Stop the Insanity
For parents racing their child from ballet to hockey, piano lessons to tae kwon do, and then home to start digging into four hours of homework, author and psychologist Kevin Leman has some helpful advice: stop.
That's right, stop—stop the madness, stop the chaos and stop filling kids' every waking minute with action. So certain of this straightforward premise is Leman that he has written a book called Home Court Advantage: Preparing Your Children to Be Winners in Life (Tyndale, June). "This book ought to be required reading" for parents contemplating having children, Leman says, because "today's parents are nuts."
Leman, himself a father of five and author of 27 books on birth order, marriage, relationships and other subjects, says parents need to slow down and start parenting. Today's parents are too driven to make their children the best. But they can grow to be great kids and just as successful simply by hanging out with parents and, more importantly, hanging out at home. Leman calls it making your kids "homegrown."
"This book flies in the face of our culture," Leman tells PW. Instead of raising children at home, "it's like they're living in a hotel." He likens it to "outsourcing" parenting responsibilities by filling kids' days with endless activity.
According to Leman and to studies cited in the book, most kids actually like to be with their families. Let them hang out, let them be creative, let them be with you, he says. "It's important for kids to have some down time."
Leman was raised in a small town outside of Buffalo, with his share of growing pains. He was unruly in school—"teachers hated me, I was the attention-getter, the class clown"—and jokes that reform school wouldn't let him in. "I'm the least likely guy to have authored 27 books," he says, adding that he graduated "257th out of 260" in high school. "I was one of those guys who struggled.... I was written off by people."
After high school Leman attended college in Chicago, barely lasting a year. Soon after, he was living with his parents, who by then had moved to Arizona. He worked as a janitor and learned what it was like "to be treated like a second-class citizen," he says. "It was a turning point in my life." Eventually, Leman graduated with a degree in psychology from the University of Arizona and went on to earn a master's and doctorate there.
Leman says Home Court Advantage can be seen as the book that ties together all of his previous books. "It gives the others some perspective." He adds, "This was a fun book to do for me," admitting that it could ruffle feathers. "I know a lot of parents are going to disagree and tell me to get with the program. But I say it's the program that's the problem." In order to fix that, it's important that parents get an idea of what they want their kids to be like when they're adults, he says. Parents must ask themselves, "What is important? What are my values?"
But Leman says the children need to be involved, too. They must learn to be accountable for their actions. And while they are at home they should see how the household is run. This will give kids a dose of "reality discipline."
Parents leave "an indelible imprint on their kids," Leman says, so they must "step up," take control and "be the guide." He notes, "Who you are is what they are."
Rick Regenfuss, associate publisher at Tyndale, expects sales of Home Court Advantage "will surpass" the four Leman books previously published through Tyndale. Of those four, one, Sheet Music (2003), has sold more than 120,000 copies. Leman's two bestselling books, The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are (original edition 1985) and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours (2000), both published by Revell, have sold more than a million copies each. Regenfuss says the main component of the book's marketing will be "aggressive" publicity. "We're going to get him in front of as many media people as we can." He expects most sales will come from Christian booksellers, with another 40% coming from the general market. —Ted Howard
When Gary Chapman wrote Toward a Growing Marriage in 1979, his material came from counseling many couples—and 19 years of his own difficult marriage. "The assumption then was that if you're in love, everything's going to be fine," says Chapman. "Well, we were in love, but she had expectations and I had expectations, and neither of us were meeting those expectations. We ended up arguing a lot."
The result, a book that looked at both relationships before marriage and in marriage, got off to a slow start, yet eventually sold 180,000 copies and launched Chapman's career as an author. Now, this July, Moody is publishing a revised and expanded version with a new title, The Marriage You've Always Wanted.
Chapman revised the book with the benefit of better statistical data and many more years of marriage under his own belt. Also, although it doesn't specifically refer to his perennial bestseller The Five Love Languages(2.8 million copies sold since 1992), its teachings run throughout.
