictures, you can continue to feel connected to each other and what each other are doing. Whether you think it’s exciting or not, they will feel grateful that you thought of them and want to share what you are doing with them

2. Make Your Time Together Intentional

When you are together, make sure you are intentionally seeking to spend time with your spouse, don’t just spend your time haphazardly. Intentionally seeking your spouse means making a specific effort to work on your relationship at a certain time. All interactions should be intentional, but they rarely are, when time is limited this is even more crucial to keeping the relationship healthy and stoking the fires. When my husband was doing a lot of field training he was gone most days of the week for several months, and only home on weekends. I was intentional of not making plans with friends to be away while he was home. We spent that time together as a couple. Being intentional with the time we had together allowed us to keep romance alive during those months.

3. Be Creative Expressing Intimacy to your Spouse

When you are together all the time, there are easy, common ways to express intimacy towards your spouse. But keeping it alive is a bit more difficult. Now I am not suggesting you send racy photos to your spouse (especially if they are deployed as you never know who is monitoring packages or internet lines). If you want to send them that’s your choice, just be careful! However, there are other ways to creatively share. Tell your spouse what specifically you miss about him/her. “When I see you I want to ____.” This will help you feel connected to each other even if it’s just via letters. Send cards, not just letters. The sky is really the limit in how you are creative with each other.

4. Always Be Willing to Learn

Being apart means that there are going to be things ya’ll don’t know about each other. Even if you talk every day, the chances that you share everything, every day, are so slim. You are both going to have experiences the other won’t and it will change and affect you both differently. So when you are back together, be willing to continue learning about each other. As you learn more about each other, it will continue to build intimacy in your relationship.

​5. Surprise Each Other

Now, I know physically surprising each other in person is not always possible; especially if they are separated from you for military reasons. But send them something, maybe he really loves video games and a new one came out, beat him to the punch and send it to him. You are going to miss your anniversary together, send her flowers. It doesn’t have to be anything large or extravagant. Small surprises like a box of his favorite Christmas cookies if he is going to be deployed during the holidays, say a lot.
So whether you see each other once a week or are separated for months at a time you can use these 5 ideas to help you maintain the romantic spark in your relationship.
What are your creative ways to stay connected to your spouse across the distance?
 As Military Couples we find outselves separated a lot.  Here are my top 5 ways to keep the interest alive in a long distance relatioship

A Super fan’s Review of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

A Super fan's review of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

Who loves Gilmore Girls as much as me?  I am not sure if there are too many (FAIR WARNING, SPOILERS BELOW).  In college my roommates and I would dream about a Gilmore Girls reunion, a season 8 or a movie. Anything to get some closure. Netflix was going to do a mini-series continuation. We were finally going to get our closure! . As soon as I finished watching them, just as quickly as I possibly could, I picked up my phone to text everyone I know who’s a fan. I saw varied reactions on Facebook, mostly of disappointment. Now Stars Hallow and its residents will always hold a special place in my heart, but here is my critique! We all know that Logan is supposed to be Rory’s Christopher; and Jess is supposed to be Rory’s Luke, and I want to pretend that’s how it ends up, as long as Jess and Rory figure it out faster than Luke and Lorelai.

  1. It was weird that they showed Mr. Kim

    After all this time that is not how I imagined Mr. Kim to be. He was too goofy to match such a serious woman like Mrs. Kim. I liked my imagination better.

  2. Sookie should have had more of a presence

    Sookie is one of my favorite characters and I love her quirkiness. But I wish she had more of a role in the Netflix reprisal. However, the Sookie that appeared was not the same Sookie I remembered. As much as I wish Sookie was included more, I am glad that if it wasn’t going to be the same Sookie, she didn’t have as much as a role. She was too much Melissa McCarthy’s more recent roles. Also her story of why she was missing was weird, and kept changing. They should have had a better story, something that was more cohesive.

  3. I love how they handled the death of Edward Herman

    Richard was so much of a presence in the original series, and I think they did him proud in the reprise. Richard was a beloved character and he was going to be sorely missed in the revival. He was the mainstay of the Gilmore family. He was able to bridge the feud between Emily and Lorelai, even in their worst of times. By including the funeral and the death of Richard Gilmore in the series, the Gilmore family was able to pay their respects to the wonderful character he was and the terrific actor who portrayed him.

  4. Emily finally found her kayak

    In the wake of Richard’s passing Emily was struggling as I could only imagine anyone would after losing her husband of 50 years. But I am glad that the writer, Amy Sherman Palladino, didn’t just leave her there. She put her in her very own kayak. The kayak reference is from season 6 (I am Kayak Hear me Roar) where Emily laments the fact that she is in a metaphorical canoe and feels like she is paddling in circles after Richard’s second heart attack; leaving her to manage everything on her own. Lorelai is a kayak, she doesn’t need a man she can get where she wants all on her own. Finally putting that history degree to work as a historian tour guide in Nantucket.

  5. Luke and Lorelai finally got married

    I mean this was what I always wanted to know. After all their relationship is one of the most famous “will they, won’t they,” “on again, off again,” relationships. In the very last episode of the original series, Luke and Lorelai kiss in one of the final scenes, but we never got to see where they actually ended up. I am glad to know that their relationship lived up to imagination!

  6. Paul? Wait who was Paul?

    Now I did not mind Rory having a new character for a boyfriend. After all it has been 10 years, surely she has met other people since then; but I did not like the way that Rory was treating him. It was very uncharacteristically Rory. She is on top of everything, she never would have let that happen. I mean she was able to take a failing DAR event in season 5 from needing to be cancelled to turning people away, making it the must attend event of the year for their community. She really should have just dumped Paul in the “Winter” episode rather than constantly stringing him along, even if it was because she kept forgetting that he existed.

  7. Lorelai’s adventure to do the WILD hike was very un-Lorelai.

    While she is eccentric and believes in serendipity, hiking and nature are somethings that are very un-Lorelai. After all she was the one who brought the fish she caught home and put it in her bath tub on her first fishing trip, because she couldn’t bear the thought of actually killing her fish. Although it was great to see her co-star from Parenthood and current boyfriend as the Park Ranger in the “Fall” episode. I am just glad she didn’t use this trip to run away from Luke for good, that would have broken my heart!

  8. Logan trying to make Rory his mistress, I am not too fond of that.

    I am all for being Team Logan, I tend to be Team Logan, when I am not too busy being Team Jess. But if she and Logan are going to be together, just let them be together, not make her his mistress. She is too good for that and he is clearly too much in love with her for that.

  9. And finally, those last 4 words…

    We have all been waiting to hear those last four words, 10 years now. Did they live up to the expectation? Most were disappointed, probably because it felt out of place. Most of those that are critical of those last four words think that maybe the writer had been holding onto what would have been a great ending to the original series and transposed it here; which makes those people feel almost let down by the ending they had waited ten years for.  It was a complete surprise, never saw it coming. I, for one, just hope it’s not the Wookie’s baby! And if it is Logan’s, I hope she gives him a chance. I mean it didn’t quite fit, and it is not how I wanted the series to end; mainly because it felt as if the last episode rushed to pack in everything. If it had ended just with Luke and Lorelai’s wedding I would have been completely happy!

How about you? What did you think of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life? Your favorite part, least favorite part?

I am obsessed with Gilmore Girls! Here is my reviw of the revival Netflix brought to us last year!