Friday, December 17, 2010

Its Really all about our Children

There have been many newspaper and magazine articles about the latest marriage research released by Pew Research and The National Marriage Project.  Both show that we are seeing a serious decline in marriage and a huge increase in the number of children born out of wedlock in lower and middle class America.  While some may espouse "To each his own" when it comes to whether people choose to marry or have a child out of wedlock, these choices will seriously impact you, me and everybody else over time.
The consequences for children growing up in homes without their two married parents are enormous.  Before you hit the comment button, hear me out.  I am not against single parents.  I AM for what is best for children and what we know based on decades of research is children who grow up in a home with their two married parents do better in every area of life.

If you are thinking not my problem,  this doesn't impact you because you have an intact marriage, think again.  Believing that what other people do behind closed doors doesn't impact anybody else is like living with your head in the sand.  We are all impacted on a daily basis by the decisions people make for example, if your child is friends with someone whose parents divorce or your child decides she wants to date a boy who has grown up without a father figure what does this mean for your child?  Chances are you are going to be answering questions about divorce and wondering if this young man has any idea how to treat your daughter since he may never have had a healthy male role model in his life.

There are many other examples I could give you about how this problem impacts you in every area of life including your bank account.

This is why the work of First Things First is critical.  People of every walk of life need to understand that marriage and childbearing go hand in hand.  If you are concerned about child well-being we need you to be part of the army of people who are willing to talk about the importance of healthy marriage and its connection to raising healthy children. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Reasons Why Marriage is Relevant

I read with interest the media headlines about the new Pew Study on marriage.  "4 in 10 Say Marriage is Irrelevant," "We're Just Not that into Marriage," "I Don't, Twenty-Somethings in New York aren't the marrying kind," and  "More Americans may Believe Marriage is Obsolete" are just a few of the headlines across the country.

So if you take that at surface value you might think that people really aren't into marriage, but if you dig into the research what you actually find is that Americans are very into marriage - so much so that we are the most marrying, divorcing and re-marrying country in the world.

While perception is reality for people, it doesn't mean their perception is necessarily accurate.

Studies indicate that marriage is declining for those on the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder, this doesn't mean that those of lower socio-economic means do not desire to marry.  They do!  (Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood before Marriage by Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas)

Interestingly, the Pew study shows that marriage is still the norm for those with a college education. 

It might surprise you to know that more than 80 percent of high school seniors consider marriage an important part of their future plans.

Research consistently shows that almost 90 percent of Americans plan to marry at some point in their lives. 

A major change noted by the Pew study indicates that people are more willing to consider other types of living arrangements a "family."  However, research indicates that there are certain benefits that only marriage provides for people.  While one might assume that these benefits would transfer to those who live together or other family forms, the research shows they do not (The Case for Marriage by Linda Waite, University of Chicago and Maggie Gallagher).

There is robust research that shows marriage has a positive impact on health, wellness, finances, community development, economic development, education, men, women and CHILDREN.  Children who grow up in married parent households are less likely to suffer abuse, more likely to do well in school, less likely to experience depression or be involved in risky behaviors.  These children are also less likely to grow up in poverty.  Of families living in poverty only 6 percent are married parent homes with children under the age of 18 compared to single parent homes with children under the age of 18 at more than 40 percent.
So why might people delay marriage or believe it is obsolete?  Perhaps it has something do to with relationship skills.   People assume if they are in love they can make marriage work.  OR, if they have never seen marriage work, they assume they can't make it work either.  Hence the increase in living together.

People who assume that love will carry them through often experience a rude awakening when they find out they don't feel so loving towards their mate.

There are lots of couples rushing to the alter after only knowing each other for a few months - while there are exceptions to this rule - it is highly unlikely that you can really know a person in a short amount of time - thus these couples only a few months into their marriage begin wondering if they made a big mistake.

Additionally, people today are entering into marriage with unrealistic expectations such as, if you are my soulmate we should never disagree, and  my spouse should be able to meet all my needs.

