Thursday, August 22, 2013

Keeping Up Appearances pt. 2

I hope you all had a wonderful time pampering yourselves and are enjoying fixing up a little more for the men in your lives! I don't have a whole lot to say this time around ; (making up for last time!) we ended up spending much of our meeting laughing,chatting, swapping birthing experiences and just fellowshipping with some bits of wisdom exchanged here and there. To all who attended, I really enjoyed hanging out with you all! 
   As i mentioned last month, this time we're going to spend some time talking about appearances with regards to weight and physical fitness. This is the area of our looks that takes the most amount of work and discipline, but things that are important generally do. I want to stress the fact that your health, vitality, energy, and longevity are infinitely more important than anything else we've discussed on this topic so far. You can look pretty all you want, but you need to be able to do so while you are active and engaged with your family - not on the sidelines. A healthy body - weight and fitness wise, is essential to this. If this is an area of stress and turmoil for you, let me say this; anyone can lose weight at any time. Always. There is hope! You just have to find your body's key. Here are my top tips for reaching and maintaining a healthy weight:
-Water only. A cup of coffee in the morning (or two...) is one thing, (just take it easy on the cream and sugar!)but cut out all other beverages with the exception of herbal teas. I personally know several people who have lost 10+ lbs. in a couple of weeks just by following this rule. 
-Raw Fooding I am a huge proponent of eating "in the raw". I think it is truly closest to what God intended for us .Think about the garden of Eden - no stoves or microwaves there! Adam and Eve ate food only in the form that it came out of the ground or off the tree in. Now for all of you thinking that raw fooding means salads three times a day, let me assure you, i would in no way be a fan if this were the case! The world of raw foods is broad and diverse and incredibly delicious. I ate exclusively raw for a couple of months after my first and second pregnancies to get rid of those last 7 lbs that like to try and hang around. I consistently lost  a pound+ per week. Now, i will say that this way of eating is a lifestyle and it certainly has it's challenges. For one, it's more expensive.Two, it can be more labor intensive, and three, it's not as easy to get the rest of the family involved. That said, it's still a a super healthy way of life and one that i highly recommend checking out, if at least to try and add more raw, unprocessed/cooked foods to your regular diet. Every little bit helps! A really simple, no fuss  way to try this out on a small scale is....
- Smoothie/Salad Diet. I use the word "diet" lightly, because i don't believe that you have to diet to lose weight, you just need to change your eating habits. I love this method of doing so. Have a smoothie for breakfast, a salad for lunch, and a regular dinner. You can mix it up too, regular breakfast, smoothie lunch and salad dinner, however you want, as long as only one of your meals is processed, cooked food. After my third pregnancy, Michael and i  both did this for about three months and thoroughly enjoyed it. I think one of the things that i appreciated most about it was not ever having to think about what i was going to fix for two out of the three meals we would be consuming throughout  the day. It's quick, fresh, and the possibilities for changing it up are endless. Here are a few of my favorite smoothie ingredients:
*Hemp seeds - full blend of omega 3,6, + 9 fatty acids, 11 grams of protein in just 3 Tbsps, the list goes on and on. Also a nice addition to throw into yogurt, cereal, or granola/bars.
*Kale - i never make a smoothie without kale.There's just no excuse! The perfect way to get in another serving of those dark leafy greens that most of of hate. Full of vitamins and minerals, and completely undetectable taste wise in a smoothie. I buy mine already veined and chopped and freeze it for easier blending and longer product life. Spinach is also a mild tasting addition.
*Maca Powder - i talked a bit about this in "The Woman of Song of Solomon". An adaptogen, supporting the endocrine system to help your body combat stress, fight fatigue, boost stamina and libido.Putting it in a smoothie is a super easy way to get it down if you can't handle mixing it with plain liquid.
For liquids i may use coconut water, raw yogurt, raw milk or a little bit of juice, depending on the flavor i want. For extra protein i may add almonds, hemp protein powder or a raw egg. NOTE: Please do not do this with eggs from the supermarket! It is dangerous! Less for the bacteria within the egg itself and more because of the chemicals those eggs have been dipped in and may have seeped through the shell. I am only comfortable doing this because i raise my own chickens and collect my own eggs. I know what the hens are eating and how the eggs have been handled. 
-Weekends Only Desserts Rule. Ok, so i admit it, this has been more of a theoretical rule at my house lately than a literal one , but in my defense, i have a Dairy Queen, Cookout, Harris Teeter, and Chickfila all within a stone's throw of my house. (no, i mean literally, i can walk to them.ALL of them. AT ANY TIME.) But, it is a great rule. When i eat healthy all week long, i can indulge in some ice cream or homemade cookies over the weekend without feeling guilty. It's like my reward and i feel good when i earn it rightfully. I'm not a prude however, and i do frequently have dark chocolate around the house to help curb those 10pm sweet tooth cravings. Hey, it lowers your risk of heart disease...
-The Master Cleanse. I was very much opposed to this method of cleansing until i really did my research.It's legit my friends! Michael and i did it earlier in the year, him for weight loss and myself for cleansing. If you're unfamiliar with the cleanse, it's a cocktail of water, fresh lemon juice, grade B maple syrup, and cayenne pepper, and it is your sole sustenance for as long as you choose. You drink is all throughout the day, whenever you feel hungry, with only water and maybe a laxative tea in addition. It cleanses, detoxifies, and flushes the whole body and can help shed a few pounds in the process. (some of which is water weight and toxic build up) The lemon and cayenne work on your gut while the syrup provides you with the necessary caloric and nutrient intake. Our plan was to go for the full 10 days, which is the recommended base. We made it through the evening of day 6, at which point my body clearly said, "ok, it's time to stop" and we began to reintegrate some raw foods. Michael lost a total of 9lbs and was visibly healthier and cleaner. It was like a layer of sponge had been removed from under the skin on his face! I lost about 4+ lbs ( i wasn't trying to lose weight at the time) and my relationship to food was completely revolutionized. It was like the way i thought about food - my brain, the knowing how i wanted to eat, knowing what was best for me, and how i felt about food - my heart/stomach, what i actually wanted to eat, what i craved, had finally been aligned. Over all it was a great experience in multiple ways (this is also a great way to fast and still be able to function) and i plan on doing it on a regular basis just to keep that alignment. 

As for physical fitness, i personally prefer outdoor activities, and just a generally active lifestyle to going to the gym. I wasn't always that way though. I used to be in on the stairclimber or treadmill and weight machines 4 times a week, or taking high intensity kick boxing classes at the local gym. But as i started to learn more about whole living and got more into natural things, i found that my desire to go and pump iron was greatly diminished. See, my motivation had been based in vanity. I wanted to look a certain way. Now that my emphasis is on being healthy, i find that things like taking the girls for a walk in the stroller, family hikes, gardening,kayaking etc., are much more motivating and fulfilling. ( and as a side, it just so happens that i am happier with my body now than i ever have been!) Find something that fits into your life, not something that disrupts it. And, find something that you enjoy. This is critical if you want to make it a habit. Running is great for you. You build lean muscle, burn calories, increase your cardiovascular strength, your endurance, blah blah blah, but I. HATE. RUNNING. I would just about rather chew glass than strap on a pair of tennis shoes and jog anywhere. I have tried to start running several times, with different partners and at different times in my life, and have never been able to settle into it because i just don't enjoy it. If you have the choice to do something that you know is good for you, verses something you like, pleasure usually wins out over will power. But if the choice is between something that is good for you that you enjoy, and something neutral that you enjoy.......I love to dance and do yoga. I am a member of One Heart Yoga in downtown Varina where i have a work/trade agreement for a free membership. They have a variety of classes and instructors and the owners are a sweet young couple who love Jesus. I used to hate the very idea of yoga and i am not naturally very flexible, but the stress relief , restorative, and relaxation benefits are phenomenal, not to mention it's a great workout!  There are a surprising number of free resources available online as well, one that i like is . I don't love all the instructors and methods, but what i do like is the ability to customize your practice. You can filter the videos by length of practice, intensity, instructor, method, and purpose. So if you only have 15 mins and you want to relieve some back and neck tension, you don't have to surf through hundreds of clips to do that. Plus, it's free and you can do it at home, anytime, and with anybody if you want!

