Life with Ladybug: How to be happier in your marriage

wedding pic 15 years

By Shannon Magsam, Ladybug’s mama and John’s wife

We got a question from a mom recently (she sent it to the anonymous panel of our husbands who answer questions for our Motherlode feature, Inside His Head) about how to deal with being bored with her husband.

She sincerely seemed to want to make things better, but seemed to be in a rut (and, honestly, maybe a little depressed).

Since my husband and I just celebrated our 15th anniversary, the question made me think back to whether I’d ever been bored in my marriage. We’ve experienced some lulls, sure, but the ultimate answer is no. I think that’s because we’re both committed to making it a priority. BOTH of us (not just the wife. That’s me.).

We’ve made some dumb marriage mistakes, but we usually corrected the wheel so we could get back on the road to a happy life, happy wife (and husband. That’s John.).

Here are 15 tried-and-true tips I’ve discovered to help make you happier in marriage:

Shannon in Paris (Nevada)1. Have inside jokes. You know how you loved having little, intimate inside jokes — that only you two really seemed to get (thus, “inside”) — when you were first dating or married? Don’t stop.

There’s always something new to joke about. Most recently our little inside joke has been: “We’ll always have Paris”.

Just today my husband sent me a picture of the “Eiffel Tower” outside our hotel in Vegas.

Paris (France) is on my bucket list, but our budget only got us as far as Paris Las Vegas to celebrate our 15th anniversary.

2. Speaking of Vegas, make future plans for trips together. We can get so caught up in the day-to-day “can you take the dog to the vet” and “will you make the kids’ lunches” minutiae, that things can get a little stale.

If you can’t afford a big vacation, that’s OK. Just plan SOMETHING fun that you’re both excited about. It’s good to have something you’re looking forward to together.

Our trip to Vegas really wasn’t terribly expensive. We took an Allegiant flight out of XNA (you can only leave on Thursdays or Sundays) and we didn’t go to all-the-expensive shows (we just splurged on one and it was even less expensive than some of the other Cirque Shows. We highly recommend La Reve.)

We had great food at Gordon Ramsay Steak at our hotel the first night, some delicious sushi at Koi Restaurant & Lounge at Planet Hollywood and we loved breakfast at the little French bakery downstairs at Paris (among other awesome food). We ate A LOT, but luckily we also walked A LOT.

steps in vegasMost of those 30,894 steps that day were spent walking hand-in-hand. BONUS!

3. Decorate your bedroom, don’t make it a junkroom. Put pictures up from your wedding day and other memorable times you’ve spent together. When you’re ticked off, your mood will soften when you’re transported back in time to those happy days.

And seriously, clear the clutter. It’s not the least bit romantic to see a huge pile of unfolded laundry on the chair in the corner — or a stack of old boxes that you need to take to Goodwill. A clean bedroom will also make you more relaxed for when it’s time to sleeeeeeep.

4. Shut your pie hole. Promise yourself you’ll never say something that crosses the line. In particular, never harm each with knowledge that they’ve told you in confidence. Just don’t do it. If you use information likes this, you will be considered totally untrustworthy. They won’t tell you anything really important for fear you’ll use it against them in the next argument.

5. Name — and meet — each other’s needs. Be aware of each other’s needs and reassess whether you’re meeting them for each other. Talk about stuff. Neither party should assume the other knows what you need at any given moment. I’m a big fan of saying what I need (in a nice way, not in a bossy, you suck kind of way).

money26. Don’t lie about money. Money issues can make or break a marriage. It’s a huge issue. It’s one of the top reasons for marriage trouble, as most of us know. Don’t lie about purchases. In high school, I was always surprised when one of my friend’s moms would keep everything from a day’s shopping trip in the trunk and walk in the front door and act like we couldn’t find a thing to buy. Ahem.

7. FLIRT. Don’t be so serious all the time. Even the most shy and quiet among us flirted when we were first dating. And wasn’t it fun? Didn’t it liven things up? Well, it still has a place in marriage.

8. Bear each other’s burdens. Listen and I mean listen, when he tells you something he’s sad or mad or glad about. You know how I love research, and research says how we handle these everyday interactions can make or break a marriage. Don’t just say Mmmhmmmm and barely look up from your iPad when he tries to tell you something that happened at work. Same goes for the guys, of course.

9. Go to bed at the same time. Even if we haven’t had a chance to touch all day, when we go to bed together and we’re too exhausted to even talk, I always put my head in the crook of his arm. Or I reach out and we hold hands. If we’re not too exhausted to talk, it’s the best time to catch up without a million distractions flying toward us.

10. Pray for each other. We’re praying sorts and we often ask each other to pray when something’s happening at work, a relationship is strained or if we need help with something as a couple. And sometimes when you ask your spouse what you could pray about for them, you find out something that’s weighing heavy on their mind.

