Category Archives: marriage

Thankful #6 – #12

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Today’s list of blessings is comprised entirely of websites. What an amazing time we live in, with a world of information (and misinformation) right at our fingertips. With the aid of the internet, we can be either madly clicking paragons of productivity or ravaged wastrels lounging atop a throne of empty pizza boxes in our underwear. Either way, here are some of the websites I’m thankful for:

6. WebMD. How else could I find out all the things I didn’t know were wrong with me? By the way, today I either have mild wrist swelling caused by overuse or creeping bone cancer. Could be either, according to WebMD.

7. Google. It’s the search engine whose name became synonymous with searching for things on the internet. I’ve tried a number of others, but always come back to the megalith of internet construction. Not only is it the most comprehensive and useful, but the Google doodle occasionally provides hours of entertainment.

8. I Can Has Cheezburger. Life can be brutal, man. Some days, we get knocked down so many times that staying down starts to seem like the best option. On those days, I like to fill my brain up with cute hedgehog babies in teacups and puppies wearing tiny fedoras. I like to imagine that I live in a world where my cat has something clever and pithy to say about the mess  I left in the kitchen, and where every animal, from cow to platypus, is blessed with a rapier sharp sarcastic wit. Cheezburgers for everyone!

9. Lifehacker. This too-practical-to-be-believed website has tips and tricks for everything from making your own bicycle-powered battery to optimizing your Google searches. I just recently used it to find a good (and free) language learning app. No matter what you want to do (deseed a pomegranate, interview for a job, water your plants), Lifehacker has a tip for you! Never again will I have to suffer from excess pool noodle accumulation. Thanks,  Lifehacker!

10. Wikipedia. It’s exhaustive. It’s crowd-sourced. And it’s mostly accurate. To think, my parents had to spend $300 in 1995 for an actual printed set of World Book encyclopedias. It was out of date before we received it.  And it didn’t even have an entry for the Hollywood Freeway Chickens. Well-researched accounts of roving feral chicken bands living in the urban jungles of Southern California are exactly the sort of thing I look for in a good encyclopedia.

11. Craigslist. Buy stuff. Sell stuff. Even meet people (if you’re brave/crazy), and get a chuckle out of seeing the weirdness of humanity on full display.

12. The Marriage Bed. There’s a vicious rumor going around that Christians don’t like sex. I’m pretty sure I’ve debunked that idea at length in other posts, however, if you need more convincing, check out The Marriage Bed, a website that celebrates sex in the context of Christian marriage. There are general discussion boards that are open to click through, as well as boards that address more specific interests; those can be accessed by registering on the site and opting in to the boards you’d like to read. There is also a library of articles and helpful links. Whether you’re facing challenges in your sex life or are just looking for some new ideas, The Marriage Bed is a great resource!

Letter to my Newlywed Self

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I’ve seen plenty of inspiring, wisdom-filled essays from people to their younger selves. They are generally uplifting and full of good advice about choices and chances—wisdom gleaned from painful years of wrong turns, shifting perceptions, and painful falls. Sure, their younger selves wouldn’t listen any better than they did, but it feels good to say it out loud, nonetheless, to acknowledge how far you’ve come and how much you’ve grown. Looking back over almost 18 years of marriage now, I realized that I also have a lot to say to my younger self–specifically the self I was when I married Paul at the tender age of 22 and embarked, for better or worse, on the crazy adventure that follows the choice to spend the rest of your life with the person you love.

Dear Newlywed Katrina,

The wedding was beautiful, wasn’t it? Aside from you accidentally smashing your groom’s fingers in the car door before making your getaway, the day was sheer poetry. Looking over at your new husband, I know you can’t imagine that anyone before or since has ever had a love as profound and unique as yours. And all those people who talk about marriage being hard work full of fights and frustrations and misunderstandings clearly didn’t manage to marry their perfect soulmate, as you have cleverly done.

You might want to sit down, girl.

It turns out that the finger-smashing incident was a pretty good metaphor for marriage. Even when everything is beautiful and amazing between the two of you, blood and tears inevitably make an appearance here and there. Expect them, and learn from them (For example, you’ve already learned to check for fingers before slamming the car door. Don’t tell Paul, but there are a lot of accidental injuries in his future. Watch where you put your knees and elbows, and remember that your diamond ring can scratch.)