In the end, don't be discouraged.Don't beat yourself up. If a healthier, leaner body is something you're after, Keep at it. Get support. Reward yourself! I decided that after i got back down to my pre baby weight after each pregnancy, i would buy myself one nice piece of pretty lingerie. Just the discipline will help your self esteem, and one good choice will lead to another. And remember that to our husbands, much of the time it's the effort that's important as much as the results. This man echoes that sentiment in regards to weight loss:

" My wife is trying to slim down right now and it makes me feel like a million bucks. I know she's doing it for herself, but the fact that she cares about the way she looks is a total turn on if you want to know the truth..."

So, that's all for now ladies, thanks for reading and i hope to see you at the meeting next month where we'll be discussing how to keep our husbands a priority amongst many small, needy, completely dependent children, fixing three meals a day for said offspring, and a house that for some reason, won't clean itself :). Love and Blessings.....Georgia

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Keeping Up Appearances

Hi Ladies,
  A little forewarning before i get into this post ; first off, it's pretty long.We're going to cover a lot of ground here.In going over my notes, i tried to figure out a way to hone it down a little, but ultimately felt that the subject matter was too relevant and important to cut it short, so bear with me! Secondly, i recognize that the issue of body image can be a very sensitive and emotional topic for women; please don't feel down on yourself - be encouraged! 
  Now that that's out of the way, i'd like to start off by revealing a little secret that i found to be both surprising and saddening; in writing her book "For Women Only" ( which again, i will be referencing frequently in this post) Shaunti Feldhahn asked men what the number one thing was that they wished their wives understood.You know what the answer was?

How important it was to them that they [their wives] keep themselves up.

Smarts a little doesn't it? Did you feel some growing resentment or an attitude of self defense rising up within you as you read that? Let's be real for a minute here though : look around you. We are living in a nationwide epidemic of sloppiness, laziness, apathy, and in general, a  state of being unkempt and out of shape. Not to mention unhealthy which greatly contributes to all of those things. We go for the easiest, most comfortable and cheapest at the complete expense of our appearance. We make excuses for letting ourselves go - the kids, the house, our weight, the budget, lack of occasion/opportunity/time, "higher" thinking.....then ironically, we get depressed because we look in the mirror and don't like what we see! We lose confidence, feel insecure, unattractive, undesirable. For some women, we can also allow this to make us feel bitter, threatened, insecure and jealous because that son-of-Adam husband of ours happens to cast a sideways glance at some fit and stylish young woman at church, lingers a little too long over a magazine or billboard advertisement, or is tempted by pornography. The reality though, is that time and gravity are unstoppable forces, and neither is a respecter or persons. Life happens.Kids happen.Sickness.Stress.Hormones.Financial difficulty. 25 lbs. happens! We are all going to have times in our lives that we are not perfectly satisfied with ourselves in a physical sense for one reason or another, and we have to decide how to handle this.  One thing we shouldn't try to do is deny it, although we are seeing more and more examples in our society today of women who try through botox, cosmetic enhancement, and inappropriate dress. Another popular option for handling (or should i say mishandling) this dilemma seems to be to 
 Give up and give in.
We feel hopeless and consequently resign ourselves to the idea that this is just the way if has to be. " I can't/don't know how/don't have have time to be more fit,healthy, stylish, or attractive than i am right now." We convince ourselves that we ( and our husbands) should be content with whatever condition we are currently in. Or perhaps we have just adopted an attitude of laziness; we just plain don't want to put forth the effort to care. Again, we go for whatever is easiest, cheapest and most comfortable when is comes to our hair, makeup, body and clothing. We already got our man, no need to work for it anymore....
Maybe we have ourselves convinced that our looks shouldn't matter - that "higher" thinking that i mentioned - no one should judge a book by it's cover right? Here's some food for thought on that from FWO - 

"...those of us who don't believe in divorce may need to own up to a sneaking complacency.Think how off  limits it is in a church setting to emphasize physical appeal. "God looks not on the outward appearance but on the heart" we say, and we expect our husbands to to the same.Because our husbands have pledged their faithfulness for better or for worse, and because we know "it's what's on the inside that counts" we can easily migrate to the idea that what's outside doesn't matter...many women feel that true love should come with no strings attached, but we still want to be attractive. And while we were delighted that he liked our looks during courtship, we can find ourselves feeling outright resentful that our appearance still matters to him now."

Let's be honest; it's no coincidence that men like breasts and we happen to have them.Yes, they are for a purpose, but they didn't have to be beautiful. God is an artist. He fashioned beauty into every facet of creation and then designed us to have a nature that appreciates it, and there is nothing wrong or shallow about that as it relates to human physiognomy and attraction. We can make the comparison here to the romance issue for us. They already won us over right? Why then is it so imperative to our sense of security, self worth and happiness that they continue to put effort into romancing and pursuing us? Because for us, that pursuit - those impromptu date nights, that little note left on the fridge, those thoughtful little acts that don't necessarily come naturally to a man or are maybe just downright difficult, are a huge part of him saying
" I still love and care for you,You are important to me and i'm going out of my way to show it, because i think you're worth it." 

This has the same kind of effect for them.One man put it this way:

".....If she doesn't take care of herself, dresses sloppily around me all the time, never exercises and has no energy to go out and do things together, i feel like she's choosing not to do something that she should know is important to me.And then it becomes a real issue because it affects her ability to do things and her self worth and desire - and then it affects may not know this, but it's not about whether or not we want our wives to prance around the house in a little Bo-Peep outfit - although that would be great too. I mean, who are we kidding! But really, i just want to see that my wife cares enough about me to make the effort."

Did you catch that last sentence? If you truly care for your husband and want him to know it, this is a grossly overlooked tool with which to do so. And like most tools, it can also be used as a weapon in the hands of the unwitting wife. If making the effort says you care, what are you telling him when you choose to be lazy or indifferent?
The way we keep ourselves is of monumental importance to our men. Think about the term "trophy wife". A trophy is a symbol of honor and reward. Everyone who has a trophy wants it kept shiny, polished and sparkling so they can show it off to others whenever they get the chance.  Make your husband proud to show you off! The Bible also speaks of a woman being the "crown" to her husband. Have you ever seen royalty making their rounds or even sitting around the palace wearing a crown that is dingy, lack luster, or bent out of shape? Make your husband feel like a king with a sparkling crown and he in turn will make you feel like a queen! And, as a side note, if your husband is looking more pauper than prince these days, there is no better encouragement for him to clean up his act than the thought of going out in public with you and people thinking that you got the short end of the stick!

Maybe your husband has never said anything about the way you look, but chances are,  he still cares, and you should too. We've all heard it said that men are visual creatures and as difficult of a topic as this is for a lot of people, i feel i would be remiss to not point out one last thing regarding this, and that is the "lust of the eyes". I don't know about you, but in the past i have found myself dreading the moment when some bombshell beach babe saunters out into our line of view wearing nothing but a couple of strings to cover the essentials. I know how men are wired. I know it's hard to not look, But i know that out of respect for me and a desire to keep his thoughts pure, my husband tries. I want to honor him for that, and i want to do whatever i can to make that constant temptation easier to fight. The awesome thing is, i have the power to do so! Don't take my word for it though, check out this quote from another man:

"When you take care of yourself, your expectation of "i only have eyes for you" seems fairer and easier to accomplish.....we need to see that you care about keeping our attention on you - and off of other women. Sometimes it is so hard for us to look away.It takes a lot of work and a lot of effort! But it helps me so much if i see that my wife is willing to do her part and purposefully work toward staying in shape and looking good." 

In other words, let's be fair ; if i want him to look only at me and not other women, i need to give  him something worth looking at! It's a hard truth, but the sooner we set our minds to it the better. It's not like the old days where if a guy got bored he really had to look for "alternative scenery". Now it comes looking for them whether they want it or not. This is an often overlooked area where we need to be working that role of "helpmeet" in the battle.So, what's "worth looking at"? Consider this tip form Shaunti -

" If you are not realistically happy with your overall appearance and fitness level, assume he's not either."

The emphasis  here being on the words realistically, and overall. I struggled with psychological  body image issues for years before i realized it as that. We're not talking here about one feature that you dislike or the fact that you don't look like Scarlett Johansson. In general, how do you feel about the way that you look? How you feel about the way that you look will affect the way you carry and treat yourself, which in turn will affect the way you actually appear to others. I cannot stress this enough. And how you treat yourself is half of it anyway;  83% of men - that's 5 out of 6, with regular churchgoers agreeing even more strongly, stated that it wasn't so important that their wife look just as she did the day they met, but that she make the effort to take care of herself for them now.It's not that the results don't matter, but they will be a by product of our efforts to take care of ourselves.

