Ottawa MeetUp

Last week I was in Ottawa staying at my oldest daughter’s townhouse while my younger daughter was practising for a quizzing tournament with her team. And since I was in a different city, I thought I’d try a “meetup”.

Ever heard of those? Basically it’s when an online community decides to meet “in real life”, and then chat a bit. So I put an announcement out on Facebook and sent a note to people on my newsletter group who were in the Ottawa area, and told everybody I’d be at a certain Menchie’s at 7 p.m. on Friday if they wanted to drop by.

Nine lovely women came by–(let’s see if I can remember all their names): Sonya, Alexis, Colleen, Louise, Danielle, Amelie, Christa, Leanne, Tracy, and me–and one little man:

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We started out the evening with something very important. We all got frozen yogurt (which is awesome) except for one poor woman who was on a cleanse. But she’s getting healthy, so that’s good! I was not getting healthy. I used a lot of chocolate toppings. And I don’t regret it.

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And then we just gabbed. I asked people’s advice on a Reader Question I’m trying to get ready in the next little while: how do you prepare for marriage long distance? Like, how do you make sure that he’s not a serial killer or something? And we had a great chat about that.

Amelie asked me how in the world I ever got started writing about sex, and we chatted about how it’s hard to find a safe place to talk about it. A number of women said that on getting married they faced an interesting dilemma: they had become Christians later in life, and they wanted to follow God, but they didn’t know what was okay in bed. And so they felt like everything was dirty.

Then another woman piped and said, “you feel that way even if you WERE a Christian your whole life!”

Alexis commented, “that’s why I’m glad Sheila’s here–to reclaim sex. Christians are supposed to know what’s best about it!” And we laughed.

We chatted about how ugly the world has gotten–with pornography, and child prostitution, and erotica. We chatted lots about breastfeeding and keeping your house liveable when the kids are little.

And then, speaking of keeping the place liveable, I decided to open the box of books of my new edition of To Love, Honor and Vacuum in front of everybody.

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If you ever feel like you spend your life cleaning up, and nobody really helps you or appreciates you, then this book is great for you!

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I had fun figuring out where everybody had first heard of me. Danielle and Sonya had heard me speak years ago in Ottawa. Amelie had found my book report download for homeschoolers (if you sign up for my homeschooling newsletter you’ll get it!). Tracy had met me when Keith and I spoke at a FamilyLife marriage conference. And a number of them commented that I had emailed them back after they asked me a question. That made me feel a little badly because I only answer about 5% of the emails I receive now. I receive so many that my assistant goes through them first. I wish I had more time for personal touch!

Then, after everybody had asked me questions, I had some of my own. A few of the ladies there–like Leanne and Alexis–do comment quite a bit on Facebook and sometimes on this blog, and I’ve met them before. But most read but don’t say a whole lot. Friday, the day of the meetup, was a day with an odd comment thread on the blog after my post “Where’s the Dad?” I was saying that whenever you read a news item of some horrible family thing gone wrong, there’s usually no dad in the picture. We need more dads in the picture.

A number of commenters took me to task, saying that dads aren’t there because of welfare laws, and child custody laws, and rape shield laws, etc. etc., which make men feel marginalized. I agree that the law marginalizes men; I just don’t think that’s an excuse. When you’re standing before God, and He asks, “why didn’t you care for your kids?”, you can’t say, “Because the welfare laws made my one-night stand girlfriend (I forget what her name was now) feel like she didn’t need me.” And then some commenters said that this was actually my fault because I argued that marriage should be a partnership, rather than giving all authority to men. So it’s my fault that men have one night stands with drug addicts? Thanks.

Anyway, these women told me that they hardly ever read the comments, and when they do, they often think these people are bizarre. I think I get caught up in the debate because it’s often these fringe comments that do get made. People who agree don’t say much. So I tend to think everyone thinks the way some of the commenters do. It’s good to know I’m not alone!

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And we talked about the polarization in the online world. Here’s an example: with the modesty debate, one side says that women must watch what they dress because they can cause men to lust, and they are responsible for that; the other side says women should be able to wear whatever they want, and men are responsible solely for themselves.

The problem is that if I argue the modesty end of the spectrum is too extreme, people think I’m then saying, “anything goes!” Really, on the vast majority of the issues, I’m just saying the answer is in the murky middle. And yet I get accused of all kinds of things on this blog because I don’t tend to be on either extreme on pretty much any issue.

It was very nice to hear that the vast majority agree with me.

Then Alexis asked a really good question:

how do you teach your 4-year-old not to show her underwear in public without making her ashamed of her body?

Great question! I’m going to have to use it as a post soon, but I’d love some insight. If any of you have any thoughts, please leave them in the comments!

So it was a ton of fun, and the yogurt was great, and it was neat to see people in real life whose names I’ve seen on Facebook. And I think I’ll do it again! So sign up for my newsletters and then check your inbox and check on Facebook. If I’m coming to your neck of the woods I’ll let you know!