Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wife Rule #104: It Came to Pass

As an oblique tribute to my wife's many talents, have I mentioned that Stay-At-Home-Moms possess super-powers lately?

My seven-year-old (Rachel), three-year-old (Andrew), and infant (Charity) were all sick last Sunday morning, so I stayed home from church with them, letting my wife and our nine- and five-year-old children attend.

I had grand plans for the morning--three whole hours of unstructured time called for a delightful smorgasbord of Sabbath-day activities that it seems all too difficult to ever get to on a "normal" Sunday. These included

* Spending a quality, uninterrupted half hour with the scriptures
* Watching the half-hour Music and the Spoken Word broadcast
* Reading books to the children
* Writing in my journal
* Writing a few letters
* Writing in my blog
* Taking a half-hour nap
* Otherwise relishing this day of rest

You Stay-At-Home-Moms moms were snickering at me by the third item on my list.

So after bidding my wife and the two non-sickies goodbye, I grabbed my scriptures and my glasses and several books of my choosing from Andrew's bookshelf, and brought the pile into the family room. I flipped on the fireplace, grabbed my red scripture-marking pencil, donned my reading glasses, cracked open The Good Book where my bookmark was, and started soaking in the first verse of the chapter:

And it came to pass...

Charity let loose a piercing whine of discontent from where she sat in her high chair. I guess she's done with breakfast, an observation that suddenly seemed obvious since there was more banana in her hair than on her tray, so I put down my pencil, glasses, and scriptures, and got up to get a wash cloth and clean her up. I wiped down her hands, wiped her mouth, got a tissue to wipe her nose because I just couldn't bear to wipe that part of her with a wash cloth that was going to have other uses, and set her down.

She promptly began howling her displeasure. So I told her "just a second" and quickly released her high chair tray (why they designed that action to require two hands is beyond me) and took it to the sink where I rinsed it off. After returning it to its place, I picked up Charity and brought her over.

Balancing a baby on one knee and my scriptures on the other, I put my glasses back on, but this time didn't bother grabbing my pencil. Where was I? Oh yes:

And it came to pass...

WHAM! I heard a tremendous noise from the backyard and realized that the wind was gusting in preparation to bestow a nice spring blizzard on us. The crash was the sandbox lid blowing open onto the patio cement, so wind could scatter and then snow could soggify the sand for the next several days. I hate scattered, soggy sand, so I put Charity down (much to her vocal dismay), put my scriptures and glasses down, and quickly raced out the back door to close the lid. I attempted to secure it from future gusts by putting a large plastic toy on top of it.

Coming back inside, Charity had happily decided to survive without being held and was busy licking the lead paint off some toy manufactured in China. So I sat back down, picked up my scriptures, my red pencil, and my glasses, found my place, and started again:

And it came to pass...

"DADDYINEEDTOGOPOTTY!" came the suddenly urgent request from my crotch-grabbing, tap-dancing three year old Andrew. The Potty Wars have been...perilous lately, so I immediately acquiesced. I nearly threw down my red pencil and scriptures and raced to the toilet still wearing my reading glasses, where a few seconds later the tap dance transformed into mightly leaps of triumph. I got Andrew his shameless bribe of a "sour heart candy" afterwards (Robin Eggs are reserved for poops) and attempted to sit back down. I had slammed my scriptures shut without replacing the bookmark, so it took me a minute to find my place. Ah, yes:

And it came to pass...

Charity started whining as soon as I came back into the room, and now my nose was telling me why. I put down my reading, grabbed her, and whisked her into her room where the changing table and a pile of fresh diapers awaited. In a few minutes flat I had a happier, less aromatic baby and I was heading back to my chair and my date with quality scripture time.

And it came to pass...

WHAM! The wind had blown the large plastic toy several feet out into the grass and the sandbox lid had smacked open again. By this time snowflakes were swirling through the air, so I decided to make one more last-ditch attempt. I picked up the large plastic toy and positioned it differently so that it might stay there a little better. I adjusted the patio rug, pushed the collapsed umbrella back down into its large cast-iron stand and decided to hope for the best. I latched the deadbolt after coming back in. I glanced gratefully at the cozy fire, grabbed my glasses, and spread open the Lord's word again in my lap:

And it came to pass...