So, where do we go from here? It may seem a little daunting at first.Maybe your day is already full, the budget already tight, and you just don't see the light at the end of the postpartum tunnel. The good news is that there are plenty of simple solutions that can make a big difference in common problems. And, chances are that when you make the commitment to implement positive changes in this area of your life, you will find that you have more help than you may have expected. 97% of men said they would help willingly in whatever area necessary - money, extra responsibility, babysitting, etc, in their wife's effort. Think about it , it's in their best interest! They win as much as you do in the end - and not just visually; the wife sets the tone and mood of the home. A happy, healthy, self assured, vibrant wife will create an environment that any man would want to come home to. Here's how you do it: 

B)-Idealize your real.
In a survey, 77% of women 45 yrs. old and younger said that they had a deep need or desire to know that their significant other found them beautiful.I think it's safe to say that deep down, the percentage of women who want to feel beautiful period is probably closer to 100. But the world has a very warped sense of what being beautiful means and even in Christian circles it's hard to not be affected by that. If you're not 5'7", 110 lbs. and a 34D, don't cry yourself to sleep at night asking God to transform you! Respect your body for what and how it is, but make the most of it. Idealize your real. A man once told me ,
" Who you are- your talents, abilities, personality, that's like the picture.Your body- how you look, is like the frame. You want the frame to do the picture justice , to reflect and represent the beauty found therein." 
First, take a minute to think about what makes you feel pretty. For me, one thing that makes me feel extra special is getting my nails done. It's a relatively quick , not too expensive pick me up that is readily available in nearly every shopping center. It usually costs me about $35 for a full mani/pedi, and it takes about 1 1/2 hours , giving me some awesome decompression time as well. I like to ask for gift certificates for these services for my birthday and christmas, and i keep an eye out for coupons to local salons from Living Social, Groupon, or the City Pass Book. There is always the at home option too. After the kids are in bed, when you and hubby sit down to watch a movie or just relax is the perfect time for a little pampering. Here are my list of essentials for the perfect at - home manicure/pedicure ;

~ Bath salt or epsom salt and essential oil for soaking
Pumice Stone and nail brush
* Nail clippers - lg. and small
* Emery board or file
* Cuticle pusher
*Cuticle Nippers
*Burt's Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream
*Burt's Bees Honey Bilberry Foot Cream

All of the above are available at most drugstores. The cuticle cream is my best friend though - seriously, you have to try it. Just smooth it on at night and in the morning you will have brand new fingers! Most men like color too, so surprise yours every once in a while with a pop of bright polish.

Hair : Here's a tip ; if your hair has to be styled in a time consuming way to look decent, it's time for a new do. The best cuts can be washed, dried, and done. Because the fact is, when we get busy, that 30 minute hair routine every morning isn't going to be at the top of the priority list. Clean, healthy, shiny hair is always attractive. Try switching out shampoos every 6 months or so to keep up the clean. An easy at home conditioning treatment is olive oil. You can also use things like mayonnaise, eggs, apple cider vinegar and even beer!  Pay attention to the way your husband likes it styled and wear it like this often. Funny enough, statistically, men tend to prefer the youthful, girlish styles that we might use on our daughters - ponytails, braids, buns.... I think a part of this is that these styles tend to be symmetrical.Studies have shown that symmetry is actually a foundational part of the way our brain interprets beauty. Experiment. Look online for ideas for homemade "fascinators" , or pretty clips. Fake flowers, feathers, ribbons, butterflies, all of these can add a little element of fun and femininity without a lot of work. If you're bored with your hair but are afraid of a permanent change, opt for a semi or demi permanent color. My mom owns a salon here in Fuquay and she and my sister offer a full range of organic, non toxic services and products. They graciously gave me several $5 off coupons to give out at the meeting on Wednesday and i have some left over. They are good for any service scheduled with Lilly, my sister, between now and the end of September. Please contact me if you would like one! A little commercial break here - the salon is really beautiful and a warm, relaxing environment. The services are excellent and the products are actually good for you! Highly recommended! I don't trust anyone but my mom and sister with my hair. Check them out here -
Wellspring Salon

Skin: Obviously we all want radiant, glowing, supple skin. Proper hydration if essential for this! Drink plenty of water ! Body scrubs are a great help too and both cheap and easy to make at home. Plus they make you feel extra pampered in the shower! We made our own sugar scrubs at the meeting using the following :

-Two cups granulated sugar
- One cup oil
-15-20 drops essential oil
- Fresh or dried herbs or flowers of choice

I prefer a sugar scrub because it's less harsh and more hydrating to the skin. I usually use olive oil for it's healing properties and mild scent, but you can use any light oil such as jojoba, grapeseed, sunflower, or vitamin E. Some of my favorite essential oils are lavender, rosemary,  and eucalyptus, and you can use lavender flowers, mint leaves or rose petals as well. Just mix all the ingredients and store in a preferably non-breakable air tight container. To use, after washing, scoop out a generous amount into palm and rub vigorously all over, being careful of sensitive areas. Rinse and pat dry. Body scrubs help to exfoliate dead skin cells and improve circulation while providing intense moisturization . Your skin will feel luxuriously smooth!
My husband and i did the master cleanse earlier this year and we decided that since we were putting our bodies through a pretty intense process all day, we would make up for it with a little extra TLC at night, so one evening we gave each other facials. Not only was it a fun bonding experience but it felt amazing! And, we used products that were already in my kitchen.

Steps for an at home facial:
- Wash thoroughly, exfoliation massage optional (but highly recommended! )
- Nourish with a facial mask. Cover with a light even coat, avoiding eye area.Leave for 15- 20 mins.
-Rinse with tepid water and pat dry
-Steam to clean out pores.Fill a large bowl with hot to boiling water, add herbs if desired, tent face with towel, and lean over bowl for 10 - 15 mins.
-Rinse thoroughly starting with warm water and eventually changing to cold to close pores.

 Exfoliants:  Finely ground oats,almonds,or coffee, sugar
Herbs for steaming  - chamomile for normal skin, peppermint for oily, rosemary for dry
Common kitchen ingredient masks :  avocado,egg,plain yogurt,banana,honey,mayonnaise

Make up :  Make up can be a controversial topic; to wear or not to wear, how much, how often, etc. Many women simply don't know how to properly apply cosmetics, so they just skip them altogether. My take on it is this; i don't think make up should be used to try and change us, but i don't think there is anything wrong with simply enhancing or accentuating what we already have. If you take a few minutes in the morning to put on a little blush, mascara or lip gloss just for your husband, it will make him feel special. Think about it - if you only ever fix up when you go out, who are you really fixing up for anyway? Doesn't your husband deserve it even if no one else sees? I've never worn a lot of make up. In fact, as a general rule, most days i am bare faced.When Michael and i were dating he made a comment one time about not liking a lot of make up, so i made it a point to use it sparingly when i did wear it. One evening however, i was going out with a girlfriend and i had done myself up a little more than i usually did around him. He stopped by to see me and as i was leaving remarked on how nice i looked saying he was a little jealous that i didn't fix up like that when he took me out. I was confused and told him that that was very purposeful as i thought he didn't like it. He explained that he had only meant he didn't like "caked on" make up, but did indeed like the eyeliner and lipstick which i had been so carefully avoiding around him. All being understood, i quickly remedied the situation and have since enjoyed going the extra mile in this way when we go out. Make up can also be a great way to boost self esteem if you're looking tired and you know it, or you are self conscious about blemishes. Every mall has cosmetic kiosks that give free make overs, in the hopes obviously, that you will decide to buy one of their usually over priced products, but it's a great way to learn new techniques, try new products and colors and get some expert advice on your routine. Youtube also has a plethora of make up tutorials if you want to try something new.

