Monday, February 25, 2013


They call me the “One Trip Wonder.” A shopping bag hanging off of each finger and one wedged beneath my chin. Wrangling uncooperative bags with my hands while body checking the trunk closed. Beckham’s got nothing on me, as I dribble the extra-large package of (extra-large) pull-ups up the driveway with my feet. I bellow through the front door from someone to open up and give me a hand. Not to brag, but opera singers wish they had my lung capacity.

An overflowing cart of groceries carried into the house in ONE LOAD. That’s a crucial 47 seconds in valuable time saved! The crowd goes wild with applause! They’re amazed. They’re impressed. They wish they could be like me.

groceriesThey’re the imaginary audience in my head.

The actual, real people in my life just shrug and ask if I remembered to get crunchy peanut butter this time. They sigh weary sighs when asked to carry the food into the kitchen. They gripe about the broken egg and the misshapen bread.

Nobody appreciates my genius.

I’m Queen of the Grocery Overload!

Unfortunately, I’m not quite as competent when it comes to handling an overloaded schedule.

Every once in a while we find ourselves facing a week of extras. Extra challenges. Extra events. Extra work.

Common sense dictates that this is the time to buckle down and plow through.

Deer-in-the-headlights, Overwhelmed, Procrastinating Perfectionist suggests curling up into a fetal ball and crying like a baby.

Guess which one I usually choose?

February has had a few days of overload (much like January, and December of course, oh and the whole year before that). We truck along quite happily until a few extras get thrown into the mix. And then it seems like too much. Of course, the worst part isn’t the actual workload. Or the unsettled children. Or the break in routine.

The worst part is the anticipation of busyness beforehand.

When push comes to shove, I take busy and make it my b…. aby. But the pre-show isn’t pretty. Instead of getting MORE done, because life is about to ramp up, I seem to accomplish less than ever. I moan and complain and sit around feeling overwhelmed.

But this year I have a secret weapon.

This year, I’m not responsible for tomorrow or all week long or the rest of the year or however many days I have left on God’s green earth. This year, I’m responsible for TODAY. And the rest I’m leaving in God’s hands.

The days I remember this, it makes all the difference.

So here’s me, and I’ve had a few Overwhelmed Fetal Ball episodes, but remembering my One Word has helped. And this week I am facing a midterm, a school project, a sick child, a visit from in-laws, a family outing, a trip to the States, several meetings, Glen working evenings, baking 6 dozen cupcakes and pulling off a large Gotcha party for our boy and 50+ of our closest friends… but I’m feeling pretty cool, because I can handle TODAY and TODAY alone.


Friday, February 22, 2013


Bedwork 4: Practice Sex

Here is my radio interview with Susan Knight of Calgary’s up!97.7 FM this week:
Last week, after I had done a seminar on sexual intimacy, a man walked up to me and said, “When you told us that we could have ‘practice sex’ a huge weight rolled off my shoulders.” His words reflected what I see in so many, many people. We put enormous expectations on our sexual relationships. There have to be fireworks each and every time. Every encounter has to live up to the passion that we see onscreen at the movies. Sex has to be good. All. The. Time. There is very little room for “practice sex.”
But in order to really get good at sex (yes, it’s a skill set), you must practice. I don’t just mean have sex more often, although that can be helpful too. I mean you must have times in which you consciously lower your expectations of each other. In practice sex, the two of you decide you want to get more skilled in a particular area. Perhaps she has never had multiple orgasms before, and you want to see what it takes to get her there. Perhaps he would like oral sex as part of your foreplay, and you are completely intimidated by this concept. Perhaps you are bored silly of the same three positions you have been using for the past decade and want to learn something new. Perhaps you just want to slow down a bit and not sprint to the finish line.
Here is your Bedwork for this week: Set aside one time when you and your spouse agree that you are going to try out practice sex. By agreeing ahead of time, you ease the pressure of performance. This experience is all about enjoying each other, not perfection. Then, allow for “mistakes” and “mediocre” sex during this time. Remember, to get really good at sex, you have to go through the awkward learning stage. So be patient with each other and enjoy it as much as possible. It might not be the best in and of itself, but this experience is moving you towards the goal of a deeper, richer skill set together. And that’s when the fireworks happen.
 Canada's Passion Coach ®

Monday, February 18, 2013


roadI started this post over a week ago, shortly after The Embarrassing Incident (or EI, as it shall be known henceforth). I turned this tale inside and out, carefully rearranging the details to spin the story and cast myself as the hero. Or at the very least, the protagonist.

