Interview with Emma: Happy Fitness Geek!

Its been a long time since you have heard from me on this blog. So i thought to share mine short interview with my schoolmate, a happy fitness geek Emma. Recently she agreed for a short interview about her daily fitness routine. Not only I’m a big fan of her personal blog, but I find her advice about food and running inspirational.

Emma owns NordicTrack C 900 treadmill and now she spends almost all of her free time on this running machine.

Emma has owned this NordicTrack model for 15 months and she advises it to other runners without any hesitation.

Whats the daily fitness routine you follow?

Well i spend almost all of mine leisure time on my NordicTrack treadmill machine.

What NordicTrack Model have you got and for how much time have you operate on it?

I’ve the NordicTrack C900 and have been running onto it for around 15 months.

Where did you buy it?

I bought this treadmill from NordicTrack.com after reading about the best treadmill reviews of 2017 where its was listed as one among the top treadmills.

Have you experienced any issues with shipping, delivery or assembling of this running machine?

I had zero issues with the shipping and my hubby was able to assemble the treadmill machine in about 2.5 hours.

How intensively do you use the treadmill?

I use the treadmill daily for at least 30 – 50 minutes. I have completed some 40 milers on this running machine, plenty of hill work and also some speed work. Currently it is not used as intensely because I am pregnant but I am still putting a whole lot of miles onto it.

What features do you like about it?

I really like so many features about the C900. First, I really like the audio speakers so that I am able to plug in my computer or iPod to run to.

Me and my husband really enjoyed using different courses that have been programmed into the treadmill combined with the Jillian Michaels workouts that are included.

I love what large size easy control keys are to use on this running machine. It also rises to 12 mph which rocks ! just because a lot of treadmills only go up to 10 mph, the incline is also excellent and rises to a 15%.

It is silent and very smooth which is definitely essential for a good home treadmill.

What don’t you like about it?

There is a fan on the treadmill but in all honesty it doesn’t do much to cool you off. This is the only thing that I could think of that I don’t like about it.

Have you experienced any problems with it so far?

No.

Would you recommend it to other runners?

Yes, absolutely and I’ve already advised it to numerous runners! I’ve spent a lot of time with it and looking forward to using it. It will really help me to keep up with my running as a new mom because I will be running onto it whenever she is napping:)

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How to Let It All Go

Someone asked me to review an app called “Let it Go.” Basically you write down what’s bothering you like, “I like the smell of skunk. Is there something very wrong with me?” and “I wish my dog would stop sniffing my butt. It really bothers me when she does that. The fact that she continues to do it makes me feel so unheard!”

Then the app releases those thoughts for you.

Exactly how it works is unclear because I don’t actually own the app. I’ve only read an email about it. I thought about trying it out. But then I looked around my living room. There are no curtains. The furniture is all gone, too. The corners of all the walls are covered in blue tape.

The only thing in this room is my desk, my computer, and my chair.

The room is so empty that there’s an echo every time I type anything on the keyboard.

My husband is painting, you see. He’s also still painting the child’s bedroom. And the hallway. And the dining room.

When he told me weeks back that he was going to paint I believe my exact words were, “Please don’t.”

“It won’t take long,” he said.

“That’s what you said about the child’s bedroom. You’ve been not painting it since before Halloween.”

“But we already moved all the furniture so we could have the floors redone. Now is the perfect time to paint,” he said.

I thought about saying, “Now is the perfect time to paint for people who actually paint when they say they are going to.” Instead I said, “How about we hire people to do it!?”

“Nah, I can do it,” he said.

I sighed. I already knew how this was going to go. “Okay, fine,” I said. “But don’t you dare set up the television until you’re done painting.”

Then I went to the store and I ordered this self massaging heated recliner that I’ve always wanted, and I had it delivered. It’s now the only other piece of furniture in this room other than my desk and my desk chair.

Some other wife would probably be livid over this the-house-still-isn’t-painted situation. Every time she needed an envelope and realized that she couldn’t find one because all the envelopes are packed away inside of some box that is under other boxes out on the porch where the rest of the things that used to be inside her house now reside, she would probably spank her husband with a paint brush, assuming she could fine one.

Not me. Over the years, with much meditation, I’ve become a master Let-It-Goer. If I can’t find an envelope, this is what I do: I ask my husband to find it for me. And then I go sit in my massage chair.

All better.

You envy me, don’t you? At the start of this story, you never in a million trillion years thought you would, but envy me you do. Everyone should have a heated, self massaging recliner.

Seriously, if every person in the world owned one, there would be world peace.

At the very least, there would be marital peace. I’m living proof.

Oh, sure, I could yell about the fact that I can never find anything when I need it because everything that I own is in storage. I could complain that I can’t walk around my house naked without all the neighbors saying, “Oh, so that’s what a woman’s middle aged body looks like!” I could gripe how the dog has been breaking into her food container ever since my husband removed the doors to the closet that houses the food.

But why bother? None of those things are going to get this house painted.

So rather than get irritated, I’m amused. It’s funny, you know? It’s especially funny when I have people over. Then I can say things like, “Well, I’d offer you a seat, but as you can see…” and “Okay you get the massage chair for 15 minutes. Then you have to give someone else a turn” and “Well we could eat dinner here standing up or we could go out. Your call.”

I’m also curious. How long can the man survive without the TV? What will be the event that motivates him to paint the whole house in just a couple hours? Will it be the Florida vs. Florida State game in the fall? The Tour de France in the summer? Or something much sooner? The Super Bowl perhaps?

And I’m thankful. My husband might take a whole year — or a decade — to paint a house, but he fills my car with gas so I don’t have to. It’s been an average of 3 degrees here for the past week, and I’m not talking about Celsius. Let’s just say that if I had a choice of furniture where it belongs or a bottomless tank of gas, I’d go with the gas. Wouldn’t you?

He also makes my lunch every day.

And he boils water for my tea and steeps the bag for exactly three minutes — no more, no less — and even brings it to me while I’m concentrating on writing a post about how he’s not painting our house.

If I want something from the grocery store — say chewable Vitamin D3, 1000IU per chew — I just write it down and magically it appears in a kitchen cabinet. When he sees me chewing on it, he asks, “Is that the right kind?” It always is. My husband never buys the wrong kind of anything. He’s detail-oriented like that. Like, next decade, when this house is completely painted and all the furniture is back where it belongs, there will not be one drip of paint where it does not belong. The man is careful and precise.