Clothes :  A couple of rules of thumb for clothing:
1) Dress according to how you want to feel , not how you are currently feeling, especially if you're in a negative place mentally. What you wear really does affect your mood and general outlook and the way you carry yourself. Think about when you go to church; most of the ladies i know dress nicely, dresses, skirts, maybe heels, a step or two above the daily norm anyway. A lot of that is tradition for some of us, but a lot of it is also respect. We want to respect the Lord's house and His people and somehow that comes out in our dress. Why is that? What if you were to wear a pair of old jeans or shorts, flip flops, and a tank top on Sunday morning. (note here: if this is what you wear to church i am not slamming that in any way - to each his own. This is just speaking to the women who's Sunday morning attire differs from the everyday)  Would you feel differently? Would you act differently? I know for me there is a distinct contrast. I don't mean that i become somebody i'm not when i put on a pair of closed toe shoes, but i am aware of myself in a different way than i am when i'm running around the house barefooted as usual. On days when i wake up feeling down on myself and my body, if i just throw something on to cover my self up and leave off any efforts to give myself a boost appearance - wise, it just re-affirms the fact that i don't feel pretty or attractive, and every time i pass by a mirror throughout the day or come into contact with other people, i become more and more discouraged . BUT, if i say, "you know what, i'm not liking what i see today but i'm not going to let my overly critical perception control how i feel about myself" and i put a little extra care into my routine, 9 times out of 10 it's just the pick me up i need to get over myself and feel confident. Adding color to your wardrobe has a big impact too. Scientific studies ( really, i promise it's not just my hippie ideology ;)  ) have proven that color affects the brain. I have this reversible dress that is navy on one side and bright blue on the other. I was wearing it one day last winter with the navy side out because it was cold and dark outside, and i hate cold and dark, and well, it just seemed more appropriate. At some point during the course of the day i got it dirty and had to flip it around to the bright blue side. I'm not kidding you - immediately i felt different! More positive, more upbeat, less depressed by the weather.  Men are drawn to color as well which is one reason why red dresses and red lipstick have become so iconic in the world of beauty. Try it - it works! Keep it in mind as you shop for clothes.
2) Dress for the occasion more than the location. 
I'm a girl. I like to dress up. But, after getting married i found that the occasions for doing so seemed to be fewer and farther in between. Then i started to think about it; what am i really dressing up for? The restaurant? Or my husband? From then on i decided to dress for the occasion, and i consider a date to be a perfectly sufficient occasion to dress up, even if it's just to someplace casual. I get to wear my heels, Michael gets to enjoy the view of his "trophy", and let's face it, nobody at that Chick-fil-a knows that you aren't coming from or headed to a party, plus, who cares what they think anyway? You're not going home with them ;) .
3)When i buy new clothes, i try to adhere to the 3 Cs standard -
Comfy/convenient, Cost effective, and Cute.
Don't leave off the last one! Comfort does not have to look like we just came from the gym. Cost effective does not have to mean worn out of out of date, and cute can still be perfectly modest! I love to hit up the discount stores like Marshall's, Ross, Burlington Coat Factory, Rugged Wearhouse, and especially TJ Maxx, as well consignment stores like Plato's Closet and Uptown Cheapskate for good deals on nice clothing. I don't have quite as much patience when it comes to thrift stores because i don't like having to rifle through all of the junk just to find one or two good pieces, but when you do find those one or two, you can create a whole new outfit for under $10. Some thrift or consignment stores will pay you on the spot for your old clothes or give you store credit which is a fun way to switch out things you're tired of or just don't fit anymore, without really having to spend any money. Outside of new items, it's a good idea to learn how to accessorize , and how to re use old items for new purposes, or in different ways. I have literally watched an entire tutorial on various ways to wear a scarf! (Ever tried tying one around around your hips over a skirt or jeans like a gypsy? It's a winner...) Wear earrings when you have nowhere to go. Have pretty PJs and feminine sexy undergarments. When you can get a pair of colorful undies for a dollar and a half off of the clearance rack at Kohl's, you could buy a new pair every month guilt free! Hmmm....

I couldn't end this post (i know i know, almost there..) without addressing the issue of weight since that's kind of the elephant in the room when it comes to appearance, body image, etc. It's a big topic, and it's a valid one, so what i've decided to do is continue this subject into a second session this month to talk about  natural health in general, with some talk on achieving a healthy weight included.

OK.*whew* Told you that was a lot! I hope as always that you have found this helpful in some way and that you are encouraged.Be radiant! Be beautiful! Here's your challenge for the month;

~Take some time - a day, half a day, a few hours, for some self-pampering, whether at home or at a salon or spa. Enjoy the fact that you are God's masterpiece, created in His image and that means you are beautiful. Remember that you are loving your husband by showing it.

~Take one day a week to fix up just for your husband. Wear a little perfume even though you're not going anywhere. Style your hair the way he likes it. Put on a sundress and a smile and let him know that he is worth it!

Love and Blessings...Georgia

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Woman of Song of Solomon

Well, as promised due to popular demand, and, i might add, in very appropriate order, our topic for discussion this month is the marriage bed. As christian married women we spend a lot of time and energy trying to emulate the infamous "Proverbs 31 Woman"; but too often i'm afraid, we skip over another wonderful example of a godly helpmeet found just a few pages ahead - the woman of Song of Solomon. Oh, never thought of her in that light? Well read on my friends, read on!

Before we start this discussion though, i feel the need to give you a little context for my stand point, you see, it's not the typical one for a female; Ok, *deep breath* here goes - 
I love having sex
A lot. More in fact, than my husband. That is to say that i desire it more than he does. More often, more intensely, just...more. The downside to this in giving a talk to other women on the topic is that i just can't to relate to you personally when it comes to being on the other, more common side of the female fence, where sex is a selfless "sacrifice" we have to force ourselves to make every now and then for the sake of our husbands and marriages. I've read enough on the subject to understand this phenomenon in my head, but as for the rest of my body, well, that just doesn't get it. The upside however, is that having a sex drive apparently similar to that of the average male, makes me thoroughly equipped to speak to you on why this is such an important issue, and how to help make things work. (Note: After the meeting i realized that i am not the only one in this boat - yay! So, if you are like me and have the higher libido, please keep reading as you can still use a lot of these ideas to get your husband going as well. Also, see the resources section for some other helpful information.)

Why We Need Sex
First, let's talk for a minute about the pure physiological side of the act. Did you know that men produce at least 1500 sperm cells per second? Their bodies are divinely wired to feel the physical need to release some of those little swimmers every few days. I read where someone made the comparison to the nursing mother, who naturally has a let down of milk every so often. For those of you who have been in this position, imagine the discomfort of not being able to express that milk! Now unlike nursing, if a man weren't to have a "release" the result would not be severe engorgement and excruciating pain, his body would simply reabsorb the unused sperm.But my point is that it's a natural, God given need. Not just a carnal desire. One man put it this way,

" a man, sex is like having to eat. When i have missed a meal i unconsciously roam the kitchen, opening cabinet doors, and peer into the refrigerator,  just looking and looking....a few days without sex leaves me in the same condition sexually....i [still] have this overwhelming sexual need that drives me until it is satisfied."

Now, desire accompanies that need of course , and if the need is not met, arousal can and will occur with less and less provocation. This result is again no fault or character weakness in the male, simply a Divine wiring. Filling that need with our bodies as was designed by our Creator, helps to safeguard our husbands from temptation and keep their hearts and minds committed to us alone.
There are also social and psychological implications for sex ; we've all seen the commercials for Viagra or Cialis where the men all float around with these big cheesy grins on their faces and everyone wonders what's happened to them. It's funny, but the principle behind the add is dead on. Did you know that you have a significant amount of control over your husband's success in the workplace, his amount of self confidence, his moods and attitudes towards other people, and his general outlook on life, just by what goes on (or doesn't go on) in the bedroom?  It's like a ripple effect, and it can be both positive or negative. A man who knows that he can fully pleasure and satisfy his wife, will feel  capable of  conquering any task that comes his way. When he knows that he is wanted and desired sexually by her, he will have the self confidence to go after other dreams and goals. Show me a man who is downtrodden, depressed, overwhelmed, stressed out and pessimistic, and i will show you a man who isn't being sexually fulfilled .
(Now i know this is about our men, but i would be remiss if i didn't mention this as well; ladies, did you know that sex is a great hormone regulator? If you've had a rough day and are just not feeling it, maybe "it" is just what you need! I know for me, abstaining for too long turns me into a depressed, angry witch with a capital "B". But the morning after, all is right again in my little world! )
Most importantly though, and less talked about, is men's emotional need for sex. I would post some of the quotes from men on how sex affects them emotionally, but in reading through the chapters on sex in Shaunti Feldhahn and her husband Jeff's books "For Men/Women Only" ,  i found that my answers to the survey questions in this area fell right in line across the board with the majority of the men's answers. So, because i am sympathetic to the dilemma that so many couples are in because of this topic, and i feel that it is so critical for women to properly understand, i am going to be vulnerable and intimate for a minute and try to communicate to you in female terms what it means to me:

I am deeply, madly, desperately in love with my husband. I'm not always that great at communicating with words or gestures though, and a lot of the time i feel that the only way i can truly express to him how i feel is to make love to him. You see, physical touch is my primary love language. I both communicate and interpret love through physical affection more than through any other means. It is the only outlet for my emotions towards him that leaves me feeling fully satisfied and complete. I am both reassured and comforted by his touch; those times when i feel so inexplicably alone or sad, this is what makes me feel close and connected. If i'm exited or in an unusually good mood, this is how i want to manifest it.  This is when i feel most loved by him as well. Because of this, if i am the only one ever initiating, i feel like i am having to force him into loving me, even if he enjoys it in the end. If your primary love language is quality time, it would be like having to call your husband to try and schedule an appointment amidst his busy day every time you needed some time with him. He could tell you that he loves spending time with you until he's blue in the face, but if he doesn't put forth the effort to make it happen, his words are meaningless. If he rejects the act of sex with me, that automatically translates to me as him rejecting me as a person. If he agrees but seems less than exited about it, i feel like i am inadequate for him, that i am unwanted and undesirable. After all, i am putting myself out there, becoming vulnerable, and yet all that i am is still not enough to command his full attention. If we go without for longer than usual, he may as well have just stopped telling me he loves me.

Sex vs. Good Sex
97% of men agreed that getting enough sex, by itself, wasn't enough. Since having sex is the height of emotional connection for a man, if he doesn't feel that his wife is totally and wholeheartedly engaged and satisfied, he is still left feeling unfulfilled. I asked Michael why this was important to him, and this was his response, 

"Well, it's like if we watch a movie together and i know you're not really enjoying it as much as i am, i may still want to watch it, but it takes some of my enjoyment out of it to know that you are watching it just to appease me. It's like you're saying
 ' i'm here and i'll go along with this for you, but i'd really rather be doing something else.' 
and if that's the case, well then i'd just rather not watch it with you" 
 So you see that it's important that we not only submit, so to speak, but that we initiate and engage. One man made the parallel -
"Passive wife = boring life."
Ouch. Understanding now what kind of power we as women wield over our men's tender emotions in this fragile state, what do we do if we're just not in the mood?

 Getting " In The Mood"
For women, (including me) a huge part of getting in the mood is the anticipation factor. Setting the stage so to speak. Now, i've heard of some women who actually put in their schedule just to insure that they reserve time and energy for it, and this seems to help them build up excitement as well. That seems a little sterile to me, but hey, you gotta do what you gotta do! I'm going to share some tips and ideas for building anticipation and excitement via all five of the senses.Let's start with-

Hint Hint- It doesn't take much for me, but i like to sometimes tease and throw out subtle little hints to Michael before he leaves for work in the morning, that way i know he'll be thinking about it all day too. :) Text messages throughout the day work too. Also, once you're actually getting into it, learn to verbalize what you like and what you don't like, what feels good and what doesn't. It will be to the advantage of you both. It will help him to get you there faster and more efficiently, and he'll love hearing about how good he is! It may seem awkward at first and you may be hesitant to tell him to stop doing something that just isn't doing anything for you, but trust me it's worth it in the end. I had to do this just recently; there was this one little thing that happened occasionally and had been happening for quite some time that i just couldn't stand. I hadn't wanted to say anything about it because i didn't want Michael to feel embarrassed or like he wasn't doing a good job, but finally, one night after we had said goodnight, i worked up the courage to tell him that i didn't care for it. You know what he said?
"Seriously? You hate that? well good, i do to. I was only doing it because i thought you liked it. I've always felt stupid doing that!"
We joked about it and that was it!
Background music-At the Song Of Solomon party back in February i asked everyone to tell me what "their song" was and we played a "who's song it is anyway?" type of game. It was a lot of fun to see how everyone's styles and tastes differed! Adding mood or background music to a lovemaking session can create energy, allow for relaxation, or just help to create a romantic atmosphere in general. Try creating a couple of different mixes to encourage different moods. Music has been scientifically proven to affect our brains, it works. Ask your husband for his song preferences too.

Aromatherapy is also a proven method of affecting the senses, and there are several scents that can apparently increase erotic desire in both men and women. Here's what i found when i researched this topic:
Lemon or orange citrus: reduces fatigue and nervousness, uplifting and refreshing 
Jasmine: aphrodisiac, said to induce euphoria 
Rose: aphrodisiac scent for females 
Ylang-ylang: sexually arousing spicy-smelling Indonesian flower 
Sandalwood: heightens sexual excitement by simulating the parasympathetic nervous system, which is dominant during sexual arousal,...
also smells very similar to small quantities of androsterone, a chemical similar to testosterone -- which means that it sends out very subtle, but effective, erotic signals to the opposite sex. 
Lavender: aphrodisiac, also calming

It might take some creativity to implement some of the following things, but i found the following information rather amusing...
"The scent of the pumpkin pie was found to increase penile blood flow by 40 percent. The scent was also found to increase sexual desire in women.
Cinnamon and vanilla have also been touted for their abilities as aphrodisiacs. The smell of cheese pizza increased blood flow to the penis by 5 percent, while buttered popcorn caused a 9 percent increase. Before heading off to the movies, you may want to stock up on licorice and cucumbers -- the combination of those scents caused the greatest amount of blood flow to the vaginal area."
You can create your own perfumes or body/room sprays very easily with essential oils. Massage oils are also a good option, kind of a two for one there! And of course there is the ever classic candle, which also might be something you want to add to the next segment...

It's no secret that men are visual creatures, and nothing makes me feel sexier than that perfect little something to wear. Wearing sexy lingerie or pretty, flirty undergarments is an instant self esteem booster and will make you feel more confident and attractive, which is vital to a healthy attitude towards sex. It's a win-win.Victoria's Secret clearly has the corner on the market on that one, but, personally, i simply cannot bring myself to spend $50+ on ONE special item that will depreciate in sexiness every time i wear it. Also, am i the only one that feels like they need therapy after leaving that place?! Even walking by the window or watching the commercials for that matter... i look at the photo advertisement of the garment and think. "wow, that's really hot, Michael would go crazy over that!", so with great anticipation i bustle off to the dressing rooms with those larger that life mirrors and ever flattering lighting, wrestle my way into what I'm sure is the perfect little nightie or bustier, and BAM! Sucker punch right to my self esteem. I'm not a pessimist, but i see "cups half empty" in the lingerie department all the time. Suddenly i feel totally inadequate and self aware. This will not boost your self esteem or get you in the mood for anything but a rice cake and the gym. For pretty-but-not-slutty lingerie that won't break the bank, i have come to appreciate Aerie (by American Eagle) . I also love going to the discount department stores like T.J. Maxx, Marshall's , Ross, Rugged Warehouse, and Burlington Coat Factory. These places typically have a pretty good selection that is changed out regularly, at prices that won't make it hurt so much if you only wear it once. Here are few more of my favorite ideas:
~ The thrift store.And i don't mean that awkward rack of second hand bras and moo-moos. We've talked a lot lately about changing things up and trying fresh, new ideas, and this is one area where you can really have fun with experimentation. Go to the blue jeans rack and find a pair that fits up top- won't worry about the legs. Then take a pair of scissors and cut yourself some good old fashioned Daisy Dukes. You could even go crazy and cut the waistband off.  Or, find a slinky, silky, low cut, lacy, or open back top, something that you would never wear out in public. Mini skirts, stilettos, whatever. It's all there and all under a few bucks. If you have children that are still little enough to be pleasantly oblivious, or if you can get them out of the house for a while, i highly recommend surprising your hubby by just going about your regular routine dressed this way. Cooking dinner, cleaning, gardening, it's a part of the tease leading up to the event.
~ Two words- THIGH HIGHS (stockings). Let me tell you, these things are baby makers. Believe me,  i know. Added bonus? You can wear them like pantyhose but without the discomfort and no one will ever know but you ( and your hubby when you secretly give him a little peek/feel under the dinner table at the restaurant ;) . 
~ His button down shirt and tie. A classic, but for some reason, they love it every time. A girlfriend of mine who's a master of creativity wore her husband's wedding shirt and loosened tie, paired with her wedding heels, jewelry and garter for their anniversary. It was a hit.
~ Speaking of, garters. These are another one of those naughty little secrets.Wear it all day under your dress as a flirty reminder to yourself of the evening's fun, and to build anticipation.
~ Sometimes just repurposing regular clothes you have in your closet or wearing them in a different way can do the trick. Who says you have to wear that silk scarf around your neck? Or try a soft or silky blouse with nothing underneath. 
A few additional thoughts and tips...
*The idea that sexy/flirty lingerie also has to be uncomfortable is a complete myth. Don't let that stop you from wearing things that make you feel pretty and desirable.
*ALWAYS match. Or at least coordinate top and bottom, i'm telling you, even if no one sees it, it will make a difference in how you feel about yourself.
* Have pretty, feminine pajamas. I heard a true story once about a woman who called into a relationship guru bemoaning that her husband didn't seem to be interested in her anymore. The first question the guru asked was what the caller wore to bed at night. Her answer was along the lines of a pair of comfy old sweats and a big t-shirt. She was instructed to go out at once and buy a pretty comfortable nightie and ditch the sweats. Soon after she called in again to report that by some miracle, her husband was taking notice of her again and the spark had been reignited in their relationship. True story, just sayin'....
Self portraits-Some of you may be skeptical about the safety of this, but i've had a lot of fun sending my husband pictures. One year for christmas i gave him a little certificate for a "girl or the month" calendar, and every month throughout the following year i emailed him a picture i had taken of myself wearing (ok, or not wearing) something sexy. I picked a different theme every month and set up my camera on a tripod on a self timer so that it would take multiple shots. It's a little involved, but he really enjoyed it. I always put a note in the subject box so he know not to open it up in a public place and he saved them securely, and we've never had a problem with it.
* If you would like for your husband to buy you lingerie but are worried about him being affronted by the abyss of pornographic images online or at boutiques, do a google search for " lingerie websites without live models" . There are actually a few that are very benign and would not give quite such fuel for "the lust of the eyes".

