Monday, December 31, 2012


One week ago, I was absolutely gutted. I didn’t have a chance to see the news until I went to pick my daughter up from school. Just before she ran out to greet me, excited to start our weekend together, I read about other parents who would never see their little ones again because a mentally unstable man had gunned them down.
Like parents all around the world, that night when I put Riley to bed, I held on to her a bit longer than normal.
“Mom, why are you hugging me so tightly?”
“Because I am so grateful for you.”
“Oh. Go ahead then.”
I was able to squeeze my daughter. But I was also able to hold my husband. Because after I loved on my child, my attention turned to him. You see, the divorce rates for couples who lose a child are notoriously dismal. One study estimated that there was an 80% chance that a couple would split up under these circumstances.[1]
My heart aches for the loss the couples in Newtown are experiencing, but I am also deeply concerned about their marriages. Will the death of their children be compounded by divorce in the years to come?
As I dug deeper on these questions, I took a long, hard look at my own marriage. How would Eric and I do if – God forbid – something happened to our daughter? Because even when it doesn’t make international news, tragedy strikes. Children get cancer. They drown. They are killed in car accidents. They are stillborn.
Friends of ours lost their two-year-old boy when a tornado ripped through their campground. One moment they were enjoying their vacation as a family, and the next minute they were dealing with indescribable loss. Eric and I present with this couple at a marriage conference each year where they openly share their story. Here is their perspective about processing loss without losing each other:
When we lost our son Lucas, people told us about the high rate of separation for couples who had lost a child. Our experience was that EVERYTHING is magnified. So, if you had a bad relationship, then that would be magnified. If you had a good one, then that would be magnified. We found God blessed our good relationship and brought us closer together than ever.”
If the unthinkable happened in your family, how would you and your spouse do? What would be magnified in your relationship? What are you currently doing to invest in activities and choices that would anchor you as a couple in the midst of tragedy? Are you carving out time for “professional development” in your marriage – perhaps through a marriage conference or coaching? Are you booking get-away weekends so that you and your spouse can reconnect? Are you scheduling date nights?
Without a doubt, we want this horrible situation to remind us to appreciate, love and value our children each and every day. But let’s not forget that what we are building into our marriages – right here, right now – predicts how we would navigate the tumultuous waters of grief as a couple.

[1] Rando, T. (1985.) “Bereaved Parents: Particular Difficulties, Unique Factors, and Treatment Issues,” Social Work, Vol. 30, p. 20.

ERYN-FAYE FRANS, Canada's Passion Coach ®

Monday, December 17, 2012


It's been awhile since I've been here.  Labor Day to be exact.  Throughout my life I've used words to express my feelings in times of victory, disappointment, surprise, and the mundane every day life.  But, I often feel more compelled to write when tragedy strikes.  In honor of the recent tragedy in Newton, Connecticut, my teacher blog will be silent for the next few days.  But, I feel like I could not go any longer without putting pen to paper, or fingerstrokes to keys.

I've taught for 13 years now and my job has become increasingly more difficult each year.  The number of tasks that the typical teacher completes in any given day is astounding. From receipting field trip money, recording attendence, cleaning up vomit, calling the nurse, making sure a child has clean clothes, lunch money in a student account, one on one instruction, reteaching simple concepts until you can't teach them any longer, drying the tears of a child who has been physically hurt on the playground, or wrapping your arms around the ones who have been emotionally hurt by those they love.

There are many days where the thought of going to the bathroom doesn't even occur until after school and I sit for the very first time of the day.  Once my children arrive in the morning, it is almost like we have entered a time warp and the outside world disappears.  Our classroom becomes our world.

Each year, I am BLESSED with a new crop in my classroom.  With that comes a new crop of parents, a new crop of personalities, challenges, victories, and love.   I haven't been blessed with children of my own, but I have been chosen to care for those of others.

Each morning, parents drop their children off at school thinking they are safe and will remain that way until those little faces return to the warmth of the car or the arms of a parent/grandparent/caretaker. Those children are given to me to nurture, care for, love, and educate.  A pretty tall order.

There are days where life isn't easy in our classroom.  Days where we need to a new start.  And then there are days that are beautiful symphonies of learning.

