Saturday, December 20, 2008

Wife Rule #92: It's All About the Delivery

There's something about a really, really bad joke that's just so... so...


At least if the joke originated inside the cute little mind, and the punchline is delivered by the cute little mouth, of one of your own offspring.

For example, three-year-old Andrew literally had me shaking in my chair this morning, with the following piece of brilliance:

Andrew (with a huge twinkle in his drop-dead gorgeous blue eyes): "Why did the horsie cross the road?"

Me (taking another bite of corn flakes): "I don't know. Why?"

Andrew (almost giddy to deliver the punch line): "Because the hay was goingToGetHim[and I really didn't understand any more at this point but then Andrew went] BLEEEEAAAAGHHHHH!!!" and he slumped down in his seat as his head disappeared underneath the kitchen table.

Me: "Mmmmph-chortle-gag-spew-HAHAHA!!!" as my mouthful of corn flakes sprayed the immediate area around my cereal bowl.

I mean, Jay Leno couldn't deliver that joke half as well as my adorable child. And Andrew's repertoire doesn't stop with just one joke, either. He quickly followed up with this:

Andrew (smiling broadly with his best winning smile): "Knock knock!"

Me (wisely putting down my spoon and swallowing): "Who's there?"

Andrew (with gusto): "Horse!"

Me (guessing where this might go): "Horse who?"

Andrew: "Horse walked down the road andTheHayGotHimAnd[didn't catch this part] BLEEEEAAAAGHHHHH!!!" My laughter filled the kitchen as he disappeared under the table again.

I know just what you're thinking--it never gets old! And you're right! I learned this lesson years ago, when, as a young boy, I used to get my parents rolling with laughter by concocting jokes that went something like this:

Me: "What did the refrigerator say to the lamp shade?"

My parents: "I don't know. What?"

Me: "We're exactly the same, except I keep food cold and you are on top of a lamp!"


Get it? Now imagine me telling a spontaneous stream of ten or more of these jokes back to back, acting like I'm all clever each time, and you quickly realize that there's virtually unlimited hilarity in comparing any two random objects in the universe and saying they are "exactly the same, except..." and then describing their differences. I think I entertained my family with literally hundreds of jokes like these. And there are millions more where those came from. Too bad I only see them for a few hours every couple of weeks.

So you can see where Andrew gets his joke-making genes. My other kids are quite adept at it too. I have learned that it only takes a couple of rounds of fabricated laughs before they start thinking they're so funny that the laughter becomes real.

And that, of course, sets off a circular chain reaction that results in more jokes and red faces and streaming tears and arms clutching guts as we double-over with laughter and disappear beneath the table and BLEEEEAAAAGHHHHH!!!

And all this without any real stand-up comedic talent to speak of. Which just goes to show that it's not so much about the material, as it is about the adoration you feel beaming towards the precious little person telling you the joke, the darling the stork once delivered to your doorstep to brighten your outlook and enrich your life.

It turns out that it's all about the delivery after all.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Wife Rule #91: Learn to Bend

When true simplicity is gained
To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed
To turn, turn will be our delight
'Till by turning, turning we come 'round right.

My wife loves this old Shaker song, called "Simple Gifts." The chorus, as cited above, is a gentle reminder that humility, meekness, and willingness "to bow and to bend" are virtues that lead to a happier, simpler life, rather than all the strife and complication that comes of selfishly asserting our own will all the time.

This philosophy has been a much needed reminder in our marriage, especially when we have dug ourselves deep into the trenches of the Holiday Holy War. You all know what I'm talking about, of course: Christmas lights.

There are countless ways to slice and dice opinions in the Christmas Lights Question, but there is only one correct opinion: mine.

And this coming from a man whose idea of interior decorating is to toss my dirty socks on the lampshade. Come to think of it, if I had my way, lampshades would be classified as "unnecessary expenses" and my sock would be directly smoldering on the naked bulb. Cheaper and more aromatic than incense.

But taste in Christmas lights has absolutely nothing to do with interior decorating--certain principles exist in the Universe and simply must be obeyed. See, everyone is entitled to their opinion; unfortunately, most opinions are wrong. If you want to decorate your house with all green lights so that it looks like Frankenstein's Castle, go ahead. If you want to decorate in those blue LED lights, so that your roof looks like a UFO landing pad, be my guest. And if you are one of those people who simply replaces your porch light with an evil-looking red light bulb, then you won't get any competition from me in the Satan's Lair Look-Alike Contest.

But if you want to create a truly aesthetic holiday atmosphere--you know, something really classy-looking--then there's only one obvious answer: multicolored blinking lights. Of course, I don't need to tell you this; flashing multi-colored lights stand on their own merits. And besides, that's what I grew up with. I'm grateful I was brought up in truth and righteousness on this very important issue.

But my wife, with her countless virtues, was sadly led astray on this one little point from an early age. She incorrectly--and tragically--thinks that straight white, non-blinking, boring lights are the way to go. So sad, an innocent, pure child being brainwashed like that. She and other members of her family have even been known to describe the correct style of lights (my style) as "tacky." Gasp!

I know, I know. It's shocking. And I'm not going to try to minimize the real strain this put on our marriage during our Magical First Christmas Together. Amazingly, in all of our premarital discussions about vital topics--such as religion, how many kids we want, where we want to live, what our wedding colors should be (Me: "What in the heck are wedding colors? How about black?"), etc.--the topic of Christmas Lights was somehow skipped over. Note to all you out there who are thinking of getting married: do not neglect to discuss Christmas Lights, and if needed, sign a prenup!

So it was more than a little disturbing to discover as we discussed decorating our Magical First Christmas Tree Together that my wife assumed we would light the whole thing up with plain white lights! And to make matters worse, she expected me to wind the lights around each and every branch! I mean, who has time for that? And spending that kind of time on white lights???

Well, I had a little news for the new Wifey-poo: while boring white lights may have once been sufficient for You and Yours, our Magical First Christmas Tree Together (which includes the big Me and Mine) would definitely be incorporating colored lights. And flashing lights.

Positions were taken, lines were drawn. It looked like we might be heading straight into our Magical First Christmas Argument Together. Luckily, my wife and I had been married almost eight whole months by then, so we were pretty much masters of compromise. So we did the tree half white, half colored, with one large strand of twinkling lights that ran along the trunk from top to bottom. I kid you not.

Thankfully, my wife decided not to divorce me.

In truth, the tree really didn't look that bad. It was, according to my wife, "fine" (though I have learned since that the "f" word doesn't have quite the positive connotation I once thought it did, but that's a topic for another day). But notwithstanding tree-light mediocrity, our Magical First Christmas Together was... magical. And most importantly, it was together.

Since the time of that first tree, we have gradually amended the Great Christmas Light Compromise of 1998. Ten years later, we have evolved to a point where our tree is decked out completely in white, beautiful (not boring), non-blinking lights. The multicolored lights have all migrated outside, and the twinkling strand has found a home in our pine bough garland that hangs on our stair banister.

Thus we have arrived, still together, at a better place; a place of happy compromise; a place of bending.

And I love it. It's funny how learning to love a woman of such grace and beauty has eventually begun to change my very nature--to the point where I not only put up with deviations from the traditions of my youth, but I genuinely love the new traditions we have created together. More and more, I find myself merging with her in terms of my tastes and preferences in even the little things, like Christmas lights. It's as if our minds and hearts are ever becoming more and more entwined, on the road to becoming truly one.

Imagine, one shared opinion instead of two battling ones. It's so simple, it's almost like a gift.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Wife Rule #90: Take a Family Portrait

I love looking at the large family portrait hanging at the end of our hallway, the one that shows our family sitting together on the rock jetty closest to Grandpa's beach house. Every year we attempt a family portrait here, but it has proven very difficult to capture the golden moment when all the essential elements intersect for the perfect picture: the transient, fiery light from the setting sun, at just the right angle and hue; the milky, liquid blues in the sky as dusk approaches; the reflected evening light off the darkening water; and just enough sand, rock, and background to elicit soul-warming memories of this place we love to visit.

Sometimes when it's quiet and late and the picture is illuminated by lamplight, I can almost smell the salty breeze and hear the gentle churning of the waves and feel the cool sand between my toes.

Oh yes, and there's also the people.

I haven't forgotten that the most essential, and perhaps the most challenging aspect of any portrait of our young, bustling family is, after all, the family. It is often daunting to capture a shot where we don't have to use a computer afterwards to swap out any heads or other appendages. Scott by himself was on a streak for a couple of years where it was rare to find any shot where his tongue wasn't hanging out, and both eyes were open and pointing in the same direction. Combine that with wiggly little ones, and the strange magnetic pull that draws their fingers to their noses, and you can start to understand why during any given family picture shoot, we take approximately one hundred million pictures, until our kids' grins have turned to grimaces or tears. Most family portraits end with at least one kid completely melting down and the rest of us looking rather constipated.

But taking them is worth it, and I'll tell you why. First of all, just take a look at those adorable little mugs: nine-year-old Dawn is clearly on the verge of blossoming into a gorgeous young woman; seven-year-old Rachel has the world's best picture-perfect flirty smile; Scott is a strappingly handsome young five-year-old, the object of affection for all the girls in his Kindergarten class (I have no doubt); Andrew is, well, just take a look at him with his wrinkled up three-year-old nose and grinning, protruding jaw, and you can't help but want to pick him up and squeeze the little bugger with all your strength; and Charity--precious, tiny Charity--can only best be described as an adorable little ball of Cindy-Lou-Who cuteness combined with the angelic aura of someone who is wonderfully, celestially pure and new. (Yes, she does get her way around our house a lot!)