11. Make his favorite meal while wearing lingerie. OK, so not really, but you get the picture: Do something kind for your spouse. Especially kind. Over-the-top kind, on occasion. This is not really about who does the cooking in the family, it’s about feeding his soul. If he likes a certain food, make (or buy) it for him. The point is to occasionally go above and beyond to show each other you’re paying attention to what they like. And no, I don’t think it should just be the wife making these grand gestures. (My husband would adore the above example, though.)

12. Notice. No, go further than just noticing. Make a point of saying you noticed and appreciate whatever he/she did.

Here’s a good example: my husband recently took my car to the car wash and used the vacuum. He didn’t just hit the high spots, though. He vacuumed every nook and cranny. Then he bought some Armour All and shined up my interior. I was so excited the next time I got into my car. It looked so CLEAN. The next time we all went together somewhere, I told him how much I loved getting into a clean car, how much it changed my mood for the good, and that it was like he had given me three dozen roses, just by cleaning out my car.

It really was. Clean car nirvana.

13. Don’t be a smotherer. When we first got married, I was a little stingy with my man. I liked to have him around all the time. But I also loved it when he encouraged me to do things with my friends and was always generous about it. He taught me to be generous, too. Everybody needs a little space and absence does make the heart grow fonder. Take time for yourself and your friends, then you’ll enjoy each other’s company even more.

14. Always say hello and goodbye. I think this goes along with noticing each other. It’s saying you matter enough to say hello when you come home and goodbye when you’re leaving. If you kiss when you do it will give you extra marriage mojo. It’s about being intentional.

15. Have his/her back. Seriously, who should have your back more than your husband or wife? Don’t throw your spouse under the bus to friends and family even when it’s tempting.

vegas palm trees

Vegas, baby!

Any happy marriage tips you’d add? Fire away in comments!

Life with Ladybug: Not digging Graves’ Disease

By Shannon Magsam

I have a friend who may have thyroid cancer and I’m more than freaked out about it, but praying that she gets the help she needs, has surgery and gets the all-clear SOON.

Lots of women wonder if they have thyroid issues (and many of them actually do) because they think it might explain their weight gain or inability to lose weight. When I developed thyroid disease, it never entered my mind.

Of course, I was a 20-something, working 60-hour weeks at my first newspaper job.

And I was losing weight.

tiggerI resembled Tigger from Winnie the Pooh, bouncing around the Thousand Acre Wood in a state of never rest. Except I was bouncing off the four walls of a tiny newspaper office.

I didn’t realize it, but my body was burning up from the inside. My organs were working overtime and when I drank more caffeine to stay awake and make newspaper deadlines (or put the paper to bed every week) I was adding fuel to an already crackling fire.

I had the opposite of the thyroid condition can make people gain weight.

I was the proud owner of a HYPER-thyroid. My thyroid (a gland which is described as butterfly-shaped, how pretty) became so large I could finally see it in the mirror. It looked like I had swallowed a small egg and it was sitting right below my Adam’s apple. (I’m so glad I dodged one of the other common symptoms: bulging eyes.)

I found out the big knot had an ugly name: goiter. And the name of my disease was also ugly: Graves’ Disease.

Grave, dead, coffin, buried. I immediately thought of those words. My specialty doctor laughed at my concerns. He had seen this many times and wasn’t impressed.

He recommended that I take radioactive iodine to obliterate my overactive thyroid, so overnight I became someone who was HYPO-thyroid.

And I started taking little pills to compensate for my lack of a thyroid. (The Good Doctor really laughed when I said, in all seriousness: “What would happen to me if there was an apocalyptic event and I ran out of Synthroid?” I have since learned that my body starts to slowwww down if I miss a few pills. I don’t want to think about dying a slow, organs-shutting-down-slowly death. I try hard to keep a 90-day supply of Synthroid on hand.)

Many years after my thyroid was done in, I read a book by Christiane Northrup called Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom. I was in bed with my husband, propped up on two fluffy pillows, happily reading this book, when I got to The Part. The Part where she specifically mentioned Graves disease, which I somehow hadn’t realized was an autoimmune disease.

Don’t quote me (it was years ago) but Dr. Northrup wrote that sometimes our bodies manifest physical symptoms that correspond with problems we might be having in our lives. For example, if you don’t SAY what you need to say to the people around you, if you keep quiet when you should speak up, maybe you’ll get a cough. Or maybe you’ll get a big knot on your throat.

I thought back to that time of my Graves’ affliction: I was young, trying to prove myself as a new reporter, my personal life was a shambles and I shut up and put up. A people pleaser since birth (one can only assume), I avoided conflict and often failed to say what I really needed to say.