I spend countless hours planning for learning in my classroom, but more than that, I spend countless hours investing in the future of my students.  I invest in their lives by attending sporting events, sharing their interests, writing them notes - pouring positivity into their little minds in the hopes that when life doesn't work out the way that they had planned in their future, they will remember that there was someone else in their lives who believed in them and LOVED them as if they were her own.

The teachers and staff of Sandy Hook Elementary did the very same thing.

When I stop to think of the innocent children that were hurt yesterday, I cannot help but to think of the 22 beautiful children that I see every day.  The 312 children that I have taught over the last 13 years.  The smiles, the dreams, the excitement of life, the opportunities that are waiting for each of them.  That was all stolen from those at Sandy Hook Elementary.

I've tried to wrap my mind around what happened in Newton, but it is impossible.  I've experienced lockdown drills and mock shootings to "train" me for a reality that I hope I never face.  I hope I'm never faced with a situation where I am unable to protect the children in my care.  I hope I never have to find hiding places or calm students who are very aware of the nightmarish reality that is occurring.

But, I would.  If it meant sacrificing my life for those of my students, there would be no decision to make.  I would make that decision for the children who have parents who love me.  I would make it for the children whose parents disagree with me.  I would make it for those children who misbehave and disrespect and love me.  I would make that decision for each child I've had the opportunity to teach this year and every year before - those in my classroom or outside of it.

There were heroes in yesterday's tragedy.  Those heroes were teachers.  The teachers who read Christmas stories to keep their students calm.  The teachers who held each child's hand.  The teachers who muffled the cries of those huddled in their midst.  The teachers who hid students and then lost their own lives.

When you enter your child's school this week, remember those heroes in each classroom.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


There is no getting around it – holiday parties can be dreaded events. As if being forced to spend time with colleagues you avoid like the plague during work hours isn’t bad enough, you’re supposed to be, well, merry. The only thing worse than attending a Christmas party at your own office is going as your spouse’s “plus one.”
But what if the Christmas party could actually help your relationship? What if your presence could bring value to your spouse’s professional life? What if attending could be one of the bestgifts you give your spouse all year? If you have the right attitude, you can reap a lot of relational benefits from the Christmas party. Here are some pointers:
1)   You get a snapshot of your spouse’s life 40+ hours a week. If you are like a lot of couples, there is an extremely good chance that the people at your spouse’s workplace get to see him more than you do. Sure, you get to hold his hand, raise children together and go to bed with him at night, but when you subtract the hours that you spend sleeping, commuting, eating and other such necessary activities, there might not be a lot left over for you. The Christmas party is your chance to step into your spouse’s world. Who does he interact with all day? What makes him so passionate about his job? How does he interact with others? How does he treat his direct reports? What does he really have to put up with from his boss? These answers give you new insight into your spouse – a very valuable thing in marriage if you want it to last.
2)   You get to see your spouse through the eyes of another. It is inevitable that over the years, we all have a tendency to put our spouses in a box. You have preconceived notions of what she likes, how she behaves in certain situations, and how she gets work accomplished. But her colleagues might have a radically different perception of her. When she is at work, her quirky sense of humour might have more air to breathe than at home rushing through dinner and homework duties. Her ability to manage a team might look drastically different than her attempts to support the elementary school fundraiser. What do your spouse’s colleagues appreciate about her? How does she bring value to her workplace? Discovering the answers might reveal a side of her that you haven’t seen in a while.
3)   You have the opportunity to make your spouse look good. Ultimately, this is the greatest gift you give your spouse. If you show up at the party with a great attitude, mingle with others, show interest in your spouse’s colleagues and behave respectfully (no heavy drinking, no tacky comments, no inappropriate outfits and no bugging the boss about overtime), your spouse will reap the benefits professionally, and you will reap them personally.
The holiday season is about sharing love and kindness to those around us. It is about slowing down enough to appreciate the small but significant things in life. Allow this holiday cheer to extend to your spouse’s Christmas party and into your relationship for the New Year.

ERYN-FAYE FRANS ® Canada's Passion Coach

Monday, December 10, 2012


“Just like everybody else,” they say. It’s a battle cry and finish line and gold standard all rolled into one. The underlying assumption is that anything else is wrong: a shameful defeat.