But the value of this snapshot goes far beyond our kids' unimpeachable cuteness or their parents’ obvious photogenic gifts. You see, we have hundreds of highly-entertaining pictures showing the general state of happy chaos that accompanies us through most of our existence (boogery noses, messy hair, half-naked kids streaking through the back yard, etc). But this family portrait is an ideal--a vision of perfection--captured and frozen in time. Yes, we had to work hard to get it. Yes, we took dozens of shots to get just one that was even as good as this one. Yes, this shot is not what we normally look like (the only typical color-coordination of our clothes is that we all have the same food spilled down our shirts). But the ideal shown here is about our family being reflected in the best light, under the best of circumstances, with everyone looking and acting their best, even if just for a moment.

It's important to have ideals in families. It's essential to have goals to work towards. It's vital to remember that by casting aside all the hard labor, the petty problems, the real difficulties, and the endless doldrums of day-to-day life, there is tremendous value and beauty and eternal promise in the concept of family. There's a reason why love flows so easily and abundantly within a family. The spiritual warmth, peace, and purpose that are hinted at by serene, smiling faces in a family portrait are why God gave us families.

At this Christmas season, let's remember that Christ came to earth to belong to a family, a human family like yours and mine, that was full of imperfections and difficulties. He came to show us how to overcome, to hold up the highest ideals as a standard and to enable us to eventually reach them. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He provides the perfect--and only--pathway to the joyous eternity we all want. And He does it for families--our close-knit, earthly families, as well as the broader human family that we all belong to as children of our Heavenly Father.

So take a moment to hold your dear ones close this season, and try to remember why we have families in the first place. And if it helps you, like it does for us, take a family portrait.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wife Rule #89: Stay On the Train

Andrew is barely three, and he loves trains.

And when I say he loves trains, I mean he loves, loves, loves trains. Andrew wants to marry trains. All of them.

So when my wife and I gave him a golden ticket on the Potty Train, you'd think he would have jumped aboard with unbounded enthusiasm. Well, he did, sort of.

Sitting on his special little potty seat was quite a novelty at first. During the first couple of days, we spent what seemed like several hours each day helping him lug the little footstool to the base of the toilet, put his potty seat on the big seat, climb up onto the potty seat, sit for a minute or so, climb down, put the potty seat away, lug the stool over to the sink, and wash and dry his hands. He became so adept at this routine that it soon started feeling like a real train:

Lugga-putta-climba-sitta, Waita-climba-putta-lugga, Washa-washa-drya-drya... (repeat indefinitely)

The only problem was that he never actually produced anything during this time-consuming routine, except the occasional

Toot-toooooot! Toot-toooooot!

Not too satisfying for us Train Conductors, when just minutes after repeating a cycle of the Potty Train routine, a messy accident would occur, off the track.

So we did what any sensible parents would do in such a situation: we bribed him with a toy. My wife promised Andrew that he could pick out a real train from the store if he were to actually produce on the Potty Train.

After many days and many more accidents, the blessed event finally occurred, and Andrew was whisked off to the toy store. He came home, bearing the fruits of his labors, a magnificent member of the Thomas the Tank Engine family of toys.

He pooped his pants shortly after arriving home.

So Thomas & Co. were put in indefinite Time Out, until our little prodigy produced--in the proper potty place. (Wow, all those P-words without even using the word "pee"--Alliteralicious!)

So our new routine consisted of more of the same, until we realized that the toy bribery wasn't providing much motivation anymore. I was informed of my wife's new plan one day when I called home during my lunch break, and spoke with Andrew.

Me: "Hi, Buddy! What are you doing?"
Andrew: "Oh, just watching Thomas the Tank Engine."
Me: "That's great!"
Andrew: "I am naked."
Me (being careful what I repeat aloud, since I work in an open cubicle wonderland): "What?"
Andrew: "I am naked. I have to poop in the potty. I don't like being naked."
Me: "I don't blame you."

My wife got on the line and explained that Andrew indeed had nothing on his underside. She heard about this technique and hoped this would get him to remember better. In fact, he had successfully used the potty many times already that day, and had already earned back his train toy.

Going Commando on the Potty Train seemed to improve things overall, though there were still one or more "incidents" per day. However, as time wore on, our little Tarzan wild child only became more accustomed to existing in his natural state. Accidents became more and more frequent, and now they had more dire consequences, since didn't have cotton Osh-Kosh-B'gosh or whatever to act as a loincloth.

My wife and I discussed strategy many times. We had been through this three times before, but we found ourselves befuddled. We talked about bribing with more trains. A whole herd of trains. Wearing wedding veils, if it would help.

Ultimately, we bribed him with Otterpops. Don't ask me why eating twenty frozen Otterpops on a 40-degree November day is appealing to a half-naked three-year-old, but it was. Plus, being liquid, they had the desirable side effect of greasing the wheels of the Potty Train, speeding the pace of our routine.

Lugga-putta-climba-sitta, Pee-a-climba-putta-lugga, Washa-washa-drya-drya...

Yes, the Potty Train was speeding along at quite a good clip now, thanks to our little slushy friends. Was it finally heading into the station?

This question was soon answered for me, during a time when I was at home with the kids and my wife was out. My daughter came running into the kitchen, reporting that there was a big pile of something highly undesirable on the carpet in the bedroom. Something that had been stepped in by more than one child and had now been tracked into at least four different rooms of the house.

The Potty Train had sped right off a cliff and crashed somewhere in the ravine below, exploding in a brilliant burst of flame.

My wife came home and I enlisted her help in disaster cleanup. After 30 minutes of mopping and scrubbing and spraying disinfectant at every surface we could find, we were honestly both feeling a little despondent. Would the Potty Train ever, ever put on that coveted Thomas-the-Tank-Engine smiley face, or was it doomed forever to bear a grunting grimace? When would it end?

We talked about progress made. We talked about momentum, and we weren't sure which direction it was presently going. We seriously discussed going back to diapers.

In the end, it boiled down to knowing that potty training was the right thing to do, so we decided to stick with it just one more day--surely we could handle just one more day.

And let's just say, giving it that last chance made all the difference. We now have a proud wearer of genuine Thomas the Tank Engine underpants plus pants! Our little passenger has officially graduated to status of Train Engineer. And we are proud--and relieved (no pun intended)--but mostly proud.

He's even learning when to board the Potty Train and when the Train is just tooting off steam.

My wife and I did learn something very valuable from all this, a life lesson that should serve us well for many years: it seems like just at the moment when we are ready to give up, we just need to hang on a little longer, and things often work themselves out. We have decided to ride many trains in life, like the potty train, and when it seems like the train is at a standstill, or heading off a cliff, or even like it has already crashed, if we believe in the cause, we should just stick it out. Stay on the train.

After all, Andrew is worth it--every bit of it.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Wife Rule #88: Skip the Tripe

The holiday season is upon us, which means that it's time to break out the tripe.

At least that's what much of the world does this time of year.

Let me explain. As thoughts for this Wife Rule were stewing around in my mind, I turned to Wikipedia, the source of much of the useless knowledge in my head, to refresh my memory of exactly what tripe is.

Wikipedia seldom disappoints, and with uncanny conciseness, my knowledge was expanded with the following statement:

"Tripe is a type of edible offal from the stomachs of various domestic animals."

And I didn't even know you could eat offals! I read further:

"Beef tripe is usually made from only the first three chambers of a cow's stomach: the rumen (blanket/flat/smooth tripe), the reticulum (honeycomb and pocket tripe), and the omasum (book/bible/leaf tripe)."

Next to this nearly-poetic description, there is a lovely, full-color picture of what looks like giant, folded slices of baloney sitting on a clean, white shelf. The caption reads, "Tripe in an Italian market."

In your mind's eye, can't you just see little Luigi skipping into his grandma's Italian kitchen? With a flash of pearly-white, smiling teeth he calls, "Pronto, Nonna!" Grandma wipes her hands on her apron and ambles over to bestow a kiss on his ruddy cheek, which he has positioned as high as he can, tip-toes raising it the last inch. Then his youthful anticipation is fulfilled, as with a shrewd yet gentle smile, she turns and presents him with a tray of what looks like ten-inch-long segments of giant flayed earth worms. Tripe! Yum.

No, of course you can't see it. Because if Nonna did that, little Luigi would run screaming from the kitchen and Mom and Dad would put grandma in the mental ward. Yet, tripe is fed to dogs all the time, and even some people knowingly eat it.

It is obvious to most of us that tripe was clearly not meant for human consumption, yet it appears in the ingredient lists of popular foods and in many recipes. Wikipedia even contains a link to, "an Italian site entirely dedicated to tripe around the world."

Where am I going with this? I simply want to put the question out there: with all the food options there are in this world, why would anyone choose to eat tripe? This question matters because there's an analogy here to the myriad choices of information and entertainment available in today's world.

I often find myself listening to the radio on my way to work when I encounter "radio tripe," stuff that exists but was clearly not meant for human consumption.

* The 25 minutes of "news radio" between the actual five-minute news casts: Tripe!
* Almost everything on NPR: Tripe!
* Commercials by most Mortgage Brokers and Car Dealerships: Sleazy Tripe!
* Rap music: Tripe!
* Every song by Neil Diamond: Tripe! (except "We're Comin' to America," which must have been beamed directly into his mind by space aliens, because otherwise I can't explain how he ever came up with one of the best songs ever written)

One of my small joys in life is exclaiming "Tripe!" as I change the radio station away from some horrible drivel.