I could go on but, if I do so, I fear you will envy me for much more than my heated massage chair.

Now, sure, not everyone can afford a heated massage chair, but that doesn’t mean that not everyone can let go. The chair is nice, of course, but what really helps me is this: counting my blessings. Chances are, there’s a lot of beauty in your life that you take for granted. Your spouse might be irritating in some ways, but I’m guessing he or she is plenty awesome in many others.

Imagine a typical day without your spouse in it. What would be different? What would you miss? What wouldn’t happen if your spouse wasn’t around? What things would you have to start doing for yourself?

Maybe, after doing that, you’ll find that you let go a little.

Here’s another thing I do. I ask myself, “If today were my last day to live, would I spend it feeling irritated about this?”

The answer, of course, is no. If I only had a few minutes left to live, I wouldn’t waste them on anger.

I just hug my loved ones, and I’d call dibs on the massage chair.

Wouldn’t you?

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I Took My Clothes Off in Front of Strangers. You’ll Never Believe What Happened Next.

As I walked down the path to the hot tubs that overlooked the Pacific Ocean, a sense of dread rose in my stomach. I’d heard that the tubs were clothing optional. Still, I assumed the scene would be much like a European beach: some women would be topless, a few others would be bottomless, and the vast majority of bathers would be clothed.

I planned to be one of the clothed.

A man walked a few feet ahead. I knew him from a workshop I’d taken earlier in the day. I clutched my swimsuit in my hand. He carried nothing.

“I guess he’s going in nude,” I thought. My dread intensified. What if everyone is nude? What if there aren’t any changing rooms? What if the hot tubs are coed?

As I neared the bathhouse, I saw Ann, a woman I’d met at the same workshop.

“How was it?” I asked. Then, before she could answer, “Did you do it nude?”

“I did!” Ann proclaimed, the sound of victory in her voice.

“If I wear a swim suit, will I stick out like a polar bear in Florida?”

“You…. You don’t want to wear… No, um, no. Don’t wear bathing suit. You really shouldn’t.”

“But it’s clothing optional, not clothing forbidden.”

“No,” she said firmly, convincingly, as if she knew first-hand of an ordinance that forbade clothed bathing. “No. Don’t.”

“Maybe I shouldn’t go in,” I said, turning away from the bathhouse.

“Oh, go in. I was scared, too. But I did it! If I can do it, you can!” Ann nearly sang.

Ann led me inside. To the left, she pointed to the room where the towels were kept. I grabbed one. As I turned to walk down the stairs that led to the changing area, I nearly bumped into a man, all of his pale skin, hair and hanging parts exposed.

I averted my eyes, meekly smiled and whispered “sorry” as I stepped around him.

“The changing rooms are coed?” I hissed.

“You’ll be fine. You’ll never see these people again. I repeat: You will never see these people again.”

Then, shaking her clenched fist in the air, she proclaimed, “You’ve got this!”

I turned toward a wall. With my back to the room, I took a deep breath. Then I pulled off my shirt, taking special care to keep it right-side-in as I folded it. I did the same with my pants. Now I was standing in a camisole and panties, Ann’s “you’ve got this” reverberating through my mind.

I pulled off the camisole.

Then I yanked down the panties and quickly wrapped my towel around my torso. For a moment, I stared longingly at my swimsuit, now lying unused on the bench. I hid it under my clothes as if it were contraband. Then I turned and walked toward the tubs, averting my eyes as I passed one nude man, then two, then three. As I stepped outdoors, I felt as if I were stepping into Renior’s “three girls taking a bath with crab,” except it was more like “25 men taking a bath with three women and one prude.”

In case you’re not completely sure, I was the prude.

To my right were three individual tubs, each inhabited by a naked man. They lounged with their knees splayed, as anyone might do while bathing in their own private bathtub at home.

“Isn’t that? Oh my gawd, no,” I thought as I recognized the husband of a friend. I turned my head quickly, pretending not to see him.

I kept walking. In a larger tub were a dozen or more men, some sitting on the edge, all of their manliness on display. They were talking and gesturing animatedly, as if they were at a coffee shop. I started to turn back in retreat, but there were nude people behind me, on their way to the tub in front of me.

I felt surrounded and cornered, exposed and vulnerable. With no where to go but forward, I kept walking. In the last tub, there was a blur of flesh that I recognized as one woman and two men. I stood awkwardly, trying to figure out how to submerge myself as quickly and unobtrusively as possible. What to do with the towel? How to get into the tub? Was everyone staring at me? Do I know that man?

Do I know that man!?!

He came into focus. Yes, I’d been sitting next to him all morning at the workshop. I knew what he did for a living and where he lived. I might never see him again, but he was no stranger. Nor was he a lover or a friend. For me he fell squarely into the People Who Should Never See Me Naked category.

I hesitated. I began to turn. He looked up. His eyes focused with recognition.

“I’ve got this,” I told myself. “Just do this. You’re not going to die from this.”

I opened my towel and draped it over a wall. Then I slowly stepped into the tub.

The water was no friend for the bashful. As transparent as air, it left nothing to the imagination. I pulled my knees into my chest and wrapped my arms around them. I closed my eyes. I listened to the ocean. I willed myself to relax.

I opened my eyes to breasts, rear ends, pubic mounds, and swinging penises. What to do? Where to look? Where not to look? I squeezed my eyes shut.

“Relax… relax,” I told myself. “Enjoy whatever it is that people enjoy about bathing nude with strangers.”

Seconds ticked by. Then minutes. I endured, but I did not enjoy.

“Animals don’t wear clothes,” I told myself. “You walk around naked at home. You were born naked.”

Then another part of me, said, “I’m not an animal. I’m not at home, and I don’t care what I was wearing when I was born!”

With that, I stood, wrapped my towel around myself, and I left, all the while mentally muttering to myself, “I don’t get nudists. Why do nudists exist?”

A couple hours later, back at the workshop, Ann approached. “How was it?”

“I couldn’t relax,” I said. “I don’t get it.”

“Are you going to try it again?” she asked.

Silence.

“You should try again,” she said. “They’re open 24 hours. How about in the morning? Try again in the morning.”

“Maybe I’ll do that,” I said, fully planning on not doing that at all.