It’s easy to get sucked in. To begin to measure my parenting not by how kind, cooperative, creative or unique my child is, but by how much they conform to their age-mates. Especially if they happen to have special needs.

Inclusion has become a religion these days. As if sitting in a room full of typical children the exact same age, following the same curriculum, with as few adjustments as possible, is the measure of a good education. I’ve met both educators and parents so enamored with the concept that they refuse to accept the limitations of the philosophy.

Fortunately, the staff at our school have a different goal in mind: what works. What works for B. What works for our family. What works for the staff and the other children in her class.

Grade 3 has been a struggle. And when our favourite SEA (special education assistant) left, it was even worse. Her classmates love her, like a cute little mascot. They pat her head and give her hugs and try to carry her around. In a bid for attention (and out of boredom), she caused all sorts of disruption: talking out of turn, pulling her shirt over her head, poking friends and throwing herself on the ground in a tantrum until she had to be removed. Her only real learning this year took place in the back corner of the room with her SEA and the school iPad. It just wasn’t working.

Along the way, they discovered that she fit seamlessly into the kindergarten class. I’m sure it was out of frustration that she began to spend more and more time there. In this class she is doing the same work as the other kids. She can keep up and even excel in some subjects. She has meaningful conversations with her playmates. She can participate in their play (as more than just a prop). She requires little support to get through the day. This class is developmentally appropriate for her and we want her to stay.

It works for everyone, except the school district, which is reluctant to step outside the traditional inclusion model. They have given grudging allowance as long as she still connects with her Grade 3 class regularly and is officially on that attendance roll. Apparently what matters to them is not what she needs, but how many birthdays she has under her belt. Inclusion trumps everything else.

I want the same thing for B that I want for all my kids. A happy, safe childhood and the development of meaningful life skills along the way. In Kindergarten she is included, she is learning and she is happy, what does it matter what grade? Kindergarten is where she needs to be right now. I am endlessly grateful for a resource teacher and staff who are willing to fight for that.

My daughter is not just like everybody else. It is both her struggle and her strength. It will not help her to deny or obscure or try to avoid this. I operate here in reality, because I am not afraid that she is less. I am absolutely sure of her worth.

I’m not going to pretend that Down Syndrome is a blessing we eagerly embrace. I’ve met some who feel this way and I just don’t get that. “What God intended,” they say, as if cognitive disability and health problems and speech delays and lifelong struggle are comparable to height or hair colour. The world is full of sickness and disease and disorder. That God allows it does not make it a good thing. It is what it is.

My daughter is not remarkable BECAUSE of Down Syndrome. She is remarkable because of HER. The sweet, determined, spunky firecracker that shines brighter because she has to.

So here’s me, seeing the value of inclusion, but only when it helps. Because, there is no shame in being different.

How has being different served you well in your own life?


Monday, December 3, 2012


Sunday night we saw a production of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”  

In our basement.

The big girls and their friend put together an elaborate play with costumes and music and several very long intermissions. Their interpretation was unique to say the least.

Mary Scrooge was a modern woman who, according to the Ghost of Christmas Past, proposed to her boyfriend at Christmas. He promptly turned her down because she “just wasn’t into Christmas, which is, like, his favourite time of year… so it just would, like, never work.” Jerk! Kind of seems like she dodged a bullet there, but maybe that’s just me.

The Ghost of Christmas Present said, “S’up, yo?” then brought her to Tiny Tim, who was repeatedly dumped on his head. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t scripted, but it did increase the pathos (and fill me with gratitude that they had cast a Cabbage Patch doll instead of little brother for the role).

The Ghost of Christmas Future was appropriately creepy in one of our camping ponchos. The gravedigger, played by a snarky cowgirl, assured Mary that this would be her fate if she didn’t learn to love Christmas.

In the final scene, Scrooge celebrates her new favorite holiday (under threat of death) by running around town in a Hawaiian dress buying cheese for all the children. This is either a nod to Muppets Christmas Carol or a reflection of my eldest’s dearly held belief that cheese is the best food in the world (the stinkier the better).

The truth is, much like Mary, I’ve been dreading this whole season. The work. The decorating. The expense. The pine needles tracked through every nook and cranny of the house. The shopping and worrying and lists and trying to get everything right. I’ve been sick for a long time and now that I’m feeling better, this is a giant obligation hanging over my head.