When I recalled that time in my life, I started to boohoo in bed, startling my husband. It made me emotional, I suppose, to remember the stress and the shambles. But I also felt empowered.

maxed out bookI realized I had changed for the better. I was better at speaking up and not taking on so much that my body might literally start to raise a ruckus by becoming sick. You know, just to get my attention.

I was reminded of that night in bed this week while reading a book by Katrina Alcorn called Maxed Out.

It struck me that I still haven’t completely given up the habit of not taking care of myself as much as I should (by exercising, sleeping and saying no enough). It reminded me that I vowed not to shut up and put up. I can still be kind, but I’m nobody’s doormat.

I’m sure I still keep too much bottled up, but I don’t feel like I might blow anymore. I pray, talk to friends and take care that I’m not holding onto resentments.

Please know that I’m not saying if you have cancer or some other illness, it’s your fault. But I do know there can be a correlation between physical ailments and inner turmoil.

And as GI Joe says: Knowing is half the battle.

Shannon headshot, peach USE THISShannon Magsam is co-founder of,, and the proud mama of a 13-year-old lady(bug). She’s married to John, a fellow writer and entrepreneur.

Life with Ladybug: Show me your scars and I’ll show you mine


By Shannon Magsam, Ladybug’s mama

One night when we were visiting my husband’s family in Philadelphia, his brother-in-law and I started comparing scars. My husband joked that we reminded him of that scene in Jaws when the characters were showing each other all their old war wounds.

Ours certainly weren’t that bad.

My husband’s brother-in-law, a rough and tumble guy who played and coached all kinds of sports, had lots more scars to share. But I had quite a few and gleefully displayed the visual evidence, making the how-I-got-my-scars stories as dramatic and gory as possible.

Well, I didn’t show him ONE of my scars: the jagged C-section that runs low across my abdomen.

At the time, it didn’t exist. (If it had, I totally could have trumped his old football scars. “And then they took my internal organs out, and had them lying on the table next to me!”)

But I had other old scars. From my bottom lip down to my big toe, I told my brother-in-law about these:

♦ The vertical line on my bottom lip from getting socked in the mouth with a baseball bat from that time in fifth grade when I was standing too close behind home plate.

♦ A mostly-faded gash on my neck from when I fell out of bed as a kid and came in contact with the edge of a trash can that was sitting right next to my sick bed.

♦ A puffy lighter-than-flesh-colored scar on my left palm left by the nasty bite of a fuzzy red ant that I tried to pick up when I was 6.

♦ Both my knees, from the time I careened through a barbed-wire fence on a go-kart with no brakes that was driven by a friend.

♦ On my right foot, an angry white line bisecting the bottom of my big toe from the cut I received after falling off a small bridge across a creek and landing on a broken glass bottle.

♦ Oh, and in the middle, there’s the one that’s more recent: the C-section scar. My OB told me I’d still be able to wear a bikini and I did, once, when I was at a tropical location to attend a wedding. But never here in NWA where I live and play, thankyouverymuch.

Our scars are evidence of a story. Often, lots of stories. The stories of our particular, unique, sometimes difficult, sometimes brave, sometimes daring lives.

We all have them, right? Where are your scars and how did you get them?

Let’s compare!

Shannon headshot, peach USE THISShannon Magsam is co-founder of and She’s married to an awesome newspaperman and they have a fun-loving, artsy teen (officially!) who loves watching tv with them and drawing cats. If you have a question for Shannon, send it to or leave a comment here.

Life with Ladybug: Embrace the MOMent

Life with Ladybug logo

By Shannon Magsam, Ladybug’s mama

“Mom, you have GOT to watch this TED talk! It’s called Embrace the Shake! It’s amazing.”

I immediately starting singing Shake it Off! Shake it off! and doing a little car dance.

youtube artFor that, I got the look. The kind of look that only a newly minted 13-year-old can give you. I’d just picked her up after school and she couldn’t wait for me to see this TED talk. She’d seen it in language arts class that day and it was apparently ah-mazing.

After swinging by Sonic for a snack, we settled in at home to watch Embrace the Shake. The talk grabbed my attention from the very beginning.

Even so, when Ladybug clicked the button to make the video show in “full screen” I balked. I had planned on checking my email over in the corner as we watched it on my work computer.

But with the video full screen, that’s all I could see.


I was immediately reminded that I’m awful at living in the moment. I constantly frustrate myself by thinking about work when I’m trying to play or enjoy family time. The curse of the work-at-home mom?

After Ladybug clicked on full screen, I made myself stop worrying about my email and I stopped trying to multi-task (I KNOW multi-tasking’s bad and researchers say you might as well be smoking pot when you try to do more than one thing at a time. DUDE). I actually sat back and just watched.

