Blood Doesn’t Equal Family

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

familyThink of the first five people that you would call in an emergency. Are they blood relatives? If they’re not, do you consider them to be part of your family? Family is not just about who you are tied to biologically.

Blood may be thicker, but your body is still made up of 70% water. You can’t live without either substance, and the makeup of your family probably isn’t much different. Unfortunately, there is still a misconception that biological ties are stronger than others. Family may be blood, but those who are not biologically related can still be family.

There is no clear definition anymore of what a family is, particularly with the way things are changing. Same-sex marriages are becoming legalized all over the country; high divorce and remarriage rates produce blended families. Adoption is common for all types of couples. And this isn’t even counting the “aunts” and “uncles” who aren’t really related but still an integral piece of the family unit.

I have learned firsthand that a family consists of those who care about and support you.Unfortunately, this doesn’t always mean blood relatives. Many of the people who are my family share no blood connection to me whatsoever, including two of my sons and one of my daughters, my brother-in-law, and some dear friends who are as close to me as my own siblings.

Families come in all shapes and sizes, and blood ties are optional.

Problems with Sexual Health

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

Sex is an important part of a healthy, committed relationship. Unfortunately, there are a number of complications that can get in the way of a healthy sex life and interrupt the intimacy and passion you have with your partner. If you are having issues that are preventing you from having the sex life with your partner that you want and need – and that he or she wants and needs – you can discover ways to keep your passion alive. Even if your issues are constantly present or you are miserable and in pain and not really thinking about sex the way you would be if you felt fine, there are ways you can continue to have a healthy and mutually satisfying sex life.

file000100531136When you’re in a committed relationship, it isn’t just about the pursuit of an orgasm. Sex is also about intimacy and connection and closeness and love. When you can’t have that intimacy, it’s much easier to feel disconnected from your partner in every way, not just sexually.

How to Support a Partner Who Is Having Sexual Health Problems

It takes both partners to work through these times. Be supportive when your partner is in pain, doesn’t feel sexy, feels like his or her insides have been twisted into carnival rides, or just can’t find the inspiration to be sensual or sexual. If you are suffering from a sexual health issue, try to put your woes aside and find other ways to let your partner know you’re still madly, hotly passionate about him or her.

If you have a partner struggling with a sexual health problem, don’t push or demand or pout about the necessary non-sex you’re having. That makes it easier for him or her to want to find ways (and believe me, there are many other ways) to make you feel good and to keep your sensuality and intimacy alive. Spend more time cuddling and caressing, kissing and fondling, teasing and flirting.

How to Be a Good Partner When You’re Having Sexual Health Issues

If you are struggling with a sexual health issue, from polycystic ovarian disease to prostate troubles, from post-menopausal lack of libido to impotence, try to find some way every day to let your partner know that even though you’d rather have your doctor remove everything from your lower body that is remotely sexual right now, your partner is still someone you are attracted to and find sexy. When you feel horrible, let your partner care for you. When he or she needs reassurance, be sure to provide it.

A loving relationship does not need sex to thrive, but it does need intimacy.

Planning a “Green” Eco-Friendly Wedding

Are you planning a green wedding? Green weddings are becoming a huge trend, allowing couples to maintain their commitment to the environment by having an ecologically responsible wedding. Green weddings are planning in consideration of how each factor – invitations, beverages, food, location, and flowers – will impact the environment.

With the average wedding costing more than $25,000, going “green” for your wedding can save you plenty of green along the way. Here are some ways to green up your wedding.

Wedding Food

One of the best ways to go green at your wedding with food is to choose locally grown, organic products to serve. From organic greens to range-fed chicken, you can offer food choices that make a difference. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that organic food tends to be pricier than non-organic, so shop CSAs and Farmer’s markets to save extra money, or limit your menu choices to make it feasible.

The Wedding Cake

If you have ideas about how to make a wedding cake that tastes good while still being good for the environment, you’ll have to let me know. But you can choose to support a local bakery or chef rather than a chain store, and you can opt for a smaller cake (a lot of it ends up going to waste anyway).