But I’m the Mom. So my feelings from one moment to the next are rarely the priority. Which is why I decided to bite the bullet. I pulled the Christmas boxes out of storage and determined to unpack the bare minimum. The girls pulled out the rest and put most of it in their own room. At least now I can stop stressing about it.

It wasn’t that big of a deal. Not nearly as bad as I had built up in my head. In fact, it was fun to see how excited all the kids were. They have enough joy and anticipation and excitement to offset Mom and Dad’s general weariness.

I had to laugh at the subtext of their festive play. Not liking Christmas is the ultimate sin. Sure, Scrooge was rude and mean and greedy, but none of that was as unacceptable as being a Holiday Humbug. This is the moral of the tale as seen through preteen eyes. Also the Grinch, Shrek the Halls and countless sappy Hallmark specials.

Why is this a sin? Why do we feel this pressure? I have certainly felt guilty about my lack of “spirit” this year. I’m usually one of those Christmas-y folks that loves every minute.

Many of us take the opportunity in December to celebrate Jesus Christ. For us, the elaborate rituals of the season are all part of that, which makes it meaningful. But we don’t need Christmas to celebrate Jesus. He didn’t celebrate it himself, now that I think of it.

It is also a time to celebrate family and generosity and eating delicious food. For most of us. For some, Christmas comes with a lot of posing and pretending and pain. It’s consumerism at its worst. Greed. Loneliness. Impossible expectations.

So maybe that’s why the Grinch Hated Christmas. And maybe it’s none of our business that he did. 

It’s not a sin, after all.

Christmas is what you make of it. For some that means Martha Stewart meets Jimmy Stewart meets Angels Singing on High. For others, less is more. Who’s to say which is a better way? It comes down to personality, priorities and beliefs. So, let’s cut each other, and ourselves, some slack. Everyone should do as much or as little as they enjoy.

As for me and my house, we’ll find our Christmas spirit, just like we always do. And I’m not going to worry if we don’t.

After the show we all danced like maniacs to “All I Want For Christmas is You.” Pretty appropriate considering the one thing I’m totally excited about is sharing Christmas with our boy. Everything else is optional.

And for a moment, while L was showing her Dad how to do the moonwalk the “right” way, B was practicing her disco moves and the boy was doing an impressive running man, I felt like Christmas may be a pretty good idea after all.

So here’s me, a little less Grinch today than yesterday. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.


Sunday, November 25, 2012


I’m awfully fond of breathing.

Usually my lungs and I are on the same page about this one, but today we are at odds. My “lingering cough” has taken a turn for the worse. When the hacking gets so bad I’m sleeping on the couch each night and I have to hang up the phone mid-conversation because I’m unable to get a word out, even I have to admit it’s more than “just a cold.”

There’s never much time for Mom to see the doctor. It falls down the list along with “pull out the refrigerator and dust the coils” and “back up computer files.” Something that really does need doing, but isn’t causing immediate problems and can just as easily be done another day. Or the one after that. Or never.

Except when it starts causing immediate problems. The kind where I have to cancel plans.

Like taking the ferry to Vancouver Island last weekend to hang out with my cousin (and longtime bff), her 5 kids and 11 newborn piglets. I was SO excited to show off my new son and enjoy a day of big-city-cousins-run-wild-on-the-farm.

Or our plans today to meet the daughter our dear friends just brought home from the Philippines. We’ve been praying for her and oohing over pictures for months. I couldn’t wait to finally meet her and have a long been-there-done-that “adopting a toddler” discussion.

Or the playdate I JUST set up yesterday with the little boy we’ve chosen to be our son’s new best friend. They haven’t met, but he’s so cute and we love his parents and it’s just meant to be. I had decided I would definitely feel better by Friday, so why not?

This is a problem for me. I hate cancelling. I hate it.

Not only do I miss out on the activity, but I have to rearrange my plans and change my expectations. I hate that too. But the worst part is: I have to admit my weakness.
I can’t do it. I can’t blame the kids or the weather or the economy or the politicians or even my husband for being unreasonable (as he is wont to do when I overcommit us). I have limitations and I’ve just run smack dab into them.