I’m glad I did. Embrace the Shake was inspirational and my girl and I were having a MOMENT. I let those moments pass by way too often. I’m always on the run, always thinking ahead to what’s next, not what’s now.

It’s like my mind is one of those TVs where you can watch multiple shows at once in little squares on the edges of the main event.

I want to turn those little side shows off more often. I want to go full screen and live in the moment more. Those little Mom Moments I can never get back.

I wrote a note and put it on my desk as a reminder. It says: “FULL SCREEN. Embrace the MOMent!”

Now I’d love for you to watch Embrace the Shake because it really is amazing. Be sure to enjoy it full screen for the full effect. As with everything in life :)

Click here to watch Embrace the Shake on the TED website.

Shannon headshot, peach USE THISShannon Magsam is co-founder of and She’s married to an awesome newspaperman and they have a fun-loving, artsy teen (officially!) who loves watching tv with them and drawing cats. If you have a question for Shannon, send it to or leave a comment here.

Life with Ladybug: Horses, cabins, friends, no leashes

candle polaroid

By Shannon Magsam

When we talked about what Ladybug wanted to do for her 13th birthday, she expressed a sentiment that I could relate to: “Mom, I just want to be off the leash for a little while.”

Baby, I understand.

Sometimes I feel tethered to my computer, my iPhone, the dirty dishes in the sink. Since I work from home, paid work is always staring me in the face and so is the unpaid housework.

So we made our escape over the weekend. We traveled to a little ranch just outside Alpena (Arkansas) to hang out in a cozy cabin and ride horses. We took a few of Ladybug’s closest friends to help celebrate the transition from 12-year-old to teen.

On Saturday, the birthday girl, her dad, her friends, and her mama saddled up for a trail ride.

As I breathed in the smell of my dusty horse, I remembered that it’s one of my most favorite scents ever. Yes, I love the smell of Bath & Body Works blue spa lotion and chocolate chip cookies as they’re being lifted out of the oven, but to smell a horse grounds me and pulls me up to my happy place by the roots.

I was always a horse girl. My grandmother used to tell me about the day she looked out the kitchen window and saw me sitting atop a large stallion. I had lured him over to the septic tank and jumped on. I had no fear. The beast didn’t mind the light weight of my 4-year-old self, but my Nannie still felt panicked. I can almost hear her praying as she walked up, very slowly, and pulled me down from the horse.

Ladybug also has a way with horses. When we were at the Rockin’ Z Ranch she rode a dark horse named Pistol. She was a natural. She really wanted to gallop, but knew it would make her friends’ horses gallop, too. So she just trotted occasionally on our hour-long trail ride.

Ladybug on pistol

When we made it back to the ranch, she and Pistol kept going while everyone else’s steeds were being unsaddled and unbridled. She urged her horse to go, go, go and she rode him with such ease a passerby wouldn’t have known it had probably been about two years since she’d been on a horse.

It took a while, but we eventually pried the birthday girl and her friends away from the main house – which was difficult since it’s populated with a herd of goats, some sweet dogs, lots and lots of horses and a few cantankerous miniature ponies. It was getting dark, so the friendly ranch owner, Steve, set us up with an outdoor campfire. We roasted hot dogs and toasted marshmallows for s’mores.

We pretended we were roughing it, even though we’d stocked up with snack food of every sort, had the warmth of a gas heater, and slept with blankets and pillows on soft beds.

After the girls had gone up to their loft bedroom to listen to music (too loudly, but we were out in the middle of the woods and weren’t bothering any neighbors), my husband and I chatted and got some reading in. How often have we had time to really talk lately? Or read more than a chapter in one sitting?

rockin zOn Sunday morning, I cooked a pound of bacon and other breakfast food. The girls played a few more hands of Uno at the kitchen table before heading out to take a walk. They headed down to visit the animals at the main house and we drove down to meet them shortly.

We said goodbye to Steve, his super-kind wife, Karen, and two of their six children (the others are in college or otherwise living on their own). We said goodbye to all the livestock (including lots of cows and several adorable calves) and piled into the getaway car.

On the drive home, the girls reminisced about their weekend.

One summed it up: “Horses. Cabin. Ranch. Dance party.”

I added: “Billy goat (he thought hard about ramming our vehicle the first time we drove down to the ranch and he chased the girls into the vehicle on the way out on Sunday. They might have provoked him. Probably.). Uno (who knew how fiercely competitive 13-year-old girls could be while playing Uno at 1 a.m.?).

I looked back at my daughter and also added (silently): “Unleashed.”

Shannon close up, peachShannon Magsam is co-founder of and She’s married to an awesome newspaperman and they have a fun-loving, artsy teen (officially!) who loves watching tv with them and drawing cats. If you have a question for Shannon, send it to or leave a comment here.