I don't care if it's Winter and they don't ever see the light of day. I don't care if it's tedious and takes extra time. Who wants to crawl into bed with a cactus at night? Or worse yet, spoon with another pair of man legs? ( All together now - Eeww! ) It's about more than the way it looks. It shows that you are still committed to taking care of yourself and keeping yourself up for him, even if nobody else knows. It will also help you to feel more attractive.
-Try a pair of silky satin sheets to roll around in. Who thought that a roll in the hay was a good idea in the first place?
-Pull your weight during foreplay. You may be the one who needs a little help to get going, but it will enhance the experience all around and show that you are actively engaged if you reciprocate and respond to him likewise.
-Try getting started by swapping massages in the nude.It's sensual, relaxing, and there's no pressure.

The following is a list of foods that are supposed to have an aphrodisiac like affect;
Chilis - or anything hot, increases heart rate, induces sweating, sound familiar?
Chocolate - releases seratonin, the "feel good" chemical in the brain.Mimics the feeling of being in love. ( the same chemical is released with orgasm)
Oysters - high zinc, phosphorus and iodine, good for boosting libido
Shrimp - high in iodine " "
Maca - an Incan superfood. An adaptogen that aids the endocrin system in handling stress, fighting fatigue, and increasing stamina and libido. Buy the organic, raw powdered form.
Whipped Cream - ok, so it's not really an aphrodisiac, but it can be really fun and sexy.
Alchohol - the bible says that wine is good for "lifting the spirits". I do not believe in getting drunk, but there is a wonderful freedom when you are released of some of your inhibitions and fears and insecurities. A nice glass of wine or a good cocktail does just that.

Some random final ideas...
- There are some fun card decks that have different positions on each card, you can also get some "dirty" dice to mix it up a little!
- Play "strip" anything
- Plan ahead game - "Waitress's Words" : make a list of actions, locations, items of clothing or props, and a corresponding list of what a server might say to you during the course of the meal. For example;
 " Can i interest you in dessert?" = use whipped cream
" Hi my name is ____ and i'll be your server." = do it in the kitchen
You can each make your own list or just have a master one that you both contribute ideas to. You can optimize your options by specifying the server's wording ( i.e. "Can i get some drinks started for you" / " what would you like to drink" ) Take your list and enjoy checking it off as you eat out! (Just make sure you don't leave it on the table when you're done like i did o:  )

Choosing to Love
In closing, i want to emphasize the importance of making a healthy, regular sex life a priority.This is so integral to a healthy, happy relationship in general. God said that "the two should become one flesh" There is only one way to do that.The following is an excerpt from an article in Today's Christian Woman and i think it sums up a very generally felt sentiment from women towards sex, along with a crucially important response,

"I felt what i did all day was meet other people's needs. Whether it was caring for my children, working in ministry, or washing my husband's clothes, by the end of the day i wanted to be done  need - meeting. I wanted my pillow and a magazine. But God prompted me : 'Are the "needs" you meet for your husband the needs he wants met?' If our daughter's weren't perfectly primped, he didn't complain. If the kitchen floor needed mopping he didn't say a word. And if he didn't have any socks to wear he simply threw them in the washer himself. I soon realized that i regularly said 'no' to the one thing he asked of me. I sure wasn't making myself available to my husband by militantly adhering to my plan for the day...would the world end if my tires didn't get rotated? I'd been so focused on what i wanted to get done and what my children needed, i'd cut my hubby out of the picture."

Debi Pearl in her book "Created to Be His Helpmeet" says this, 

"For a woman, sexual expression starts in her mind and heart. Love is giving up your center, your self interest. It is choosing another's needs above your own.  A woman chooses to be interested or not interested in her husband's needs. So when a woman's first commitment is to her own needs and feelings, she is necessarily going to view sex as a strictly carnal experience, for then she does indeed have an entirely hedonistic outlook - her self gratification. But if a woman views sex as a ministry to her husband , then it is a selfless act of benevolence. She need not wait until she is stimulated to desire eroticism; she need only seek to fulfill her husband's needs. I have a tip for you: when you make your husband's needs central, you will get turned on to the experience and enjoy it yourself. That is the way God meant it to be. The principle is universal. Compare our christian duties. We don't minister to others because we are blessed - we minister to others because we want to bless them. It is completely incidental that the by-product of selflessly blessing others should result in our being blessed also. Eve was created to be Adam's helper. It is not in seeking personal fulfillment that she is fulfilled, rather, it is in doing her duty to bless him, that a blessing is returned upon her."

I mentioned in the beginning that the Shulamite woman from the Song of Solomon was a good helpmeet. The bible tells us that we are to love our husbands. This means in every way that they need to be loved. We were created to be his helpmeet ; to serve him in every way he needs serving and to meet all of his needs as we are able. Sex, good sex, is our duty as God honoring wives. It should also be our pleasure as women head-over-heels in love with our men. Love is a verb. As contrary as it seems, feelings and emotions follow actions. Choosing to sexually pursue your husband with a spirit of pleasure and delight will spur those sentiments in you heart even if they weren't there to begin with. I used to work as a barista at a local coffee shop. I loved the job, but i hated having to be there at o'dark thirty on frigid winter mornings to open the store. I realized however, that many people relied on their regular cup of coffee to get their morning started on the right foot and that my attitude in serving them could have an impact on their entire day. So, i decided to force myself to smile and be perky and cheerful no matter how much i wished i were still in hiding in bed under the covers. Without fail, within a matter of minutes i would completely forget about trying, because i would be in a such genuinely great mood. Our hormones repsond to stimuli in much the same matter. If you focus your heart and mind on totally pleasing your man, and respond with enjoyment to his advances, all those feel good juices will kick right in and get your body up to speed as well. It shouldn't be that hard either, think about it; this man, that you are in love with, finds you so irresistible that he just can't keep his hands off of you and is so desperate to tell you how much he loves you that he can't do it with mere words. You are the only one for him; you are his rock, the one he comes home to to find relief and reassurance in after the outside world has beaten him down, peace and relaxation in after the rigors of the day to day, the salve for his spirit when he's broken, his joy and celebration of all things good, his prize. 
I think that's quite an honor. Plus, it's fun! ;) 

Project: Homemade garters. Joann Fabric and Crafts store sells stretchy lace ribbon by the inch in multiple colors. Buy enough to wrap around your mid thigh without falling down or digging in, plus an inch or two. Them pick out a few adornments to add on such as ribbons, bows, rosettes, rhinestones, feathers, tassels, etc. Overlap the ends, add some hot glue and there you go! Have fun ;) ! (Note : i have plenty of lace and adornments left over after the party and meeting if anyone would like to rummage through my supply and make some good use of it! I also might just put it out at the next couple of meetings for anyone who wants to make a garters then in addition to our regular project.) 