Then morning came. I tossed. I turned, and I wondered: Could I get past my fear and my self-consciousness? Was it possible for me to be at one with my own flesh? If it was possible, what would that feel like?

These questions drove me out of bed and propelled me toward the bathhouse.

This time, as I slipped out of each item of clothing, I felt myself becoming a new woman. I was no longer Alisa the Prude. I was now Alisa the Nude Goddess.

Off came the camisole. Down went the panties. This time, rather than wrapping the towel around my midsection, I carried it loosely in my hand, and I walked into the great outdoors.

There was no one in the group tub to my left, the one with the best view of the ocean. I draped my towel over a railing and stepped in. Pins and needles shot through my feet. The water was a good 10 or 20 degrees hotter than the day before. There I stood, all of my womanliness exposed to the world. It wasn’t scary, nor was it sexy.

It was merely normal.

Slowly and gently I bent my knees, allowing the scalding water to cover more of my flesh.

Once I was completely submerged, I relaxed just as I would in my own bathtub at home. I rested my arms on the edge of the tub, my legs casually splayed open. I listened to the surf. I inhaled the cool, clean air. As I watched the waves roll in, I noticed tiny little black dots moving in the surf: seals. They were in clusters, diving into the water for fish and floating on their backs.

I rested my head against the lip of the tub and stretched out my legs and arms. Now I was floating on my back, just like a seal, basking in the normalcy of my nudity. I’d been liberated from the prison of my self-consciousness, and I was free.

Would you have bathed nude in front of strangers? Do you think Americas are prudes? What are the benefits of staying clothed? Of taking it all off? Leave a comment.

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This kid hates school. Her mom has had it up to HERE!

When I got this email, I knew I had to post it so we could all help this mom.

My 16 year old hates school. She is really smart, gets As. She is fairly responsible for a 16 year old. I’m 99% sure she doesn’t do any bad things (drugs, sex, burglary).  But she hates school and is always trying to talk me into not making her go.

Today she was tired. (she stayed up late because she figured if she didn’t stay up late and play on the computer she wouldn’t have had any fun yesterday. This morning she was dragging and when it was time to leave for the bus (7 am) she just wasn’t ready. Starting at 7, she has 3 consecutive busses she can catch about 5 minutes apart. Today she missed all 3. I took her to school cause I didn’t want to hear her complaints and excuses, but I was really REALLY MAD! And I let her know it. So now she hates me. Cause I’m unreasonable.

I know she has to go to school. I know she is really doing well even tho she complains. I know that she has reason to be bored at school. I understand her wanting to have some fun in her day. I don’t think she really hates me.

But I want her to just suck it up and do it! How can I deal with this? — Fed Up Mom

Dear Fed Up Mom,

There was a time when I hated going to school. It was during the seventh grade. That was the year my childhood best friend turned on me, convincing all the popular kids on the bus that I was a pariah to be ridiculed and ignored. That ex-friend made sure I knew that parties were being thrown, but I had not been invited to them. She spread rumors about me, telling other kids that I picked my nose in public. It all sounds rather silly now. But in seventh grade? I was mortified.

This was also the year that all the other girls began wearing makeup. My mother forbid me to wear makeup. On the same school bus was a mean girl, a true bully. She’d stare at me and ask me why I didn’t wear makeup. I’d cower, stare at the ground, and whisper, “My mom doesn’t let me.”

And it was the year a boy — one who years later would end up in prison — took a special interest in tormenting me: knocking books out of my hands, whacking me behind the head as he ran by, and stealing my homework.

It was also the year that long, feathered back hair was in style. The summer before seventh grade, I’d asked a hair stylist to give me a trim and a body wave. She’d chopped my hair to my ears and had given me a perm that was curled tighter than my poodle’s fur.

Every morning I woke with a knot in my stomach, and I went to school feeling ugly.

I dreaded the school bus. As I rode it, I counted from one thousand backwards in my head, trying to take my mind off the fact that the other girls were talking loudly about me just a few seats away. I dreaded going to my locker. I dreaded lunch, and I dreaded recess.

I dreaded most of the moments of my school day.

Unlike your daughter, I doubt I complained. I told no one about my hatred of school. Instead, I turned my suffering inward. That year my mother took me to the doctor. My finger tips kept bleeding. The skin was peeling around my nails. He made interesting guttural sounds as he looked at each of my fingers under a magnifying glass. Then he patted my hand and said, “Stress. This is from stress.”

I couldn’t control what was happening to me on the school bus or at my locker or at lunch, so I began controlling my weight. I skipped breakfast and ate celery for lunch. I memorized the calorie count of hundreds of food.

And I did other self destructive things that I’m not going to  go into here. My mother reads this blog, and the details I’ve already shared are quite enough. The point is this: I wish I could go back in time, hug my 7th grade self, and convince her to ask for help. Had I told my mother what was going on in my life, she would have been there. She would have helped me. I know that now. But I didn’t know it then. Then? I pushed her away as if she were the source of my problems.

At some point, I began falling asleep in English class. I just couldn’t keep my eyes open. I’d sit down, the teacher would start talking, and then the class would be over and I would be waking back up. I failed a test. Days later the school counselor wanted to see me. He asked me lots of questions. I doubt I answered any of them. He handed me a thick folder. “These are your school records, dating all the way back to kindergarten. I need to take care of something. Why don’t you take a look while I’m gone?” He left the room. I opened the folder. Inside I found glowing notes and report cards from teacher after teacher after teacher. Those teachers didn’t see the meek, ugly, unpopular, worthless girl who was sitting in the school counselor’s office. They saw a girl who was kind and generous and smart and good at problem solving and a natural learner and pleasant and a joy to have in class.

When the counselor walked back into the room, my eyes were red and my face blotchy. My voice was lost in the sea of phlegm in my throat. He treated me as if I were completely composed. He slid the folder back to his side of the table. Then he said, “I’m looking forward to adding a report card to this folder that says you got an A in English.” Then he shook my hand, opened the door, and walked me back to class.

I didn’t grow to love school after that day, but I did start eating again. I also began volunteering at the school store during lunch. To avoid the bus, I signed up for field hockey and other after school activities. I made a few friends, and eventually I even had a boyfriend. I helped decorate the gym for a school dance. I ran for an officer position in student counsel, which required me to create campaign posters and tape them up all over the school. It was a daring act, especially considering my ex-friend talked everyone she could into voting against me.