Who doesn’t want to be the power player in their own story? Except some days it doesn’t work like that. Some days you find yourself stranded in the snowy armpit of Where-The-Heck-Am-I, with no one to blame but yourself.

Or so I’ve heard.

This isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve become somewhat of an expert at the whole lock-your-keys-in-the-car/run-out-of-gas/get-hopelessly-lost/breakdown/vehicle-catches-on-fire (twice!)/stuck-in-the-snow/mud/ditch phenomenon. I probably shouldn’t be allowed out unsupervised.

On the day of The EI, I had undertaken a solo road trip to meet up with one of my oldest, dearest friends. We had decided to meet up in the mountains halfway between our two cities. What better way to catch up than a brisk winter hike?

Long story short: iMaps, unmaintained logging road, panic, snow, ice, nowhere to turn around, more panic, “All Season” tires, flaky city driver (me), deeper snow… even my friend’s 4-wheel-drive SUV was having trouble – my little red car didn’t stand a chance. Shannon seemed unphased and shrugged knowingly. She’s been around long enough to be completely unsurprised by my misadventures. Not exactly the years-in-the-making, once-in-a-blue-moon reunion I had pictured.

But here’s me, solidly stuck in the middle of nowhere. Nothing we did helped. Not the ice scrapers, digging, car mats, wheel turning, feats of car-pushing strength… Stuck.

I haven’t prayed so urgently in a long time. Before each new attempt…“Please Lord, rescue me. Don’t let this day be ruined. Save me from the tow bill and the humiliation and having to call Glen with yet another guess-what-I-did-now story…”

After an hour, we gave up. We began making our way back down the mountain (WITHOUT the little red car). There goes the day.

Until salvation came bombing up the road wearing coveralls astride two large, noisy ATVs. In less than 10 minutes, these hearty locals had me out of the rut and on my way back down the mountain. Like it was nothing.

Once again, I was rescued. I always am. Somehow God provides. And people step up – kinder and more helpful than I expect. It shouldn’t surprise me so much each time.

I much prefer being the rescu-er, than the rescu-ed. “Here I come to save the day!” tastes so much better than “Help!” And that’s a problem.

It’s good to give, no doubt, but it’s important to receive also. Either side without the other is unhealthy. Without a balance we aren’t truly participating… in family. In community. In church. In humanity.

A facade of independence and competence and keeping-it-all-together-all-the-time keeps people at arm’s length. My friendship with Shannon has survived (and flourished) over two decades, not because of proximity or circumstance or chemistry, but for all the times we’ve waded into the deep to rescue each other.

All my intimate relationships have grown in the messy, needy, bumpy parts of life. As we reach out to rescue or be rescued, we may not get a quick fix or any kind of solution at all. Sometimes our rescue comes in the form of a safe person to talk to. Or tell us when we’re wrong. Or take the kids during a crisis. Or cry with and for each other. Or spend a precious kid-free day driving for hours and pushing a stupid red car out of the stupid snow.

So here’s me, grateful to the Cameron family for rescuing me, to Shannon for grown up conversation, to Glen for going to the DoodleBops concert so I could have the day… and especially to all of you who keep rescuing this damsel in distress. I hope I can return the favor from time to time.


So Here's

Friday, February 15, 2013


lentIt was the pancakes. That’s what caught my attention. Shrove Tuesday – a sacred day of pancake eating. How awesome is that?

There wasn’t much talk of liturgical calanders in my Evangelical upbringing. Just cautionary tales and the whispered suggestion that they might, POSSIBLY be Real Christians, but just barely.

Poor, meaningless automatons with their empty rituals. And then there’s the Catholics. A superstitious bunch, I was taught, barely discernable from the heathens; who prayed to statues, and for some reason, like to eat fish on Friday.

We weren’t very comfortable with anyone who wasn’t Us. Like the Pentecostals. And the United Church. And the Mormons. And the Agnostics. And the very scariest creatures of all: the Atheists (word is, they have an “Agenda” and we should watch out for that).