So as I mentioned, the holiday season is upon us again, which is an opportunity so many take to break out the tripe--Christmas music tripe, that is. You know exactly what I'm talking about. You hear it on the radio, over the speakers at the mall, and some people even knowingly buy CDs of it:

* Neil Diamond's Christmas Album
* Any Christmas song by Britney Spears, N'Sync, Boyz-2-Men, or other tweenie-bopper or boy's band
* Any song that sounds like a prayer to Santa Claus
* Any song that has little or nothing to do with Christmas, except that jingle bells are ringing throughout its duration; this goes for commercial jingles, too
* Almost any version of the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas"

You get the idea. There are thousands examples of Christmas music tripe out there in the world. Don't consume them! For a season that contains so much to celebrate, take a chance on some real music! Try something such as:

* Yuletide carols being sung by a choir, especially if it is a children's choir
* The local performance of selections from Handel's Messiah
* Almost anything recorded in the 50's or earlier, especially jazz
* Something that will inspire and uplift you
* In short, something that actually reflects what this season is about!

Give yourself a little gift this year, and skip the tripe. My wife and I do, and since I've finally mentioned my better half, this Wife Rule is finally over.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Wife Rule #87: Read the Good Book (V)



They have their first date--he gazes into her eyes, and she desires to kiss him, of course--he resists, and their friendship grows into something beautiful.

AND it was not long until Christmas; therefore we did attend a Christmas concert together. And we did have much fun; and we did play agames together and enjoy each others' company.
 2  And at the end of the night, we did drive home, and I did walk her to the door of the alobby of her dormitory.
 3  And I did gaze into her eyes for the first time; and my heart did change, insomuch that I knew I would anever be the same.
 4  And ashe did make her move, as if she would bkiss me. But behold, I being large in stature, and also righteous, therefore I knew that she was merely spellbound by the sheer magnitude of my studliness; therefore I did not kiss her.
 5  Therefore our relationship began; and I did ponder often upon her, as I was home over Christmas break. And I did greatly desire to see her again, for she was truly a babe.
 6  And in due time we did return to school, and I did continue in my aefforts to be with her, for she was truly a babe among all babes.
 7  And it came to pass that I began to feel alove for her; and I knew not why, for I did not know her very well.
 8  And as I got to know her, I did adiscover why I loved her; and if I were to write all the reasons, it supposeth me that all the volumes in the whole earth could not contain them. Amen.

Footnotes for Chapter 5
1a TG Ping-Pong
2a TG Lobby-loving; Freshmen; Dormitories; Wacky Practical Jokes
3a TG Love; Whooped, Starting to Get
4a There is some debate as to the historical accuracy of the events described in verse 4; however, there is no debate that the author must have been irresistible.
4b TG Smooch; Studs, Irresistible
6a TG Library, Stalking In; Study, Not Much Getting Done
7a TG Exciting and New
8a TG Studs, Sometimes Possessing Thick Skulls

* * * * * * * * * *

So there you have it, the historic first publication of The Book of Love. I hope you were enlightened as much by it as I was. Kind of makes me want to spend more time reading the Good Book, or maybe even writing some history of my own.

After all, as the Good Book says, "If you and your wife have really got it, why not flaunt it?" Or something like that.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wife Rule #86: Read the Good Book (IV)



The University Police escort the author out of the building--he rejoices in the prospect of asking Crystal Waters out--the day arrives, and he asks her out.

AND it came to pass that when I had finished my song, that the University Police did escort me swiftly from the building.
 2  For never before had a student burst into song in the middle of class; yea, and never before had a student such great cause for rejoicing;
 3  For it did seem to me that I could get to know her and eventually ask her out, when she would be familiar enough with me so as to be able to handle my amanliness.
 4  For it was apparent to me that I was avery manly.
 5  And much time did pass, during which time I did think of Crystal Waters from time to time, and did make aexcuses to speak to her in class.
 6  But it was not until the last minutes of the last class day before finals that I did ask her out. And she did gladly aaccept, for behold, I was a stud, and her heart was bprepared.

Footnotes for Chapter 4
3a TG Studs, Sometimes Overwhelming
4a TG Chin, Stubble Upon
5a TG Sweaters, Compliments About
6a TG Babes With Superior Judgement
6b TG Skills, Babe-Catching

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Wife Rule #85: Read the Good Book (III)



The author is a stud, and all the maidens want him--he seizes the opportunity to meet the Babe--her name is revealed--he sings a song of love.

NOW I would that ye should understand, that I was not without astudliness; yea, even though she did intimidate me, yet I was large in stature, insomuch that I was bfair to look upon myself.
 2  And it came to pass that I was much weighed down because of the burdens which were upon me;
 3  For behold, all the fair maidens in the whole land did greatly desire to have me, all save the Fairest One, who knew not who I was.
 4  And in due time I did find her sitting nearby. And it came to pass that I did sit myself next to her, that she did abehold my studliness.
 5  And it came to pass that I did introduce myself to her; and so aimpressed was she that she could say but little; therefore we did not talk much that day.
 6  And we did begin a friendship; and her name was aCrystal Waters.
 7  And my heart did rejoice within me; and I did sing, yea, even with a loud voice:
 8  A Babe! A Babe! I have found me a Babe! There is none so beautiful as she; there is none so studly as me; it surely was meant to be, this beautiful Babe and me!

Footnotes for Chapter 3
1a TG Truth; Standard of Men; Studliness; Buff; Handsome; Worth Your Time; Man, Strong but Sensitive; Highly Desirable
1b TG Mirrors, Uses For; Babeslayers
4a TG Obvious; Babe With a Sound Mind
5a HEB immediately whooped
6a From the Greek, meaning "One that attracts Studs"

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wife Rule #84: Read the Good Book (II)



The author beholds a beautiful maiden--he becomes whooped--he desires to meet her, despite his weakness--great is the reward of him who is not a wimp.

AND as I tarried one day I beheld a amaiden; and she was bexceedingly fair and beautiful. Yea, her beauty did exceed that of the stars in the sky, insomuch that my heart did exclaim, Mercy!
 2  For so exceedingly fine was she that as I looked upon her it did seem to me as a dream; yea, as if I was acarried away, unto the separating of my soul from my body; and I did long to meet her.
 3  But so great was the mass of the people (now I do not mean that they were all fat, rather that there were many), yea, so great was the mass as they did exit the large and spacious room, that there was no opportunity for me to make my way to her side, that I might introduce myself.
 4  Nevertheless and notwithstanding the difficulty of the task, I did still adesire greatly to meet her. And as I saw her from time to time, I did wait patiently for the chance to meet her.
 5  And it came to pass that on several occasions she did sit nearby, but my aheart failed me and I did not open my mouth to speak to her.
 6  Now I would exhort you, my brethren, that when ye shall see fair maidens, that ye would not be wimps, but that ye would open your mouths and speak to them, for great will be your areward.

Footnotes for Chapter 2
1a The "maiden" referred to is undoubtedly the same Wonder-Woman-like babe that is the subject of Wife Rules, who is universally acknowledged as the most beautiful girl of all time.
1b TG MegaBabe
2a TG Whooped; Babes, Effect Upon Studs
4a IE he wanted her; TG Righteous Desires
5a TG Wimp; Babes, the Downfall of Studs
6a TG Kisses

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Wife Rule #83: Read the Good Book (I)

In the classic play Fiddler on the Roof, Jewish father and folk-philosopher Reb Tevia often begins his observations with "as the Good Book says..." as a preface to some ridiculous proverb of folksy wisdom that clearly originated in his own head, for his own convenient purposes. For example:

"As the Good Book says, if you spit in the air, it lands in your face."

True enough, and all-too-often applicable, but clearly not found in the Good Book.

At least that's what I used to think.

I have lately become a little more open-minded about new sources of light and knowledge. You see, I have been doing a little archaeological digging myself, and I came across a most unusual document. I've studied it extensively and had several Biblical scholars and students of ancient manuscripts examine it. We have all agreed, based on a bunch of technical mumbo-jumbo that's way beyond the scope of a Wife Rule, that this manuscript is at least ten years old.

So technically, it should have some authority based on its age alone. Plus, I found it in a box of old memorabilia my wife has maintained, so if she values it, it must be good. Having said that, it's authenticity is questionable so it should be considered apocryphal at best. But as I have studied and pondered it myself, I have come to realize that it is just chock-full of truth. Thus I have decided to publish this work here in my Wife Rules, in its entirety, for the first time, so that the posterity of today's generation might not lose any valuable wisdom found therein.

This new "Good Book" is relatively short, but I have decided to publish it one chapter at a time, so that you might have ample opportunity to ponder the messages it contains.

* * * * * * * * * *


1) The chapter summaries in italics at the beginning of each chapter are printed exactly as found in the manuscript. So are the footnotes, which I highly recommend reading.

2) Through thorough investigation, I have determined that the footnotes use the following abbreviations:
TG for "Topical Guide," a concordance listing cross-references by subject, in this book and other better-known Good Books
IE retains its classical literary meaning; i.e., it means "in other words"
HEB means that what follows is an alternate translation from the Hebrew

3) Scholars agree that the name of the subject of the author's interest was almost certainly not "Crystal Waters," as first mentioned in Chapter 3 verse 6, though there may be some symbolic significance in this particular choice for a name substitute.

* * * * * * * * * *



The author begins the new semester--he looks upon many fish, but longs to catch the Big One.

aAND it came to pass that in the btenth hour of the morning on the first day of the new semester that I did find myself in a very large and spacious room. And the room was filled with all manner of people, that their numbers did seem to be as great as the sands of the sea.
 2  And I looked upon the many fish in the room, and I did behold that there were fish of every kind, but I did more especially look upon the afemale fish. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
 3  And after many days I did make some acquaintance with some fish, insomuch that I did say to myself, Biology 130 will be a righteous class.
 4  But inwardly I longed to catch the aBig One.

Footnotes for Chapter 1
1a Though scriptorians and songwriters alike have researched extensively, the question of who wrote "The Book of Love" remains a mystery. The research leaves no doubt, however, that the author was both a gentleman and a stud.
1b TG Early; Ambition
2a TG Babes; Scoping Out the Situation
4a TG Marriage, Celestial; Righteous Desires

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Wife Rule #82: Nature Abhors a Vacuum

Nature abhors a vacuum.

