Monday, February 25, 2008

Wife Rule #22: Travel Time is Talk Time

My in-laws have always lived either three or four hours away, so we frequently go on long car rides. When we were first engaged during the summer break from our university studies, the long rides between our homes were tolerable because the Wonder Babe of the Universe was waiting for me at the other end. I spent many hours on those rides thinking of her, with images in my head of her shining face, surrounded by shining bouquets of white flowers, bathed in shining celestial light, and with the sound of birds chirping, shiningly.

The journey seemed idyllic; nearly the entire route follows mountain ranges, traverses canyons, and near the end, offers amazing vistas of a huge, pristine, crystal-colored lake. I'm sure it was the same scenery that must have inspired Shakespeare's love sonnets, for I even composed my one and only love song about her throughout the many hours of commuting along this route (and it's actually pretty good). Ah, the spring blooming of young love...

However, after we were married, I'll admit that the long drive, like eating leftover wedding cake for the fourteenth consecutive night, was a little less welcoming. This was largely because the member of my wife's family that I wanted to see most was already seated right beside me.

And let's be frank: despite the many tremendous blessings and joys of having children, when you add kids to a long car ride, it can't possibly improve. There are additional potty stops, often in the middle of the aforementioned scenic canyons (we try to turn it into a family fun-time event called by heralding it "Going Potty in the Wilderness"). You also lose control of the car's sound system in favor of playing the Barbie and the Twelve Dancing Princesses Marry the Nutcracker Prince (Often Named Eric for Some Reason) in Swan-Lake-Topia While an Evil Step-Person With a Large, Hooked Nose Tries to Take Over the Kingdom DVD for the umpteenth time that week. And like the vomit-colored icing on the cake, there is always the occasional canyon-induced car sickness that sometimes results in spectacular, spontaneous enhancements of the landscape.

But in reality, on most rides, many or all of our children sleep for much of the time. And with the sound system devoted to spewing forth Barbie wisdom to any conscious ones, there's really not much left for my wife and I to do but talk.

So we talk.

We talk about the same stuff we do at home, but not in the same way--our conversation is more relaxed, less hurried, because we have literally hours to kill. We remember the old times. We discuss the coming times. We troubleshoot and problem-solve. We discuss our extended families in a depth that we usually don't reach. We discuss our progress together, our goals. We discuss our kids and the happenings in their lives. We joke, we laugh, we sometimes flirt.

And often our conversation transcends everything earthly, and we discuss God and His plan for us, for our family, and His glorious gospel. We discuss things we have been thinking about but are not the kind of things we can bring up in Sunday school. We postulate, we ponder, we learn together. During these special times a sweet Spirit sometimes envelopes us and elevates our understandings. We can then learn together in a way and depth that we just can't seem to reproduce very often in other circumstances.

And it's all because we're stuck in a car.

I have learned to love our mobile Talk Times over the years. They are one of my favorite parts of going to visit my wife's family now. In fact, when we were recently planning our winter weekend getaway together without our kids, I was surprised at what I was anticipating most: it was the Talk Time I knew we would have together in our four-hour drive to our destination, and throughout our weekend. We took a handful of CD's with us, but didn't really have them on much during our long rides. We just talked, and talked, and then talked some more. At one point we were so engrossed in our conversation that we completely missed a planned stop along the way--neither of us even remember seeing the exit signs or the billboards in the town as we breezed through it.

I guess we had better things to do.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Wife Rule #21: How Beautiful Are Her Feet

There are certain characteristics of another person that you can only develop an appreciation for over an extended period of time. It took years for me to notice some of the supreme qualities my wife possesses, both because of their subtlety, and lack of revealing circumstance. Such are the finer aspects of my wife's feet.

We began dating in the winter, during closed-toe shoe season. It was nearly six months after I met my wife before I ever saw her in sandals. I never knew that I had a natural affinity for painted toenails, but it turns out that I do. Just before a recent warm-weather winter getaway, my wife walked in sporting freshly painted toenails, and I have to admit that they looked pretty good--this despite the fact that her pregnancy currently blocks her view and hinders her ability to reach her feet. But just like the pioneers of womanly fashion that went before her, always defying comfort and practicality, her toenails were painted.

With her possessing such an arsenal of amazing foot ability, I should not have been surprised when I discovered that her toes can sing. This isn't any run-of-the-mill belching-armpit type of performance, either. When I say her toes can sing, I'm talking about full blown Broadway-style talent. I discovered this amazing ability one day when I saw her toes twitching rhythmically.

"What's wrong with your toes?" I tactfully inquired.

"Oh. My toes? Well, they're ... singing," my wife hesitantly replied.

"Hmmm. What are they singing? I can't hear anything."

"Isn't it obvious? They're singing Barbara Ann from the Beach Boys."

And as I watched, I could tell she was right. They were clearly singing Barbara Ann in perfect rhythm. Sometimes when they sing there is CD or radio accompaniment, and sometimes they perform A Capella, The Ten Tiny Tenors. It's a refined sort of music; the kind you hear more in your head that with your ears. There is always an accompanying dance routine, and by watching the dance you kind of pick up on the song.

Her toes often sing when she's relaxed, with her feet up on the ottoman, or when she's laying on the bed, engrossed in a good book. For her, toe activity appears to reflect an almost subconscious-level of happiness and energy--the kind that permeates a soul so fully that a little bit escapes and manifests itself in physical form. This is the same kind of energetic happiness that drives my four-year-old son to roar like a dinosaur and charge headlong into my groin. I prefer the singing toes.

Big Toes are the star performers, and sing the melody as they bounce back and forth jubilantly. The Second Toes are backup, and do the color harmony. The remaining six kind of serve as the chorus, punctuating each performance with occasional bursts of synchronized energy. The whole ensemble is really quite mesmerizing to watch, especially when her toenails have been freshly painted.

The only trouble with this amazing act is, her toes are kind of stage-shy. Often they are performing an obviously emotional number, with enthusiasm appropriate for a Pavarotti-style aria, when I catch them in the act. I try to mask my reaction to this tremendously entertaining spectacle, but I never quite can. As soon as my wife notices the corners of my mouth curling up in a smile, her toes immediately recoil in bashfulness--hiding under a blanket, or behind my feet, or wherever there is cover. I try to explain to her how her toes' performance both entertains and inspires adoration, but I can tell she never quite buys it.

But buy it or not, the show must go on. So I try to catch performances whenever I can, without letting my wife know. I add this talent to the long list of unforeseen benefits of marrying my wife; another one of the amazing things I love about her that I never would have known otherwise.

