Thursday, May 3, 2007

You Asked for It

For years you've been asking us questions about the issues that concern you and your family. Some of these questions reflect the normal concerns and problems that most families face every day. And some echo the anxiety of husband and wives, fathers and mothers who see their most important relationships beginning to unravel.

Because you asked for it, we're responding … with a series of articles answering the most-asked questions that come to us by providing biblical blueprints for building godly homes. We hope our replies give you hope by pointing you to the God who created us.


1. What does the Bible say about divorce? When is it allowed?

2. How do we deal with financial trouble?

3. How can I increase romance and non-sexual intimacy in my marriage?

4. What should be the husband's role in marriage?

5. What should be the wife's role in marriage?

6. How do men and women differ in their view of the sexual relationship in marriage?

7. How can I motivate my husband to get right with God and come the spiritual leader of our family?

8. How can I resolve conflict well in my marriage?

9. How can we revitalize our marriage when we feel isolated from one another?

10. How do I escape the trap of pornography in my life?


11. How do I teach my children about sex so that they stay pure until they are married?

12. How do I teach my kids to handle peer pressure?

13. How can I as a stepparent develop and maintain healthy relationships with my stepchildren?

14. How can I raise children as a single parent?

15. How can I deal with tragedy and suffering? How can I keep my family strong in the midst of it?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Mavs might look to go big

DALLAS -- There was an air of Dr. Seuss wafting around American Airlines Center on Saturday afternoon when it came to discerning how the Dallas Mavericks will choose to attack the Warriors when the teams tip-off this evening in Game 1 of their first-round Western Conference playoff series.

Big? Small? Short? Tall? What would work the best to make the Warriors fall?

Nobody knows for certain, not even Mavericks coach Avery Johnson.

"They can come at us from 100 different ways, with different personnel," Warriors coach Don Nelson said. "They're so deep and so talented."

That said, you could argue that the fulcrum of the series between the eighth-seeded Warriors (42-40) and the top-seeded Mavericks (67-15) will be a pair of Dallas big men.

If 6-foot-11 Erick Dampier and 7-0 DeSagana Diop can play effectively in the middle against the quicker Warriors, it could significantly gum up the Warriors' offense and expose the soft underbelly of Golden State's smaller lineup at the defensive end.

"We've just got to stay with our system," Diop said. "Last year, we played the Suns and it was the same thing they were doing (as the Warriors), and we didn't change nothing. ... We've just got to play our tempo. The way we play, we got 67 wins."

The tempo the Warriors use helped them finished the season on a 9-1 run while starting a small ball lineup with 6-9 Al Harrington in the middle and 6-7 Stephen Jackson at power forward. If the Mavericks have to abandon Dampier and
Diop and move forward Dirk Nowitzki to the middle, that seems to play to the Warriors' strength.

"We'd like to think that we can play any style and be successful at any style," Mavericks guard Jerry Stackhouse said. "But when we're at our best, we've got a point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward and a center, playing those roles.

"When you're forced to take one of them out -- and we count on our center being the anchor or our defense, kind of patrolling everything -- that requires either our (power forward) or another small to man that duty. And that's just not something that a lot of smalls are accustomed to doing, so that changes the dynamics of the game when you do that."

For the Warriors, the key to this series is less about surprising the Mavericks -- "I'm not all of a sudden going to start (seldom-used center Adonal) Foyle or something like that," Nelson cracked -- and more about hewing closely to the same small-ball blueprint they used to get to the playoffs for the first time since 1994.

"Oh, we're very confident," Warriors guard Stephen Jackson said of his team's small lineup. "We've been playing well the last two weeks, and I think we're staring to get to the point where we can make other teams play our style."

Said Harrington: "I think whoever (the Mavericks) have got out there on the floor, we've got a mismatch. We've just got to find it."

The Warriors found plenty of mismatches in sweeping three games from Dallas this season by a combined total of 49 points.

Nelson is downplaying the significance of the results because that feeds better into the David-versus-Goliath-plus-Golitah's-10-angry-brothers routine he's been spewing for the last 72 hours.

The Mavericks are downplaying the outcomes because they've lost six of seven to Golden State, even if there were extenuating circumstances on some occasions.

"Does two games against a team that's the eighth seed determine who we are as a team?" Stackhouse said. "We don't think so."