Challenge:  As this is a rather personal and intimate topic, i felt that it would be better to encourage a self imposed challenge. Pick something that you would like to work on in your sex life, or an aspect of it that you would like to change or improve on, and decide on a way to go about it. Be specific, and write it down. Some ideas might be - committing to do the initiating a couple of times a month, adding a few fun new garments to your intimate wardrobe, creating a "mood music" or "background music"mix and trying it out, surprising him with a new position to experiment with, etc.

Helpful Resources:
Created to be His Helpmeet by Debi Pearl
For Women/Men Only by Shaunti/Jeff Feldhahn
Holy Sex by Michael Pearl
Intended for Pleasure by Ed and Gaye Wheat
A Celebration of Sex by Douglas Rosenau (recommended by Jeff Feldhahn for men who have the lower sex drive)
31 Days to Great Sex by Sheila Wray Gregoire (ebook available at )

Friday, May 3, 2013

Don't Kiss Dating Goodbye

   I hope that this finds you all enjoying the fruits of your pursuits in companionship with your husbands! This month we'll be building on those concepts from our last discussion, and talking about the importance of dating within the marriage. Before we can realize the importance of dating however, we must understand the purpose.

   Why did you date prior to getting married? To get to know each other?  Spend time together? To see if you were compatible....??? Why not do all of this by simply spending time with your intended at their home surrounded by their family? Or maybe by exchanging visits at work or emailing,talking on the phone or writing letters? You would be able to accomplish much the same end by all of these options, so why bother spending the time and money on actually going out and dating? If you had a "suitor" in your single days who never took you out - ever, and only used the above methods of getting to know you, how would you feel? Why is it important to date and be dated? Below are what i feel to be the four main purposes for dating and the reasons why they are still relevant in our marriages today.

1) To show an exclusive interest 
Chances are that when you were dating you would have been pretty upset to find that your boyfriend was also dating several other girls at the same time. Any smart girl would have dropped that guy like a bad habit. You wanted someone who was interested in you to the exclusion of all others. Someone who considered you worthy of top priority. Our husbands need that same attention. Shaunti Feldhahn wrote a book entitled "For Women Only" - ("What you need to know about the inner lives of men") in which she reveals some enlightening truths about the way men think about and process the various aspects of a marital relationship. She and her husband conducted an extensive survey and one of the topics she highlights in the book is romance.  On the issue of priorities, she found that one of the most common concerns among men was that kids are prioritized over the husband. The following are actual statements made by survey takers;

"It's considered the christian thing to do, be with the kids all the time. But for me as a man there is this sense of  ' i've lost my wife'. It could sound selfish but it's not. And it's not too healthy for the kids either."

"She spends too much time doting on the children and not enough time on the relationship.

"It's not just the kids that steal a wife, it's the whole to-do list. Even helping others can get in the way."

We may not be having extra marital affairs, but are we giving our husbands priority the have a right to over the other "important" things in our lives?

Maybe you think your man isn't interested in romance anymore. He certainly doesn't act like it... well the answer to the following survey question may surprise you:

"Regardless of whether or not you are able to plan romantic events or whether your wife or significant other appreciates it, do you yourself desire romance?"

The results? A whopping 84% of men said "Yes very much" or "Yes somewhat" !!!
Now that you know, take some time out of your day to focus solely on your man. Show him that he rocks your world and is still worth your undivided time and attention. Be exclusive, even if it's only for a few minutes.

2) For Pursuit
Surveys done on women in the book "For Men Only " - ("a guide for lower life forms") written by Shaunti's husband Jeff revealed that almost 90% of women feel some degree of insecurity about their relationship at some point in time. He explains to the men that their "I Do" will always be followed by "Do you Still?" over the course of the marriage. He makes the analogy of a woman's emotional bank account, that when it gets low or empty, leaves us feeling insecure. The sense of still being pursued by our husband fills up that account and prevents this. So how is this important to our male counterparts aside from avoiding the inevitable but seemingly inexplicable female emotional meltdown? Men are hard wired with a drive to give chase and to conquer. Think about it; they're constantly doing it in other areas of their life, if more subtly. Work, sports, hobbies, working out; always striving to be better, faster, smarter, to get ahead, going after something. They need to pursue us as much as we need them to pursue us. The following was an actual exchange between a woman and her male friend on the topic of romance;

-"Romance is the sense that you're still being pursued."
-"Yeah, but we caught you. Hand me the remote."

Sound depressingly familiar? Give him something to pursue! Keep it fresh! Make him feel like he hasn't    seen everything yet - keep him on his toes! It will give you both a boost.

3) To continue to get to know each other and to develop a close singular bond.
As we talked about last month, we have to continure the process. Just being away and alone together does something - allows for a closeness that can only be achieved this way. During our meeting i asked if anyone had gone through the traditional "courtship" process as opposed to just dating. (Meaning that there was always a chaperone present for any kind of socialization between the couple.) One wife 
( hope you don't mind A.!...) said yes. ( with a dramatic eye roll i might add ;)   ) When i asked what her parents' intentions were in following this process and why they felt it necessary to be present whenever the two were together, (aside from the obvious " they might have sex if we're not here " of course ;)   ) her answer was exactly what -i admit- i was fishing for. More than anything, she said, they wanted to protect her from becoming too emotionally attached. Bingo. Now that we're married, this is the perfect formula for re-sparking that sense of intimacy. Mom and dad, you can relax now. ( although we are having sex...woot woot!...but more on that later...)  This leads into our last main purpose for dating-

4)  For Quality one-on-one time (key words here being Away. and Alone.)
Don't get me wrong, i love a good at-home date night every once in a while,  and sometimes, that's all that's available, but, being at home there is always a mindfulness of "other things". You know how it is, you walk into the kitchen to grab a bottle of wine and realize that you forgot to wipe down the highchair after dinner.You get on the computer to pull up a movie and there's your facebook account with  32 new messages and "friend" requests. You decide to change into something more "comfortable" and run into a pile of laundry that could wait, but it's right there...Then just as things start to settle down ( or start up, however you like it - sorry, i'm on a roll now!) somebody's dropped their pacifier or wet the bed..... Making the time to get out of the house for a proper date night can work wonders. It reinforces the priority/exclusivity factors, again - sparks feelings of intimacy, and gives opportunity for pursuit. A note here; ladies, grocery shopping or shopping for the children (with the exception of something like christmas shopping) does not qualify as a date. Here the focus is still outward. Shopping for the home however was brought up by one wife as a very endearing and bonding experience for her and her husband and i would consider this to be an exception as well, as your home is something that you build together.

Now that we understand why it's important and that our men really do want and need romance too, the big question for many wives is, why aren't they pursuing it?  In her book, Shaunti writes that when asked if they could plan a romantic event that their wife or significant other would appreciate, even though the majority - 56% said " yes, i could do it with style" the remaining 46% - a generous minority, were unsure or lacked confidence. The top reasons?
-"I won't do a good job." - Fear of humiliation. Most men would rather not try, than try with the risk of failing.
- Haunted by past romantic failures. - The story was told of a man who had spent a considerable amount of time searching for a very particular anniversary present for his wife, and was really jazzed about it. She opened it, said "Thanks sweetheart." with a peck on the cheek, and immediately began to talk about where they would be eating dinner. This anticlimactic reaction to all of his hard work and forethought was like a bucket of cold water, and next year she can count on a box of chocolates and a Hallmark card.

-It's difficult for them to change gears. - Imagine you've had an unusually long day - playing catch-up with the housework or dealing with difficult customers at your job, teething baby, headache, burnt dinner, car trouble, fill in the blanks. Your husband walks in the door and the first thing you want to do is.....strap on a sexy piece of lingerie and hop in the sack, right? You know, just "X" out all those little windows in your mind and put it in hibernate for a few. No? Ok, that's about how reasonable it is to expect most men to just drop their load at the door and jump into a romantic interlude. 