"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of [her] that [singeth]" (Isaiah 52:7)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Wife Rule #20: She is My Constant Star

I will always remember how difficult it was the first few months after I joined my church's signature choir. It was spring time, and I had just finished going through the special preparatory training choir for two months, learning and performing Hayden's The Creation. Immediately afterwards, I was thrust into the crunch period of trying to come up to speed with those who had been singing in the full choir for years and already knew much of the music.

It seemed like we were simultaneously preparing for our church's upcoming worldwide conference, learning a full program of music to record a patriotic CD for summer release, learning Bernstein's Chichester Psalms, Brahms' Requiem, and a separate two-hour concert repertoire for the early summer tour the choir was going to be taking. Much of this music had to be memorized. In addition to all that, there was always the weekly Sunday morning television broadcast. It was both the best and worst of times to be a new member in the choir, with exhilarating musical opportunity and heavy demands.

I remember that during one CD recording session I was struggling to try to follow the conductor and follow the music, which required looking two places at once. I must have ended up favoring the music, because the conductor stopped and started laying into the choir about how vital it was to keep our noses out of our music folders and have our eyes on him at all times--the music we were recording more or less needed to be memorized, which seemed beyond me at that time. I remember the searing shame when, during his lecture, he seemed to single me out with his eyes. I felt he had stopped the entire 500-member ensemble to give me a personal reprimand.

My confidence was badly shaken--it was more than I could take. My eyes burned and I stopped singing altogether. I was determined not to be a hindrance, so I simply mouthed the words for the rest of the recording session that night. When I got home, I unloaded to my wife, who had been alone with her own burdens nearly every day and night that week, due to the recording sessions.

I told her I didn't know whether I could continue in the choir--it was too much, too fast. I told her I had developed serious doubts as to whether I was a capable enough singer to contribute. I went on and on in my defeated diatribe. She didn't interrupt me or tell me how hard her day had been--she simply looked into my eyes with that unconditional compassion and love and encouragement that she seems to have an endless supply of. When I was done, she gently reassured me that she believed in me and that I could do it.

With her encouragement, I decided to stay in the choir and pushed onward. One of the next challenges came while learning the music for Brahms' Requiem. Just days before the first concert, the conductor told us that he wanted us to sing the first movement from memory. We were all scrambling. I only remember bringing sheet music to work to practice during lunch once during my three years in the choir--my hasty attempt to commit the irregular, flowing, melodiless music and German text to memory in time for the concert. It was one of the hardest memorization feats I have ever attempted because of the limited time and the difficulty of the material. I was still cramming during the ride to the concert.

During the performance, through some miracle, the choir pulled off the first movement of Requiem from memory. With the eyes of the choir fixed on him, our conductor was able to take the rich subtlety of Brahms' music and draw out the maximum possible nuance and emotion. It felt so good to be part of something so beautiful and wholesome. All the practice and hard work had paid off.

When I met my wife after the concert, her eyes were glistening. "It was so beautiful," she told me. "From the first notes of the opening through the end of the first movement I just cried. The music was wonderful, but I was so proud of you, and the whole choir. You did it so well!" Her words filled me with warmth and satisfaction and gratitude for her, my best supporter and biggest fan. She is the one who knows my weakness better than any other person alive, but chooses to never stop believing in me and encouraging me. As my best friend, she is as constant as the North Star that shone above us that warm spring night.

I smiled at her, and took her hand in mine. I enjoyed the feeling of her hand and the feeling of our love as we walked away from the concert hall into the darkness, together under the starry sky.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Wife Rule #19: There's Never Enough Together Time

My wife and I love spending time with each other. It's a fault we have always shared. Our social lives have suffered some over the years, because although we like our friends a lot, we both just prefer being together more. We love spending time with our kids too, but as any parent of four children ages eight and under knows, family time is distinctly different from couple time. And we just can't get enough of our couple time, our Together Time.

Sometimes we push our luck with Together Time, such as on Saturday mornings. For about five years, I had to awaken at about 5:30 AM for various Sunday morning meetings, so Saturdays were our only sleeping-in safe havens. To my wife and I, sleeping in until 8:00 AM is outrageously lavish. But on certain Saturday mornings, we stayed in bed longer, just being together, until 8:30 or later. It could be heavenly.

This parental bliss seldom goes unnoticed by our four children, who typically alternate between two very important Saturday-morning activities: brawling, and tattling about the brawling. Thus, our peaceful mornings are interrupted at regular three-minute intervals with loud raps on the bedroom door.

"Mom!" (It's always for Mom; I don't know why, but there are certain advantages for me.)

"Wha-at?" my wife replies with a sing-song pleasantness.

"Mom!" the voice repeats, obviously more interested in being heard than listening for a response.

"Whaaaat?" we both respond, sounding purposefully annoyed.

"Mommm!" Apparently our emoting fell on deaf ears.

"Whaaaat?" we both call out with obvious exasperation, at the top of our voices, as to let the disturber know that this had better be serious.

Unfortunately, it always is serious. Rachel lays out her well-rehearsed case: "Scott ran into me with his dump truck and then he hit me really hard, on purpose! And it hurts really bad!"

"Sorry Rachel. Go tell Scott to be nice," comes our automated response to this predictable scenario.

"Um, okay," she says brightly, and off she skips down the hall to let Scott have it.

By this time, of course, we are both well awake, but we have dug in our heels, determined not to emerge into the chaos outside our bedroom door just yet. My wife rolls over and lays her head on my shoulder, and looks at me with those eyes that just won't quit. Three minutes later, we hear more loud raps on our door.


"Mom, um Mom?"


"Um, Mom, Rachel hit me really hard and it hurts really bad," comes Scott's usual report.

"Go tell Rachel to be nice." Off Scott zooms down the hall at Turbo Tyrannosaurus speed.

By now all drowsiness has fled, which is just as well. My wife is looking pretty fine in her faded high school dance camp tee shirt and sweat bottoms. And I know that my hairdo, fresh from being smashed into my pillow all night, is tufted up above my ears, giving me a regal horned-owl sort of look--absolutely irresistible to my woman. But alas, three minutes later comes the loudest rapping yet.

"Whaaaaaaaaaaat?" my wife calls out, all hints of niceness gone from her voice.

"Mommy, time to come out!" calls the authoritative voice of two-year-old Andrew. We look at each other. We know this is the end. Andrew's not tattling on anyone; we know exactly what he wants, and he's amazingly persistent for someone who's only two feet tall. Our "peaceful" morning is over.