No great civilization has ever survived without marriage and family. 

Marriage does matter to our country. 

Perhaps people would think more highly of marriage if they were more successful at it.  Maybe we ought to encourage couples to slow down and do those things we know can help them be successful in their marriage over the long haul like - taking at least a year to really get to know one another before they commit to each other and taking a premarital education class to learn the skills to help them have a healthy marriage. 


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Are you Askable?

Where did I come from?  What is sex?  How did that baby get in that lady's tummy?  Why does her bottom look different than mine?


For many parents, these are show stopping questions that make their face turn red and cause them to be at a loss for words.  Isn't it interesting that you the parent, the one who has been charged with raising a precious child can have no idea where to begin a discussion about this topic and yet the media and a bunch of people who don't even know your child feel very free to speak about sex and to give advice to your child?

Whether we like it or not, if we don't step up to the plate and talk to our kids about sex and what a healthy relationship looks like, somebody will and it might just be someone who doesn't have very good intentions.

October is national Let's Talk month.  Parents are encouraged to either begin or continue conversations with their children about sex and healthy dating relationships.  Research shows that in spite of eye rolling and statements like, "This is so embarrassing" young people do want to hear from their parents about these issues.

For tips on talking with your child about sex and healthy dating relationships visit our website.  

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Chattanooga's Great Date Night

Chattanooga's Great Date Night is coming October 5th to the Chattanooga Convention Center from 6:45 pm to 9:00 p.m. Go to to get your FREE tickets! Great door prizes including cruises, weekend getaways, free Chik-fil-A, and more! You must be present to win!!!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Marriage Getaway

Jay and I recently had the opportunity to experience a marriage adventure with three other couples.  The intent of the week was to rest, relax and rejuvenate our marriage.

 We ate, swam, snorkeled, slept until we wanted to get up, went to bed when we were tired, ate, read, told stories, laughed a lot, played games, talked and there were times when you could catch us actually doing nothing! Did I mention that we ate?  :-) There was lots of time to reconnect with your spouse.  We spent time in prayer and had marriage devotions every evening.

Let me tell you what we didn't do.  We didn't watch television at all for an entire week nor did we get on the computer and for the majority of the time our cell phones were in the off position and stowed away so we weren't tempted to check email or make phone calls.  We really didn't talk about work or seek to solve the problems of the world.

We watched the sun set and sometimes we got to see a beautiful sunrise....  We were in awe of God's creation.

 It really was  great romantic adventure
 I think we sometimes don't believe it is really all that important to get away and focus on our marriage, especially when children come along and life gets crazy.  The reality is if we want to stay connected as a couple, time away is a necessity.  It doesn't have to be an entire week, it could be a weekend and it doesn't have to cost a ton of money. My gut tells me if couples invested more time in making sure they stay connected we would see fewer marriages end up on the rocks.

Here's to more romantic getaways!  

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Life is Tough Sometimes

This is our sweet Rozee sleeping on her pillows in the family room.

Ashley with Rozee at Christmas.

Today we had to put Rozee to sleep.  :-(     When Ashley was 4 she picked Rozee out to be her puppy.  Back in the day Rozee could catch a Frisbee in mid air and fetch two tennis balls at one time returning to her master with both tennis balls in her mouth.  That was quite a sight!  One time she went to school with Ashley to show off her talent in front of all the kids.  They LOVED her.

Rozee was infamous for going totally crazy when my husband came back through the door - even if he had only been gone for a few minutes.  She would dance around in circles and jump up and down until he took her outside to play.

She tolerated many dress up sessions with Ashley and allowed her picture to be taken in some pretty funny outfits!

We always joked that if anybody tried to break in the house Rozee would lick them to death!

At age 13 Rozee had definitely slowed down, but she still liked her morning walk and never wanted to be left behind if she thought people were headed outside to play.