-"Yeah but we caught you.Hand me the remote" - oh yeah? read on ladies....

Here's how we as wives can help combat these stumbling blocks of insecurity and unleash the romantic potential our husbands hold.
-Help them to understand what you like, expect, want and need from them romantically so they are not left stabbing in the dark. Our project at the meeting centered around this point. (see below) Give them something to work with so that they can go forth with some amount of direction and confidence.
-Encourage! No teasing. Only sincere appreciation and building up. A great time to do this is in public. Brag to your friends about the wonderful dinner he treated you to. Show off the new piece of jewelry he bought you. Do it in his presence with a wink and a big smile. If he's not around, do it anyway. It's a  good practice. Then go home and tell him all about how you gushed about his romantic prowess to everyone who would listen and how impressed/jealous they were. This man put it very simply,

"Encourage me and affirm my efforts and i'll run through a brick wall to please you. But don't just assume i know you're pleased. I'm way outside my comfort zone. I'm willing to be a fool for you, but just tell me i did good. And give me sex. That helps too"

- Allow them to decompress. Ask how their day was and don't settle for just "fine." Think ahead of some specific questions to spur the daily detox. Practice patient and mindful listening. Allow them to vent and get the world off their shoulders before asking them to take on the needs of the home as well. Once they are freed up in this way they will be better equipped and more willing and able to meet your needs.

- Again, give them something to pursue. Flirt! ( For a fun resource on this check out Rhonda Rich's "What Southern Women Know About Flirting ") Get fixed up! One thing i have learned over the years is to dress for the occasion over the  location. I mean really, if we only get dolled up when he takes us to a 4 star restaurant, first of all you won't have nearly enough opportunities to wear those cute new heels that he loves to see you in (hint hint...) , but secondly, what are we really dressing up for? Even if it's just Taco Bell we still have the same date right? Do it for him. Don't think about looking or feeling out of place, nobody is going to know who you are and where you're headed or where you've just come from. Again, show him that he's still worth the extra effort.Want to see your husband puff up with pride over you like the alpha rooster in a hen house? Put on a little perfume and eyeliner, hang on his arm like a trophy and let him show off his "prize" to all the other men. He will work to be worthy of you. Plus, it's fun.

Now, there may be some of you who's husbands are in that confident 56% and you just don't realize it. Following the question about their need/desire for romance one survey taker who stated that it was very important to him added

  "but we have different definitions"

So the question was posed- "If you take sex out of the equation, which of the following do you find more romantic for yourself?"

They were given three options; the first being the traditional notion of a romantic event- for example, a candlelight dinner,a cozy snuggle by the fire, or watching a sunset on the beach; the second being the idea of getting out and doing things with their wife/significant other and playing together- for example, hiking together, golfing together, or driving around and exploring; and the third option being that neither of the first two seemed romantic. Again, the answer was surprising - 59% chose option one ,  the traditional notion.But, again, a large minority - 39% chose the option of doing something active or playing together. (2% said neither. um...ok....) Last month we talked about the importance of being playful and doing projects or new activities together. Is it possible that you have missed out on opportunities to enjoy a romantic time together because you didn't realize it was romantic? One man put  it this way:

"Most men don't want to abandon their wife to do guy things.They want to do "guy things" with their wife. They want her to be their playmate.It's no different from when they were dating. For a guy, a big part of the thrill was doing fun things together.The woman who is having fun with her husband is incredibly attractive. If you see a woman out playing golf with her husband, i guarantee that all the other guys are jealous. Getting out and having fun together falls of in marriage because of various responsibilities, but men still want to play with their wives."

Notice the terms he uses here; playmate...thrill...having fun...incredibly attractive... sounds pretty romantic to me! I can personally attest to the truth of this too, because lucky for me, Michael and i have very similar interests and i love being alongside him whatever he's doing. He has told me many times how he loves to brag to his guy friends about how we go snowboarding together, or rock climbing, or how i would rather be outside around a campfire than listening to soft music by candlelight. It makes him feel good, and makes me want to do those things even more. So find out what your man's definition of romantic is and be on the lookout for opportunities to engage him in those activities.

Now, last but not least, the issue of romance and sex. I don't think i can make it any clearer than these men:

"It is hard for men to delineate romance without sex. It's all a part of it. If men are romantic, they want sex. If there were no moral or societal constraints, romance would always lead to sex."

" I love setting up a romantic evening, but it is a lot of work for me.And i don't think my wife realizes that when i am being romantic, i've got a very specific endpoint in mind. So sometimes there's intense disappointment after all that work!" (A note here; ladies, your husband should not feel like he has to put an extensive amount of work into a romantic event to get sex from you. "Do not deprive each other...
1 Cor. 7:5 Just sayin'...)

"A guy wants romance not to somehow manipulate sex, but to re-experience the spark of dating, to reconnect after draining days of work at the office, to feel love and intimacy, to know he is wanted and enjoyed, and to utterly escape the crushing, non - stop pressure of life. And sex can be a wonderful part of all that.Romance is about being with the person you love and discovering to one's monumental delight that she too wants to escape - with me!"

And I love this one - 
"The guy is thinking, if romance is about feeling emotionally connected, and sex is my way of being emotionally connected, and we're already being romantic, then why not now?If we're going to have sex sometime in the next month, wouldn't now be a good time?"

Got it? ; )

A few final thoughts....
-Date night babysitting trade offs. This is one of the best ideas i have heard in a long time and i cannot wait to implement it . Having to hire a babysitter can easily double the cost of a date , not to mention the fact that there are the issues of availability, reliability, time frame, etc., and if you always use family members like we do, there's always the concern that you're overburdening them or that they might feel you are taking their availability for granted. If you can find another family that is close by, has similar family values, and is familiar with your children and vice versa, then it can become an even exchange where you are guaranteed a sitter, and it's free. Set up a monthly or bi-monthly date ( for example: 3rd Friday night,2nd Saturday afternoon) and commit to being available on that date, whether it's to spend time with your husband, or to watch your partner couple's kids so that they can get away. 

-Alternating date planning. Michael and i have been doing this for a while and it's really proven to be a lot of fun. There are several benefits; first of all it takes the pressure off of one person doing all the planning, all the time. It eliminates the "ok we have a sitter, we're dressed and sitting in the car, now where do we go and what do we do" scenario. (emphasis on date planning here.) It's a good way to balance different tastes and preferences - for example, Michael's top pick for cuisine is Japanese. Sushi in particular. His last choice is usually Mexican. This is one area where we differ. My preferences are the exact opposite. Now however, he doesn't have to feel guilty about taking me out to Sushi Thai this month because he knows that next month we'll probably be going to El Dorado. On the flipside of this it also gives you the opportunity to express love for each other in a selfless way and to show deference by planning something that you know the other would especially like, but might not plan for the two of you. It's also a really fun way to spring a surprise. 

Project : "How can you love me? Let me count the ways..."
Make a list of 10 things that you find particularly romantic and give it to your husband as a cheat sheet. Try to keep it general so that the ideas can be used more than once or in more than one way. Foe example, a couple of mine are:

-Outdoor activities
-Going to get coffee
-Dessert and movies in bed

If you'd like, and especially if you plan on doing alternating date planning, have your husband do the same for you. 

Challenge : Plan and execute a date with your man from start to finish (and i mean finish)
Hire a sitter or find a family to trade with, decide where to eat, what to do, what time, get fixed up and have a good time. Bonus points if it's a surprise.

 Creative Date Ideas                                                             
vineyard tours (childress,gregory,shelton...)
lakes (benson,jordan..)
hiking (raven rock,eno river...)
outdoor movies (koka booth, hillsboro street,raleigh art museum...)
motor boats on lake benson
live music
miniature golf
go karts
ice skating
dancing (triangle swing dance society,loafers beach club)

Recommended Restaurants
Oliver Twist
Peak City Grill
P.F. Chang's
2nd Empire
Irregardless Cafe

That's it girls, until next time, have fun ;) ! Can't wait to hear about your awesome dates! Our next meeting will be on Wednesday May 22nd, 7pm at my home.  Our topic, back by popular demand and in seemingly appropriate order, " The Proverbs 31 Song of Solomon Woman" . 
Hope to see you there!....Much Love, Georgia