So we begrudgingly roll out of bed to greet the day and our four children, who we really do love with all our hearts. But we'll both readily admit that we're glad they sleep ten to twelve hours a day--we'll enjoy it while it lasts. For now, it gives us a little Together Time every day, to use up sleeping in, or talking, or playing a game, or watching an occasional movie, or sometimes just working together, side by side. We just can't get enough of each other.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Wife Rule #18: She Always Holds the Ace

Some family stories are the stuff of legend--they are so good that they get told again and again, with subtle embellishments tacked on with each re-telling. Some of them are even so good that they cross over family boundaries and become legendary for a wider audience. My brother-in-law told me one such story about his family. It's the kind of story that you don't want to suddenly pop into your head during breakfast, just after you just placed a heaping spoonful of Honey Nut Cheerios in your mouth, because the laugh-out-loud climax would likely cause you to spew your mouthful, Jackson Pollock style, across the kitchen counter. It's that good.

My brother-in-law comes from a large family, which virtually guarantees that something interesting will be happening at any given time. According to legend, during a routine family ride in their trusty 14-passenger van, two of his younger siblings had taken up the habit of talking in a rather irritating, high-pitched voice. On and on they chatted, getting just a little on everyone's nerves. After patience had worn thin, the youngest sister in the family abruptly announced from the very back seat of the van (and I'm going to try to spell this as phonetically as possible for maximum effect): "If you don't stop tawking in dose gwoss wowrds, I am going to bawf!"

Well, duly inspired with such words of encouragement, the two siblings continued emitting "gwoss wowrds" at a renewed pace--until a loud retching sound silenced them, and with horror-struck eyes, the entire family watched helplessly, as the youngest sister, in stunning high-definition slow motion, performed a perfect projectile vomit maneuver from the back seat, covering the entire distance inside the van.

I know what you're thinking right now: Wow, I would love to have seen that! That's exactly how I felt the first time I heard the story, after I had stopped guffawing and dry heaving. But believe it or not, there's a point to this story: the person who threatens to barf unless behavior is changed holds the Ace, and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

Thank goodness the terrorists haven't figured that one out yet: "I demand the freedom of all political prisoners and a private jet, or I am going to bawf!" Can you imagine the chaos, with people ducking for cover in every direction?

But I digress. What does this have to do with my wonderful wife? You might have thought that I composed this entire Wife Rule just as an excuse to share a disgusting story about projectile vomiting. And you would sort of be right. But there is a Wife Rule, a hidden nugget, contained in the guts of this story just longing to come out (no puns intended, really). And it has to do with Who Holds the Ace.

See, when I first married my wife, I thought that we each had our own set of Aces. I have since learned through befuddling experience that it really doesn't matter just how right I might think I am--my wife always holds the Ace. For example, how can you possibly argue with "Because I'm pregnant and I don't feel good!" It's not like I can really come back with "Well, whose fault is that?" Hmmm...

And how about the times when I bring up some little nit-picky thing that I feel she might have done wrong, and through some utterly mind-boggling conversational maneuvering, she manages to almost instantaneously convince me that no matter why I mentioned it, I had better cool it, because (a) it's my fault, or (b) I'm getting in deeper trouble by the second by bringing it up, or usually (c) both.

And, there's always the Ultimate Ace, that little fact that I sometimes momentarily forget, that she's my wife. And when that thought comes to mind, there's really not much more to say. And it truth, nothing more needs to be said. We do sometimes discuss pressing issues--the kind that need to be addressed to keep our family on the right course--in a spirit of mutual problem-solving. But I am learning slowly that the unimportant cards are better off left in the box, where they will be forgotten tomorrow anyway. There's no point in adding them to my hand--my wife holds all the Aces.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Wife Rule #17: I'm With You to the End

I attended the funeral today of a good friend's mother. Ever since my father-in-law died about four years ago, I have had a special spot in my heart for widows and widowers. For this reason, I watched her husband closely as he walked slowly up the isle in the chapel and took his seat in front of her casket on the first row.

She was 77 years old, and had lived a good life, but I don't imagine that made her passing any easier on him. She was his wife, a part of his soul. After a lifetime together, I have no doubt that he felt just like Father Adam did when he explained his feelings about Eve: "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, for she was taken out of Man." (Genesis 2:23).

I didn't get a chance to see his face up close, but if I had, I'm sure I would have seen etched into the lines in his skin a pain--a deep, deep pain as if bone and flesh had been taken out of him and he was no longer whole. For that is how two truly unified people feel, when one is taken away; they feel incomplete, lost, and alone.

This wasn't the first time he had lost his wife. The cruel torments of dementia had taken his wife from him years ago. As mental illness usually does, it started gradually, one step at a time. I can't imagine what it must have been like as he slowly came to the realization that he was losing the woman he loved. It its full-blown stage, the disease took her mind completely. She fabricated elaborate stories and plans, which might have been humorous had the situation not been so serious. She resisted fiercely those, like her husband, who tried to help her see reality. She she fought; she argued; she spent their retirement money on imaginary needs; and eventually she terminated their marriage. During the last weeks of her life, her children consulted with their dad to discover his wishes before giving their legal voice in decision-making, since that legal privilege had been taken away from him.

Through years of these trials, he never wavered. He stuck by her. He watched over her when she didn't want him around. He never, ever stopped caring for her. He suffered greatly both because of her actions, and because he could not stop caring for her. Just as one hurts when one's body is infected and sore, he hurt with the illness of his wife. And just as one doesn't simply give up on one's own body, but clings to life, he clung to her in every way he could.

I wondered what would be spoken about their last few years at the funeral. I wondered whether the two-ton elephant in the room would be acknowledged.

But it never was, because it wasn't there.

Yes, there were passing references to the illness of the last years of her life. There were references to the sainthood that surely awaited her husband. But the illness wasn't important to talk about because it wasn't what defined her. Whatever limitations may have afflicted her body had no bearing on her spirit. Her family understands this. Her husband understands this, and in the end, all that matters is that she loved her husband, and he loved her.

At the time of their passing they were still husband and wife. Their legal marriage status had been severed according to man's authority, but when they joined together sixty years ago under God's authority, they formed an eternal union. Said the Savior to Peter, to whom he gave such eternal authority, "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven" (Matthew 18:18). My friend's parents organized their eternal family as a covenant marriage, and it was solemnized by one holding the same authority that Peter had. Such bonds cannot be broken by any authority on earth. Such bonds cannot even be broken by death. There is no "until death do you part," or "as long as you both shall live," in an eternal marriage. Such covenant bonds can only be ended willingly and consciously, and thus had never been broken. The contract with the state had been severed, but the promises of God are still in force.