The Wedding Invitations

Your wedding invitations provide an easy area to save money and be good to the environment. Printing your invitations at home on recycled paper allows you to minimize the impact, and if you skip the response cards and ask people to RSVP electronically, you eliminate much of the paper. Alternatively, you can create your invitation online and send out virtual invitations.

The Wedding Dress

While we may have grown up thinking that we have to spend $1,000 or more on an heirloom dress that we then carefully store for 30 years in the hopes that our daughters will wear the dress, it just doesn’t happen. Rent a dress or buy a used one to save money, or choose a dress made of hemp, cotton or silk with no synthetic materials or dyes used.

Wedding Favors

There are a number of different wedding favor options that are environmentally friendly while still creating a lasting memory for your guests. From organic jellies to handmade jewelry to beeswax candles, you can choose wonderful

Wedding Flowers

green wedding ideas - recycled flowersWhen choosing wedding flowers, you can save money and be environmentally friendly by choosing to work with a florist who uses recycled flowers and foliage for bouquets. You can create inexpensive and memorable centerpieces with live plants that your guests can take home.

The Wedding Transportation

There can be a huge environmental impact to destination weddings or even having a large number of out-of-town guests, so arranging to provide group transportation using hybrid vehicles can be helpful. Arrange to have your guests stay near the wedding location to reduce the impact, too. Instead of departing your wedding in a limo, consider a horse-drawn carriage instead.

Wedding Location

Green weddings are often held in natural environments, such as botanical gardens or nature preserves, or even in their own back yards. This reduces how many decorations you need. Hosting the wedding and reception at the same location can also minimize transportation requirements for everyone and allow your guests to spend more time with you. Choose a venue that already embraces eco-friendly practices, such as solar energy and recycled water and trash, or even offer to connect you with other green-friendly vendors. Some eco-friendly venues even donate a portion of your fee to supporting environmental causes.

After the Wedding

Rather than throw rice, have your guests throw biodegradable options, such as freeze dried flower petals. Bird seed is also a great option.

Do you have ideas or products to help people have greener weddings? Let us know!

Better than Sex?

Romance Series

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

Actually, according to research, there is not much in the world is better than sex…including money! According to research conducted by David G. Blanchflower and Andrew J. Oswald, in a report entitled “Money, Sex, and Happiness: An Empirical Study” the happiest people were not the ones making the most money – they were the mostly-monogamous, heterosexual and homosexual couples who were getting it on on a regular basis – at least two to three times a week.

better than sexThe economists equated a good sex life as having the same impact in terms of happiness as receiving $100,000. After speaking with over 16,000 people, Blanchflower and Oswald discovered the following interesting facts about American sex life:

  • Married couples are having far more sex than those who were single, divorced, widowed, or separated.
  • Most people average sex three times a month; women over 40 average once a month, but men over 40 average three times a month.
  • 7% of the respondents reported having sex more than four times a week.
  • 18% reported no sex whatsoever in the prior year.
  • Homosexuality versus heterosexuality did not make a measurable difference in sexual activity or happiness.

Both the men and the women involved in the study equated having regular sex with happiness, but those who paid for sex, cheated to get sex, or had casual sex were less happy than were those who were having regular sex with a monogamous partner.

The most significant finding in this study was that frequent sex made people happy – regardless of income. In fact, the connection between sex and income was non-existent in both males and females. In these trying economic times that is fabulous news! Having more sex with your regular partner will increase your level of happiness regardless of your financial situation.

If more sex makes people happy regardless of income, and if sex is a significant part of the happiness quotient, it would seem to me that there is no better argument, based on this evidence, to make love, not war! The next time you feel like going shopping to beat the blues, avoid the extra credit card bill and have sex instead. In fact, you can make it a regular way to save money: skip going out to eat or going to the movies and spend some time rekindling your romance. Improving your sex life and keeping some heat between the sheets is apparently has a pretty good payoff!