My world didn’t stay that small. Most Evangelical circles have opened up somewhat in the past decade (or two… or okay fine… three) since I was a child. The popular Mitford book series opened up the strange world of Episcopalians to many. These days, it’s not unusual to hear a discussion on Lectio Divina in a Baptist bible study. Or a more casual Stations of the Cross set up in the local community church.

As I got to know (and love and be related to) actual people who followed liturgical tradition, I began to see the unique beauty of it (and not just the pancakes). It may not be the style of worship I’m used to, but it is deeply meaningful and steeped in history. Ancient traditions so much more powerful that the latest born-again fad at the local Blessings bookstore.Maybe WE are the ones who have been missing out.

Which brings me back to the pancakes. Yesterday was Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent. When you get your house in order both figuratively with confession and literally (by using up rich foods like sugar, dairy and eggs) before a period of fasting or plain eating. Enter: hallowed consumption of pancakes.

This past Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. These 40 days (not counting Sundays) are a time for the faithful to prepare themselves for the celebration of Easter Sunday. It is a period of fasting or self denial, prayer, contemplation, examining oneself, and starting over.
For most of us from an Evangelical tradition, or no tradition at all, it is known as: Another-Wednesday-Just-Like-Any-Other. But who’s to say we can’t make it more? Lent is a good idea for EVERYONE and here’s why:

Be part of history.

Hundreds of years ago there was a tired, middle-aged (though still hip and young-at-heart) Mom just like me, who set apart these six weeks to live simply and refocus spiritually. That I might walk alongside her and the women who came before her and women who came after and the women who will come after me is something amazing. The Church (big C) is more than the congregation of my home church or other people in my country who may check the “Christian” box of a questionnaire; it is a family of faith that encircles the globe and stretches back throughout history. When we worship through Lent, we worship together.

We have so much.

More than any people who have ever lived. More than any who celebrated Lent before us. We are a culture and a generation of so much. So much to do. So much to see. So much to know. So much to eat. So much to distract and burden and overwhelm. We need Lent more than ever.

It’s a prelude to the feast.

Lent is not about asceticism (a harsh mentality where deprivation is the ultimate spiritual virtue). It’s preperation for the ultimate celebration. For those of us who worship Jesus, Easter is more than another stat holiday. It’s more than chocolate eggs and pretty dresses and church choirs. But if we don’t put the time and effort into preparing ourselves, even an inspiring sermon and touching music will not soak soul deep.

Lent is a good idea for everyone. The Evangelicals, and the Catholics, and the Pentecostals… and the Agnostics, and even the Athiests. We could ALL use a Spiritual Detox.
Make Lent your own this year.

So here’s me, fasting every night from 7 pm until 7 am (which doesn’t seem like it should be a big deal, but for me it really is).

lentbookLent Resources:
This year I’ll be reading through Show Me the Way by Henri Nouwen
Lent and Dying to Yourself (video with Diana Butler Bass)
Get Lent by Andrew Santella