So to my wife, as we approach our tenth anniversary, let me reaffirm my promise to you: I'm with you to the end; I'm yours for eternity. We set out on this adventure together knowing it would never have to end, and I am determined to see that we make it last forever.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Wife Rule #16: Hopeless Romanticism is Overrated

My creative wife creatively created a scrapbook to host our history of Valentine's Day cards to each other. Every year around the Big Day (I mean Groundhog's Day, of course) we pull out the scrapbook and admire our hopelessly romantic past expressions of mutual thumbs-upmanship. And let me add, we have some real dooseys in there. The hope is that we will feel inspired yet again to outdo our previous inspiration. After all, if our love is continually growing, we should be continually better at expressing it, shouldn't we?

If only it could be so. This year as I perused the book, I nearly gagged at one particular Valentine I had written to my wife. It was probably just the mood I was in when I read it, but I think there's something to be said for a little humor instead of always laying on the schmooze with a putty knife. One of the Valentines I'm personally proudest of I gave her just months before we were married, and contains a big red heart on the front and says "B Mine," but on the inside there is a pop-out purple vampire bat with the caption "or B-ware!" That's classic romantical stuff, just ask any woman.

I think my favorite valentine to her must be the one I gave her only two months after our first date, when our relationship was still in the tenuous phase that merited notes signed with little hearts instead of The Big Word, "From" (or is it "Love"?) This first valentine contained an anatomically-correct heart on the front (complete with red and blue tubes sticking out of it) and a poem inside. For your reading pleasure, I quote the poem in its entirety, complete with original footnotes:

Well, roses are Red and violets are Blue
And there's lots I could write that I know about you,
But those sappy love poems can really make your hide rot,
So instead of what you are, I'll tell you what you're not!

Let's see...

You're not bald and fat, and all sagging underneath.
You don't walk around with food stuck in your teeth.
You don't have bad breath, and your armpits don't reek.
And I can tell that you bathe more than once in a week.

You're not lazy, or stupid, and your life's not a wreck,
And I know ('cause I've seen 'em) that you're not a redneck (1).
You don't smoke, drink, or gamble and I think that it's cool
That you don't belch a lot (2), or slurp your food, or drool.

You don't steal from babies, or kick nuns in the shins
And you don't push smaller kids into trash bins.
You're not a mass-murderer, a Nazi, or spy
And last time I checked, no boogers in your eye (3).

So after looking you over and giving in thought
I can tell that there's quite a few things that you're not.
And if I were to tell you the things that you are,
I'd run out of paper before I got far.

But I will tell you you're sweet, and I love all the time
That I spend with you, darling, my dear Valentine (4).

(1) Although driving a riding lawnmower out of town is questionable.
(2) Even though I know you really can.
(3) I know, I'm a hopeless romantic.
(4) I could write a lot more, but it's harder to rhyme virtues.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Wife Rule #15: Pregnancy is Beautiful

I wanted to title this rule "Big is Beautiful," but then I thought about other possible interpretations of that phrase and how I like to sleep next to my wife in bed, rather than on the couch. So I have chosen the less controversial title.

My wife is nearly eight months pregnant. She is taller than most women, so she has a little more room inside her torso to squish up before her belly pops out. However, at this stage in the pregnancy, she has long since hung up her normal wardrobe in favor of her extra-curvy one. She's moved fully into the stretch-fabric and large-elastic-waist-band phase. She doesn't love these clothes; she sort of puts up with them as comfort and survival become the primary objective for the last few months.

The funny thing is, I love the way she looks when she's pregnant. Not only do I find her clothes attractive, but everything about her. She's never more beautiful than when her body is undergoing the marvelous changes that eventually culminate in bringing another child into our family. She has a serene (she might say "tired") glow about her. Everything seems to soften a little bit. I love the look in her eyes when she talks about the baby. I love the way she looks when she's asleep, which I get to see a little more often during pregnancy. And I really love her cute profile, with that baby sticking out to be seen by the world. I love it all.

And having been through this four times before, I anticipate her most beautiful look yet. It's the one she has on her face right after giving birth, when the baby is placed in her arms for the first time. This is one of those times when the ordeal she just passed through has made pretense impossible and stripped away any conscious concern for outward appearance. What's left over is the real, natural beauty that my wife is made of. Her expression is a combination of great relief, parental pride, unconditional love, unabashed adoration, and finally, sublime serenity. I always take a picture of her in this state after each child is born--she is too tired to protest. I treasure those photos, but they always fall way short of capturing the moment. The true essence of these glorious events can only be etched in my heart, where these happy memories will always be.

I'm definitely ready for another.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Wife Rule #14: Romance is Always in Style

Butterfly collars. Sequined jumpsuits. Orange shag carpet. Disco music. Lime-green corduroy bell-bottoms. Bob Ross. The Seventies must have been one big decade-long hangover from the chemically-induced highs of the Sixties. I have no idea how it's possible that so many obviously bad choices in taste could all become fashionable at once. It was the cosmic misalignment of the stars, like the Universe slipped a disk and was cringing from back pain for ten years.

Thankfully, we enjoyed several decades of sanity following the Seventies. Unfortunately, today many of these abominations seem to be making a comeback with The Younger Generation, the same generation who would probably host parties for the express purpose of eating Styrofoam peanuts if they knew it would drive The Older Generation crazy. Which just goes to show that styles come, and styles also go (thank goodness).

Why do I mention the Seventies? I would think it would be obvious by now: unfortunately, in many relationships, Romance also ebbs and flows like the styles of the Seventies. See the connection? Sequins + Jumpsuit = Infatuation Gone Sour.

Never mind. I think I overblew that point. Let's try again.

If a marriage is to thrive, Romance had better survive. And if Romance is to survive, it had better be a whole lot more than just basic attraction; you know, the kind that causes dirt particles to stick to shag carpet. Romance had better be more than a whim, subject to "getting old" and going out of style.

My wife and I attended a marriage workshop last night in which the teacher asked us to share a word that described our thoughts the first time we met our spouse. "Whoa!" I offered. I meant it. There is no other word that better describes both the adrenaline, and the incredible restraint which was exercised on the Stallion Within in order to avoid full-blown whinnying noises. For me, that was the beginning of our romance.