So it's a little ironic that the very things that suddenly barge into our lives like steamrollers--demanding huge amounts of our time and energy and thus completely flattening lower priorities--leave such a terrible void in their wake, when they finally pass.

Which they always do.

All that remains is a faint hissing sound, produced from a hundred wistful sighs of mixed relief and regret that the busy season is, at last, over.

My wife was released today from her volunteer church position (all the positions in our church are filled by volunteers). For the last three years she was the president of our congregation's Primary organization, which handles the weekly church-related activities of our children ages 18 months through 11 years. As such, she, her two counsellors, and the secretary in her presidency deftly handled the responsibility of being in charge of a staff of over fifty adult leaders that included class teachers, nursery leaders, cub scout and eleven-year-old scout leaders, girl's activity day leaders, music leaders, and others.

In all, this combined army of volunteers herds about 200 children for two hours each Sunday, plus additional events during the week. My wife and her presidency also held weekly planning meetings; planned and attended child baptisms and the special meetings to prepare children and their parents for this most important event; planned and attended meetings to prepare the eleven-year-olds for graduation from Primary; did one-on-one interviews with each teacher; held appreciation dinners for all those serving in the primary; attended scout committee meetings, regular meetings with the bishop of our congregation, and meetings with other auxiliary leaders; planned and put on supplemental quarterly activities for all 200 children; and conducted interviews with each child as they prepared for advancement within the programs of our church.

That's a boatload of stuff to do, cutting a very wide and very clean swath through the middle of my wife's life, and to a large extent, the rest of our lives too.

So as today was the last time she stood in front of the children as their president, I wanted to take this opportunity to say to my wife: Job well done!

I know you feel a great sense of relief at the burden being lifted, but also a fair amount of trepidation to have such a huge interruption to your life's routine.

In a sense, you feel a little homeless right now.

I know it was hard to gut your binder, that precious, huge collection of information, policies, jumbled thoughts, and strategies for doing your job, looking for those necessary parts that constitute the baton being passed to the new president. You let those papers go with a little hesitation, like sending your children off into capable, but different hands than your own.

The papers you kept, those representing countless hours of thought and study and deep prayer to the Eternal Father of the children that have been in your charge, are even harder to part with. So you'll keep them around, and might even use a few again, but deep down you know this is really "goodbye" to these old friends who will be placed on a shelf to gather dust and most likely won't come off. They are precious and valuable, but also very perishable, and their shelf life is now mostly over.

You will miss those precious, regular associations with your trusted counsellors and secretary, those women who filled your home each week and brought so much joy and relief to your life. They will remain friends, but the built-in, regular times together are gone and life's new responsibilities, which will surely come, will make it a little harder to maintain the relationships as they have been. Thankfully, there is an implicit bond that will remain, for once two friends have leaned on each other and earned each other's trust, they always keep it.

And most of all, you will miss those 200 little faces, those precious souls who will from now on be frozen in time in your memories.

Ten years from now we will walk into a reception center, bewildered at the stunning bride or handsome groom that we know, standing there all giddy and wondering if she or he is ready for "real life." You will wonder the same thing, since only yesterday she had ribbons in her hair and was toting her scriptures in a bag with hearts on it; or he was chewing his tie, sitting backwards in his chair, and looking bored.

Twenty years from now you will still remember the ones that gave you headaches, as well as the ones whose purity and innocence so often brought tears to your eyes. These 200 souls, once given a place in your heart, will never really leave. They will change, but a small piece of them will remain as if in cement, ever-present in the fond reverie of your time spent in their service.

And they will remember you. Not all of them, and probably not even most of them, but fifty years from now, some old man will look back on the moments that defined his life, the moments where he learned who he really is as a child of a loving God, and he will remember a teacher, a song leader, or the testimony of his Primary president, you, who brought the fiery torch of the Spirit of God into the room where his heart lay open, ready for engraving.

He may then shed a little tear of gratitude, looking back at the glorious way his life has unfolded, with wife and children and grandchildren and sublime richness too bounteous to enumerate, a portion of which was first given to him by the selfless service of you, my faithful, loving wife.

So let's take this new time together and use it. We'll start by sitting together in Sunday School for nearly the first time in five years. But more importantly, we'll practice adjusting to change and voids and vacuums together, for more will surely come.

Your service as Primary president, while significant, is really not that much compared to the steamroller called "parenthood" that has utterly reshaped our lives and our very identities. This all-important work will surely change in time too, so let's be ready for it when it comes. When we are sitting together in an oddly quiet, freshly emptied house some day in the distant future, let's take advantage of the opportunity to be closer, to discover our next adventure together, and to remember the powerful forces of attraction that brought us together way back when the universe revolved around us--back when there was only you, and me, and gravity, and lots and lots of potential.

After all, most of the universe is empty space, a vacuum. There's no reason to abhor it; that just means there's room to grow.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Wife Rule #81: Kill Two Birds With One Stone

Problem 1: Life is short and should not be wasted.

Problem 2: Yet, time seems to drag on at an intolerably slow pace sometimes.

I remember well before our marriage, when my wife and I were attending college together, how it would seem like I was literally going to die if I didn't see her soon. Yet dreary, drab coursework was always there, separating us. Fresh, new love is a beautiful, bittersweet thing.

In such dire circumstances, the clever suitor will double-up; that is, whenever possible, apply a single solution to two problems: How to (1) reconcile the wasting of precious life seconds doing something utterly undesirable, while (2) passing the time before reuniting with the object of my heart-throbbing?

I was searching through some old files on our home computer today, and I stumbled across a document entitled "Petrarchan Sonnet Essay Paper." Some horrible drivel I was forced to write to appease some professor, was my immediate thought. But since the title contained the word "sonnet," I thought perhaps I would take a look.

I was delighted to rediscover (since I have no memory of composing it) a love sonnet that I had indeed written to satisfy some class assignment, but which I had apparently actually put some thought into as well, shrewdly transforming it into a potent wife-wooing, point-scoring triumph.

Since I had absolutely no idea what a Petrarchan Sonnet is, I did a quick read through Wikipedia's article (Don't you just love the Internet? I am never using the Dewey Decimal system again!).

It seems that the key components of a Petrarchan Sonnet are:

1) It's about unattainable love
2) There are 14 lines, divided into:
   a) two 4-line thoughts that introduce and then expound upon the love problem, and
   b) with a dramatic change in tone, a six-line solution.
3) The first eight lines have this rhyme scheme: abbaabba
4) The last six lines have this rhyme scheme: cdecde
5) Its author is a burly-chested, muscularly-chiseled, stallion of a man

Okay, I admit that I made that last one up, but only because it fits my situation so perfectly. Without further ado, let's see how I did:

* * *

How Long Shall Dreams of Pure Delight Still Warm

How long shall dreams of pure delight still warm
My troubled heart, though only for a day
Do my true feelings of devotion sway
My mind from plants and cells to her true charm?

Are gorgeous hair and curvy hips a crime?
No, no! They please the weary student's heart,
Though thoughts of joy and love make study part
Aside for aspirations more divine.

Be gone, all books, all study's ruthless toil,
All reading, fighting for a better grade,
All boredom, all exams, all vain desire!

For fantasies of love the grades would spoil
If sought more than the purpose man was made:
To love, to live, towards the heav'ns aspire!

* * *

In my be-it-ever-so-humble opinion, I pretty much hit this one out of the park (and I got the "A" and the girl to prove it). Talk about killing two birds!

Now if only I could figure out some way to woo my wife while mowing the lawn...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Wife Rule #80: Sometimes Things Work Out Better Than Expected

There are many times when life feels like one disaster after another: another waste-of-time-and-money first date; another broken appliance; another failed attempt at solving a tough problem; another foot-in-my-mouth guffaw in some public setting; another runny nose and cough to cherish; another expensive car repair; or another chance to worry about someone you love whose problems make your own seem small, just to cite a few examples.

But every once in a while life gives you a nice surprise. Kind of like walking into a public men's restroom, dreading the sticky mess that's sure to be on the floor, the filthy toilets, and the empty soap container; and instead finding a freshly-mopped, Mr. Clean-worthy, sparkling experience where you get to be the one to break the tissue paper seal on the toilet, and there's not only soap, but also hot water! Yes, every once in a while life exceeds your expectations.

My wife and I enjoyed one of those nice surprises the other day when we took our kids to the pumpkin patch.



The Pumpkin Patch has been a fun Halloween tradition for many years now. We have tried quite a few patches, and the surviving ones have all Darwinially evolved into more or less the same thing: animals to pet (and poop to avoid), junior spook alleys, corn or pumpkin cannons, haystack slides, a hay ride, and a corn maze (oh, and there's also pumpkins there, but they're kind of not the point anymore). We finally based our decision about which pumpkin patch to visit on three factors:

1) The winning pumpkin patch's hay ride featured teenagers dressed up as licensed fictional characters such as Cinderella, Shrek, and Darth Vader, spaced at regular intervals along the ride, who are supposed to shower the hay-riders with candy as we drive by and gawk at them and shout "CANDYCANDYCANDYCANDY!!!" at the top of our lungs. Apparently most of the costumed teenagers are rather dissatisfied with their job of standing there for hours, out in a plowed field, in near-freezing weather, dressed as someone they used to idolize like ten whole years ago, but who hasn't been cool for at least five years now. I can tell this because most of them either throw not nearly enough candy, or they throw it way too hard. But no matter, the candy hay ride is what the kids really come for, so we went to the pumpkin patch where we knew what to expect, sulking costumed teenagers and all.

2) The winning pumpkin patch allowed us to enjoy the hayride and all the other kiddie fun for only $5, which did not include the compulsory ticket for the corn maze, like some of the other patches did.