So, today was a very sad day for our family.  However, we have a lot of great memories of her that will last a lifetime.  She was a wonderful member of the family! 

Monday, May 31, 2010

Freedom Costs

Sitting here this morning thinking about how blessed I am to live in a free country.  We live in an amazing place.  Yesterday during our worship service was devoted to honoring those who have served and those currently serving to protect our freedom.  It was very emotional.

Last night we watched a fantastic Memorial Day concert on PBS.  So many amazing stories of service and sacrifice.  My heart hurt as I thought about all the families impacted by loss suffered due to war.

I pray I never take for granted the life I get to live thanks to our military.

Thank you to all the men and women who have served and are serving and thank you to the families who do their own tour of duty when a loved one is deployed.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Day on the Set of Courageous

I spent the day on the set for the new movie from Sherwood Pictures (the creators of Fireproof).  I can sum it up in one word, AMAZING!  Courageous is set for release in 2011 and trust me, you won't want to miss it!  The actors were impressive and the cinematography was incredible.
Our morning devotion was by the Voices of Mobile.  They were fantastic!
Then Stephen Kendrick gave us an update on the movie and talked with us about the scene they would be shooting this morning.

This afternoon we ate lunch at Pearly's, an Albany landmark.  YUM!  We toured through the sports complex that the church has built for the community to use.  Absolutely incredible.  We headed back to the set to spend some time with the cast and crew and then it was off to the church to see some clips from the movie.  All I can say is WOW!!!!!  Action packed, good humor and storylines we can all related to.  I cannot wait for this movie to be released.   You can find out more at and you can "like" the movie at

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Social Justice Issue

I think teen pregnancy is perhaps one of the greatest social injustices of our time.

In Hamilton country 690 teen girls became pregnant in 2007. While Tennessee is one of the few states that continues to see a decrease in teen pregnancies, there are still far too many teens getting pregnant.

A recent study published by the Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy indicates that:
a child born to a teen mothers has a 27 percent chance of growing up in poverty. If the teen mother is not married at the time of the birth of the child, which most of them are not, the chances of the child growing up in poverty increase to 42 percent. If the teen mother does not graduate from high school or get her GED (Two-thirds of teen moms do not graduate from high school) the child will likely spend 64 percent of his life in poverty.

In contrast - if none of these things happen, a child's chances of growing up in poverty is only 7 percent.

Playing around with sex is like playing with fire, except the person playing fire isn't the only one who gets burned. We have a lot of babies raising babies. This is a huge problem.

I think the best news is there are things we can do to make a difference.

Teens can break the cycle and choose abstinence.

Parents can talk to their teens about the real facts surrounding teen pregnancy. For example,
8 out of 10 teen fathers do not marry the mother of their child.

Sarah Brown, CEO of the National Campaign encourages parents to engage their teens in conversation about the following:
Babies don't cement a relationship, they often put tremendous stress on them.
Babies need to be raised by adults, not children who are still trying to figure things out.
If it happens, it happens is no way to begin a family!

As parents we really have a responsibility to talk with our kids about these issues - even when it feels awkward and uncomfortable and they complain. They may seem smart, but the truth is when it comes to life issues they still need a tremendous amount of guidance.

Raising children in this day and age in more complicated than ever! As a mom of a 17-year-old I am constantly aware of all the craziness of the culture and the messages that are being sent about sex and dating. My goals have been to make sure she has accurate information so she can make wise decisions and to help her see how her decisions today will impact her tomorrow and for years to come.

There are a number of great websites with helpful information. Talk to friends , The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and Live on Point

Friday, April 23, 2010

Prom - How Times Have Changed

I remember prom when I was in high school. All the girls anxiously waited to see if someone was going to ask them to prom because if you didn't have a date you didn't go.

This year as prom time rolled around, our daughter started talking about the pros and cons of going with a date to the prom. The conversations went something like, "If someone asks you and you say yes then people assume you "like" this person and you are dating. Also, that means you are stuck with one person for the entire evening - like you have to entertain them. I think I would rather go with some friends and be able to just enjoy the evening."