Modern Weddings – All the Frills, Frugally

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce
Modern weddings can be fancy and fun – with all the frills – while still being frugal. These money-saving tips will help you make the most of your nuptials without breaking the bank, giving you more money to spend on the honeymoon. From dresses and flowers to photography and gifts, you can have the wedding of your dreams without going broke.

The wedding industry is a multibillion dollar industry, and when it’s your turn to say “I Do” it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you need to have the biggest and the best wedding.

My advice? Save it for the honeymoon.

The Wedding Dress

Wedding CakeAt the end of the day, no one is going to care if you were in a$99 bridal store special or a $5000 custom-made gown with real diamonds. It may take a little more time in the dressing room to find the perfect dress for your body, but buying off the rack – or if you’re really trying to save, renting the wedding dress – is one of the best ways to save money. Saving money on the veil is even easier. Rather than paying $200-500 for a store-bought veil, buy the materials for less than $40 and make one.

The Wedding Flowers

Whether you work with a florist or put together your own floral arrangements, consider silk. Silk arrangements can be used later to adorn your new home. If you love the idea of real roses, save them for the bridal bouquet – but be sure to make a smaller silk bouquet for throwing. Boutonnieres and corsages can be simple – and inexpensive – carnations wrapped in a ribbon that is in the colors of the wedding.

Wedding Photographs

While forgoing a professional photographer may not have been something a couple would have considered even five years ago, the advances of digital photography have made it possible to have most of your photos taken by friends and family with digital cameras from which you can make inexpensive prints using an online service.

Wedding Decorations

It’s amazing how nice a wedding hall can look with tulle, balloons, and Christmas lights. For less than $75, you can have everything you need to create magic. Centerpieces for the tables can be simple candles, and wedding favors can be simple, handmade mementos that let people take something home to remember the special occasion.

Wedding Video

Like photography, the ability to obtain excellent quality video from a home video camera has never been better. You can ask family members and friends to capture video, splice it together, and share the entire thing on YouTube with no more than a few clicks of the mouse and free software.

While not every cost is avoidable, even the more expensive wedding items such as the cost of renting a hall and catering can be minimized with some creativity. Perhaps someone you know owns a beautiful home that would make the perfect backdrop for the wedding. It never hurts to think creatively while planning. The more money you save on the wedding, the better the honeymoon and your future, debt-free life can be.

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Eternity with One Eye

View from the Dragonfly’s Back

MomsGetReal Soul Feeder Chris Wilcox

I love the new trend towards “real” in advertising. Dove’s Real Beauty campaign, Cameron Russell’s vulnerable TED Talk  on being a model, Jana Jeffery’s post on body image – they all raise interesting points about what we surround ourselves with. I do question how long it will last before the ad agencies revolt and we revert to photoshopping away the imperfections. “Real” only seems to apply to models not being airbrushed, and when last I checked, models were the last people on the planet who even needed airbrushing – except for, of course, plus-sized models — size 12 skinny b*tches that they are. After all – art only imitates life, it doesn’t copy it.

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The trend toward taking someone who is already beautiful and making them flawless isn’t new – in fact, it’s pretty old. 3,300 BC and Nefertiti didn’t have one damn pore on her alabaster skin. To be fair, they didn’t finish her left eye. What’s eyesight, though, when you can claim that your skin never had a zit?

Is Nefertiti somewhere thinking, “Fantastic. 3 millenia later and what does the world have of me? THAT? So much for eternal life. I’m the eternal representative of, ‘Oops.'”

How many times have you walked out of your house without your left eye, metaphorically speaking? I’ve done it.  I’ve shown up at work in mismatched shoes (not socks – entire shoes) and I’ve not just ditched putting on makeup, I’ve totally forgotten to even consider it. Of course, when I get where I’m going I typically think “Oh well,” long enough to plot a way to never leave my office for the entire day – and it usually works. Will anyone care that I don’t have on a drop of Cover Girl? Hell no.

But I will.

I’ll avert my eyes when I wash my hands in the restroom because all I will see are the dark circles and fine lines under my eyes. I will criticize how my eyelashes seem to be non-existent and that I have this one dot of an age spot high on my right cheekbone. And all that, of course, will lead to my chin, which I don’t even want to talk about, and don’t even get me started on anything below my collar bones.