I won.

I don’t remember for sure, but I think I might have gotten an A in English, too.

I can’t tell you that your daughter is experiencing the same problems, but I can tell you this: You won’t know why she hates school until you ask. Even if you ask, you might not get a straight answer. Perhaps your daughter is pushing you away, treating you as the source of her problems. In that case, seek help from someone she trusts. Maybe it’s a grandparent. Maybe it’s a teacher. Maybe it’s a friend. Maybe it’s a therapist.

There might be a very good reason why your daughter keeps missing the bus, and that reason may have nothing to do with lack of suck-up-it-tude. So ask. Explore. Seek help. Be a positive, strong, unwavering source of love in her life.

Readers: If you’d like to offer some of your own advice, share stories of times when you hated school, or just commiserate that you have the same problem, definitely do so in the comments area.

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Summer Wedding Day Ceremony Makeup Ideas for Brides

The one thing that every bride should keep in mind is that with regards to bridal marriage make up, less is actually more.

Smeared lipstick, working eyeliner, blotchy foundation- a summer bride has so many make up challenges to take in her stride! The things get a whole lot worse when the ceremony is organised during the daytime. So in this article i have provided below some wonderful makeup ideas for brides, specially for daytime marriage ceremony.

If you are taking vows early july and your rituals happen to be slated for daytime-the hottest part of the day-you have to walk extra a long way to prevent your makeup sliding off your face, your lips and your eyes and ensure that your makeup lasts all night in that steamy weather. Due to this reason, you must pay high attention to the products that your are choosing for the makeup and their contents.

Day Wedding Bridal Makeup Ideas – Face

  1. Day marriages are specifically challenging for the wedding brides, who are to cope with the weight of the intricate wedding attire and heavy weight jewelries on the top of all the anxieties of being the center of the attention for the day. The things get worsened by blotchy make-up, if makeup has not been done properly and with care. If your skin layer is not remarkably dry, it is advisable to avoid using an oily moisturizer and instead you can opt for a non comedogenic moisturizer to keep your skin layer rejuvenated throughout the day.
  2. Normal eyeliners can wreak havoc with the makeup of the teary bride. Even if you are not exactly the emotional type, humidity and sweat can completely mess up your eye make up. In order to prevent this from happening, you should go with water-resistant mascara. Note: Before making use of the mascara, shape your lashes with an eyelash curler. Now apply the mascara with a clean mascara brush for a smoldering look. Also a gel based liner is a perfect solution for withstanding the effects of humidity and sweat in a hot weather.
  3. In order to keep liner and shadow from getting mixed up due to humidity and sweat, first apply an eye shadow primer, which works much consistent with that of the foundation primers. Dab some face powder over it using an eye shadow brush, after that apply the eye makeup.
  4. Rest you can apply what all you think is necessary but keep one thing in mind that is with regards to bridal marriage make up, less is actually more.

Base primers and waterproof eye makeup will give coverage upto a certain limit. But in order to attain the most flawless bridal day marriage make-up you should use makeup setting up spray. When you are done with all these make up steps, lock your makeup in place by spraying makeup setting spray, the setting up sprays are designed to compensate the effects of heat and humidity.

This spray will protect your foundation, lip and eye makeup throughout the most humid summer day.

With regards to bridal day matrimony make up, less is definitely more. Heavy makeup can make the condition more terrible in a sultry, humid day in summer time. So do not take any chance and be well stocked with good amount of blotting paperwork so that you can sop up oil and sweat whenever necessary to protect your makeup.

Moreover if you think that we have missed out any important point that one should take care of!, Do comment in the box provided below.

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He Wants to Move. She Wants to Stay. Should They Stay Together?

When I got the following email, it brought back many fond memories.

Several years ago I took a job in a remote part of Texas.  I was not happy about moving there, but I needed the job. I met someone, we fell in love and got married. I told her before marriage that my plans for living there were short-term, and she said she had no problem moving with me when the time came. It’s now been two years later, and I am blessed with a job that will allow me transfer just about anywhere.

Now she tells me that she doesn’t want to leave until her son graduates in six more years.

I probably could stomach it that long, but I won’t be happy at all. Just to be clear, I absolutely love her and I am very happy with her. We enjoy each other immensely and are always doing things together. I’ve never met anyone like her.  However, I just can’t see myself in this place for 6 more years. I will go crazy.

I feel that I have a decision to make. Do I make the move without her and hope she’ll change her mind? Or do I stick it out here and be miserable? I’m no stranger to being in places I don’t want to be. I was in the military for twenty years, and I learned you have to make the best of it wherever you are. But I feel she’s holding me back from something I’ve wanted most of my life. My happiness is important to me. She is part of that happiness but not the sole source of it. Am I being too selfish if I decide to leave without her? – James

Dear James,

Roughly 17 years ago, I met a young man and I fell in love. We were liberal fitness enthusiasts who loved to eat just as much as we loved to sweat, meditate and do downward facing dogs. But our town was conservative. Italian fare was the extent of the exotic dining, and the yoga classes were few and far between.

We both dreamed of living somewhere else—in a trendy liberal town such as San Francisco, Austin, or, most likely, Boulder. We loved the food in these cities. We loved the culture. We loved the people, and we loved the surroundings.

I felt I needed to be in one of those cities to be happy.

Flash forward a couple years. Now I’m married to that young man. I’ve left my job as an editor at Runner’s World magazine. I’m a freelance writer and editor. I can work anywhere. There’s no reason for us to stay.

Yet when I suggest a move, my husband tells me that we can’t. The house is too new. We’d lose money if we tried to sell. “We can’t go anywhere for 10 years,” he says.

“Ten years?” I cry. “I’ll never last that long.”

I mope. I incessantly bring it up for a while. He stands firm.

I decide to pay down our mortgage as fast as possible. Every month I put extra money toward the principle. I make it my secret mission.

Life goes on. I turn into an amateur gardener. I obsess over plants, bulbs, seeds, and small trees. Neighbors walk by while I am gardening. They tell me they love the sunflowers, my newest addition. They mention that deer won’t eat flowers that smell like garlic and rotten eggs. Some drop off gifts: clippings, plants, bulbs, and flowers that they’ve dug from their gardens so I can plant into mine.

Eventually I adopt a dog. When I walk with him, my neighbors tell me how handsome he is. Soon I know all of my neighbors who have dogs.