So, that is exactly what she and a couple of her friends did. They made reservations for dinner at a nice restaurant. My husband was their chauffeur for the evening. He dropped them off for dinner. Picked them up when they called and delivered them to the prom. When prom was over he took them to an after-party and then onto Krispy Kreme for hot donuts!

I love that it was an option for her to just go with some good friends and have a great time. Based on all the chatter afterwards I am pretty certain she will carry fun memories of her prom night into the next chapter of her life.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Empty Nest

Our daughter is getting ready to graduate from high school. In the last month or so I have been asked questions like, "How are you doing with all this?" or "Are you guys ready for the empty nest?"

Truth be told I think we are doing pretty well. There are a lot of things we intentionally decided to drop or not do when our daughter was born. I think both of us are looking forward to picking up some of those things and investing more time in some newer interests like sailing.

I'm sure things are going to be very different and it will be an adjustment. Guaranteed the house will be much quieter and my husband won't be walking around behind our daughter reminding her to pick up her shoes, books, purse and various other things and take them to her room. But - - I think we are going to be okay.

When our daughter was a newborn a wise friend told us to be sure to take good care of our marriage because even though there would be days when we thought 18 would never come, it would arrive and we would be back to just the two of us. Lately I've been asking myself where the time went and I'm glad we heeded her advice.

So for all you guys who are already emptynesters, what's your best advice?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Are you a Happy Wife?

The other day I ran across this website, happy wives club. I am definitely a happy wife. In this day and age when we mostly hear about how unhappy people are it was refreshing to run across this site.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that my husband and I never have disagreements or tough times. I'm just saying overarchingly I am a happy wife. I think part of it is my mindset, but I give a lot of credit to my husband who is very intentional about taking good care of our relationship. That is a real blessing.

Are you a happy wife?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Oscar Night and Sandra Bullock

I have to confess that I don't usually watch the awards shows, but this past Sunday I watched the Oscars. I was really pulling for Sandra Bullock to win an award for The Blind Side.

I watched the Barbara Walters special beforehand. In her interview with Bullock, Barbara commented that Sandra's parents were married for a very long time. Then she asked Sandra what she thought her mother would say about her nomination if she were still alive. Sandra responded that her mother would be mortified if there was a tear shed during her acceptance speech. She also said that her mom always worried that her kids would be normal. Her mother encouraged them not to be like everybody else, but to be original. What a gift.

I have to say I thought Sandra Bullock was a class act. Her dress was stunning. Her humility was clearly evident along with her sense of humor. Her acceptance speech was gracious. I loved the way Sandra talked about her mother, how her mom clearly protected her, taught her the importance of hard work, that everybody is important no matter who you are or where you come from and how to love.

I got kind of emotional when they showed her husband looking at her with adoration. You could so clearly see how proud he was of her.

When your children are grown, what do you hope they will say you taught them about life?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Prom Night

Do you remember prom night? Most people would agree that there have always been crazy things that have happened on prom night. While this night is considered a rite of passage, there are some things that just don't mix well with prom. Alcohol and drunk driving are a given, but what about getting a hotel room? I have racked my brain to try and figure out what good could come from juniors and seniors in high school having a hotel room? The other thing that doesn't work well is not having a real plan for the evening. It's just too easy to follow the crowd when you don't have a plan.

As parents our goal is to help our kids make this a real night to remember, not because of bad things that happen, but because of the great time they had. So, how do we do that?

Be clear about your expectations.

Ask for an itinerary including where they will be, who they will be with and what they plan to do after the prom.

Discuss the risks of drinking/drinking and driving and remind them that if they do this and they get caught chances are good they will lose their license for a year never mind the potential to hurt innocent people in the process.

Consider hosting a prom after party or a midnight breakfast at your house with no alcohol.