I HAVE to get better at noticing those ahead of time. Apparently acute bronchitis doesn’t need to get this bad. If only I would slow down and rest. You know, BEFORE coughing up green and sticky all the way to the walk-in clinic. I’ve had pneumonia more than once and that’s where I’m headed if I don’t slow down.

There is a time for pushing through and getting things done. There is a time for rest.

There is a time for making plans. There is a time for cancelling and rescheduling and just letting things go.

There is a time for doing, making, cleaning, teaching, writing, talking, fixing, helping… 

There is a time for breathing.

So here’s me, *hack, hack, hack* and it’s time to rest, even if it kills me. Because in the long run, it’ll kill me not to.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Petraeus Affair: The Attractiveness of Holly Petraeus & Paula Broadwell


Once again, the extramarital affair of a beloved public figure has come to light. Since the resignation of General David Petraeus, the talking heads have been blathering up a storm. Their conversation has been further fueled by emerging details that make the unfolding story seem nothing short of a soap opera. (Jimmy Kimmel did a good job of breaking it down here.)
I have clients who are recovering from affairs, so I kept my eye on the story and listened to other people about their perspectives. At a coffee shop recently, I overheard three women having a conversation about the affair. (When I heard what they were talking about, yes, I eavesdropped.) After discussing the newest, juiciest details of the story, one woman said, “But have you seen his wife?” Pictures of Holly Petraeus have been splashed all over the world, and while commentators have been deliberate to speak in only glowingly terms about her, the side-by-side comparison with Paula Broadwell has been blatant. In one photo, for example, the wife and mistress are even captured in the same frame with red circles drawn around their heads.
Then yesterday, Pat Robertson weighed in on the subject on his TV show. After saying “I don’t think [Petraeus] is a devious human being,” Robertson listed Petraeus’ brilliant accomplishments. He then turned his attention to Broadwell and itemized why he thought she was so attractive. Robertson completed his analysis of the situation by saying “The man’s off in a foreign land and he’s lonely and here’s a good-looking lady throwing herself at him. I mean, he’s a man.”
While you might be tempted to go on a rant about Robertson (for the moment, I am going to side-step the “he’s a man” comment), he did what normal, every-day people have been doing privately. Without knowing the details of the situation, he painted a picture of a hot seductress chasing after a brilliant man. The woman at the coffee shop underscored the stereotype that a “frumpy” wife cannot compete with a hot seductress. On the airwaves and over coffee conversations, people from different backgrounds and genders reduced the affair to one factor: how the women looked.
I am deeply disturbed by this type of oversimplification. It devalues women – not just these two women, but all women. Robertson’s reflections made no mention of Broadwell’s accomplishments or what the strain of working overseas might have done to her marriage. The women sipping their lattes made no mention of the years Holly Petraeus spent raising the kids on her own or fighting on behalf of other military families in financial trouble. But when we support and participate in a culture that focuses exclusively on how women appear, we all lose. It creates an impossible standard: in order to stay unmarred by the pain of an affair, you have to be attractive, but not too attractive.
Engaging in this depiction does not stem the tide of infidelity because it does not accurately reflect the reasons why people have affairs. Many men have affairs with women who are less attractive than their wives…because how these women look is not the temptation. Noel Biderman, owner of the cheating service Ashley Madison, has been quoted as saying, “If you sat down with 20 people who’d had an affair and said, rate the person you had an affair with ‘better looking’ or ‘worse looking’ than your partner, almost 90 percent will say worse. You can build a profile right now of an unattractive woman, overweight, whatever, she’ll still have a dozen men interested in meeting her.”
As long as we reduce an affair to the way the women involved looked, we will remain vulnerable of having one ourselves. Men, if you think that only a marathon runner with great arms will tempt you away from your wife, then you are going to get blindsided by the plain looking woman who works in accounting and can listen with empathy to your stories. Women, if you think your husband is only in danger from a woman who has a DD chest, you will be stunned with it turns out the “frumpy” woman knows how to love him better than you.
Let’s stop the oversimplification and take a long look at our own relationships. Let’s start having candid conversations with our spouses about what we, as individuals, find tempting. Let’s find out what draws our eyes, bodies and hearts away from our spouses. Rather than making assumptions about the causes of infidelity, the information we glean through these conversations will actually reduce the risk of us straying.
ERYN-FAYE FRANS, Canada's Passion Coach ®