The romance quickly blossomed like the proverbial Blossoming of Romance. Soon we were two, lovesick children who endured Unbearable Agony if we were separated for even a few of our waking hours.

"Must you take leave of me for university instruction?" I would implore.

"Alas, I must," she would reply, "But fear not! For the cruel hours of Chemistry class separating us from yonder Horizon of Happiness shall soon flee; and presently we shall frolic about like young roes on a grassy knoll."

Then naturally, I would respond, "If 'tis Chemistry you must seek, then let my salty tears of parting, a solution of sodium-chloride ions, serve as a symbol of our destined bond, to summon thee as through an electrostatic attraction of oppositely charged particles." And thus our romance flourished.

Over ten years later, it might be safe to say that the effortless aspect of our romantic attraction has lessened somewhat. In this stage of our romance we are more likely to find ourselves sitting together in a marriage workshop, than frolicking on a grassy knoll. But that's not a bad thing. Just because the infatuation of youth has given way to the realities of married life, doesn't mean that our feelings for each other are any less. In fact, our love runs much deeper today than it ever has; it just requires some conscious effort. So spending an evening together, holding hands in a marriage workshop, is just what the Love Doctor ordered. And unlike orange shag carpet, our brand of romance is always in style.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Wife Rule #13: Stay-At-Home-Moms are Superheroes!

My wife is a stay-at-home-mom. There is so much I could write about this topic--so much of the value it is to our children and how much I appreciate her for choosing to mother this way. But I think the greatest tributes to her are formed in my mind during the times when I "fill in" for her; not the normal together-at-last-in-the-evening routines, but the times when I am home all alone with the kids for an extended period of time (the theme music from "Jaws" starts playing here), while she goes out. Only then do I realized that it takes some type of super-power to retain any semblance of sanity and order in the house or in my head.

In this spirit, I want to share with you the Christmas card greeting we sent out in 2007, which contains a particularly poignant experience I had, which honed my appreciation for the miracle worker my wife really is as a stay-at-home mom. Here it is:

December 13, 2007: It’s 9:30 PM as I begin to compose this Christmas greeting. My plan was to start working on it at 8:30. Actually, my plan was to work on it weeks ago, but you know how plans go at Christmastime. Tonight my wife is at some no-doubt-Christmas-themed ladies' service meeting, which means that I’m the solo zookeeper. I’ve got almost-eight-year-old Dawn, six-year-old Rachel, Scott the dinosaur who is four, and Andrew who is very two (favorite phrases: “No!” and “Right Now!”). In addition, we have three female cousins over, ages six, four, and one, while my brother and sister-in-law go to a Christmas party. The girls outnumber the boys here five to three. There are little princess dress-ups everywhere.

Things started out relatively smoothly. Cooking was basic tonight—milk, bananas, and homemade pancakes. Turns out the cousins had the exact same meal before coming over. That doesn’t stop the one-year-old from eating again here. The other cousins run amok while I try to keep my own brood seated around the table, which is full to the brim with six place settings, two jugs of milk, a pile of pancakes, syrup, tub-o-butter, and a festive Christmas table runner with snow-globe salt and pepper shakers.

Scott is upset that the girl cousins are getting into his Nerf air gun. Rachel and Dawn are having a hard time getting the pancakes down between sprints to the family room where little princess distractions are dancing on the ottoman (forbidden, of course, and provoking many loud reports of the infraction).

Baby cousin drops her banana on the floor. I’m so grateful that Dawn is old enough to fish it out from under the table and wash the lint off in the sink before returning it to its owner so I don’t have to do it (Gross, Dad! It’s got a hair on it!). Andrew has decided he’s had enough of dinner and starts to protest loudly about getting down “Right Now!” Meanwhile, baby cousin reaches too far to the side, and her booster seat slides off the chair and down the whole assembly goes, baby and all. Covered with sticky, I rush her to the sink to wash off her hands and face so that I can get some proper uncle-ish comforting in. No sooner have I dried her tears than Rachel rushes into the kitchen with her hands cupped, gagging and soon regurgitates her dinner into her hands with a disgusted look. After a cleanup trip to the bathroom (don’t shake your hands off on the floor—get to the sink!), Andrew has given up all hope of getting down from the table, and has resorted to full-blown howling.

This, of course, is the cue for the phone to ring. There are dressed-up princesses and alligators and lions (getting married, apparently?) roaming freely. As the sounds of children shrieking while going down our indoor slide resonate through the room to compliment Rachel and Andrew’s wailing and the never-ending Christmas MP3s streaming out of our PC, I try to give advice to my sister-in-law about which board game I would order from my recently-acquired board game retail web site ( Since the order is imperative to be done tonight (if there is to be any hope of getting it by Christmas), it seems too important to delay.

My wife arrives home from her meeting in the midst of all this chaos. Gratefully, I hand her the phone (and Andrew, for good measure), so I can get to work on putting the other six kids down for bed. After a solid 45 minutes of bed-time and re-bed-time, I finally sit down to begin this letter. My four-year-old niece has ascended the stairs for the fourth time in as many minutes to inform us that she needs to go potty. After reassuring her that the first three tries were sufficient, and locking the doors to the bedroom, I settle down to write my second sentence. Just then, my nieces’ parents show up, and with the ensuing shuffling and conversation, it’s 11:00 before I get back to writing the Christmas newsletter.

After taking approximately 20 seconds to reflect on the events of this evening (it is 11:45, after all), I think that this busier-than-normal night kind of sums up the blessings and challenges of our lives right now. We are blessed with amazing family and friends who fill our lives to the brim and beyond with joyful company and conversation. Life, while kind of hectic, is full of humor and love; and I suppose that the precious moments where the stars align and everything falls into place and there is peace and tranquility, however short-lived those moments are, wouldn’t mean nearly as much if life were not so full in the first place. We hope that this Christmas season finds you with such a moment or two, and that you will join with us in contemplating the birth of our Savior, whose life and death make all worthwhile moments meaningful. Among all people who have ever walked this globe, we truly are highly blessed.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Wife Rule #12: Thank Her for Making Me a Father

It was close to midnight, a week after the due date, and my wife, pumped full of pitosin, had been pushing for a little over an hour. After nine-and-a-quarter months, plus 12 hours in the hospital, the stage was finally set.

Like whirlwind, there was a flurry of sudden activity, a crowd of masked people mostly blocking my view, and then the pure sound of a baby's first cries cut through the chaos and my world changed forever.

I'm a father, said a voice inside my head. I'm a father!