Encourage your teen to attend Prom Night 4-1-1 so they don't have a 9-1-1 on prom night.

One of the best ways to show your teens you love them is to set limits and help your teen understand the limits are intended to make sure that the best laid prom plans are played out in a safe environment.

What do you remember about your prom night????

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Dads and Daughters

It was tooo much fun watching all the Dads bringing their daughters to Father Daughter date night at Chick-fil-A. Girls young and old were stylin' as they stepped out on the town with their dad. The looks on their faces were priceless.

Linen tablecloths, long-stem roses for the daughters, and candles on the table set the tone for a great dinner with dad.

Once dads and daughters were seated, someone came and took their order. While they were waiting for their food, there were questions on the table for them to discuss like what is your favorite movie, who is your best friend or who is your favorite athlete and why?

I loved watching the interaction between the girls and their fathers. Many of the them were very young. As they were being seated I watched dads help the girls take off their coats. Then they pulled out the chair for them or helped them get situated in a booth. What a great lesson in how they should expect to be treated by a guy.

I loved hearing all the chatter at the tables. I didn't see dads on cell phones or their Blackberries. They were totally focused on their daughters.

Special memories were made that night that will never be forgotten!


More pictures from Father Daughter Datenight

Thursday, February 4, 2010

If you're not loving your spouse, who is????

So, on a scale of 1-10 (1 being in the pits and 10 being off the charts great) how well are you loving your spouse? I think I would give myself an 8.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Love, Affection and Appreciation

Can't believe it is February already. The month of the Super Bowl, the Daytona 500 and of course Valentine's Day. For the next couple of weeks we are going to be inundated with ads for spa treatments, romantic dinners, chocolate, flowers and more. This is a good thing, but I wish it weren't just in the month of February. Romance, affection and appreciation are a good thing all year round.

When's the last time you wrote a love letter to your spouse or a note of appreciation to your parents or a friend?

When's the last time you took your spouse out on a date or took the time to sit down with a good friend over a cup of hot tea or coffee?

Whether you are married.... or not, young or old, Valentine's Day could be a great time to kick-off a year of intentional love, affection and appreciation.

At a loss for what to do? Here are a few ideas:

  • Hand write a love letter - you can actually get a Love Letter kit from
  • Schedule time each day to actually talk with your spouse
  • Take time to meet a friend for lunch
  • Tell the people you love "I love you"
  • Plan a creative date for your spouse - even if you can't afford a babysitter, plan an in-home date
  • Recreate your favorite date from the past
  • Purchase a bouquet or a romantic gift basket from Flower Fest and support the work of First Things First
  • Take time to play with your children
  • Give your spouse the day off and don't hold it over their head later
  • Schedule a couple's massage
  • Take a walk holding hands - research actually shows that a woman's blood pressure goes down when she is holding the hand of her spouse
  • Do that thing that your spouse has been asking you to do for months
  • Watch the Super Bowl with your spouse even if you don't like Football, you don't have to say a word, he'll enjoy just sitting should to should with you.
Lets help each other be creative. What would you add to the list???? Lets keep the list PG13 please. :-)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

I Love Snow!!!!

Finally, a real snow. My daughter is almost 17 and this is the first REAL snow storm we have had since she was born. Woo Hoo!!!

I love snow because it forces all of us to slow down. Having worked for a hospital at one time in my life, I know snow makes life crazy for some folks. But, I still think it is nice every once in a while to get an unexpected break...and not because you are sick.

I have talked to people today who lost power or can't get out of their driveway and nobody is really complaining, they're just making the best of it. I think it is times like these that actually bring people together. The other thing I LOVE about snow is it brings out the kid in people. Snowball fights, building a snowman or sledding - nobody gets "too old" to do those things.

Got any good snow stories????