Making a human inherently flawless is a collage… an art project. And women have handed over untold trillions of dollars to keep up with that project every year.  I do it every day I get dressed and go to work. I chase an ideal of What I’m Supposed to Look Like, I berate myself when I see something that doesn’t achieve the right illusion, and I bemoan my relationship to gravity.

And why? Have we done it for so long that it’s just part of our DNA?  Have we bought into some view that we’re not good enough as is? Or are we just replicating to the best of our abilities what our thoughts tell us is “acceptable”? Even though our thoughts are based on an illusion.

Do we remember Nefertiti as a powerful Egyptian Ruler, or as the pretty woman with the missing eye?

5 Tips for the Bride for a Happy Wedding Day

A happy wedding day might be difficult to imagine if you’re stressing about the wedding plans and all that goes into them. Your wedding day is supposed to be the most wonderful day of your life, so why is it always so stressful? Let these five tips be your guide to a happier, less stressful wedding day.

Getting married is an exciting and stressful time. They don’t have shows like “Bridezillas” for nothing! For some women, the stress is overwhelming. These five tips are designed to help you survive the day in style.

Happy Bride Tip 1

1373409498haeemEvery time you start to worry about whether or not you like the DJ, why your fiancé insists on doing the chicken dance, or how frustrated you are by your future mother-in-law’s constant criticizing, take a deep breath and think about how you plan to celebrate your tenth wedding anniversary. Ten years after the big day, you’re not going to be thinking about how embarrassed you were on the dance floor or how frustrated you were with your mother-in-law. You’re going to be thrilled she’s watching the kids while you and your husband escape for a weekend. Put it in perspective.

Happy Bride Tip 2

Everyone is going to have an opinion about everything. The truth of the matter is, though, that it is your wedding. You and your fiancé should have the ultimate say on the details. Where compromise is possible, do it. Where it’s not, learn how to say a firm “no thank you.” It’s good practice for all of the helpful opinions that will come with the first child.

Happy Bride Tip 3

Tact and diplomacy aren’t just for global peace; they help keep peace on a familial level as well. People want to feel like they are contributing to the day. While you may not want 15 bridesmaids, you might need someone to help seat guests, to encourage people to sign the guest book, or to take gifts as the guests arrive. Put your willing friends and family to work doing things that are important but won’t equate the cost of another gown or tux rental.

Happy Bride Tip 4

Quit worrying about the myths and legends and do what’s right for you. If taking photos before the wedding means your wedding album will be picture perfect, then by all means let your fiancé see you before the ceremony. And rain doesn’t mean bad luck; it means there’s a rainbow right around the corner. Happiness is all about how you choose to look at things (advice worth remembering after the wedding, too).

Happy Bride Tip 5

No matter how chaotic and busy things become, take one moment for just you and your fiancé on the day of your wedding. That moment will be something you cherish.

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Kids First: 5 Ways to Make Your Children Feel Secure During a Divorce

MomsGetReal Guest Contributor Anika Oaks

Parents provide the stability in life for children and when that foundation is taken away by divorce, it disrupts the entire process of growing up. Parents can exercise a few basic steps to give the child as much security as possible in an awkward situation. Here are five ways to make your children feel secure and loved during a divorce.

No Conflict

divorceConflict is the natural lifestyle of some parents. Children caught in the middle suffer greatly. Both spouses must make the effort to keep the fighting away from the children during and after the divorce. If an argument starts to brew, take a step outside or move it to an isolated room. Arguments are so easy to fall into, and their repercussions can last a very long time. Show enough self control to minimize your children’s exposure to this negativity.

Avoid Recriminations

A wife may think her philandering husband is the worst person in the world, but to a child the same man is a loved, faithful daddy. Spouses who take their anger and emotions out on the other parent in front of the children can provoke mixed emotions in the children. Avoid blame and negativity toward the other spouse in front of the children, even if your points are valid.