"Daddy, I have to poop!" Now this wasn't something I was going to miss. Number Two had been the last major front line in this war for quite some time, and any chance to award a Robin Egg required immediate action. We had barely gotten Andrew situated on the throne, when he announced that he was done.

"Um, there's nothing in the toiled," I noted, lifting him a little just to make sure.

"I'm done, Daddy," he smiled back up at me with his big blue eyes.

"Oh no you're not," I responded. What I knew we needed was a little patience, so I went to his room to get him a book to look at while he waited for some action to occur. With a copy of Diggers and Cranes I thought he'd be happy as an oyster with a big pearl to pass, but he resisted my invitation to read the book himself.

"You read it to me."

"No, I have other things to read while you try to go potty. You read it."


Not a chance, kid. You're the one with your pants down. I raced back to my chair, picked up my scriptures and had just read

And it came to pass...

"DADDY I'M DONE!" came his voice, calling from the hallway. He had apparently popped himself off the throne and was now wandering the house without pants and however unlikely, possibly a little bit of you-know-what, requiring immediate attention. I jumped up, nearly knocking poor Charity over in my haste. I looked back at her. No tears, good. I was annoyed, but also slightly hopeful. Perhaps during my twenty-second absence before Andrew left the bathroom, something had, you know, come to pass?

No such luck, but no mess either. Good enough for today.

As soon as I sat down the next time, and had just gotten to the part that says

And it came to pass...

Rachel approached me about putting on a video for her, and when I turned on the TV I noted that Music and the Spoken Word was starting.

So that's kind of how my morning went. Eventually things did settle down, including Charity rubbing her little tired eyes and going down for a nap. The remaining two kids miraculously also decided to manage the rest of the morning without invoking mutually-assured destruction. Thus, I eventually found myself with a few minutes of peace and quiet, but my energy utterly spent. I cracked open those scriptures one last time and read:

And it came to pass...

I suddenly realized I was very tired; my posterity had sapped the best of what I had that morning before I ever finished a single verse of the Lord's word. I stumbled through a page or two, and then gave it up. I rested the heavy book on my chest, laid the red pencil neatly on top of the bookmark between the open pages, placed my folded glasses on top, reclined the chair, and promptly passed out.

It had ultimately come to pass after all.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Wife Rule #103: Beware the F-Word

Now before the provocative title of this Wife Rule causes anyone who regularly reads My Wife Rules to have a heart attack or a brain aneurysm or to go out and do something rash--such as buying a motorcycle or lending $700 billion to corrupt corporate CEOs so they can buy private jets--let me reassure you that such a title in no way reflects any personal turn to vulgarity on my part.

I refer to the other f-word, the one that foolish men embrace and sadder but wiser men have learned to beware.

I am talking about the word fine, as it is so often used by our wives.

Sadder-but-wisers are all nodding knowingly right now; you know exactly what I'm talking about. But for those of you who may still be scratching your heads, let me give you a few practical examples of typical f-word usage:

1) New beard with bits of chili con carne with beans stuck in it

"Honey, the guys at work have all decided to have a beard growing contest!" you shout with enthusiasm as you greet your wife one evening. "I can totally take 'em. I mean, Kent barely has three chest hairs, Dave is too much of a pretty-boy to outlast me, and I swear that Doug's got less facial hair than Helga in human resources. So what do you think? Who's your man? Who's your man?"

"You are," she sighs. "I guess that's...fine."

Two weeks later you look like a Sasquatch with a hygiene problem and you wonder why your wife has stopped kissing you goodnight. Maybe she's tired of seeing little bits of chili con carne with beans stuck in your beard from that chili burger you downed for lunch today. Maybe nuzzling up to a face that feels and smells like a used plastic pot scraper isn't her thing.

Maybe your beard is fine.

2) Used Korean-War-Era Army Jeep you bought on E-bay for only $1000

"Look, I can totally fix it. We only have to park the cars in the driveway long enough for me to finish the engine overhaul and then I promise we'll find some place else for it. Imagine! A Jeep for $1000!"