Against Nowitzki, it's likely the Warriors will use some variation of the scheme they unveiled during a 117-100 win over Dallas on March 12, when they ran multiple defenders at Nowitzki any time he had the ball and kept him from reaching his favorite spots on the floor.

"If there are three guys around me, I've got to make my teammates better and not force any shots," Nowitzki said. "I've got to be strong with the ball. And just be ready for what's going to happen. They're going to be reaching all over the place.

"With the defense they play, they're trying to scramble, trying to create the turnovers that can put them in the open court, so we've got to make sure we don't turn the ball over, and obviously I'm a key to that."

life timeee...

Coming of age in Toronto

Thulasi Srikanthan

As the drums beat, 12-year-old Niroshi Ravichandran steps through the towering white doors, her face masked by a translucent white veil, body wrapped in a pink-and-gold sari.

With white flowers pinned to black hair and brown cheeks reddened with blush, Niroshi walks silently up the aisle, through a guard of more than 24 flower girls, to a garland-draped platform.

It has been almost six months since Niroshi got her first period and now, after the congratulatory visits from her relatives and a small religious ceremony at home, her coming-of-age celebration at Toronto's Princess Banquet hall is about to begin.

"It wasn't my idea," says Niroshi, who has been up since 5 a.m., getting primped by a pair of makeup artists hired for the occasion. "But it's really cool."

And as her parents wished, the party for 260 guests has come with the works, including white stretch limo, a televised mini-biography of Niroshi's life and three giant screens filled with live feed from onsite cameramen. The price tag is more than $10,000.

This ritual, often written in English as pooppunitha neerattu vizha, is observed by Hindu Tamils in India as well as Sri Lanka. In Canada, among Sri Lankans, the celebration has taken on a distinct identity, not only growing more opulent but also becoming a way for families to pass on their traditions.

"When you are at home, you'd realize a lot of these traditions. You are a part of it. It was there," says Dharini Sivakumar, secretary of the Tamil Cultural Association of Waterloo Region. "When you are away from it, you see the difference from the Western culture. You want to maintain this to your own children to a certain extent. That way, they can say, `This is who I am. This is my identity.'"

In keeping with these traditions, when a girl in Canada gets her first period, her family phones all their close relatives. On the same day, they give her a bath at home with saffron and milk – considered an auspicious act.

The girl then stays at home to rest. Though in Sri Lanka, girls could be absent from school up to 10 days, in Canada, it's only for two to three – if at all.

Some people think treating the girl like Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, during this time will mean good fortune and happiness for the family. Relatives bring rich, nutritious foods, including eggs and special oil, so she recovers her strength.

A big ceremony marks the end of this first period. A priest comes early that morning to bless the girl. Another aspect of her moving from girlhood to womanhood is that she wears a sari for the first time.

In Sri Lanka, "the customs vary slightly from village to village," says Mani Pathmarajah, a community activist and elder. In Canada, she says, the ceremony takes place anywhere from one week to several months later, depending on the auspiciousness of the date, the availability of the hall and the parents' preferences.

In preparation, the family has to clean the house, give the girl a second bath and prepare 11 trays of sweets, fried snacks, fruit and coconuts. If the event takes place at a hall, the caterers do the cooking.

The family dresses the girl in a new sari for the occasion and two married women perform arthi, a religious ceremony, using the 11 trays to ward off the evil eye. A key component of arthi involves rotating in a vertical circle a tray filled with three banana pieces, burning wicks in the middle. The girl's maternal uncle breaks a coconut during the ceremony to remind those who are present to let go of their ego, Pathmarajah says.

If the event takes place at a banquet hall, music that represents the blooming of the girl is played. "We do not play any sad songs," says Harry Pathmarajah, who supervised the song selection for Niroshi. Anything that is flower-related is a big draw.

Along with embracing the culture comes the big bucks associated with performing this ancient ceremony.

In the Greater Toronto Area, business owners from the Tamil community say they have seen anywhere from 250 to more than 1,200 people come out for these parties. Costs range from less than $1,000 for at-home ceremonies to tens of thousands of dollars at local banquet halls.

"They do it in a huge way, like a wedding in Toronto," Sivakumar says. "Back home, it's a very family-oriented tradition. You don't invite the whole world, you invite your family and very, very close, close friends."

In the GTA, however, there are more than 100 banquet-hall ceremonies a year. Like many others working in the industry, Jeya Ponnuchamy says this is just the beginning.