The nurse handed me this little pink person, all covered with something white-ish, and asked me to place my infant daughter on the scale. To say that it was surreal is an understatement. As I held my firstborn child in my arms for the first time, tears streaming down my face, I didn't understand fully how I was feeling. There was an overwhelming surge of pride and awe, yet I didn't honestly feel any different at that moment--at least not in the way I had expected to feel. Just like I had noticed that I didn't feel "married" during the first few seconds after our marriage ceremony ended, there was no new blinking indicator light behind my ear marked "Fatherhood."

But at the same time, I knew that everything was different. Suddenly there was a new person in my life, a person who completely depended on my wife and me for her very survival. I say "suddenly," because that's really how it was for me. My wife's pains and discomforts, as well as the undeniable growing bulge in my wife's belly, in a strange sort of way remained fairly abstract to me during her pregnancy.

It's probably because the pregnancy had not really demanded much of me. My wife had enjoyed the blessing of good physical and emotional health, and didn't ask a lot extra from me. I was not deprived of sleep or comfort, and though I knew my wife grew increasingly uncomfortable and impatient near the end, I didn't experience the personal sacrifice, like she did, that so easily establishes powerful bonds of love between parent and child.

All that would change rather quickly over the next hours, and days, and months. That new little person would almost immediately become embedded deeply into the fabric of our family, which would be forever expanded. But for those first few minutes, those changes were still in the future, and all I could feel was the here and now, as I watched my new daughter in wonder. How beautiful she is, I thought to myself. And then I looked at my wife, still lying exhausted on the delivery table. The nurse cleaned my daughter up, wrapped her in a warm blanket, and handed her to her mother for the first time.

The first rays of sun must look beautiful beyond description after the clouds of a hurricane finally give way, because my wife, her last drop of energy spent, was literally glowing while she looked into the scrunched-up face of our little girl. The sight burned an image deep into my mind that I will never forget. And then it came: a rush of consuming love; love for my wife, who had travelled through the valley of the shadow of death in order to bring life into the world; love for my own mother, who had done the same thing for me; and love for my new daughter, who had done nothing more so far than to breathe and cry, but was here. I was beginning to understand what it felt like to be a father.

It is no light thing that the God of heaven chooses to be addressed as our Father. There is something beautiful, and powerful, and sacred about that title. And sharing that title with Him is an indescribable honor, an honor which I was powerless to take upon myself. It took two others, my Father in Heaven and my wife--the mother of my children--to choose to bestow upon me the sacred responsibility of being a father and all the attendant joy and fulfillment that go along with it. I will thank my God and my loving wife forever, for making me a father.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Wife Rule #11: Give Her Wings to Fly

The world-wide president of my church was happily married to his wife for over 67 years. It's safe to say he knew a thing or two about how to make a marriage work. A few years ago he gave a sermon about the women in our lives. I have always remembered from it an excellent quote, in which he recalled his wife saying, "You've always given me wings to fly, and I have loved you for it."

I know exactly what she meant when she said that. I have also been blessed to be with a companion who has always given me wings to fly. In our short marriage, we have both finished our undergraduate university degrees, which took a lot of mutual support and effort. She supported me during two years working on a Master's degree, and never criticized or resented my eventual decision to call it quits.

She gave me her unwavering support and enthusiasm during a three-year opportunity to sing in a world-renowned, highly competitive choir. The price of this privilege included my absence every Sunday morning from 6:30 AM until 11:00 or noon, including a whole year when she took our three small children to church alone every week.

Singing in the choir also meant I was gone many nights; every Thursday, most Tuesdays, and about 20% of Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, for at least 4 hours each time. It meant watching our children alone while I went on tours, sometimes for weeks at a time. It meant getting a babysitter, and fighting traffic and crowds, all so she could cheer me on, often while sitting with strangers in the concert hall. It meant watching the weekly Sunday morning television choir broadcast faithfully, while simultaneously fighting three little torpedo-like balls of energy.

She not only did this with grace and endurance, she did it with a smile. She was genuinely proud to support her man, even though it meant me leaving her alone with the children an additional 20 hours per week, on average. It was a difficult three years, but gave me experience and memories that will undoubtedly be among the most prized of my life.

In recent years, she supported my creative efforts when I built my photography web site. She has supported my passion for board games, spending hours play-testing prototypes with me. She supported my venture into a retail board game web site.

I recently told her I wanted to enter a nature photography contest. It would cost a little time and money to make the prints, mat them, and pay the fees. She enthusiastically encouraged me to do it, even though we both knew my chances of winning an award were slim. Awards don't matter to her. She has always believed in me, and the intrinsic value of letting me do stuff--of giving me wings to fly.

She called me this afternoon to tell me that one of my photos had won some type of award. There was genuine excitement in her voice. Her enthusiasm carried clearly over the phone line and wrapped around me, like a big, warm, bear hug. She is proud of her man. I don't know how to adequately express to her my gratitude for the love and affection I feel from her. She has taught me through her example that one of the best ways to show my love for her is to give her wings to fly. I hope I can accomplish this half as well as she does.

I love you, sweetie. Thanks for everything.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Wife Rule #10: Some Things are Definitely Woman's Work

We're not getting all sexist here, don't worry. I try to do the dishes at least as much as my fabulous wife. But there are just certain tasks that Man's brain was not meant to comprehend, such as having fun while shopping, and these are Woman's Work.

One of the most daunting tasks my wife occasionally lays at my feet is to dress our four children. I more or less understand what to put on our two boys and where to put it, but the girls are a completely different story. I might have mentioned this before, but women are a mystery. Even a little, cute, pint-sized woman like my six-year-old or eight-year-old daughter can be very mysterious. And among all the elements of the Great Female Mystery, there is one which is most incomprehensible of all: the "outfit."

Now, I know what you're thinking: What's so mysterious about buying fishing gear or ammo at an outfitter? But that's where you're wrong. I'm not talking about any run-of-the-mill mess of hunting supplies, or welding accessories, or anything simple like that. I'm talking about a real live, bona-fide, female outfit. The kind that involves color coordination and special shoes and picking one certain hair ribbon out of a drawer of approximately 25,000 hair ribbons in the bathroom. That kind of outfit.

See, with boys, an outfit is basically any pair of pants, coupled with any shirt, with socks and shoes somewhat optional. Actually, the shirt is sometimes optional too. But not so with a girly outfit. Nothing is optional, as far as I can tell. There are bows to be tied, barrettes to install, ribbons to place, sometimes even little frills on socks that mean you have to pay attention to whether the sock is inside out or not when you put it on.