Monday, November 12, 2012


Ladies, this holiday season the pressure is OFF. 
I release myself (and you) from the need to cook the perfect turkey, be the most attentive hostess, buy the most creative presents, and decorate as if I was Martha Stewart’s inspiration. I am attempting to let all of this go wondering what Thanksgiving and Christmas could look like for me and my family if I move the focus from what is good to what is great.
Please understand that this proposal has humble origins. As I type, there are Christmas decorations fresh from the store sitting on my counter, and I have already had one planning session with my mom to prepare for the PERFECT Thanksgiving dinner. I am feeling the pressure to make sure my napkins and tablecloth match and my turkey is golden on the outside and juicy on the inside. Knowing this about myself, I am taking a moment to step back and consider who I want to look like over the next few months – Rachel Ray? Or Jesus?
As I continue to make my holiday plans, here are a few things I will take into consideration: 
  • “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18 (Even those crazy relatives.)
  • “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10 (Honor my husband when he needs a break from the parties and get-togethers.)
  • “Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 (I will ENJOY time with my family and friends. I will express gratitude, happiness, peace.) 
  • “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 (If I burn the turkey, there will still be lots to eat.)
  • “I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.” –C.S. Lewis (Spend less on decorations so I can spend more on someone who needs it.)
And now I am off to test out these grand ideas with the hope and belief that Jesus will work in us and through us this season!


Monday, November 5, 2012


It is the best, and sometimes hardest, answer to give.

As a parent. As a person of faith. As a person of science. As a human being.

Sure, there are those who use it as a cop-out. Shrugging their shoulders as they go with the flow. They hand it out liberally: a get-out-of-responsibility-free card, an excuse to stay on the sidelines, a reason to stay in lock-step with the group. Might as well leave the thinking to someone else.

But for those who honestly struggle. Those who want to know. Those who are willing to change. Those who will be inconvenienced by truth.
For those who teach. Those who inspire and motivate. Those who take responsibility to lead.
For those…

It is brave. 
It is sincere.
 It is humbling.

Sometimes it is the place where certainty and faith intersect.

Sometimes it is where Mom becomes a mere mortal.

Sometimes it is the only right answer.

Because life is full of mystery. And the Universe is infinite. And God is bigger than our minds can comprehend. And we are only human after all.

There are times when the only answer we can give is:

I don’t know.

So here’s me, grappling with questions about afterlife and how to deal with after school tantrums and whether my 12-year-old is mature enough to read Hunger Games.


Monday, October 29, 2012


Here is my radio interview with Susan Knight of Calgary’s up!97.7 FM today:
On her radio show this afternoon, Susan Knight mentioned a blog post by Single Dad Laughing. Having two divorces under his belt, the author wrote a post on 16 Ways I Blew My Marriage. I think it is a fabulous piece because it gives us all the opportunity to look at our relationships and see where we are “blowing” it right now, but it also gives us tools to make things better.
Single Dad Laughing (aka Dan Pearce) has some great insight, and I highly recommend you read the blog for yourself. But before you do, let me highlight a few take-aways from his list.

1)   The little things are important. You know how we are always told not to sweat the small stuff? Well, the small stuff is important in marriage because a bunch of small stuff accumulates into big stuff over time. Remembering to hold hands, putting effort into staying attractive, making meals and letting your spouse know you appreciate him – that might seem small in the moment but it has a huge impact on a long-term relationship.
2)   Get rid of contempt. Yelling, name-calling, and believing you are better than your spouse are all signs of contempt in your relationship. According to Dr. John Gottman (who claims to predict divorce with 93% accuracy), contempt is the fast-track to divorce. So stop calling your spouse a jerk or pointing out all his faults…it’s not a productive way to let out your frustration.
3)   You have got to laugh! Laughter (often prevalent in the infancy of our relationship) is absolutely crucial to its well-being. Pearce mentions that you have to have fun together, and while I agree whole-heartedly, I would take this a step further. Laughter releases endorphins in our brains and makes us feel closer together. So, instead of fighting, trying watching a funny movie or going to a comedy show together instead. When we are laughing with each other, it is a lot easier to sort through the tough stuff in our marriage.
Thanks for bringing Pearce’s post to my attention, Susan! The rest of you can go read it for yourselves here.
ERYN-FAYE FRANS, Canada's Passion Coach®