3) The winning pumpkin patch was the most sincere (I'm sorry, I just had to throw in a shout-out to Linus and the Great Pumpkin).

As it turned out, my wife had a coupon that, for our family of six paying individuals (plus a six-month-old freebie-Beebie), would get us corn maze passes for the same price as we would pay to only do the kiddie stuff.

So we got corn maze tickets too, and that's where the pleasant surprise came in.

Don't ask me why, but I have been rather obsessed with going into a corn maze for many years now. Maybe it's that I used to spend hours drawing mazes on paper when I was young. Or that I used to spend hours writing computer programs to generate mazes when I was a little older. Or that I love hiking through the maze-like fins and canyons in the desert. Or maybe it was the movie Labyrinth. Naw, that movie wasn't actually very good, except for the farting rocks scene (which my friend Alan and I used to rewind and watch over and over and over again, until tears were streaming down our juvenile little faces). But still, I'm obsessed with mazes.

But my wife's not, and for several years, she always went to a corn maze as a leader in our church's youth group, and afterwards she didn't really want to go again. No Halloween maze for me. Boo-hoo.

But this year, because of the coupon, it was free. I turned my wife's shopping logic back on her: "Just think of how much money we'll save by including the corn maze tickets!" I also promised her that if the kids didn't like it, we could always just turn around and exit early, although deep down I doubted my ability to make good on this promise once we were satisfyingly lost in the labyrinth.

We got pumpkins and did kiddie stuff until it was dark. Only then did we notice that the corn maze wasn't lit, like others we had seen. Still, we girded up our loins, and herded up the fruit of our loins, and grabbed our emergency flashlight, and ventured into the corn.

We wandered in Phase 1 of the maze for quite a while. We got lost. We hid in the corn and scared each other. We whimpered a little bit. We fought over holding the flashlight. We argued over being the leader. We finished Phase 1 and had so much fun we attempted Phase 2. We did it all over again, only we got more lost and eventually came back to the central hub in a wheel, about the only recongnizeable spot in the maze. Thankfully, we had carefully memorized the way we came into the hub from the entrance, so when we ended up there again, we just went out through the entrance. But we cheered anyway.

The people on the hayride clapped for us, and Scott did a jump-kick for joy.

And we all--that includes my wife, and every one of my kids--had fun. No one got hurt. No one wandered off and got separated. No one whined about being tired (much). No one had to take an emergency poop in the corn and use dried up corn leaves for...never mind.

So sometimes things work out better than expected. And when it happens, we have all the more to be grateful for.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wife Rule #79: There's a Lot to Learn From a Hike

There's a lot to learn from a hike.

My earliest childhood memories of experiencing the Wonder of Nature often involved Dad dragging me off to some corner of the desert and forcing me on a death march up a lonely trail of barren sandstone slick rock, under the intense heat of a baking afternoon sun.

Like a member of a chain gang, I dragged my poor, whining, parched little-boy body up the rock. I always enjoyed whatever landmark was at the destination, but the journey was arduous, the desert landscape lifeless.

Then one day all that changed. I remember the epiphany vividly. We were hiking along the Devil's Garden trail in Arches National Park in eastern Utah. The trail was long for short legs, and the few hundred feet of elevation gain had defeated my will. Another death march, slogging through dry quicksand and up steep, gravelly hills and rocks.

I hardly noticed the beauty of the towering sandstone fins on either side of me. The majesty of seeing Landscape Arch, the world's biggest, along with Dad's stunning revelation that a whole football field would fit inside the hole, faded quickly as the hike turned into a mental battle that I was losing.

Suddenly, the trail left the sand and sage and followed several cairns up onto the top of one of the sandstone fins we had been following. For the first time on the hike, I could see down over the expanse of fractured earth, dotted with pinyon pines and junipers. Each crevasse, full of shadow, held a mystery. The earth was suddenly full of beauty and wonder that I was oblivious to just minutes ago.

The trail continued along the narrow fin, when suddenly the ground fell away from both sides, exposing us to significant drops just a few feet sideways in either direction. I felt like I was on a boardwalk in the sky. It quickly became apparent to me that treating this hike casually could result in a misstep which might send me plunging a hundred feet or more to my death.

This "death factor" kicked into gear certain emotions and physical sensations which I do not remember experiencing before that time in my life. All at once, Dad had an addict on his hands. Energy rushed to my legs, and with my heart pumping and my mind racing, distance and elevation became non-factors. Desert fever had set in. The journey was more captivating than the destination. Another hiking nut was born.

Nearly thirty years, and more than thirty similar hiking trips later, I found myself walking this trail again. This time I had with me my wife, and for the first time, my five kids. My parents and my brother and his wife and children were also there. In all, six adults were shepherding eight children ages eight and under along a somewhat treacherous stretch of trail. As a father responsible for my children's safety, I felt the "death factor" like I hadn't in years, as I watched my kids navigate carefully the narrow fin, knowing that at this moment, any stumble or trip could be disastrous.

Why would my wife and I willingly subject ourselves to this risk and anxiety, which would not exist if we had just stayed in the car?

Well, my wife mainly does it for me. And I do it because my father did it first.

You see, there is value in such an experience. If the world were always experienced via looking out the window of the back seat of a car (not a totally safe environment either, by the way), so much would be missed. Life is about getting out on your own two feet, and expending a little effort slogging through the sand, and climbing the hills on the trail. Life is also about those moments that burn powerful memories in your mind--those epiphanies--that only occur on the high roads, where the ascent involves some risk and you have to watch your step, but the vistas are incredible and the sensation of walking in the sky is unforgettable.

As a father, I want nothing more than to share the exhilaration I felt in such growth with my own children. I want them to have every good experience and good thing that I have enjoyed.

Isn't that how it is with our Heavenly Father? Isn't that why He sent us to earth, to get out and walk on our own two feet and exert a little effort and struggle and eventually to rise to heights never before experienced?

And doesn't He watch over us carefully, letting us walk, but staying close by, ever close by, to lend a hand over the tricky spots and to remind us not to stray to the right or left on His path to the sky? Doesn't He send His angels to help with anxious hearts and able hands?

So, we follow His lead. We learn from Him, and then encourage our own children to follow our leads. We share with them the best hikes we know, and walk alongside them to help the journey be safe. All the stories, and descriptions, and pictures in the world can never match the experience of walking the trail ourselves.

I wasn't disappointed that day with my kids; they were tough on the trail and they loved the views.

Yes, there's a lot to learn from a hike.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Wife Rule #78: Me Too

A few days ago, after an enjoyable date night out, we were finally winding down for the evening. In the rare case that we reach this point before our day's energy is utterly spent, it is one of my wife's favorite times to discuss family business--the type of business that requires either too much attention or secrecy to be discussed with children present.

Often our conversation focuses on the kids: recent happenings, current challenges, family interactions, and trying to understand their developmental needs. Sometimes during these precious moments of conscious child-rearing, we set goals and pledge to improve as parents.

That night the topic was of the happiest kind: a family road map between now and Christmas. We discussed our schedule for the upcoming holiday months a bit, our plans for our kids' Christmas presents and how we can make their sugarplum visions fit into our budget, and then rounded out the discussion with some really great potential plans for our parents' presents.

After an hour or so of lying next to each other on our bed, discussing such happy thoughts, my wife smiled at me with that soft, tender look in her eyes that has always melted my heart, and spoke with happy sincerity:

"I loved our date tonight. It was nice to get a babysitter and go out to dinner, and playing games afterwards was really fun too. But I had as much fun during the last hour, just lying here talking with you, as I had the rest of the night."

Me too, I thought, as she continued:

"When I was younger, I would imagine what it would be like to be in love and to be married someday. I imagined having my best friend always with me, sitting in bed at night together, and just talking."

Her words penetrated my heart as she spoke, her adoring gaze never leaving mine, so warm and filled with light shining out of the deep blue of her eyes. She then finished her verbal love note:

"I just want you to know that times like this, when we talk and plan our lives together, are just as happy as I ever imagined them to be. And being married to you is even better than I imagined marriage would be."

Sometimes the delivery of an expression of love is so near perfection that mind and senses are flooded, leaving the recipient a little incapacitated. All that still functions is the raw, honest, reflexive response that simply is what it is, without embellishment. This is the state I found myself in, after having the love of my life inform me that I had fulfilled some of her G-rated, adolescent fantasies of what being in love would be like--of having her describe to me the very feelings that I found in my heart at that moment.

All I could manage was a smile and a hug and a clumsy "Thank-you. Me too." I hope she sensed how much I appreciated her compliment and how reciprocal my feelings are.

Since then, I have not thought of any better way to respond other than the words that keep repeating themselves in my mind:

Me too, Sweetheart. Me too.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Wife Rule #77: What it Means to Be a Woman

Now how on earth would I know what it means to be a woman?

There was that one episode in high school where my friend Liz pestered me relentlessly until I tried on a prom dress (over my Man clothes), but that's a walk down memory lane I'd rather not take. So instead, I'll tell you what my wife's womanhood means to me.

I subscribe to the scriptural interpretation that there is deliberate symbolism implied when the Bible says that God made Eve from one of Adam's ribs (see Genesis 2:22). God did not make Eve from Adam's toe, as a subordinate, nor did He make Eve from Adam's head, as a superior. He took her directly from Adam's side, near his heart, where she was meant to remain: a co-equal, a help meet for Adam, just as he is a help meet for Eve.

Both Adam and Eve were to fulfill essential, complementary roles in each other's lives; roles that neither had the capability of fulfilling themselves. And more importantly, they were to combine together synergistically to fulfill roles that neither could accomplish alone. By becoming "one flesh" and acting together in a truly unified way, they accomplished what they could never do otherwise. That "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts" is no where better illustrated than by observing the perpetuation of life that Adam and Eve--and billions of husbands and wives since--have accomplished together, with God's help.