Friday, January 22, 2010

Raising Children

Yesterday someone shared with me about an elementary age little girl who showed up late to school and she was crying. She wasn't crying because she was late to class. She was crying because she was hungry and she had missed breakfast at school because her bus was late. When her teacher inquired about who helped her get ready in the morning she said no one because her mother never gets out of bed before she leaves for school.

Did you know that a child born and raised outside of marriage will spend an average of 51 percent of his/her childhood living in poverty?

In contrast, a child born and raised by both parents in an intact marriage on average will spend only 7 percent of his/her childhood living in poverty. A child raised by a never married mother is more than 7 times more likely to be poor than a child raised in an intact marriage. (National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 - 2000)

Children who grow up without a father are more likely to drop out of school, become addicted to drugs, have a child out-of-wedlock or end up in prison.

There are many children, black, white and Hispanic, who are essentially raising themselves. When I think about my teenage daughter trying to raise herself - even though she thinks she could totally do it - I know the truth is she isn't ready.

My heart is heavy for our children. Sometimes tackling this issue feels overwhelming, but the reality is First Things First exists to do exactly that.

If we aren't loving and raising our children - who is????

Saturday, January 16, 2010

It Takes Teamwork

Spent the day with my daughter and her team at the Interscholastic Equestrian Association horse show where they took first place. It was very cool to watch these girls give their best individual effort and support each other as a team. Great sportsmanship, lots of encouragement and great team spirit made for a terrific day in spite of rain and cold temps.

They don't ride their own horses at these shows. It can be really intimidating getting on a horse you have never been on before and going over jumps or even doing the flat work. I loved watching our team members give instructions and encouragement to help girls on competing teams who were getting ready to ride our horses.

LOVE the life lessons they are learning from this experience!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Working Mom

It usually never fails that when I am given a specific topic to speak on like balancing work and family that in the midst of preparing for the talk my life becomes total chaos. My friends would tell you I am pretty organized and usually have a plan, but there are last week when the weather was freezing cold, snow was predicted and predictability went out the window...that the best laid plans didn't mean diddly.

There have been times in my life when that would have made me absolutely crazy, but I think the years have mellowed me a bit. (There might be some people that would argue with that statement.) Or, maybe I was just too tired to fuss. Really, I do think one thing I have learned over time is that life is too short to get all rung out over things you can't do anything about or that really don't matter in the long run. My theme has become adapt and adjust. Don't tell me what we can't do, lets figure out what we can do with what we have.

That has freed me up to focus on the things I consider most important in my life.

For example, I love spending time with my family. I also enjoy a clean house. Instead of feeling like things have to be spotless before I can relax, I am willing to go for tidy and clean for the most part. I admit there are times when I look at a closet that needs to be cleaned out or a stack of photographs that I have been wanting to put in a scrapbook and I feel this sense of frustration, but I remind myself that when our daughter is off at college and my husband is off playing golf or something there will be time to clean out the closets and put together a scrapbook.

I have this sense that we women put WAY too much pressure on ourselves to do WAY too much and in the end when mama ain't happy ain't nobody happy, which makes home a pretty miserable place to be for everybody.

What are your secrets for balancing work and family?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Snow In??

Nothing like a little snow to put us Southerners in compete pandemonium!

Totally cracks me up, you just mention the word snow around here and people go into panic mode. Truth be told, it does look like travel tomorrow could be a little tricky.

Now that you've been to the store to get your bread and milk, what is your favorite thing to do as a family when you are snowed in? Board games, jigsaw puzzle, watch a good movie????

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Michael Oher and The Blind Side

I watched 20/20 the other night to hear the real story behind The Blind Side. I loved the movie and read the book over the Christmas break. I am intrigued by this story. I know there are people all over the country who take kids in and try to help them have a better life. What I think is amazing about this story is how hard everybody worked to help Michael be successful...including Michael. He didn't look for someone to just hand him everything, he worked like crazy.

Why do you think some people are able to respond to opportunities like this while others walk away from it and get right back into the situation they were taken out of?