Provide Stability in Living Arrangements

Children are flexible in what they can withstand, but they still need a place that they feel is their own. Ensure they know that there is a bed, a room or even a corner reserved for them. They can live though temporary and necessary times of instability, but when it stretches too long they become insecure. Try to resolve any custody issues as quickly as possible with minimal dramatics.

Make It “No Fault”

Children old enough to reason become adept at understanding blame. Unfortunately, they are far too willing to blame themselves for the parents’ breakup. This is very hard for them to admit to others and it becomes a festering sore on their spirit. This is not solved overnight, but both parents must make an effort to comfort the children and let them know repeatedly that it was through no fault or blame of theirs that mom and dad could not work things out. This subject is important to address, as children can internalize the idea, first, that they contributed to the separation, and second, that relationships and marriage are scary and not to be trusted. These ideas can have long-lasting effects.

Seek Mediation

A divorce mediator works for both parents to come to agreements that everyone can live with. Silvana D. Raso, writing for the Huffington Post, states that the mediation process allows divorcing parents to stay cool. Companies such as California Divorce Mediation provide the parents with the tools to help them focus on the children’s welfare and security while hashing out the details like custody arrangements and who keeps what.

It is sometimes hard to put children first when parents’ lives and needs are abruptly turned over. However, it is the responsibility of the parents to ensure that their children come through the divorce process with as little harm as possible.

 

Anica Oaks is a recent college graduate from University of San Francisco who loves dogs, the ocean, and anything outdoor-related. She was raised in a big family, so she’s used to putting things to a vote. Also, cartwheels are her specialty. You can connect with Anica here. This article uses information about the mediation process from California Divorce Mediation.

What’s on Your Acre?

View from the Dragonfly’s Back

MomsGetReal Soul Feeder Chris Wilcox

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been reading Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. If you’re a writer, it’s one of those must-haves because it has a way of making the insanity of being a writer seem less like Sandra Bullock in Gravity and more like The Breakfast Club.  We all have ways we break down that someone else can identify with and raise a “me, too” hand – no one has it easy.

butterfly-dragonfly-plant-field-nature-hd-wallpaperIn it, Anne relays a story from a friend about an emotional acre.  We all all born with an emotional acre, and it’s ours to do with as we please. There’s a gate at the middle that people will come in and out of. If someone dumps an oil spill on your acre, you can boot them. Same if they build a hideous garage – set fire to it an boot them. It’s your emotional acre.

Now, dear Anne also talks about this emotional acre in terms of character development. Just like you know what’s on your own emotional acre, you also need to know the acreage of your characters.

Which got me thinking. What’s on my acre?

Of course, the Southern-belle-wannabe in me immediately wants a plantation rather than just a paltry smidge of an acre. The peach and pecan orchard alone could be one acre all by itself. Why peaches and pecans? Sweet and nutty – just like me. 😉 But for the purposes of this Yankee exercise, I’ll limit it.

My sanctuary would be on my emotional acre – the  safe place that is my meditation room (hello, Eat Pray Love, reference – how many of you can I fit in this year?) where I can travel the paths of my psyche safely without judgment.  The next piece of my emotional acre is a compost pile. Why? Because that’s where I can throw all the crap to be recycled into something good.  I can give all the black tar that collects in my emotional energy field and toss it out to compost and be converted into something good – like every time I criticize myself for not making more progress (Oh Wii Oh… OHHHH oh) I can compost that thought into motivation to keep going.

So what am I growing on my emotional acre?  I’m growing strong trees that reach deep into the earth to ground me. I’m tending to a labyrinth of roses because roses were my grandma’s flower and they remind me of her strength, love and compassion for others. I’m planting things that I want to see grow into beautiful things  because they nourish my soul, inspire me and we have a reciprocating relationship of gratitude – one cannot exist without the other. Even if it’s only in my emotional imagination.

And when others march across my emotional acre and disrespect it, I launch my boot into their ass and kick them out.  Not because I don’t love them – because I may very well love them a great deal – but because I love myself more.

What’s on your acre? :)

Namaste.

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