The dog comes with me when I run errands. As a result, I get to know the tellers at the bank, and the woman who works the register at the post office.

A farmer’s market opens near me. I go every week. I get to know all the farmers.

We have a baby and I get to know all of my neighbors who love babies.

It’s not long before I can’t go anywhere in town without seeing someone I know. Some of these people are liberal fitness enthusiasts like us. Others are conservatives who tell me that kale is a four-letter word. And many others are different in some other way. I realize that I don’t have to be like people to like being with them.

Eventually my baby turns into a toddler. The house is dangerous for a toddler. We decide it’s time to move.

Now everything is different. The housing market is booming. Thanks to all my extra principle payments, we hardly owe anything on the mortgage, either. We’ll walk away from our house with more than six figures in our pockets.

We could move anywhere.

You want to know where I decided to move? You want to know where I just had to live? The new house that I fell in love with?

The one on a corner lot that seemed too perfect.

Where there were hardwood floors that I just had to have.

And the where our kid could ride a bike without getting hit by a car and even walk to a playground and to her school.

The neighborhood where kids went trick or treating, and where every one seemed to have a dog.

The little town that had a Thai place and a Middle Eastern restaurant and a yoga studio, too.

It was a house just two miles away. We didn’t even need a moving truck. I just put a couple boxes in my car at a time and drove back and forth until the deed was done.

We’re happy here, in the town that I thought I absolutely had to leave.

James: Things change. Places change. People change. Attitudes change. Restaurants change. Stores change. Main streets change.

But most important of all: minds change. Happiness is not found outside of ourselves. It is not something that you will discover in a new house, a new neighborhood, or a new state.

Happiness comes from within.

If you can’t be happy in Texas, I’m guessing you won’t be happy somewhere else, either.

If you can be happy in Texas, you can be happy anywhere.

And once you can be happy anywhere, chances are, you’ll never want to leave.

Readers: I don’t think I answered Jame’s question. Is he being selfish? Should he move? What’s your advice? 

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What My Dying Dog Taught Me About Life

A Long and Rambling Post with a Question at the End

When I first laid eyes on him, he hung his head so low that his snout almost grazed the floor. His tail was tucked and his spine and ribs were showing. He was so filthy that my hands became soiled when I stroked his side.

They’d found him tied to a telephone pole during a torrential rainstorm.

I couldn’t stand to think of the kind of person who would abandon a dog like that, so I choose to believe that his owner had dropped dead of a heart attack. This belief, of course, didn’t jive with the dog’s poorly cropped tail—a tail that could only have been cropped by a novice and not a vet. It also didn’t explain the rough edges along the dog’s ears—edges that spoke to some sort of abuse.

Still I choose to believe in the heart attack, because the alternative was just too painful. I choose to believe the owner’s last thoughts were, “Please someone help my dog.”

I was that someone.

When I adopted the 8-month-old dog, his name was Butch. The shelter told me that he was a Weimaraner mix. He seemed calm and docile.

It turned out that he was not a Weimaraner. Nor was he calm. He was a red Doberman, one with so much energy that he could run full out for six miles and still be up for a game of fetch. I changed his name to Rhodes, after Cecil J and also after the Greek Island I hoped to some day visit and also after a chiropractor that we loved and also because I thought it would be funny to say “Rhodes loves to run on the roads,” an expression that, I would eventually never once say.

The thing I remember most about the beginning: he was hungry. He ate his food in seconds. Then he licked every spec from the floor and even from the molding. After adopting him, I no longer had to sweep or mop. He became my vacuum.

He was more dog than I could handle. On our first walk, he darted after a bunny, pulling me forward with such force that my feet came out of my shoes and I landed on the pavement in a belly flop.

My nephew, who was just a toddler back then, thought Rhodes’ name was “bad dog.”

Obedience training was in order. During the first class, he yanked me around the room as he explored one dog’s anal cavity after another. The teacher taught something called the dominant down—during which one holds their dog’s neck to the floor. Everyone’s dog submitted right away, except for mine. Mine? He thought the whole thing was a giant play session—a wrestling match, if you will. He gnawed on my arms and flopped here and there until he got away.

The teacher disciplined me like a drill sergeant disciplines a new recruit. Her words were condescending and nasty. If I’d had a choice, I would never have gone back. But at home the dog was destroying couches, eating the remote access keys to my car, and generally bullying me. I thought I had no choice.

By the end of obedience, the dog knew all his commands and everyone in the class voted him “Most Improved Dog.”

He would go on to learn commands that I wasn’t trying to teach him. If I said, “Outside” he would walk to the door. If I asked, “Are you hungry?” he’d wag his tail and walk to his dog bowl. Those are just two examples of many.

It’s hard to tell the story of how a dog captures your heart. Our life together has not been dramatic. He never once rescued me from a well. Nor did he protect me from an advancing mother bear.

He did, however, chase many a squirrel from our yard.

He watched television with me for hours on September 11th. He was with me when I sprained my ankle in the woods, and he stayed by my side as I hopped home, too. When I had a stomachache, he curled up against my abdomen.

When I was pregnant, he guarded me.

When I woke repeatedly in the middle of the night to feed the baby, he woke, too. He followed me into the nursery. Then he curled up by my feet. Then he followed me back to bed.

When I sobbed from fatigue and post partum depression, he sat by my side.

He was loyal like that. As I walked here and there, he followed, the side of his head gently touching my hip.

Once, on New Year’s Eve, he ate everything off the plate of the one person in the room who hated dogs.

Another time my husband left some Italian sausages on top of the stove to cool. In the fewer than sixty seconds it took for my husband to walk from the kitchen to another room and back again, the dog had gulped down five entire sausages.

He figured out how to unzip the kid’s lunch bag and remove the contents, without putting a single rip in the bag.

He was a gifted food thief. I couldn’t help but admire his skills.

I loved watching him bound playfully in the yard. I cringed whenever he would hunt butterflies. I sighed when he ate the only strawberries that grew in my garden.

Once at a dog park, he chased a lab into an algae-covered lake. That’s when I learned that he couldn’t swim. I frantically removed my shoes and was just about to jump in when another dog swam up to him and gently nudged him toward the shore.

I cried.

Everyone loved him. It seemed no matter where I went—whether it was to the vet, to the boarders, or to a park—people made a point to tell me, “He is such a good boy. He is such a good dog.”