Monday, October 22, 2012


Here is my radio interview today with Susan Knight of Calgary’s up! 97.7 FM:
Several years ago, I attended Michele Weiner Davis’ course, Divorce Busting® Intensive for Professionals. We buckled down for days, and from 8:30-5:00 every day, we talked about techniques to help couples on the brink of divorce resolve their differences.
One of the stories that she shared was of herself as a young wife. She got married in the 70′s when the modern woman was emerging and this culture was the filter through which she viewed her marriage. She didn’t need to cook for her husband – she was too busy building her career! As the kids arrived, she realized that she had to do something to get some nutrition in them, so she began to ensure that there was actually food on the table when they got home. What she was quite shocked by was her husband’s reaction to her new-found culinary skills. He would smell the food wafting through the house when he arrived home and gave her the most enthusiastic of responses! As she thought about this reaction, she began to realize that his mother was a superb cook. In fact, at family gatherings, the table was covered with all sorts of dishes to enjoy. Because of the way he was raised, Michele’s husband felt loved when she put an effort into cooking!
Inadvertently, Michele had stumbled upon a concept which she now shares with all the couples that she meets – Real Giving. Real giving occurs when we give to our spouses something that we know they will like. It might be a hug when they are being particularly ornery. It might be tidying the house even though you are exhausted and want to go to bed. It might be starting up the car on a cold winter day so it can warm up before your spouse gets in it. It might mean filling up the gas tank in your spouse’s car. It might mean sitting eye to eye and having a conversation. Or it might mean letting them go for a night out with their friends.
It might not seem natural, come easily, or even feel like it is a big deal to us, but we must learn to recognize what our spouse sees as important loving acts and do them. It’s not about sacrificing for our spouse; it’s about showing them love.
In his groundbreaking book, The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman wrote of this important concept. In this book, he theorized that people have one of five “languages” in which they speak love to their partners. They are:
  • Words of Affirmation (telling your spouse through verbal or written language how much they mean to you, how good they look, what you love about them, etc.)
  • Physical Touch (reaching out to have physical contact with your spouse)
  • Acts of Service (pitching in to help your spouse doing things such as running errands or household chores)
  • Quality Time (having undivided attention and spending alone time with each other)
  • Gift Giving (giving gifts of other tangible expressions of love to your spouse)

Frequently, spouses speak different languages. An Acts of Service husband might take care of all the household chores, but his Quality Time wife just wants to spend time with him. A Words of Affirmation wife might be telling her spouse what a great husband he is, but her Physical Touch husband wants to be able to cuddle more often.
Furthermore, all of these languages have “dialects.” A Words of Affirmation spouse might be embarrassed to hear you speak the words aloud, but is delighted to find little notes around the house which express your affirmation. A Physical Touch spouse might crave back rubs and massages. A Quality Time person might love spending time together on the golf course and go out for beer afterward. A spouse who delights in Gift Giving might like fresh cut flowers to put on her table each Friday night. An Acts of Service person might like to have the car washed each week.
If spouses are speaking different love languages to each other, and they don’t recognize that their partner doesn’t speak the same language, they will overlook the acts of love that their spouse is giving them. Even when they find out there is such a thing as different “languages” of love, some people ask – Why should I learn his language if he won’t learn mine?! Or worse, these people will get judgmental and think to themselves, “Her way of showing love is stupid; mine is better.” These attitudes are toxic to the relationship. They create a deadly standoff in the marriage wherein neither party is willing to budge first.
If we are not able to learn to recognize and then speak the language of our partner and if we refuse to practice real giving, then we are channeling the actor from Cool Hand Luke who said, “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate!” Neither party is going to feel loved and both parties are going to feel resentful! Welcome to the fast-track to divorce!
However, when couples are practicing real giving (even if just one party starts the process), then they are putting aside the notion of a tit-for-tat relationship and seeking ways to show love to their partners in manners in which the partner recognizes,  accepts and cherishes. And it is quite amazing what usually happens – once the first domino is tipped over, it creates a chain reaction throughout the relationship which is incredibly positive! Both parties are going out of their way to show love to each other.
Want to do some real giving practice this week? Here are some ways to get started:
  • Which language do you speak?
  • Does it have a particular dialect?
  • What language does your spouse speak?
  • Does that language have a dialect?
  • Practice real giving this week by picking two things that you want to do in your spouse’s love language, and give it to your spouse as a gift.