Monday, February 11, 2013


Bedwork 3: Thank You Note

Here is my radio interview with Susan Knight of Calgary’s up!97.7 FM this week:
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, so this is the time when most people feel socially obligated to have warm fuzzies about their partner. Interestingly enough, research is now telling us that what we focus on grows, so you will have more of those warm fuzzies when you are paying attention to all the things that s/he does right rather than all the things that s/he is doingwrong.
Back in 1965, researchers studied and developed a concept now known as the Pygmalion Effect.[i] According to this phenomenon, a teacher who expects a certain student to do well in her class will give that student more feedback, smile at him more often, and nonverbally reinforce the expectation that this student will succeed. Often, these students go on to meet all expectations and rise to the top of their classes. It is, in essence, a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Nearly two decades later, Doctors Eden and Ravid tested the concept of the Pygmalion Effect in their Israeli Defense Forces’ experiment.[ii] Members of the Israeli military were brought into a command combat course for training. Four days before the training began, the researchers told the instructors that they had assessed each trainee and given them a “regular,” “high” or “unknown” command potential (CP). The instructors were to study all the soldiers’ files and their accompanying CP scores before classes began.
Unbeknownst to the instructors, these command potentials were not based on testing done on the soldiers, but instead randomly assigned. Roughly a third of the soldiers fell into each category of command potential. Soldiers in all three command potential groups were then evenly distributed amongst the classes and instructors.
In as little as a week, researchers noticed a difference between soldiers who had been designated with a high command potential and the others. They were at the top of their class, having rapidly excelled past the others. By the end of the training period, not only had they outperformed the other soldiers in their coursework and exercises, but they also reported they had a much more positive attitude towards future training, and evaluated their instructors much higher than the other soldiers.
This experiment showed that people rise or fall to the level of expectation around them. Whether you realize it or not, you send out nonverbal messages of anticipation to your colleagues, friends, children and even your spouse. They respond to these messages in how they behave around you.
If you are constantly expecting, perceiving and thinking of your spouse’s failure, you are going to see it. You will miss all the times your spouse does well because you will subconsciously toss out any exception to the rule and look for instances that confirm your belief of him/her. More importantly, your spouse will fail because s/he is not getting the subliminal reassurances that you expect her/him to succeed.
The great news is the Pygmalion Effect works both negatively and positively. You can change your levels of expectation with your spouse. When you begin to focus on the positive aspects of your relationship, this allows her space to change and grow. It allows him to be appreciated for his efforts. It allows her to respond warmly to you. The fact you have shifted your attention to the successful encourages him to keep up the good work.
So here’s your Bedwork for the week: Catch your spouse doing three things right this week. It might be in the way that he parents the kids, the tireless effort she puts forth to keep all the schedules organized, the fact that he takes the garbage out or her refusal to let you leave without a hug and a kiss. Look for three things that you appreciate about your spouse and thenwrite him/her a thank you note for those things. Express your appreciation for all the little things you noticed this week. That will deepen the closeness between the two of you and get you well on your way to having a fabulous Valentine’s Day!

Want more Bedwork? Get my book The Essential Elements of Sex today.
ERYN-FAYE FRANS, Canada's Passion Coach ®

[i] The original experiment was conducted in 1965, and the two researchers wrote a book on their findings in 1968 (updated in 1992). See Rosenthal, R., & Jacobson, L. (1992). Pygmalion in the Classroom: Teacher Expectation and Pupils’ Intellectual Development, 2nd ed. New York: Irvington Publishers, Inc.
[ii] Eden, D. (1992). “Leadership and Expectations: Pygmalion Effects and Other Self-Fulfilling Prophecies in Organizations.” Leadership Quarterly, 3(4): 271-305.

Friday, February 8, 2013


It’s like hundreds of playground meetings I’ve had before. Sideways glances. Indulgent smiles at a stranger’s child.

“He’s adorable. How old? Is he your first?”

As we politely exchange information, the tone shifts. There’s an edge of competition.
No matter what we talk about, she seems determined to ‘outdo’ me.

“How insecure she must be,” think I. “Who DOES this? It’s so silly.”

But I play anyway.

We’re toe-to-toe, with our kindest voices, and our saddest stories. Let the games begin.
I’ll see your three kids in three years and raise you four kids and a disability. Ha!

I win.

Or do I?

I’ve been keeping score ever since my friend Emily Wigle got two more stickers in Sunday School than I did. We were three. And it stung.

It’s not just parenting, either. We play our triumphs and our tragedies like cards in a poker game.It’s how we (especially women) have lived for so long, it becomes second nature. How do I measure up? Where do I fit in the pecking order?

I find myself counting kids whenever we meet someone new.

Just the three. I win! My life is harder.

Expecting number seven? How do they DO that? What’s wrong with me that I’m so overwhelmed and I only have four?

At one point, I decided to factor the special needs into the count. I have four, but the two littles count for double. We’ll call it an even six.