Whenever I walked him, neighbors stopped me. “That is such a handsome dog,” they’d say as they petted him. “What kind of a dog is he?”

It was somewhere between the second and third syllables of the word “Doberman” when I saw the fear flash over their faces.

“A Doberman?” they’d ask rhetorically as they backed away.

I learned to say that he was a “mixed breed.”

He was silky, sleek and fit, and he had a curious smile and bright eyes that were always eager to explore. Until he was eight or nine, strangers called him a “puppy.” They were amazed when I told them his real age.

It was slightly less than a year ago when I realized he was no longer a puppy. That was the day I held up his leash and said, “Let’s go for a run!” Instead of panting and wagging his tail, he curled up on the couch and gave me a dirty look.

I knew he was older still when he began sleep on his dog bed instead of in bed with me.

And even older when eating—an activity that had once brought him so much pleasure—became a chore.

The life expectancy for a dog his breed and size is nine to twelve. He’s somewhere between 14 and 15.

He’s severely anemic. “He probably has cancer somewhere,” the vet told me.

I can tell that she’s almost as sad about this as I am.

As I told you, everyone loves him.

I could pay for a full body X-ray followed by various ultrasounds, but I won’t. I’m not forgoing medical treatment because of a lack of love. No, it’s the reverse. I love him too much to put him through it.

There are not many things that he hates, but being poked and prodded by the vet is one of them.

He’s lost 15 pounds in the past year. His spine and ribs are visible again. So is the crease at the top of his skull.

His legs are stiff. He moves with discomfort.

Life, for him, offers little joy.

He suffers now, and he will suffer more.

And then he will die.

That’s inevitable.

I can’t stop his suffering. No one can.

But I can bring small bits of light into his final dark days.

I cheer him on when he finds an abandoned ice cream cone during our morning walk.

I help him curl up in the sunniest spot of the house.

I’m a vegetarian—almost a vegan—but I feed that dog anything he’ll eat: ground beef, chicken thighs, scrambled eggs, gravy.

In the middle of the night, as he paces around the house, I talk to him tenderly and carefully caress his face.

I pet him as much as I can.

But I also leave him alone when that’s what he wants.

And that’s what this has taught me: sometimes suffering beings need what we don’t want to give. They need space. They need quiet. They need to be alone.

And, eventually, they need us to quietly and strongly sit back and allow them to peacefully slip out of this world and into another.

It’s not easy. Sitting with someone else’s pain never is.

But I would not have it any other way.

Would you?

My questions for you:

  1. If a very old living being was sick—and there was an incredibly expensive and invasive solution that might extend this being’s life for a few months or possibly a year—would you opt for it?
  2. When would you help a suffering living being move from this life to the next?
  3. Would you want your eight-year-old kid to be present as this being took his final breaths?
  4. How can we best support others who suffer, especially during their final days and hours?
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Marriage Books You’ll Love: Can’t Think Straight

Apparently Kiri Blakeley and I were destined to become friends. Kiri used to write regularly for Forbes Woman. One day, about a year ago, my phone rang. I picked it up. It was Kiri. She interviewed me about something or other. I think it was a story about celebrities and how they suck at staying married.

Something like that. Then almost as soon as I was on the phone with Kiri, I was off it. That’s how things generally go with reporters, I’ve found.

A few months later, I met Jonathan Alpert, a Manhattan psychotherapist, at a TV station. We were both there to talk about Tiger Woods. Somehow one thing led to another and he told me about this woman that he thought I should meet. It was Kiri.

As it turned out, Kiri had a book coming out. As it turned out, I had a book coming out. As it turned out, both of our books were coming out on the same date: December 28th. (Cue the music from Twilight Zone now).

Kiri and I decided to make the best of this peculiar situation. I sent her my book. She sent me hers. We agreed that I would blurb her book. She would blurb mine.

I Facebook friended her. She Facebook friended me. It was like that. Love at first interview, as they say.

Anyway, as I read Kiri’s book, a few thoughts occurred to me.

Thought #1: Dang, this girl is brave. I sweated over the one sex scene in my book and about whether it would be okay to use the phrase “went down on” when referring to something I did with my husband. Kiri proved to me that I had nothing to worry about. More important, she proved to me that one could write about having sex in a very detailed way with very detailed words and still look you in the eye the next morning.

Thought #2: I had to read Kiri’s book in private, with the book in one hand and a vibrator in the other. I do not exaggerate. It’s a great story, but it’s vibrator worthy, too. If you are struggling with your sex drive, read this book. You’ll be cured.

Thought #3: I never want to be single ever again. And if, for some freak reason, I become single, I am not going to date. I’ll just become a nun or something, even though I’m not Catholic.

This last thought is the reason I’ve decided to include Can’t Think Straight in the Marriage Books You’ll Love series. Can’t Think Straight tells the story of the year Kiri spent recovering from the news that her fiance and boyfriend of 10 years was gay. That’s right. The guy she was about to marry—the guy that she thought was perfect for her in every way—one night said, “Honey we need to talk.” That conversation ended with her realizing that her boyfriend was not attracted to her because he was attracted to hairy men instead. (Watch this video of Kiri reading the first chapter of the book for all of the details of how he came out).

After that split, Kiri spent a year rediscovering her sexuality. She went on a wild dating spree—the kind that my unhappily married mind fantasized about quite often.

I don’t know about you, but when I was unhappy in my marriage I had all sorts of wonderfully unrealistic thoughts about what the dating world was like. For instance, I thought the dating world was filled with these hot, sensitive guys who knew how to cook.

Apparently, this isn’t the case. Or, at least, it’s not the case in Brooklyn. Now, let me tell you something. Kiri is drop dead gorgeous. And she, at that time, was working an enviable job at Forbes magazine. She was quite the catch by anyone’s standards.

Yet, the guys she dated were just, in a word, ugh. Slimy. Upsetting. Sorry excuses for men is what they were.

Kiri somehow found every sorry excuse for a man in New York, and she dated every single one of them.

I’m not going to spoil the ending. I will only say that she did learn a few things about herself and about men during that year.

And I’m going to say this: thank God I’m married.

I’m going to make my husband a happy man tonight. How about you?

Next up in the Marriage Books You’ll Love series: Fits, Starts and Matters of the Heart.

