The Truth About Valentine’s Day

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In the dark of night, under the cloak of secrecy, she said, “I do” to the man who had walked with her through the pain and terror and the excitement and laughter of the past two years.  Quietly, guided by the whispers of the Christian priest Valentine, he said, “I do,” with a silent prayer that it would not be for the last time.  In the morning he would be headed off to war – to battle – called to fight for Claudius II Gothicus, one he does not believe in for a cause he does not agree with, at the penalty of death. His only earthly light was the love of this woman beside him.  The least he could do was set her up to be taken care of should the unspeakable happen.

There are many stories behind the history of Valentine’s Day.  Some say it was because St. Valentine performed secrete marital ceremonies against Emperor Claudius II Gothicus’s decree against engagements and marriages in Rome.  Some say it was to Christianize the pagan celebration of Lupercalia (a celebration of purification and fertility).

Whatever the reason, the reality is we celebrate the day in practice as a way to celebrate those we love.  The day has become one to celebrate your significant other.  But, it is more than that. 

For those of us who have to spend days like this apart from our “better-halves” or for you single parents who are widowed, left, or worse, it is a day to remind you that you are alone. 

I do not think that is true.  I think this day is a great way to remember those who love you and those whom you love. It is a day to act in love, mercy, and kindness.  It is a day to remember that you are never alone.  A day to count your blessings.

In a social distancing world, where we have pitted ourselves against the other because of a sniffle or politics or the way we dress, this is a great time to remind ourselves that we all bleed the same.  We all cry, laugh, mourn and dance.  This is a time to change our hearts and practice what we preach – love.

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Here are some ways to bring more love into your marriage: 

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  1. Schedule priority time together. I have said this again and again….dating should not stop just because we said, “I do.” Dating should just be beginning. We change so much as we grow. Dating helps keep us connected to the changes of the other person. This is valuable invested time in the marriage. Pull out your calendars and set a date every week or two—just to spend time together and talk.
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2. Laugh together. One of the reasons I married my awesome husband was he made me laugh.  That sounds cliché, but in reality, it is really hard to get me to laugh – much less guffaw.  Laughter truly is the best medicine and brings healing and bonding.  When was the last time you shared a funny story and chuckled with each other? We like finding little jokes and sharing them with each other (especially when we are apart for work).  As the song goes, “Girl, let your hair down.”  Laugh freely – give yourself permission.  Live lightheartedly!

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3. Play together.  I love this one.  It is so easy to forget how to play as adults when faced with the reality of the world.  We get stuck in bills, taxes, doctor appointments, and dinner we forget how to play.  That childlike view of the world disappears.  Another reason I adore my husband, he makes it easy to find that child again.  We love to play together.  We especially like crating together (and yes, I will watch the stories of the video games he plays…they can be quite good).  I encourage you to find a hobby or activity you both enjoy: fishing, bowling, tennis, hiking, biking, crafting.  It is also ok to take turns on things only one of you enjoys and spend time doing what the other likes.  You learn a lot about your mate that way.

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4. Be romantic together. It is no secret to those who know me well, I love words of affirmation.  I love hearing compliments.  I love quality time hanging out with Hubby.  My husband, on the other hand, loves gifts and service.  He feels most loved when something has been done for him or a special trinket arrives for him. Our love languages are different, but not incompatible.   For my birthday I asked my husband to write a letter, poem, or story of why he loves me.  For his Christmas present, I cleaned the garage and got him the gaming system he wanted.  Send your spouse a note of encouragement in the mail every once in a while, just to say, “I love you.” (I keep a list and little sticky notes around my office and bathroom of the romantic and uplifting things he has said to remind me on days that feel distant). When possible, spend one or two weekends away each year just with your spouse. (No buddies or children allowed.)

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5. Be grateful.  I was reminded this week how much we take for granted in marriage and in partnership.  It is easy in marriage to compare the circumstance of each other and think one has it harder than the other.  In reality, it is just as hard for your spouse as it is for you.  That is why love is a choice.  Love is work.  Love is patient. Love is kind.  Love keeps no records of wrongs.  So, say “Thank you” to your spouse.  You know you are not perfect.  They choose to love you anyway. They choose to work through your baggage with you.  They choose to walk through life with you.  So thank you.  Purpose your days to see all the things they do that make your life better and acknowledge that. 

While Valentine’s Day is a good time to put some spark into your relationship, the only way to fan the flame of a good relationship is for every day to have a Hallmark moment. 

What are you doing to fan the flame of your marriage?

6 Steps to a Gratitude Attitude

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Happy Halloween!  Belated as it might be.  I apologize for the silence the past two weeks – technical issues abounded.  All bugs have been sorted and we should be fully operational.  Thank you for being patient with me.

This month is all about gratitude.  Thankfulness.  Something most Americans, and I would wager most first-world citizens, are in desperate need of. 

This past month, as a mom of an adolescent, I found myself often frustrated by the poor choices my son made.  It felt like no matter what we as parents did, my son was determined to make poos choices.  My son was successful in breaking something every – single – day for one week straight. Dealing with crazy work demands and trying to figure out how to balance everyone’s needs seemed more complicated than usual.