Never fear; you too can earn extra points:
  • Dad or Mom travels a lot +1
  • Living in a small space (trailer, cabin, apartment, RV) +1
  • Maintaining your figure +2
  • Work full-time + or -3 (depending on my mood: if that seems like it would be an extra hassle or a welcome break)
  • Fishbowl existence (pastor, missionary, politician) +2
  • Children born within a year of each other +1/per or +3 for multiples
  • Mother-in-law lives with you +1
  • Hippie Bonus Points (grow your own food, make soap, sew, no TV) +2
  • Single Mom/Dad +1000
Because everyone knows that parenthood is all about keeping score. How many hours of labour? Are you sleeping through the night yet? How many words does she have? How goes the potty training? (At this point my eye starts twitching uncontrollably) Is he in any sports? play an instrument? performing in dance competitions? composing sonnets to her loving mother to post on her weekly blog about honouring parents and not getting married until she is 30 to the man whom her father chooses?

There’s no point in even playing with a single parent. If they manage to get dressed and out of the house, automatic champion.

The constant comparison is exhausting. And pointless. Nobody wins. That moment of feeling superior/busier/more-hard-done-by is so fleeting. Right around the corner there is someone who has more on their plate, or more accomplished children, or better hair and skinnier jeans.

How about we just agree: You have your life and I have mine.

I can celebrate your success and support you in your struggles, without making it about me. I can hear your advice, without feeling judged or defensive. I can make small talk at the park with a strangely insecure woman and let her one-upmanship roll right off my back.

Parenting is not a competition. When we make it one, we all lose. Plus, it makes the playground really uncomfortable.

So here’s me, trying not to be such a loser.


Monday, February 4, 2013


Bedwork Week 2: Play!

Listen to my radio interview with Susan Knight of Calgary’s up!97.7 FM this week:
There is no doubt that we live in a crazy, busy world. Most of us are in double income families, we have long commutes to work, and our children have music, foreign language, sports, dance, art and tutoring lessons so they become “well rounded” and can get into university one day. It is so easy to rush around so frantically that we don’t truly connect – with our spouses, with our friends, even with ourselves. It is no wonder that we feel like we can barely keep up the pace.
Often, instead of slowing down and eliminating activities, we just speed up even more and cite the mantra of the Little Train Who Could – “I think I can, I think I can.” After all, if Little Miss Perfect down the road can do it, so can I! We get caught up in a world of perpetual exhaustion. When our friends ask, “How are you doing?” We say, “I’m so busy!” and they sigh because they are busy too. This response does two things for us:
1)   It makes us look good, because culturally we have linked “productive” to the term “busy.” (Truth be told, you can be very busy and still incredibly unproductive.) In essence, we perpetuate the façade that “busy” makes us worthwhile to those around us. In our minds, they are thinking, “Oh, she must be so important because she is so busy!”
2)   It creates distance in our relationships. We send out the subliminal signal “Don’t try to spend time with me, ask me for anything or talk to me. I am too busy for you.” Sometimes we think we need this distance – if people would just leave us alone, we could get all our tasks done! But this attitude just leaves us feeling lonely. We have run off the very people who are best positioned to carry some of the load with us.
A couple years ago, I came across a profound quote by Dr. Stuart Brown that began to change my perspective on the activities in my life. Dr. Brown said this:
“Do you know what the opposite of play is? No, it’s not work. It’s depression.”
When we do not create time and space to play, we become depressed. We become more and more isolated. Our unhappiness grows. Our stress levels spike. We get grouchy with others. And far too often, we try to work our way out of this hole. But this is the opposite of what we should be doing. We should be making more time to play.
This holds true with our relationships as well. When they become too much about function and task, they become depressed. Sometimes we treat the problems with in-depth conversations. Sometimes we go to a counselor to discuss everything that is wrong about the other person. Sometimes we allow distance and silence to grow between us. We circle around and around the problems never seeing much progress and we lose hope that it will ever be different.
Perhaps, we just need to give ourselves permission to play. To do something fun and enjoyable for no other reason than because it is fun and enjoyable. To laugh and giggle. To put that old argument on the shelf and just hang out together. To grab on for a hug even though things are not perfect.
So this week – regardless of whether you are fighting with your spouse or not – your Bedwork assignment is to have at least one hour of play together. Go dancing. Play a game of tennis. Do an art project together. Have a snowball fight. Go skating on the local pond. Rent a comedy and laugh together. Have a wrestling match. Dust off your ancient copy of Monopoly. Whatever you choose, play. Play hard. It might be the best thing you have done for your relationship in a long time.
ERYN-FAYE FRANS, Canada's Passion Coach ®