For example: "Love as an attitude asopposed to love as an action," Chapman says. "Every day married couples must make the choice to love—or do what comes naturally and be self-centered. [They must remember] 'I'm married to this person because I want to enrich their life.' "
More so than in The Five Love Languages, Chapman uses biblical citations to back up his points. Reinforcing that love is a choice, Chapman cites Titus 2:3,4: "Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderous or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children." Chapman notes, "If love can be commanded and taught, then it can be learned and it's not something beyond our control." Another big difference between The Marriage You've Always Wantedand the original book is that it is aimed only at those already married.
Chapman says the value of the book is that "it's written in the language of the common person, not in psychological terms or deep theological terms. I think that's what the average Christian reader is looking for. They don't care about all the latest theories. They just want to know, 'How can my marriage be better this week?' " That's why Chapman emphasizes practical solutions.
"Everyone says, 'Communication is fundamental to marriage success,' but they don't tell you how to do it," Chapman says. "I talk about something I call the Daily Minimum Requirement. 'Just tell me three things that happened in your life today and how you feel about them.' My research indicated that 50% of married couples do not share as many as three things a day—and those that do don't share feelings. They just share events. This is an idea you can grab hold of. It's measurable. The Daily Minimum Requirement will build intellectual intimacy and emotional intimacy."
In his chapter on decision making, Chapman uses a concept uncommon in many evangelical circles: mutual submission. "I think a lot of contemporary Christians have the idea that submission is strictly a female word. If you look at the context of Ephesians 5, though, you see the entire passage starts off by saying 'submit yourselves to one another.' Then it gives illustrations of how different parties—husbands, wives, children, slaves—are to work out that submission. A lot of Christians view the husband as the president of the company. I don't think that concept is in the Scripture. The Bible does not exalt the husband as being more important than the wife." —John Draper
Enlightenment Should Be Fun
Sam Martin says he's found enlightenment one or two dozen times in his life, and his latest book, How to Achieve Total Enlightenment (Andrews McMeel, May), is a quirky, humorous guide to help others on their journey toward spiritual peace.
For Martin, enlightenment is essentially a discovery and can be many things: "a physical discovery on a road trip, a moment of peace that you find when you're digging a hole in the backyard or putting something together with your hands or smelling roses. It can come in very small places, common everyday places."
Martin was born in London and spent summers visiting his father, who was in the oil business, in places like Dubai and Athens. Later trips abroad led to many of his enlightenment experiences, like riding on top of a school bus through the Himalayas in Nepal and selling T-shirts in Camden Market in London. Martin's natural bent to look for answers compelled his travels: "It was a genuine seeker's journey. I was out there to find myself. I just had to get it out of my system. Of course, it never works, you don't ever really get anything out of your system, you just come to terms with yourself. But I guess that's the journey."
Perhaps the most significant moment in Martin's journey came when he was living in Canada, working as a tree planter. The job—planting 700 to 2,000 trees a day to reforest clear-cut areas—led him to a point of spiritual and emotional exhaustion, and, eventually, to "spiritual awakening," he says. That awakening was encouraged by reading Yann Martel's Life of Pi. The boy in the book practices Hinduism, Islam and Christianity, and doesn't want to choose between them. Martin says he was especially struck by one episode: "His parents confront him one day and say, 'You have to choose,' and the character says—it's a quote from Gandhi, I think— 'I just want to love God.' And that really struck me as something that transcended traditional religion. It's not about the Bible or the Qur'an or the Upanishads, it's about your relationship with God. That's what this book is about. Anybody can find enlightenment."
The book covers 100 topics, from the practical, like "Get perfect abs through yoga," to the zany: "How to know if you're the chosen one" and "What to do if God appears to you." (Hint: sunglasses are okay so long as they aren't mirrored—wouldn't want God to think you have an attitude—and don't run. Martin says, "How can you run from God, anyway?"
Andrews McMeel picked up the book after Martin's agent, Meredith Bernstein, had shopped the proposal around for about three months. (Martin is also the author of How to Mow the Lawn: The Lost Art of Being a Man, Dutton, 2003.) Editor Joshua Brewster says that beyond the jokey title and humorous approach, the book makes some serious points, and that combination made it a perfect fit for McMeel. "Martin really believes in what he's writing, and he's able to portray it with humor," Brewster says. According to Martin, the idea that the search for enlightenment should be fun comes from the Zen Buddhist approach "if you're not laughing, you're not living." Brewster says the book, with an initial print run of 25,000, will be categorized under self-help rather than religion because it "moves beyond religion, so we thought placing it in that category wouldn't do it justice."