Honestly, there were some days it felt hopeless.  I felt the world against me.  I felt frustrated with the special needs I have to deal with, the demands of work for both myself and my husband.  I felt very alone. But that is never the case, is it?

So, how do we pull ourselves out of these dark moments as moms and dads?  How do we remind ourselves of the enormous amounts of blessings that are part of our lives daily? How do we develop a Gratitude Attitude?

Here are my five steps to having a Gratitude Attitude as a parent, and for life:

  1. PERSPECTIVEDid you know, according to an article published by Anup Shah in 2013, at least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day ($3,640 annually)?  Almost 2 in 3 people lack access to clean water to survive on less than $2 a day ($884 annually)?  More than 660 million people without sanitation live on less than $2 a day?  More than 385 million live on less than $1 day ($364 annually)?  Or that 1.6 billion people (1/4 humanity) live without electricity?  The stats are a bit outdated, but the principle remains the same.  The first world has champagne problems.

As I write this, I am sipping my fair trade Laughing Man coffee (super yummy), my son is creating art with actual paper and pencils and we are enjoying a beautiful sunny cool fall day on the deck in our backyard.  We have a wonderful home, a beautiful big yard, and my husband and I both have jobs.  Our bellies are always full, and we can pull out water from any faucet (or our fridge) whenever the notion strikes.  And my son had enough in our house to break something every single day in one week and still, our house functioned just fine. I find a gratitude attitude starts with the right mind set – reset your mind.

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2. RENEW YOUR MIND: If you are like me at all, what you watch, read, scroll through, etc. all affect your state of mind.  When I watch scary movies, I get scared.  When I focus on the negative comments in a scroll, my mind is negative.  When I read an intense book, my anxiety rises.  We need to renew our minds – start treating them like we do our bodies. 

Just like a healthy body needs exercise and quality food nutrition, a mind needs exercise and quality food nourishment.  Reading is essential to renewing your mind.  Don’t just read novels (though I like those).  I find reading historical books, world solution books, and culture books help me to see the world from another’s perspective more.  I have attached some of my favorite books to help get you started in this.  

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3. MEDITATE: This sounds New Age and for some a little hippie, but what a difference it makes!  Most people picture meditation as sitting on a yoga mat with your feet crossed and saying,” om,” in a quiet voice.  There is so much more to it.  Meditation is simply the practice of focusing your mind.  What you focus on is just as important.  Focusing on whatever is true, beautiful, pure, lovely, admirable, think on these things.  For those who pray, this is a great time for that.  I find doing this throughout my day is beneficial to keeping my mind in a good place.  There are a lot of apps that can help make this a daily practice.  I like Calm and the Abide podcast.

4. WORKOUT I try to do a 30-60-minute workout four times a week.  Ideally, we should be moving our bodies cardiovascularly at least 30 minutes a day, but in life, I find that is not always possible. I have a love-hate relationship with working out.  I hate the getting started part…and doing the workout part.  But, I love how I feel when I am done.  I find I feel less stressed, more energized, and sleep so much better.  There are other benefits to working-out too – higher happiness levels, better success setting and meeting goals, improved memory, and concentration and so much more.  

5. GET OUT IN NATURE: In a world of computer screens, tablets, phones, and social media, we often forget the importance of getting outside. So often, people get their dose of nature from a documentary in the comfort of their own home. But that does not have all the same benefits of actually walking outside, getting sun on your face, and enjoying the sights and sounds around you.

There is a great article, The Positive Effects of Nature on Your Mental Well-being, published on October 16, 2020, that goes in-depth into the numerous benefits of nature. Here are just some of the highlights. Nature helps emotional well being, and memory focus (for those with special needs kids, this is a wonderful FREE tool). Nature lowers stress and helps those suffering from depression. Nature walks and other outdoor activities help build attention and focus. This is a great way to spend time with the family and increase school focus later. And one recent study shows spending more time outside and less time in front of a computer can help increase our problem-solving and creative thinking.

6. CHOSE JOY: This may sound the simplest, but it can be the hardest.  It is so easy to get bogged down in the nitty-gritty of life – the doctor’s appointments, the tantrums, the politics of the world, the pandemic.  There is so much negative out there.  It is easier to find the negative and focus on that than it is really to choose joy.  This is different than happiness (a fleeting feeling).  Joy is a deeper peace and understanding that it is good in the world.  Good will win.  Joy is actively counting our blessings and naming them one by one.  This is hard in a society where we judge each other instantaneously on 15 different social media platforms.  This is hard when everyone’s voice is fighting to be heard.  This is hard when we encourage the negative in our feeds.  To make this a higher priority in my life, I have ceased actively participating in social media – outside of this blog and its Facebook page.  Oh, sweet relief!  Oh, calmer and happier self!  I highly recommend at least a social media fast for a bit and see how it affects your mental and emotional state.

Having a gratitude attitude is not always an easy process.  It is often contrary to our society’s love for drama, negatively, and sin – let’s call it what it is.  Our society has been constructed to be all about Me and less about others.  When we change our perspective to helping others and focusing our minds on what is true, noble, pure, and good, it is amazing how grateful we are.  It is amazing how truly blessed we are.  It is amazing how these small actions can change our lives for the better forever.

For more tips and tricks on how to have a gratitude attitude, check out my Facebook page.