Note: At 2 pm EST Tuesday Dec. 7th, I’ll be on FoxNews.com Live with Courtney Friel to talk about Project: Happily Ever After.

There’s still time to enter the Fabulous PHEA Giveaway! Be entered to win a Kindle, a stay at a B&B, marriage counseling, a vibrator and more with proof of purchase of Project: Happily Ever After.

Learn more about Project: Happily Ever After. Watch the trailer and get a sneak preview into the book.

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How to Have All the Money In the World

A Book Review Of Sorts

Recently some of my friends were revealing their fantasies. One admitted that, in her mind, she sometimes marries a wealthy man who pays all her bills and takes her on trips around the world.

We all chimed in about how nice that would be. Then, perhaps to make ourselves feel better, the conversation turned to a belief that rich people are no happier than the poor. If anything, we all said, they are more tortured.

And soon we were all talking about various rich people we knew who were miserable.

I’m sure you’ve had a similar conversation at some point in your life.

At any rate, I find it all very interesting to think about. Does money really lead to happiness? Or does it merely lead to more anxiety? And what exactly is “rich” to begin with? To someone in a third world country who eats only three meals a week, every single person reading this blog is rich. Yet I’m guessing that 99 percent of the people who read this blog don’t think of themselves as rich. When they hear the word “rich,” they think of someone else—someone with a bigger house, more expensive car, and niftier doodads.

Buddhists tell me that the more worldly possessions you have, the more you have to worry about. This thinking goes like this: If you don’t have a house, then you have just one problem: no house. Once you own a house, then you have several problems: the fear of losing your house, the fear of someone breaking into your house, the fear of your house burning down, the fear of appliances breaking, the fear of your roof leaking, the fear of or tornado, the fear of your house not being clean enough, and the fear of frozen cheese. (More later on frozen cheese.)

In general, I believe this.

That’s why, whenever my daughter tells me that she must have a certain toy in order to be happy, my response is, “Getting what you want won’t make you happy. The only way to be happy is to not want anything.”

She often rolls her eyes when I say that.

Still, even though I believe that letting go and not wanting are the true keys to happiness, I will admit that I, too, carry around a wealth fantasy. For mine, one of my books sells millions of copies. With the windfall, I pay off my house, buy a new refrigerator, pay someone to landscape our yard, travel around the world with my daughter every summer, buy many pairs of new socks (all of mine have holes in them at the moment), and get a massage every week. I’d give away a lot of it to various people and charities, too. And, I’d also do something to leave a lasting good mark on the world. Like, for instance, I’d build and run a state-of-the-art dog shelter.

It makes me wonder: if money doesn’t buy happiness, why do so many people have get-rich fantasies?

It’s for this reason that I found Laura Vanderkam’s new book All the Money in the World such a fascinating read. In it, Vanderkam uses statistics, psychology, science and logic to turn many of our dear beliefs about money upside down. For instance, in the beginning of the book, she challenges that we all have more money than we think we do. Problem is, we’re earning it and spending it in ways that don’t necessarily lead to happiness.

Keeping up with the Joneses, wearing expensive jewelry and buying bigger and bigger houses don’t lead to happiness, she says.

What does? Experiences and giving.

I don’t think too many of you will argue with me on this. I think most of us know, at least on some level, that material items are empty. Houses, cars, designer handbags, and topiary don’t make us happy, at least not for long. Most of life’s most blissful moments arise from the simple pleasure of doing something we love with people we love. The rest of the blissful moments tend to arise when we’ve helped someone else find happiness.

And yet it’s not that simple, is it?

That’s why I asked Laura a few questions.

Q: The Buddhists tell me that money, especially the strong attachment to it, leads to unhappiness. Have you found this philosophy to be true?

Laura: I think it depends. Sometimes money causes more problems, but sometimes a lack of money can cause the exact same problem multiplier, just in reverse. Not having a car means you can’t take a better job farther away. Not taking that job means you can’t get out of debt, so money that could go to signing your kids up for camp is going to interest. I think problems are universal. The human condition is not to live in a state of bliss, but the problems that come from more money are generally preferable to those that come from less.

 Q: I was fascinated by your section about giving–and particularly that giving away money is one of the few ways that money truly leads to happiness. So let’s say I have a windfall of $3,000. Are you saying that I’ll feel happier if I give some or most of it to others than I will be if I buy a top of the line refrigerator that has an ice cube maker that actually works and a meat compartment that doesn’t freeze the cheese? (Just in case it’s not clear, my current ice maker is broken and the only cheese to be had in this house is frozen, but not on purpose).

Laura: If your refrigerator is causing you so much stress and unhappiness that it has risen to the top of the list of things you’d spend money on, then by all means, replace it if you can. Maybe you could think of it as a present to your husband. Then you’d get the psychological benefit of having spent the money on someone else. But you’d still get your fridge.

 Q: I’ve found, over the years, that I don’t always feel good about giving. For instance, when organizations put me on a spam list and beg and beg for the money until they wear me down and get me to write a check mostly just so they will go away, I don’t feel good. When people come to my door and stand and stare at me until I feel guilty and write them a check, I don’t feel good. In these situations, I feel coerced. Okay, no, I feel robbed. How does someone who values generosity find a way to give without feeling negative about it?

Laura: I agree that coerced giving doesn’t feel good. It’s important to give mindfully. So have a strategy ahead of time. Think through the causes that matter to you, and identify an organization you support where you can also volunteer. Give generously there. Then tell everyone else, honestly, that you’ve already made your charitable commitments.

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How to Break a Porn Habit

A Post Where You Get to Help A Fellow Reader Out

When I asked you all about your most vexing marital problems, AmyB commented:

Internet Pornography is a constant struggle. I’m not against sexual experimentation or even masturbation. I’m not even against other ‘consenting” adults using responsible pornography if they like it and it helps their sex lives, BUT I feel that in MY relationship I want my partner to direct his sexual tension and arousal to me, his very open sexual partner, not an anonymous person on a computer screen. According to him, pornography and sex with a partner are two totally different things. I still can’t help to think that it affects the dynamics of a relationship. Am I being unrealistic? Am I not allowing my partner to be independent in his choice to watch pornography? Should I respect his choice to watch pornography? He’s attempted to quit plenty of times and, at the moment, he doesn’t do it (to my knowledge). Still I know it’s a big struggle for him and I know that if he had the house to himself, he’d probably do it. What’s worse, I can’t do anything to help him.