Ponnuchamy, co-owner of the Princess Banquet hall on Pharmacy Ave., has been running around organizing Niroshi's ceremony, from telling the teen how to pose to telling the waitresses and flower girls where to walk.

Ponnuchamy says, at his hall, the prices for the ceremony for a party of 350 go up to $25,000 (a wedding of the same size could be in the $35,000 range). Expensive extras include stretch limousines and elaborately decorated platforms (mandaps) costing $4,000, as opposed to one that costs $250. Part of the reason the community is spending more money and inviting more guests is that it can.

Canada has the largest Tamil population outside South Asia, an estimated 250,000, and the community is well-established and increasingly affluent.

"I came in '84. At that time, you couldn't even get a bag of (basmati) rice in the grocery store," Sivakumar says.

Now, families can buy Sri Lankan mangosa leaves, used in the rituals, from their Tamil stores.

The other reason for the opulence is how the occasion is perceived in Sri Lankan society, Pathmarajah says. "In a girl's life, this is the first major event. Later comes the marriage."

Half a century ago, the ceremony was to identify girls as ready for marriage at 17 or 18 and the gifts were used for the girl's dowry, Pathmarajah says. Now, parents see it mainly as a point of pride that "from today, my daughter is a young woman," as many women in Canada don't marry until they reach their mid- to late 20s.

Pride is why Niroshi's mother Chandrakumary says she and her husband, Ravichandran Sabaratnam, have no regrets, despite the high price tag. "These are my customs, my traditions," she says. "I spend more money but I am happy."

The sense of identity borne of these ceremonies is something Grade 12 student Babitha Thampinathan understands well. Though she was slightly embarrassed to be dressed up and taken to a banquet hall in front of 150 guests when she got her period five years ago, she says she will never forget her ceremony.

"It represents your background and what makes you up," she says.

There was another consideration. Thampinathan received more than $3,000 for her ceremony in clothes, money and jewellery.

"I was kind of excited, because you get so much money," she says.

Not everyone splurges.

Sasi Kanarathnam intends to have a small home ceremony for his daughter. As a party planner, he could probably go all-out but he doesn't believe in putting so much money into this event.

"It's ridiculous," Kanarathnam says.

He's reluctant to do lavish age-attainment ceremonies. When he does do a party, he encourages the parents to spend less.

Sivakumar says some people skip the event, particularly if the children are uncomfortable.

That's not the case with Niroshi. Back at the banquet hall, she sits down to eat rice and curries after her ceremony ends.

When she looks back, she is sure she will remember how happy she was on this day.

"It's to know that we are not forgetting our culture, even though we are in Canada."

Friday, April 20, 2007


Most people never get the opportunity to take Dating 101 in high school, which is why, when it comes to real-life romantic encounters, many of us end up feeling more like a dunce than the teacher's pet. To the rescue, our crash course in first-date etiquette. Answer these 14 questions, read our advice, and start acing those rendezvous.

1.You're just not one of those laughing, smiley types. Occasionally, people have even accused you of being too serious.
a. True
b. False
2.You don't really put too much thought into your first-date outfit. You prefer to come as you are. You've got a certain style and if your could-be-love-interest doesn't like it, tough.
a. True
b. False
3.Your favorite first-date activity is seeing a great movie.
a. True
b. False
4.When it comes to social engagements (including first dates), you find planning ahead to be bo-ring! You prefer not to be pinned down and don't like having to figure out what to do until the very last minute.
a. True
b. False
5.When you develop a crush, you have no problems letting your feelings be known.
a. True
b. False
6.You love to tell stories, particularly about silly things you've said and done in the past.
a. True
b. False
7.You know you shouldn't, but occasionally you'll reflect on past relationships during a first date.
a. True
b. False
8.You love to be a seductress on a first date, down to the double entendres, meaningful glances and initiating footsie under the table. But you generally know better than to have any serious sex.
a. True
b. False
9.You're not into traditional gender roles. Generally, you insist on splitting the check.
a. True
b. False
10.Meet a first date at a bar or restaurant? No way. You prefer to be picked up (or to pick up your date) at home.
a. True
b. False
11.Friends would generally describe your laugh as, well, loud.
a. True
b. False
12.To calm your nerves and help the conversation flow on a first date, you generally knock back more than a couple of glasses of wine.
a. True
b. False
13.You pride yourself on being an open book. The word secret is not in your vocabulary, even on date number one.
a. True
b. False
14.You make up your mind about people on the spot.
a. True
b. False