But I digress--the accessories to an outfit are the least of my worries. For most outfits--anything involving a separate shirt and pants or a skirt--the task of marrying the correct top with the correct bottom is nearly hopeless. The trouble is that the Law of Outfits defies reason. For example, a white-ish shirt should clearly match a white-ish skirt. I don't understand why it should matter that they're both white, or not the same color of white (something else invented by females, might I add), or whether one has bright red accents and the other has bright magenta accents. In my mind, they all fit in the "white-ish bucket" of color, and thus they match.

Not so, according to my wife. Clearly the white top with magenta accents matches the teal skirt with puce and plum accents, which clearly matches the special sage tights with fluorescent glow-in-the-dark accents, which obviously matches the gobbledygook shoes, and blah blah blah I wonder if the lawn needs mowing blah blah blah...

So we have an agreement. I can (usually) ensure that clothes are properly oriented on our children, with appendages in the correct holes and tags in the right locations, provided that my wife or one of my daughters has already accomplished the Womanly Task of coordinating the outfit in the first place. So one of them will pick out the clothes, and then I can help get them dressed. At least that's the way it used to be. My daughters are old enough that they really don't need my help anymore. But we have another baby girl coming, so I will soon be relying heavily again on outfitting help, just like the dozens of other amazing, incomprehensible aspects of Woman's Work that my wife accomplishes with such ease. If I understood them, I would tell you what they are. But regardless, I must say "Thank You" to my wonderful wife, who does Work that Women do, so very, very well.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Wife Rule #9: Some Things are Man's Work

I should probably be concerned that my young son's goal in life is to be a garbage man, but I'm not.

You see, some things are Man's Work, and taking out trash is definitely one of them. My wife and I never had to discuss that point. There was a silent understanding between us. You produce the trash, and I take the trash out. I am the household garbage man, like my father before me, and like his father before him. Prehistoric Man undoubtedly spent hours each day hefting unwanted boulders out of the cave. Of course my son wants to be a garbage man.

There are other important skills that my son needs to learn related to Man's Work. For instance, mowing the lawn. For this reason, we bought my son a toy lawnmower that emits bubbles. He will follow me around the yard for an hour, bubbling, and not complaining. He is convinced he is doing Man's Work, and it makes him feel all burly inside.

There are those few things that my wife and I disagree about being Man's Work. For instance, I am perfectly willing to take on the Manly job of hanging up pictures, or curtains, or shelving, or whatever. It involves wielding a hammer and pounding stuff (another popular theme of my son's toys). However, noticing that there is a shelf lying on the floor, or a curtain rod hiding behind the bedroom door, both just hoping within their deepest inward manufactured parts that I will hang them any day now, is definitely not part of Man's Work. In fact, noticing just about anything, including a new blouse, a new rug, a new couch, a grease fire raging out of control in the kitchen, etc., is really not Man's Work. Noticing and plucking my stray renegade eyebrow hairs is definitely not Man's Work.

That's where my Woman comes in. She notices stuff. If there were something terrible like a spider or a large python living in our basement, she would notice, and then she would tell me. And then, being a Man, I would conquer the beast, preferably by squishing it's guts out with a shoe or a baseball bat (Man's Work again). If I had put my pants on backwards, my wife would notice, and I would do the Manly thing and reverse them. Yes, my wife is great at noticing. But besides noticing stuff, my wife serves many other very important functions in our household, which I will undoubtedly discuss with you another time, as soon as I notice what they are--or else I'll be sleeping on the couch, which just might be new, for all I know.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Wife Rule #8: Dancing is Better With the Stars

I always hated dances.

But I liked girls.

So for most of my adolescence, I was stuck in a tortured existence. I went to most of the school dances, because there was always a big group, and there was dinner, and the obligatory after-dance activities to drain time away. And even at the dance, the ceremonial taking of the group picture--with a little skill--could easily be stretched out to well over half of the time we were there. So school dances were palatable, but barely.

I tended to avoid most of the church dances, because they didn't involve formally asking a girl on a date. This meant that none of the non-dance distractions were there, and that meant that there wasn't much to do except, well, dance.

I thought the problem was that I didn't really like most dance music. It just didn't do anything for me. Instead of energizing me into an involuntary rhythmic frenzy like it seemed to do to everybody else around me, it sapped my energy, turning me into a drooping wall-flower, slumped deep down into an uncomfortable folding chair, if one was available. If not, I might sag all the way to the floor and start drooling or whatever.

It was even worse if I was at a dance with a date, because she might actually expect me to dance. So I had no choice, but to stand out in the middle the dance floor, absolutely everyone's eyes on me, I was sure, and look like a total lurp. I'm sure my over-excited self-consciousness caused my shoulders to droop and my back to slouch, sort of self-fulfilling my greatest fears when dancing of looking like an uncoordinated, gangly, pencil-necked, pimple-faced teenage boy with a nerve disorder.

So I would try to cope by playing it safe with the famous two-foot lurch, back and forth. My arms never knew what to do. Sometimes they might raise themselves up, rodent-like with my hands curled forward, in some psychotic attempt to turn my lurpy lurch into the happy hamster hop. But let's be realistic--no matter how out of touch with reality I might have been as a teenager, even I knew that looked stupid. So the safest option seemed to be to let my arms hang down, rigidly, lest any unintentional movement might draw more attention to myself.

Thus, I hated dancing. Sure, I had seen the TV shows and the movies, the parts where the happy couple dances together and the whole world seems to melt away into a slow-motion type of love montage. They look into each other's eyes deeply, spinning in paradise, and suddenly they are riding away into the sunset (still in slow motion) on the back of a horse, her dainty hands wrapping around his manly torso and firmly gripping his chiseled abs. I knew what was supposed to happen.

But it never quite worked out that way for me. My dancing experiences involved slow-motion spinning, but instead of ending up on horses, I was always in the center of a room full of evil clowns, which were cackling and pointing at me as I slowly melted into a puddle of Cream of Wheat on the floor.

Until I started dancing with my wife. She loves dancing, and I love her, so we did it often. We even took a couple of ballroom dance classes together in college. I won't lie--it took some time, but soon, dancing with her was just like on TV. When we would dance together the world would sort of fade away, pointing evil clowns and all, and it was just the two of us, spinning in paradise. I finally realized that for me, the music didn't have that much to do with it after all. It just took finding the right partner, the one who could put stars in my eyes, for the magic to happen.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Wife Rule #7: Throw Away "The List"

The details are too personal to share, but there is no doubt in my mind that the circumstances leading to my wife and I meeting were put in place by a Higher Power. I can't speak to her story--that is hers to tell. But as for me, over the course of several years encompassing my university studies, I was led away from my probable life's trajectory just long enough to meet her and establish the foundation for a relationship. After the beginnings were put in place, the detour abruptly ended, my life direction came into sharp focus, and I resumed my course on what seemed in retrospect to be the obvious path I should have been taking all along.