Martin and Brewster both expect the book to sell to younger readers in high school or college who have more of an open mind about religious practice, and Martin hopes it will also appeal to those in their late 30s and 40s who have been disillusioned by traditional religion. "I wanted to make it clear that there was an alternative out there." —Lori Smith
Perfection Not Necessary
Jane Jarrell is something of a hospitality guru—some even call her "the Christian Martha Stewart." And while she's a big fan of Stewart's presentation and style, Jarrell, whose latest book, Simple Hospitality, was released May 10 by W Publishing Group, maintains that "hospitality is not about Martha Stewart at all."
As a former food and prop stylist for Southern Living magazine and a marketing and promotions manager for Neiman Marcus's restaurants, Jarrell says that after years of making things look hospitable, she wanted to share with people—mainly working moms—what hospitality really is and how to achieve it in their own lives.
"Hospitality is just extending kindness—whether popping the lid of a Diet Coke or serving an elaborate dinner spread or calling someone to let them know you're thinking of them," says Jarrell, who lives just outside of Dallas with her husband, nine-year-old daughter and toy poodle.
The book includes a potpourri of ideas to foster hospitality—everything from holiday planning and gift-giving ideas to recipes and tips on decorating and gardening. But Simple Hospitality differs from offerings by Stewart and her ilk by connecting hospitality to religion and spirituality. Jarrell peppers her book with biblical quotes and stories of hospitality, references to her church and her couples prayer group, and practical advice (like the reminder to pray for dinner party guests).
Jarrell also refers to bestsellers like Rick Warren's The Purpose-Driven Life (Zondervan) and Gary Chapman's The Five Love Languages (Moody) to bolster her message of hospitality as Christian service and generosity.
Another of Jarrell's departures from the conventional wisdom of entertaining is her collection of realistic-if-imperfect solutions. An entire chapter is devoted to "Faking Homemaking," and short sections like "Fancy Desserts That Only Look Difficult" and "Top Ten Tortilla Tips" add humor to the faith angle and "serious" entertaining advice. "I want to reach frazzled women who let this part of their life go because they think it has to be a production," she says. "It doesn't."
As the author of 12 books and coauthor of 20, Jarrell is now focused on this particular slice of the Christian market. "My mission is to reach the working mom to say you can't have it all at once, but you can have it all in increments." With an initial print run of 15,000—20,000, Simple Hospitality follows the January release of Jarrell's The Frazzled Factor:Relief for Working Moms,coauthored with Karol Ladd (also for W Publishing). Her Teachable Moments Cookbooks for Kids series (W Publishing), coauthored with Brenda Ward, has sold 52,000 copies, and her Mom's Little Helper series from Harvest House has sold 25,000.
Says W acquisitions editor Debbie Wickwire, "We all call Jane the 'Queen of Hospitality.' She really can do it all and makes it look fun and easy. She encourages women to keep it simple and even fun, not stressing out over having everything 'just-so' before they open their front door."
W is pitching Simple Hospitality to magazines and TV shows and is using some direct mail lists to target stay-at-home moms, Junior League groups and even new home buyers, Wickwire says. Consumer magazines Southern Living and Women's World are picking up some of the book's tips and "Simple Solutions" for sidebars and fillers, and Jarrell has taped several television and radio shows, including Moody Broadcasting's Midday Connection and FamilyNet's Your Health, with air dates scheduled after the book's release.
Jarrell says her own understanding of hospitality comes from growing up in the South with parents who were in the ministry and were constantly reaching out to others, often in small ways, and often with food. A coconut pound cake in the oven signaled the birth of a baby or a funeral. "Whether good news or bad, that cake was the staple," Jarrell says with a laugh. Her parents' home "was a comfortable place to be. We had people over a lot. Hospitality wasn't perceived as anything but a natural way of life."—Heather Grennan Gary