She sighs. "That sounds...fine."

Two years later your drive up to the sight of a tow truck hauling away the carcass of your Jeep, which still has essential engine components rusting on the floor of your garage. The unattached spare parts have been pushed to your side of the garage and your wife's car is parked conspicuously back in its original slot.

Yes, your Jeep was fine.

3) Plans to go bowling with your buddies on your wedding anniversary night

"It's our anniversary?" you exclaim, as if shocked by the news. "Man, I've had this thing scheduled with the guys for weeks now. I'll make it up to you. I'm sorry. I just...forgot, honey."

"It's fine," your wife replies in a terse, flat voice. "Just go."

Three hours later you return, having had a great time, and bearing a bouquet of flowers you found at the grocery store, and discover that your wife has changed the locks while you were gone.

Yes, your bowling plans were fine.

Hopefully you get the idea by now. So let me end with a positive example. On Friday, your wife asks you if you have any ideas about what to do on your date that night.

"I was thinking to save money we could just stay here with the kids and play Candyland about a dozen times, then throw on a Barbie movie, put them all to bed when it's over, and then maybe stay up late doing dishes," you suggest.

Your wife lets out a mammoth sigh and slumps her head between her shoulders like a deflated Mylar balloon. "That's fine," she replies with resignation.

"No," you declare, "No, it's not fine. You've been taking care of the kids all week long, and you deserve a break. We are going out. I'm taking you to dinner, and then we'll hit a chick-flick movie--something really weepy starring Richard Gere--and maybe stop by a scrapbooking store to see if they have any new fonts available for your Cricut. We'll round out the night with you having a nice bubble bath, followed by a foot massage."

"Oh, honey!" she replies as she wraps her arms around you, her knee bending involuntarily, lifting her tired foot into the air.

As it turns out, you have a great time at dinner, you decide to take a drive and chat instead of going to a movie or shopping, and you arrive home after the babysitter has put the kids to bed. Now it's just you and your wife.

And she's looking pretty fine.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Wife Rule #102: Enjoy the Journey

Spring Fever season is in full bloom once again, so I'm going to stop resisting: I'm writing more about Hawaii. After all, it's likely going to be quite some time before I make it over there again, so I might as well live it up again in my mind.

This time I want to chronicle one of the journeys my wife and I made together, down a long and winding road around the perimeter of Maui, to the mystical land of Hana.

I had been to Hana before as a teenager, and my memories of the trek have been tugging me back ever since. There are millions of other Americans who have had the magic of the Road to Hana splashed across their consciousness, at least once. I refer to the movie "IQ," starring Meg Ryan (and also Albert Einstein--who knew?), wherein she indulges in fantasizing about visiting the Seven Sacred Pools, a remote slice of paradise just past Hana, where sitting in one of the tropical waterfalls is likened, as only Meg Ryan can, to "a thousand tongues licking you all over your body."

So there you have it. Great, salivating, foaming tongues. Maybe attached to giant sacred cows or something. Who could resist?

Thus, it should seem only natural that my wife and I reserved an entire day of our Maui stay to spend alone with our convertible Mustang and that long and winding road, all for the sake of making it to the Seven Sacred Pools.

And the road, though it is commonly called "the Road to Hana," really is all about the pools. Hana itself is a relatively small town that doesn't offer much except road-side banana bread and shaved ice stands, and greatly overpriced hotel rooms, which is why most of us make the mammoth trek there and back in a single day.

But the pools, the sacred pools! My memories of the place, while not specifically including any giant cows (maybe they're invisible), are distinctly romantic. Imagine with me a canyon cut through a thick green jungle, exposing dark rock cliffs that are overgrown with yet more green: vines hang off lush tree branches from the top of each cliff while mosses and ferns encroach from the bottom. Running through the middle of it all is a clear, swift stream that splashes down a series of waterfalls, each with a perfectly-proportioned catch-basin that seems custom-designed for swimming and splashing in a churning cauldron of bubbling energy.

Now imagine exploring the pools from bottom to top; emerging from the water of one pool just long enough to scramble through the ferns up the embankment and jump into the next one, perhaps plunging directly into the flow of the waterfall to wash off any mud incurred in the journey. Thus you go, playing the canyon up and back again like a wild, transcendent melody.