I will forever be grateful to a guiding God that He took interest in helping one of His most helpless children to stumble my way into a relationship that is beautiful beyond my fondest hopes and dreams. For that's who my wife is: a gift from God, a person of such incredible beauty and virtue that when I think of the magnitude of the blessing I have to be married to her, the natural response is to fall to my knees in thanks.

She is my counterpart, my perfect fit. She embodies qualities that compliment me so well that I could not have hand-picked a better match if I had the whole universe at my disposal. Her virtue elevates me. Her beauty and influence magnify my world. Her gentle love is a balm when I am wounded; a lifeline when I am sinking; and at times eagle's wings to carry me to fair heights and future hopes that were previously unimaginable. But perhaps the most delightful parts of my wife are the many surprises I continue to discover--those hidden, sublime qualities which are only revealed over process of time and after a variety of experiences together.

Before I met my wife, I had The List that so many of us carry around, constantly sizing up potential or current mates against the items on The List. I have come to realize that The List, while undoubtedly containing many admirable and virtuous qualities for a spouse to have, also has the shortcoming of being terribly short-sighted. How could The List I created for my ideal wife be complete when I am still an incomplete person? How could I possibly comprehend what I really need, when I am still so needy in so many ways?

Thankfully, the Lord ignored most of The List and instead sent me an angel. She happens to fit many of the items on my List, but so much more importantly, she fits all of the items on His List for me. His List is so grand, so complete, so transcendent, so perfect for me. I can't wait to discover more of the items on His List; each time I do, my love for my wife grows and in turn, I grow.

So if you are still looking for your perfect match, hold The List loosely in your hands, but be ready to accept a bigger, better version that is being prepared for you. And if any of you who are married are still carrying around The List, please, take my advice, and throw it away. You don't need it anymore. Have the faith to fully enjoy the person you have with you now.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Wife Rule #6: "Frizzy" is not a Compliment

Her hair. I still remember the first time I saw her; it was her hair that caught my eye. She had long, beautiful locks that curled gracefully down her back. We were in a freshman Biology class at the university we both attended, where I spent a good portion of each lecture period scoping out the female half of the 700-or-so students in the class. She sat several rows in front of me, and her shiny curls reflected the dim light of the auditorium like shimmering golden coins. Then she stood up, and I saw the figure connected to that gorgeous head of hair. Ooh, la la!

I would be lying if I said that it wasn't her sheer physical beauty that first caught my eye. I would also be incorrect if I didn't give her hair most of the credit. I was shy, but I just had to find out who belonged to that scrumptious scalp, those follicles that captured my foolish heart. And so I eventually mustered the courage to introduce myself, and the first words I found myself saying to her, like involuntary poetry, were "Do you use a dandruff shampoo? 'Cause it'd be a shame to let a dry flaky scalp put a damper on your amazing golden sheen."

Although that pickup-line makes a better story, in truth all I actually did was invite her to study with me and a few friends. I spent a good portion of our time studying her hair.

After we had known each other for several months, I was starting to feel pretty comfortable around her and her hair. I decided it was time to take the relationship to the next level. It was time to open up, to confide. "I love your frizzy hair," I ventured in my best suave voice. I figured that would be a harmless segue into deeper relationship talk.

"What?" she replied, a slightly annoyed edge to her voice.

"I love your frizzy hair," I repeated, a little less suavely. "It's really pretty, the way the curls are curly and stuff." I wasn't sure why this opener had not produced the desired effect.

Well, instead of a deep relationship-defining talk, we spent the next several minutes discussing the meaning of the word "frizzy." I thought frizzy meant "really wavy." Not having ever paid much attention to women's hair product advertisements, the negative connotation of this word had totally escaped me. And thus began one of my first in-depth lessons about the Mysterious World of Women, where subtle differences in word meanings can make all the difference between flattery and failure.

Thankfully, she is a patient and forgiving woman. Her permed hairdo is long gone, having been replaced over the years with various fashionable and equally attractive cuts (my wife's hair looks pretty amazing in any style). In recent years, our children's antics have even introduced a very sophisticated silver highlight to her head of gold. She complains that the new hairs' texture is not sleek and silky like her golden ones, but rather wiry. It's okay, I tell her, I like her new "wisdom hairs" and the distinguished, modern feeling they evoke. And one thing I know--whether they are wiry or not, they are definitely not frizzy.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Wife Rule #5: Never Mess with a Woman Who Sings Pirate Songs

A secret. She kept it from me for the longest time. And then one day, while we were still engaged, when she was in a particularly good mood, out it came: "Oooooooooooh, a pirate's life is a wonderful life! A driftin' over the sea..."

She blurted it out with such gusto that I admit, it caught me off guard.

This is a good thing to find out before we tie the knot, I thought to myself. She likes to sing pirate songs. But what does this really mean? Is there some dark secret in her past? Does it involve booty? Swiss bank accounts?

I didn't have any answers, and this was definitely something I needed to get to the bottom of. Only trouble is, like so many other things womanly, there was no immediate explanation for this mysterious behavior. Thus, I had no choice but to be patient. I took a chance and married her anyway.

Amid the bliss of newly-wed life, the Pirate Song would occasionally surface, like a Phantom Shadow that crosses briefly over the Garden of Happiness, causing the Buttercups of Bliss to briefly shudder their Petals of Serenity. You know exactly what I mean.

Despite the sinister undercurrent, over time I discovered that there were certain advantages to being married to a self-proclaimed pirate. For one, she is very good with a knife. She can cut vegetables like they're scurvy scalliwags, and skewer chicken like a bilge rat.

She is also versed in the fine art of pirate torture. When youngin's are resisting washing their hair in the bath, she is quite proficient at dunking the ornery landlubbers. She can keehaul the little hearties, or make them walk the plank, whatever it takes.

And we must mention, of course, that she's very good with her booty. Enough said.

So, I'm married to a pirate. I'm okay with that. I still haven't gotten to the bottom of her secret--I may sleep forever in Davy Jones' locker before I do. But through our years of adventures and conquests together, this much I know: a pirate wife is a wonderful wife!