This isn't to say that Adam and Eve were not both amazing individuals too. I have no doubt that our first parents were incredible: in intelligence, in talent, in capacity, in knowledge, in righteousness, and in beauty of person and spirit.

Uniting together--really uniting, in the sense of subordinating one's own will to the cause of the union--in no way diminishes either a husband or a wife. On the contrary, as each partner gives everything to the other, each is mutually magnified both by giving, and by the gifts from the other. The result is that both husband and wife are elevated in ways and directions beyond either's capacity to rise alone. Truly, "neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:11).

I know I have been theoretical so far, but it is only because all this theory has been proven out as fact in our marriage. My wife is an amazing individual. She excels me in so many, many ways: patience, perseverance, selflessness, intelligence, her many varied talents, virtue, humility, generosity, kindness, and charity, just to name a few. Alone, she is a luminous person, a person of great dignity and capacity and capability.

But if she were to keep all that goodness to herself, rather than bestowing it upon me, our children, and the world at large, her capacity would be capped. Instead, she magnifies her womanhood by choosing to be a wife; by choosing to be a mother; by choosing to be a daughter, a sister, and a friend; by choosing to serve selflessly; by choosing to bestow her influence on the world in the ways that matter most, usually one person at a time.

She inspires me; she really does. There is no doubt in my mind that the most important work I will ever do is in my capacity as a husband and father, mirroring her womanhood as her counterpart.

This wasn't always obvious to me. I used to dream, as many young people do, of doing great things, of changing the world. I thought I would do it through my profession or through civic work, both of which are noble pursuits for a man or woman.

But my wife has helped me to see that changing the world really does happen at the micro-level, starting with changing myself. My wife has helped me begin that process, as only a woman can. She can not only see into many of my blind spots, but our union gives me motivation and purpose.

And she sets such an example! Through watching her, I have learned that the world can be changed for good or ill in the short span of one generation. My wife is determined to see that our children contribute to the good part of the next generation, and she gives her life to that cause--and thus is helping to save the world, beginning with our little family.

She chooses every day how she will spend her allotment of time on this earth, and I am so grateful that she has chosen to do that work which is of everlasting value.

To me, my wife is the quintessential example of what it means to be the best type of woman: a woman who has divine confidence, inspired by a knowledge that she is a daughter of God; a woman whose sights are set on celestial heights and who strives to become better every day; a woman who makes full use of the talents and opportunities given to her, and recognizes them as gifts from God; a woman who refuses to allow herself to be objectified, used, and abused in the ways the world relentlessly pressures her to be; a woman who stands for truth and right in her own quiet way, and when necessary, in her own not-so-quiet way; a woman of patience and forbearance who serves as a perfect counterbalance to an impetuous and often rash husband; a woman whose selfless existence inspires and uplifts others, who strengthens and solidifies the eternal bonds of love that hold our marriage and family together.

In other words, as she goes about her life, tapping into and actively developing the innate goodness of the divine nature God implanted within her at birth, she fulfils what every woman was meant to be, by simply being herself.

My wife is what it means to be a woman.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Wife Rule #76: This is Reality

It seems that I periodically need an appointment with Reality.

But since Reality is already busy checking-up with so many other people, my kids are all too happy to fill in.

On Saturday, after a brief, late-afternoon nap, I awoke at about 4:30 P.M., feeling refreshed and energized and ready.

Ready to clean. Ready to cook. Ready to watch the kids while my wife went out to a dinner and meeting for the evening. And if I'm ready for that, I'm ready for anything.

My wife had expressed earlier in the week that she felt a little overwhelmed and could really use more help around the house than what I was giving her. So tonight, things would fall into place. Tonight, I would deliver. Tonight, I would be The Crazy, Cleaning, Ever-Charming, Honey-Do Husband!

In my supreme state of readiness, this is what I was going to accomplish between the time she left at 5:00 and when she arrived back home around eight:

* Cook dinner for the kids
* Eat dinner with the kids
* Clean up dinner
* Do the dishes and clean the kitchen
* Clean the showers, tubs, sinks, toilets, and floors of all three bathrooms
* Watch It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown with the kids and then serve up piping hot, delectable, home-grown peach and berry cobbler (raspberries picked fresh tonight, of course), and watch as yellow and purple juice stains dribble down their satisfied, smiling chins.
* Bathe the kids
* Put the kids to bed, which involves reading scriptures, saying prayers, brushing teeth, telling stories, and navigating the maze of stalling tactics they employ.
* Oh, and in case the sun decides to set an hour or two later than usual tonight (and I could feel that it just might), I'll also mow the lawn.

So you, Mr. or Mrs. Grounded-In-Reality-Cynical-Person, can clearly see that had I been a super-cleaning-motivated bachelor (an oxymoron) without any parental distractions, in three hours I might have been able to accomplish everything on my list, sans the tasks involving the kids (which is most of them).

But tonight, I could feel it; I was ready. In my inexplicably-naive mind, I truly believed I would accomplish most, if not all, of the items on my list. The kids would sort of...take care of themselves for a few hours, while Captain Productivity conquered the world of domestic duties, saving the household one sparkling-clean toilet at a time.

I forgot about Charity.

Five-month-old Charity started crying about ten minutes after my wife left, and refused to stop crying for anyone except me (yes, I even tried pawning her off on my five-year-old son). So I stopped in the middle of my very first task--sponging down the first bathroom counter--and picked her up. Cleaning and babies weren't going to mix, so I decided to proceed with dinner and get back to sponging later. As long as I could keep her hands away from the knife and the stove, at least cleaning chemicals wouldn't poison her. So I held her, but soon discovered that that one-handed dinner preparations often don't go so well.

So I put her in the Snugli, wearing her proudly on my chest the same way I do when we are out on the town for date night. It turns out that the Snugli kind of gets in the way in our crowded kitchen. It also turns out that wearing a Snugli for several hours of intense bending over, lifting, and other kitchen maneuvering really takes a toll on an old man's back.

It also turns out that I'm an old man. I should've seen that one coming.

But I persevered and managed to get dinner made, eaten, and mostly cleaned up before my wife got back home. Nothing else on my list even got thought of again. The poor, lonely sponge, like my motivation and ego, dried out and shriveled on the counter where I had left it hours earlier.

When my wife walked through the door, the first thing I did was take Charity out of the Snugli and ceremoniously dump her into my wife's able arms. Then I went to the bathroom (more than an hour overdue, and I'm not talking about the sponge) and finally collapsed on the couch beside her.

She looked refreshed. I was exhausted. No wonder she wants a little contribution from me when I get home from work every evening.

I won't soon forget who really deserves a break at the end of the day: I spend all day with computers where everything is virtual; she spends all day with Reality.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Wife Rule #75: If You Ever Go Camping, and There's an Aggressive Bull Moose Prowling Around, Don't Tell the Kids

I just wasn't sure what other lesson I could glean from this experience.

When I was a young boy, I brought home a small stuffed moose as a souvenir from a family trip to Yellowstone National Park. "Moosie" became one of my best friends and my favorite sleeping companion at night. His soft, smooth fur and felt antlers were comforting to hold and feel.

Moosie was the envy of my younger sisters, who were always expressing their true devotion for, and desire to have and to hold this little gem of brown, plush, bead-filled goodness. But since he belonged to me, I kept a rather tight reign on him. And we had such good times together! Moosie and I would cuddle together in the bottom bunk of the bed I shared with my older brother. We lived out the classic Disney-like dream of a little boy and the furry animal who loved him.

Then came the night of my brother's illness, when all that changed. Moosie had become dislodged from my protective arms in my sleep, and was now wedged between my mattress and the wall. My brother, feeling very sick to his stomach and yet not wanting to disturb his repose in the top bunk, shrewdly chose an alternative to getting out of bed and puking in the toilet: he merely rolled over and puked down the wall. The mess drizzled out of his sight into my environment below, completely coating poor Moosie on its way to the floor.

Mom and Dad had little sympathy for Big Brother that night; as I recall, they made him clean it up himself, middle of the night, sick, and all.

But poor Moosie would never be the same. After several trips through the wash, he looked matted and was showing signs of premature threadbareness. Alas, I admit that in my immature youthful mind, much of Moosie's appeal was, in fact, skin-deep. Moosie went on the fast track to become a hand-me-down, and my sisters were somewhat pleased to suddenly have access to this coveted toy. But given his condition, they rather quickly lost interest.

So it was with mixed emotion that I accepted Moosie back into my family earlier this year, after my mom found him in a dusty old box. With proper gravity and ceremony, I bequeathed him upon Scott, age five, figuring that such a pure, innocent child had as much chance as anyone of giving Moosie the love he surely deserved at such an advanced stage in his pathetic, plush-toy life.

And Scott did, indeed, love him.

But then came the camping trip. My wife, in a nearly unprecedented stroke of most-welcome madness, was the one who brought the idea up. A simple over-nighter, up the canyon by our house. Food + family + pit toilets = guaranteed fun. A great idea. A brilliant idea. But an idea with a catch.

After we got to our camp site and set up the tent trailer, a kindly old gentleman (translation: someone who has not been primarily responsible for the care of small children for too long a time to be very wise about them) from the camp site across the road ambled over and covertly told my wife and me that an aggressive bull moose was prowling around in the shadows. This moose was not fifty feet from where we now stood, and he told us that since he had heard our kids, he thought we had better let them know to be careful, because this moose apparently had insatiable blood lust and no-doubt glowing red eyes, and had in fact attacked campground visitors twice this season.