When you grow hungry for new flavors, you find at the base of the bottom-most pool a hot-tub-sized pothole. This is the last swirling whirlpool the stream makes before spilling over the final cliff and into the turbulent ocean below, which posted warning signs indicate must literally be brimming with hungry sharks. Never mind them; you can plainly discern that a fall into the watery chaos below would be your end long before the cleanup crew of sharks arrived. This dash of complimentary contrast, potently enhanced by imagining ones self accidentally slipping over that last ledge, only serves to heighten the magic of the tranquil pools above--a needed spice to complete the recipe for the perfect natural spa.

With these thoughts tantalizing my mind, my wife and I made our way down the highway, bidding goodbye to the last strip malls and fast food joints we would see for the rest of the day. Deep storm clouds loomed constantly ahead of us, but we weren't too concerned. One had better expect to get rained on in the jungle side of the island, and we knew a little wetness wouldn't significantly alter our experience anyway.

We took our sweet time, taking opportunity to experience north-eastern Maui along the way. The first stop was an obscure path through the mud and bamboo forest, along a gurgling stream, to a series of waterfalls. It turned out that the few people along the trail dropped off sharply after the first falls, giving us a sweet hour of near-solitude swimming in the room-temperature, enormous pool at the base of the second falls, which I have already written sufficiently about in another Wife Rule.

The next stop we made was on the sea side of the road, counting the miles between mile posts to detect the right pullout (thank you again, little blue Maui book!). This "hike" was really just a quarter-mile walk out onto a razorback cliff. Had this rock fin not been entirely coated with dense growth, this would have been a fairly terrifying venture, the light drizzle turning the ground to slippery sludge under our feet. Whether looking to the right or the left, all I could see was a sharp drop-off that began not more than two feet from where I walked, where the trunks of trees and stalks of plants protruded from the earth in ever steeper angles until the ground disappeared entirely, the green foliage visible for a few more yards before all transformed into empty space. From a vantage point here, we could see a 300-foot, uninterrupted waterfall spilling over the cliff across the south canyon. To be able to see the pool at the bottom of the falls required a rather uncomfortable lean towards the abyss before us. Beautiful view check, and now let's get back to the car and solid ground again!

We wound further down the coast, following the snaking road around hairpin blind curves. Many of them were only one lane with no shoulder to speak of between us and the dramatic sea cliffs. At least warning signs would let us know on which stretches of road we were most likely to encounter death in the form of a head-on collision or plunge into the sea. In reality they offered little practical protection, as the typical speed of the traffic going the opposite way around the curves seemed to indicate that most other drivers weren't overly concerned about the prospects of death. Morons.

On the interior curves we penetrated minor canyons where the jungle grew so thick and lush that the green seemed to literally heave with oxygen and life. The outrageous foliage was usually topped off with magnificent displays of colorful flowers on the trees or the dangling vines. The jungle seemed to twist around us in a dizzying display of color and sounds and scents as the road spun us along. These moments alone, when viewed in panoramic IMAX splendor provided by the missing roof of our Mustang, made the extra charge for the convertible top more than worth it.

These vertical ravines also usually featured a one-lane bridge, a pullout, and a spectacular waterfall or two. After our fourth or fifth stop at one of these picture-perfect falls, we realized that we would never make it to Hana if we kept it up. This was actually fine, since we found ourselves beginning to experience "waterfall fatigue," a strange disorder that probably doesn't occur anywhere else on earth. These falls were better than the calibre many folks would hike several miles to see!

The next detour was a side road that our blue book described as "where plants go to heaven when they die," a fitting description. This road descended to a remote, tiny village called Nahiku which consisted of a common row of rusty mailboxes, a few scattered structures that were half-swallowed by the jungle that seemed eager to reclaim them, and a questionable, rickety wooden bridge over a small ravine. Incidentally, we didn't get the extra renter's insurance on our Mustang, but I'm not sure that should have been my major concern anyway if the bridge had failed. There were also some token stray chickens.