Porn is one of those issues that tends to polarize people, so I’d like to attempt what might be impossible: a civil discussion about it. Here are the rules for commentating:

  •  No name-calling. I will delete any insults without a warning.
  • Definitely state your view. If you think it’s wrong, say it. If you think it’s a divine gift, say it. But DON’T attack someone else for not agreeing with your opinion.
  • If you try to comment and can’t, let me know. I’m still trying to fix what’s wrong with the commenting area on this site.

Got it?

I’ll start. My views on porn fall somewhere in the middle. It doesn’t offend me. I’ve watched it on occasion with my husband. It can be the spark that gets the mood started. All of that said, I think of porn much as I think of fast food. For me, fast food might be okay in a pinch—like when I’m on the New York Thruway at 3 am and seriously too hungry to go on. It’s not how I want to meet my daily hunger needs.

Similarly, with porn, it might work for a couple if it’s one trick in their arsenal of ways they get in the mood—and especially on those rare occasions when they are just too fatigued to come up with something better. But if it becomes a crutch–something you need everyday to feel happy, satisfied or in the mood—then it’s not healthy.

Because I didn’t feel completely qualified to tackle this topic, I also asked Stu Gray, who pens the Stupendous Marriage blog for insight. What follows are my questions and his answers.

Me: I imagine, like alcohol, some people can partake in porn and have it be a somewhat harmless pastime, whereas others get addicted and do much harm to themselves and their families. Do you agree with this? Or, after your experiences, do you feel there is nothing that is ever harmless about it?

Stu: I think from a scientific standpoint, that’s probably true. Some people are wired to be more prone to be addicted to alcohol, or drugs, or sex or food, and others don’t seem to be addicted to the ‘biggies’ that classify as addiction in our culture. The thing we can’t control is when the brain makes that click from “Its a harmless past time” to “I gotta have it all the time”. It’s a dangerous game to play especially with your brain and with sex. I heard it said once that “we aren’t born with an alcohol drive but we ARE born with a sex drive.” The drive that can be so good can end up driving us to do things that can ultimately be painful.

From a relationship standpoint, I think porn is harmful in several ways. Porn fans the flame of selfishness: She won’t give me what I want when I want it? I’ll take care of it myself.

The “me first” attitude tends to become a dominant factor. Great Marriages are made up of two people who love and give to one another. Porn rewires the brain to always be in a state of, “What can you do for me sexually?”

Porn usually leads to masturbation. Not for everyone, but for many. When you masturbate to an image other than your spouse, the sexual desire is fulfilled by someone outside your marriage. So, you have less desire to seek your spouse out for sexual connection. You also train your mind and your body to respond to images that are a false reality. So, your mind begins to think, “I want that all the time with my spouse.” Physically, if you are chronically masturbating, you begin to associate sexual release with images. This leads to a tough time in the bedroom with some people not being able to perform at all because it takes videos or images to be aroused.

Spouses feel like they can’t measure up because they don’t look like the images, and they don’t feel like the sexual fantasy you create when you “act out” with yourself.

Me: What are the signs that someone is addicted?

Stu: I think the quickest way to begin to see if someone is addicted is to ask him or her to stop. Most people who have a compulsion toward something harmful will say that they can stop anytime they want, that they just don’t choose to. So, call their bluff. Challenge them lovingly with, ‘If you can stop – do it’.

Most will begin with excuses about how it doesn’t harm anyone, that they are just having fun, or that it’s not a real problem. This type of denial is usually one indicator of an addiction. Also, if they do try to stop and can’t or begin hiding it, then they could be going down that road.

People show signs of addiction in different ways. For one addict, it could look like a need for more edgy pornography. For another it might be unhealthy adventurous sex with your spouse. For another it could be moving from images to real life sexual affairs. Or, It could look like something as simple as erasing the history in your browser because you know that it hurts your spouse when they find it.

Many times people mistake the “symptoms” for the “problem.” If someone is addicted to pornography, somewhere, at some point in time, it may have started as something fun they did when they were single. But now, it has become the “go to” when they want to escape from reality. So, the pornography itself isn’t’ the issue. It’s a heart issue. Why does this person need to escape from their current reality and look to porn to fill that need? That is the point couples need to focus on first.

Me: Beyond the obvious, what is the allure that keeps someone coming back again and again?

Stu: The allure is no consequences and no denial. If you don’t have to beg or cajole the image on the screen, that is much easier than having to negotiate a time between soccer and after the kids go to bed, or when they don’t feel like it, or some other perceived excuse to not have sex. Porn never gives an excuse to not have sex.

That’s the seduction. It’s an easy YES.

Porn makes the sexual act all about body parts and the looks of a person. Porn offers a surface look at body parts that is devoid of any type of emotional connection, which is necessary in marriage and healthy relationships. Anyone who has been married and had sex with one person for several years knows that the sex can get better as you get to know one another better. It doesn’t have as much to do with the body as it does with the connection to your spouse.

 Me: Understandably, partners can feel hurt, angry, and envious of porn. While perhaps justified, these emotions don’t lead to healing, understanding or progress. What can a spouse do to help an addicted spouse overcome the problem?

Stu: To begin with, I think it’s important to understand that your spouse’s addiction has little to do with you. You didn’t drive your spouse to pornography. Your spouse might blame you, but your spouse made these choices.

That doesn’t mean you should be harsh or condemning. Try to take emotions out of it.

It is very important for someone who is addicted to know that there are consequences for behaviors. With love, say that this behavior is not acceptable for you and your marriage. Ask if it is a problem. Ask what they get from pornography. Suggest someone with which can talk openly about it such as a counselor, pastor, or support group.

It’s likely you’ll meet resistance. Until the addict decides that he wants to change, there will be no change. So, sometimes you have to be the change. I’m not saying divorce — but perhaps a long trip to see the family (if you don’t normally do that), or a separating until you see positive steps taken (like filters on computers, accountability with other people, counseling, or some other actions toward health).

There are also groups for spouses of addicted folks. Getting into a group that is healthy (not just badmouthing addicts) can be very beneficial. Also, reading about sex and porn addiction can be eye opening. There are several authors who have written specifically for spouses of sexually addicted people. Check out work from Mark Laaser and Pat and Stefanie Carnes.

Readers: Now it’s your turn. What’s your advice? What’s your take? Remember the rules.

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