ERYN-FAYE FRANS, Canada's Passion Coach®

Monday, October 15, 2012


Last month I sat around a table with 1/2 a dozen sticky faced toddlers. Each one clutching a mangled dixie cup of cheerios in their hot little hands. Upon reaching the bottom of the cup they lift hopeful eyes in my direction. The more assertive personalities hold up their cup beseechingly.

“What do you say?”

Each one, in turn, squeaks out an adorable “pa-wease.” Even S rubs his tummy to sign the word.
After that, it’s smiles all around, flush with the success of snack acquisition and the effusive praise that comes with having “SUCH good manners.”

This is what we do. We teach our children what to say.

Say “Hi” to Grandma. Wave “Bye-bye.” Tell your brother “No thank you! I don’t like it when you throw sand in my eye/take my toy/hug me until I fall to the ground/bite me on the shoulder.”

We give our children words to foster relationships, stand up for themselves and express their feelings. We teach them how to treat others, and ourselves, with respect. Words are the sticks and stones of relationship development.

At the end of a meal our big kids are expected to clear their plate and say to whomever prepared the meal, “Excuse me, thank you for my dinner.” It’s a pretty habit we admired in the respectful, well-behaved children of other families we know. We do the same in the hopes that one day our children will morph into something similar.

I’m not so deluded as to believe it is always the honest expression of heartfelt gratitude. Some nights is sounds more like “excusemethankyouformydinner, it’s MY turn with the iPad, put it DOWN, it’s NOT FAIR, where’s MY ice cream, DON’T touch me, MOOOOOOO-OOOOOOM.”

Other nights we get the sullen, slumped shoulders version which sounds like the exact opposite of gratitude “Ex-cuuuuse me. Thanks for my ‘dinner.’” And we launch immediately into a lively post-dinner discussion about attitude and tone of voice, which is always fun. “What do you mean? That’s my normal voice. I always talk like that.” This actually does have a ring of truth, since sullen-pre-teen-cool is becoming our new normal. Sigh.

But we plug away. Every time they say the words, they go through the motions of Grateful. If nothing else, it is a reminder that meals do not magically appear on the table; they are a gift of time and effort, and hopefully (most nights) some small amount of skill.

Manners are a big deal in our house. I went toe to toe with the speech therapist who insisted that the sign for “want” was the strong verb B needed to use most in her communication. I insist on “please” when she needs something. It may seem like a small thing, but when words are few, they should be the right ones.

And hopefully attitude will follow action.

The easy part is writing all of this about my children; yet another parenting technique we subscribe to. The hard part is applying it to myself.
Glen and I had one of those rare lingering disagreements this weekend (we usually have heated/hurt feelings/cry/make up/I-can’t-really-remember-what-the-big-deal-was-anyway/quick fights). We are tired and overwhelmed and in this life stage, with head colds all around, it’s probably inevitable. But the lingering is worrisome. And unhealthy. And I haven’t been ready to let it go.

I won’t go into the details (mostly because they are pretty stupid and petty), but we both felt disrespected and devalued. Me, by his actions and he, by my words.

I’ve been absolutely certain that actions trumped words. Wasn’t that the point? Not what we said or how we said it, but what we DID. Sure, I had been a little bit wrong, but he was wrong-er.

So there.

Then this morning I dusted off this blog post that I had started weeks ago: pontificating about the importance of words. Gah. I suck.

I thank the doctor for his time. I say ‘please’ to the waiter who brings me a drink. I excuse myself from a meeting rather than abruptly walking out. I would never demand or yell or belittle someone I had just met. Doesn’t my family, and especially my husband, DESERVE respectful words even more than the strangers and acquaintances I practice my manners on all day long?

I know they do. And when I am feeling entitled and ungrateful and irritated, I can only hope that saying the right words will help adjust MY attitude too.

So here’s me, thanking my husband for all he does. He speaks to me with respect and that means a lot. I’m sorry.