At the end of that road was a small park on a minor peninsula offering 270-degree views of turbulent white foam exploding over black rocks. Need I say more, or will you just admit that there never was a better place anywhere on earth for eating a picnic lunch?

Several more miles down the road was Waianapanapa State Park, also known as Maui's famous Black Sand Beach for those without the patience to learn to pronounce it. Here we enjoyed the splendor of the famous black sand; the impressive displays of the ocean's raw power as waves pounded against lava flows and rocketed into the sky; views through sea arches and submerged lava tube tunnels; and the famous flooded sinkholes that experience mysterious red shrimp blooms that once gave rise to a legend of a murdered Hawaiian princess and cries for vengeance.

By the time we left the Black Sand Beach, it was nearly 3:00, and we knew that we needed to hurry or we might miss the giant licking bovine tongues at the Seven Sacred Pools altogether. So we blew through Hana itself and arrived 45 minutes later at the east entrance to Haleakala National Park, home of the famous pools.

Our first clue that something was amiss was the nearly deserted parking lot. Next was the empty toll booth. And the final blow were the signs, hanging from chains across the trail right where it descended to the banks of the lowest pools, marked "DANGER: High water flow today. $5000 fine for trespassing. Be smart. Stay alive."

Indeed, from the quantity of foam spilling over the falls, it looked as if the great licking tongues were attached to giant rabid cows that day.

Bummer. The rain did us in after all.

So with our Grand Design for the day in ruins, my wife and I paused a moment to sort out all the facts:

1) We took an entire day out of our Hawaiian vacation just to make this trek and the Seven Sacred Pools are closed? How can Nature be closed?

2) Based on reading other available literature, it appears that the pools never were "sacred," there aren't even seven of them, and the real name of the spot is "Ohe'o Gulch." Yes, a gulch. Some enterprising local decided to publicize the new and improved name because he thought that the Seven Sacred Pools would draw more tourists. Brilliant jerk.

3) We had enjoyed one of the best days of our lives today.

Yes, there was no denying that last fact; today had been absolutely enchanting. We had already experienced all the waterfalls and waves we really needed, long before we ever reached the end of the road. Thus we learned a little lesson that I believe has helped us since: sometimes the journey we make together is even better than whatever destination we had in mind. So take the scenic detours. Use your eyes and ears and legs not just when you plan to, but at other opportunities when they pop up. Life is often not so much about obtaining a specific end as it is about enjoying the ride along the way. After all, we know that our lives are all going to end in death anyway. It's better to enjoy the journey all along; then it doesn't matter as much where or when we meet that ultimate end.

Armed with this new serenity, as well as an understanding that there were surely more sights to see on the journey home in the fading daylight, my wife and I found ourselves driving a just little faster around those hairpin curves on the way back. Touche morons, touche.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Wife Rule #101: She's Well Qualified

My wife and I try to be involved in local politics, believing that the local level is where an individual citizen can have the biggest influence for good or bad in others' lives.

We generally try for good.

The state we live in has a caucus system where voters are invited to gather together by precinct and elect delegates to the county and state party conventions. These delegates then do further voting at the conventions to determine which congressional candidates will make it to a primary election, if there is one. So the delegates, elected from among our peers in a relatively small gathering, actually have a pretty big influence in the politics "upstream" at the state and national levels.

Thus, it was with a solemn attitude that my wife accepted the nomination to be a delegate, made by one of our neighbors. Before voting, each candidate for delegate had a chance to briefly outline their viewpoints on any issue they felt was pertinent, and to answer questions. My wife didn't have anything particularly controversial or unique to say, and no one asked any tough questions.

General members of the caucus also had the chance to offer arguments for or against particular candidates. I think my wife's nomination was most affected by the comments of a soft-spoken, sweet old lady we had never before met, who raised her hand and offered this bit of sage wisdom: "I think we should vote for her [pointing to my wife] because she is as cute as a button!"

Cute as a button. No counter-argument there.

And that's how my wife became a delegate, did her civic duty, and enjoyed learning from the experience. Looking back, now with a few more years of local political experience behind me, I can see that she really was as well qualified as anyone else there, and to top it off, she really is as cute as a button.

Sage wisdom prevails again.