And being parents of young children (translation: someone who has not been primarily responsible for the care of small children long enough to be very wise about them), my wife and I, feeling for the safety of our little brood, followed the guy's advice and told our kids about the Child-Eating Vampire Moose from You-Know-Where. Or at least that's what they heard, because it took approximately five seconds after spilling the beans for Rachel and Scott and Andrew's eyes to grow as wide as the full moon and for them to shrink back fearfully and start a routine of nervously glancing from side to side and over their shoulders and whimpering about the ever-deepening darkness. Every few seconds, for good measure, they would shudder.

Dawn, of course, being the oldest, wisest, and most fearless of our children, deftly seized the opportunity to torment her subordinate siblings relentlessly.

"WHAT WAS THAT?" Dawn would suddenly cry, "A MOOOOOOOOSE!"

And the other three kids would fret and whimper and glance around, and Mom and Dad would make idle threats about what would happen if Dawn didn't stop it right now, because what could we really do to at this point? Make Dawn walk home? Not a chance, with a Vampire Moose on the loose.

So we spent the hours as dusk fell into blackness trying to reassure and comfort our cowering, shuddering children about The Moose. Poor Scott seemed most affected by it all. A log would crackle in the fire, and he would jump in his seat and ask with quivering lips, "Was that The M-M-Moose?"

So we tried singing campfire songs. Our favorite ones can be sung in a round, so we started with "I love the mountains, I love the rolling hills..."

"But The Moose lives in the mountains," Scott complained. So we switched to "Hey, Ho, Anybody Home," and enjoyed singing a good round and then moved on to "Have You Seen the Ghost of John," since Halloween is just around the corner.

Poor Scott, nearly in tears after a few rounds of this song, cried, "I don't like all this singing about the Ghost of John. It reminds me of The Moose!"

I couldn't quite make the connection, but we stopped that song, anyway. Appetites for S'mores were uncharacteristically small that night, and we retired to the trailer for bed, where thankfully, we didn't hear any stray noises and didn't have any bad dreams about The Moose.

Morning dawned crisp and clear with outrageously pinkish-orangish light showering the peak of Mount Timpooneke, the backdrop of all the fun, above groves of golden autumn aspen trees. I got the kids up and took them on a little walk to take some pictures of the spectacle.

They huddled together on the way, and at first I guessed it was because of the chilly morning air, but of course found out quickly that it was because of The Moose.

We paused for pictures at a verdant meadow that extended to the base of the mountain, complete with a pleasant, trickling stream. My kids asked if The Moose lived here. I was intentionally vague in my mumbling "maybe" reply, since in fact I thought it was extremely probable that The Moose made this pleasant spot home base, between bouts of terrorizing and eating innocent children.

Later that morning, the kids wanted to explore along some scanty animal trails in the brush by our campsite. They would scrupulously avoid any trail that led into a dark patch of pine trees, for fear of The Moose.

At one point, we came across a pile of poop. My kids asked me about it.

Hmmm. Clearly not deer.

I don't think there are elk here, at least not frequently.

What non-deer, non-elk animal would make a trail like this and leave poop like this?

The Moose.

So I reluctantly answered their question, and that pretty much set in motion the end of our last activity before packing up and going home.

Well, we survived our camp-out without so much as a sight or sound of The Moose, much less any actual loss of life or limb. What did my wife and I learn from this, aside from the obvious lesson of avoiding any kindly old gentleman that ambles our way?

Well, we learned the lesson in the title of this Wife Rule. And we learned a new punishment for bad behavior: we'll make the kids eat Moose Tracks ice cream.

And speaking of tracks, I think I learned that my childhood Moosie is probably on the fast track--again--to be disowned, this time by Scott. Poor Moosie just can't seem to get a break.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wife Rule #74: We're Up to Our Eyeballs in Paper, in Love

The papers! The papers! We're drowning in papers!
They come from our drawers, our cutters, our tapers.
With munchkin-esque skill they artistically putter
on projects designed to set our hearts aflutter.

And it all starts with paper, that canvas divine,
so perfect and blank, it just begs for design.
Will they color, or cut, or glue into a chain?
Will they make yet another World's Best Paper Plane?
Or another self-portrait? Life-sized to be sure.
(We have one of those, lovingly stuck to our door.)

Or a seasonal something: a fallen-leaf tree?
A springtimey flower? A summer-fun sea?
A winteryscape, filled with snowflakey skies?
Or a spooky web brimming with doomed, dried-up flies?
These each find their place in our seasonal space,
taped up to a window, or stuck in a vase.

They sometimes pay homage to parents' obsessions:
like my wife's constant need to find beachy expressions,
or my love of orange arches carved out of the rocks,
sometimes glued to relief shapes carved out of a box.

But most often, creations are thoughts of their own,
favorite kid-friendly subjects they commonly clone:
Like kitties, or doggies, or birdies, or froggies.
Or mutated dinosaurs swimming in boggies.
Or a fair-headed maiden: a princess with wings
and a magical wand and who magically sings.

The pure stuff of childhood--these thoughts that they think
Are put down on paper: white, blue, green, or pink.
Sometimes it's scratch paper, sometimes construction,
or they draw down our printer supply. Each production
may take multiple sheets; especially when forming
a life-sized rendition, or 3-D transforming
of picture to sculpture, as often they do:
A house or a stage, or a big wooden shoe,
Or whatever they dream; their most memorable thought
that is making the case: "I ought to be wrought!"

And they're all fine ideas, crying out to be given
expression on paper; defined, formed, and livin'.
Yes, living to infamy, ne'ermore now to die,
for the parents of artists just can't say goodbye
to these cute, crooked drawings, these colors that spill
way out of their lines, these cutouts that thrill
with ridiculous portions of tape holding on
to ridiculous portions of paper, all drawn.

And perhaps the very most hardest of all
Are the love notes, written in children's best scrawl:
an "I love you," or "World's Bestest Dad," they might say,
or "Mommy, I'm sorry I spilled juice today."
Or "A present for someone so special," sent with
a random assortment of objects and gifts,
often blatantly surplus supplies to discard,
but still tokens of love--and that love makes it hard!

So we keep them, we hang them, we tack them on walls,
we crowd them, display them on doors and in halls,
we pile them on desks and we file them in drawers,
we put them in boxes and bags and on floors.

And we're flooded with papers! With precious reminders
of fast-fleeting, youthful, adorable blinders
they wear now for only a few precious years,
while they look to their parents to calm all their fears,
While they still think we know something more than they do,
While they still think we're fun, fast, and fabulous, too.

Yes, we're up to our eyeballs in papers, in love,
in notes and in drawings of stuff they think of,
in hearts and in flowers, in sunshine and spring,
And it's just how we'd have it: we won't change a thing.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wife Rule #73: Have No Fear, Captain Culture is Here!

That last Wife Rule was rather heavy, so I thought I would lighten up a bit by mentioning that with two little boys in the house, the subject of superheroes comes up often.

Especially so since I have introduced my children to the wonders of "classic" Sesame Street clips on youtube. Not the watered-down sissy stuff they put on the air today--you know, the stuff that's actually geared towards kids of all people--but the good old stuff.

Stuff such as Captain Vegetable, the giant purple rabbit with a cape, flaming orange hair, long ears, buck teeth, and horrible white whiskers that look like badly curled pipe cleaners, which they probably are.

Narrator: "Out of his secret garden somewhere in New Jersey, comes your new favorite superhero...."

Captain Vegetable (singing rather badly, like Neil Diamond, but with better timbre): "It is I, Captain Vegetable, with my car-ROT, and my cel-ery. Eating crunchy vegetables is good for me. And they're good for you, so eat them too. For teeth so strong your whole life long, eat celery and carrots by the bunch. Three cheers for me, Captain Vegetable, CRUNCH! CRUNCH! CRUNCH!"

Then of course we meet Andy who loves candy (Andy: "Wh-who are you, some kind of a bad dream?" Captain Vegetable: "Do I look like a bad dream? Andy: pregnant pause). We also meet Eddie who loves spaghetti (Eddie: "What are you, some kind of weirdo?" Captain Vegetable: "Do I look like a weirdo?" Eddie: nods vigorously).

With a wave of his magic carrot, somehow Captain Vegetable converts Andy and Eddie over to veggies. As a father of five, let me tell you that it truly would take superpowers to do that to a kid. If I magically replaced a big bowl of candy in front of my kids with a plate stacked with celery, my kids would attack me and the skit would have ended with my violent demise occurring just off screen. Not Captain Vegetable; the kids follow him like the Pied Piper. I guess that's why he gets to wear the cape.

For tragic reasons we may never fully get to the bottom of, Captain Vegetable only appeared on Sesame Street for that one skit. Maybe his agent never worked out an acceptable deal with the writers. Probably some sort of conflict with union rules or something.

But the important point is, I am trying to inject as much Fine Culture, such as Sesame Street skits (Monsterpiece Theater, anyone?), into my family as possible. That's me, Captain Culture, my family's new favorite superhero (Tag Line: "Remember to always eat your yogurt, kids!" Get it? A culture joke! Ha ha ha!).

So today Captain Culture and his trusty wife concocted a brilliant plan for the evening: to see the "Monet to Picasso" travelling art exhibit at one of our local university museums. My normal Wednesday night meetings were cancelled, and Wednesday happens to be the only day of the week the museum is open past 6:00 PM (I agree, totally lame-o). We had it all planned: I was home from work early, and my parents would watch the kids (we didn't want to worry about them wiping any bodily fluids on a Monet, after all--a Jackson Pollock, maybe, but definitely not a Monet). Unfortunately, we didn't realize until we had literally loaded the kids into the minivan, that the tickets to this show were pre-sold for certain time slots and today's shows were all sold out.

Thus, we had a good half-hour session of feeling very sorry for our sorry, sad selves, and then tried to come up with an alternate plan for the evening that didn't involve house cleaning or paperwork. My wife realized she didn't feel well anyway, and was just as happy to stay at home and rest. And luckily, Captain Culture's keen consciousness concocted another plan absolutely oozing with copious culture: take the kids to the dollar movie at the Sticky Shoe. At least that's what we locals call it. Rumor has it that the owners were actually considering officially changing the name of the theater to "The Sticky Shoe," but thought better of it and ended up with the totally benign and boring "Towne Cinema" instead. No vision at all. Kind of like if Malt-O-Meal had named "Marshmallow Mateys" something like "Oat and Starch Puffed Cereal." Their loss.

But regardless of the theater's name, as I mentioned, the Sticky Shoe oozes with culture, and that's just what's on the floor. The featured movie tonight was "Kung Fu Panda," which amazingly was not sold out. And it goes without saying that Jack Black and Jackie Chan make an equitable cultural substitute for Monet and Picasso.

Dead, artsy guys are usually overrated anyway.

So my wife got to rest, and the kids ended up loving the movie, and were spewing forth culturally-enriched Kung-Fu sound effects during the entire ride home. And two-year-old Andrew literally glowed with bashful appreciation when I dubbed him "Kung-Poo Andrew" while changing his diaper before bed. Imagine, he would have missed out on this important cultural experience had our original museum plans worked out.

So as you knew it would happen, Captain Culture prevailed once again, making the best of what might have been a culturally-anemic night. Now I'm going to settle down for bed, as soon as I have a little snack.

I think a big plate of celery sounds just right. Or maybe some yogurt.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Wife Rule #72: It All Comes Back to Prayer

Almost a year after my father-in-law passed away, I began mentally gearing up for the anniversary of his car accident and death. There had been several very difficult months for my wife initially following his death, but in the last few months, things had begun to smooth over and return more to normal. I wasn't sure what emotions the anniversary would invoke, but I wanted to be prepared to offer extra support and strength again.

Thus, it kind of blindsided me when during this time, my own mom called to inform me that my dad, always health-conscious and ever healthy, had just been diagnosed with a rare, serious form of cancer. Cancer? It wasn't all that uncommon, but still, cancer was something that happened to other people. Kind of like car accidents used to be.

Dad's outlook wasn't rosy. There wasn't a very large body of research about his particular kind of cancer, because it is very rare, but the few statistics we had weren't encouraging. Many patients died within a year, and few survived five years after diagnosis.

So, after visiting Dad in the hospital and learning all we could and crying a little with my parents and siblings, my wife and I did the only other thing we could do in such a helpless situation: we prayed.

We prayed for the whole family, but especially for Dad. We honestly didn't expect an immediate recovery, since even miracles usually take some time and involve some learning for those involved. But we prayed for Dad to be strong, to be courageous, and to be given patience and faith and endurance to face the brutal treatments ahead: surgery on his heart, lungs, and other vital organs; followed by two months of chemotherapy; and then a few months of heavy radiation.

And yes, we prayed for a miracle. We prayed for healing to take place in the Lord's time and in the Lord's way, so long as it did eventually come. We prayed that we would all have patience while we waited for the hoped-for healing to happen.

But always, in the back of my mind during every earnest prayer, were freshly-minted life experiences--experiences which had taught us that there are times when the outcome of a problem simply doesn't match up to our wishes and desires and prayers, no matter how sincere or strongly-wanted. We had lost my wife's father, and no matter how much I couldn't bear to think of it, I knew that we might also lose mine.

The next weeks and months were a whirlwind of treatments and updates. The treatments went well; my father's health-consciousness payed off as his body withstood the disease and responded to treatments better than most. Yet, there were still those grim statistics, and there was the suffering.

The suffering! Oh the suffering! My father-in-law was in a coma and on heavy medication from the time of his accident until his passing nearly two weeks later, so we never really knew the extent of any suffering he endured. But my father, my Daddy, was conscious and alert during his cancer treatments, and subjected to all the physical, mental and emotional torture associated with embracing Pain in order to stare down Death.

After having endured radically invasive surgery that involved sawing his chest in two, he was now being poisoned to the very edge of death, all in the hopes that his healthy tissue would simply outlast the cancerous cells. Chemotherapy is a terrible, slow-motion game of chicken where life--however crippled and diminished--is the prize, and certain death awaits the loser.

So it was that when I would receive reports of my Dad's times of intense suffering, my prayers would exponentially increase in earnestness.

Oh, dear Father in Heaven, the Almighty God who commands both life and element, I plead for my father. I can't help him. I don't know how. I don't know thy will. I don't know thy plan. I don't even know what suffering Dad will yet be called to pass through, nor what the outcome will be. But please, please, give him strength and courage. I know that Thou wilt not always heal our bodies according to our wills, and I accept that. But my dad is a good man. He has faith in Thee. Please honor that faith and heal his spirit. I can have faith in this request. Please calm his soul. Please ease his suffering. Please.

My wife would watch with a tender look of compassion and concern as I emerged from such pleading with wet eyes and a trembling frame.

"I'm so sorry you are having to go through this," she said to me late one night as I collapsed into bed beside her. "I know how you feel. I have felt it before. I just never realized how much more it hurts when it's your own father. I'm sorry I can't feel quite as strongly about this as you do now. I'm sorry."

She meant it. And I knew how she felt. In months past, I had watched helplessly as she cried herself to sleep, mourning her father's passing and worrying about her mother's future. I wished so badly at that time that there was something I could say or do that would lessen her suffering.

Even in what should be the closest of human relationships, the union of husband and wife, there is ultimately a falling-short of ability to fully empathise and thus offer perfect help. My wife and I have learned this for ourselves, through independent experience, and we are all the more grateful now that we are not alone in our union.

Our marriage is a three-way arrangement--a triangle--with my wife and I connected as peers at the base and the God of Heaven connected to each of us above, our superior in every way. Our bonds of love can only grow closer and stronger and the distance between us shrink, as we shorten the distance between ourselves and our God. Thus, when we want most desperately to draw together, to be closer, to be one, we pray.

It all comes back to prayer. It all comes back into the hands of our all-wise, all-powerful, and all-loving Father in Heaven and His son, Jesus Christ. They know us. They know what we are going through. They understand. When we want with our whole souls to understand, to empathise, to help, and to heal, They are waiting for us to call.

And with heavenly help involved, we cope and draw closer, no matter the outcome.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Wife Rule #71: She's a Rock

My wife is asleep on the couch while I'm writing this Wife Rule. It's late at night and she's right: I should be getting ready for bed instead. Once again, her practicality illuminates my illogicality.

When I sang with my church's signature choir, I came to feel that the lyrics of one song in particular kind of reminded me of my life:

My life goes on in endless song
above Earth's lamentation.
I hear the sweet, though far-off hymn
that hails a new creation.

I am by nature a passionate person who finds great satisfaction in constant creative expression. Amidst the countless lamentable situations of life, there is always beauty and hope, however far in the distance, springing from whatever gifts life has in store.

Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear the music ringing.
It finds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?

Such poetic, passionate words do resonate in my soul. There is so much to say, so much to echo back to the world. Through whatever difficulties I must pass, I always have my faith and my family, two supernal gifts that provide endless music, endless reasons to hope. How can I keep from singing, from celebrating the goodness in my life?

I find expressive outlets for my passion in music, in art, and in words, including these Wife Rules. My wife married a sentimental, strange man.

Passion is not all love poems and roses, however. My emotions, like most strong-willed things, have an untamed side that occasionally rears its head. My wife knows me well enough by now to patiently roll her eyes when I lean a little to the extreme during one of my rants. She is wise enough to wait for me to get down off the soapbox I sometimes climb on before injecting a little dose of devil's advocacy, or alternate interpretations of events, or the sometimes needed reality-check. She knows me, she understands me, and best of all, she loves me.

She is a rock to me.

Those of you who have been with your spouses far longer than me probably chuckle when I admit this, but after ten years together, I thought I pretty much knew my wife. But life has a way of throwing new curve balls at us that reveal ever more of the stuff our souls are full of, called character. And my wife is absolutely stuffed with the stuff.

Certain events in our lives have underscored to me just how steady and rock-like she really is. When life gets hard, I'm tough. But when life gets harder, I have a tendency to lose faith and wring my hands and exhaust my energies in some very helpful (I have not doubt) worrying. My life's endless song continues on, but all switched around in a minor key, like the Mickey Mousketeer anthem turned into a funeral dirge.

Not my wife. I have literally been stunned as I have watched things that should have sent her into a tailspin bounce off her wings like minor turbulence. At the time when I'm prone to start announcing orders to grab your chute and bail out, she is casually flipping on the "Fasten Safety Belts" lights. She is steady beyond my understanding.

Such steadiness is not something that I noticed right away. It's not what first attracted me to her. I don't recall saying to her during courtship, "You're smart, you're beautiful, and your uncanny tendency to remain calm during times of great duress really leaves an impression on my fluttering heart."

No, her steady, solid footing in life is one of those subtle yet sublime qualities that is woven into the very fabric of her soul; something that I have only come to appreciate when stress is applied to that fabric. But now I know it is there, and I am grateful for it.

Don't get me wrong; my wife is not perfect. There have been times when I have served as the steadying force in her life, too. But if she were keeping score (which she most assuredly isn't), she would notice that the Saving-Spouse tally would lean heavily to her side. She saves my passionate, overly-anxious caboose time and time again.

No storm can shake my inmost calm
while to that Rock I'm clinging
Since Love is Lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?

As I finish writing this rule, my steadfast rock of a wife slumbers lightly beside me in the room. It's late, and we should be in bed. But despite this fact, she stays out here for me; she knows I love her presence. Even if I'm not directly interacting with her, she's still here for me, comforting me, steadying me.

My Love.

My Rock.

My Wife.