Anyway, here are some things I wish I could tell you before you have to learn them the hard way:

1. Guess what? You’re not your husband’s mother. I know, as the oldest child, that you have spent a lifetime assuming you know the best way to do everything and bossing around the people you love (in their own best interests, of course). But that’s a habit you need to break. Your husband needs a lover and a friend, not a nagging know-it-all correcting the way he loads the dishwasher or making sure he gets his work done. Believe it or not, he even has some things to teach you. Life will start being a lot more fun for both of you when you figure this out.

2. It’s his home, too. Sure, you’ve spent hours poring over magazine articles about decorating on a budget and combing through thrift shops for those beautifully aged shabby chic end tables. You consider your home an extension of yourself, an embodiment of your unique personality, and Paul’s framed Star Wars movie poster, as attractive as it is, just doesn’t jibe with the casual neo-Grecian vibe you’re trying to create. I mean, you’ve already given him a four foot steamer trunk in which to stuff all his unsightly computer cords and gaming paraphernalia; what more does he want? Well, I’ll tell you. He wants to feel like he lives there. He wants to be comfortable and at home in his own place. He wants to be able to see his stuff, and to use it without feeling like it’s a barbaric offense to the civilized world. He wants to meld your life and his into a new life that is better and richer than before; he wants to create a home for the two of you, one that reflects both of you and this new thing that you are together. Besides, deep inside, you are a way bigger geek than you even know right now. You’ll want to hang on to that Star Wars poster.

3. Let some things go. Right now, you think that good communication means airing your every single complaint and irritation with each other immediately and in full. You don’t want to “let things fester”, and that’s good. Festering is bad. But what you don’t know yet is that a lot of those things that bother you now just aren’t very important. They aren’t even big enough to fester. They’re more like little welts on the surface of your skin that will entirely disappear by morning. For example, it’s certainly not worth killing two hours of a precious Saturday night to wage war on his annoying habit of putting empty containers back in the fridge. Just throw them away for him. Seriously. It takes two seconds. Save your energy for the big battles, because there will be a few, and you don’t want to have spent all your emotional capital on empty Miracle Whip jars.

4. Make time for each other. I know, you think you’ll always have these late Saturday mornings to lie in bed gazing into each other’s eyes and talking about everything under the sun. You can’t imagine that a time will come when you don’t call each other at work to coo adoringly into the phone or spend evenings strolling hand in hand along downtown streets, dreaming about your future selves. But life has a way of happening, filling up the hours and days with children and projects and obligations. Before you know it, you can find yourselves falling into bed after a busy day without having said more to each other than “good morning”, “goodnight”, and “don’t forget your dentist appointment at four”. You have to fight this with all of your will! Connections are much easier to maintain than they are to rebuild. Don’t ever let busy schedules and worries make you forget what you have in each other. The back burner is no place for a marriage. Keep the heat on under it, and stir it constantly. Trust me, it will be delicious.

5. Be on the same team. The world is full of adversaries – people who want to tear you down or take what you have, people who only want to win, to dominate, to stand at the top of a heap of fallen opponents and bask in their victories. That’s the opposite of marriage. You and Paul are comrades in arms, shouting encouragement and sharing canteens as you take this hill of life together. You will disagree with each other; one or the other of you will fall down and lose focus; you will encounter obstacles so big they seem to block out the sun. At such times, it’s easy to turn on your teammate, but don’t. Take turns picking each other up. Forget about blame and focus on the next step. Carry each other when the need arises. To quote Malcolm Reynolds (from the show Firefly – you’re going to love it!), “You’re on my crew. Why we still talking about this?”

6. When it comes to sex, say yes as often as you can. Sex is glue for your relationship. Apply liberally. A few months after your honeymoon, when you’ve worked out all the mechanical details, you will fall back into bed one night, turn your eyes to the heavens, and ask blissfully, “Can it possibly get any better than THIS?” And the answer, I am delighted to report, is “YES!” Better and better and unbelievably better! (But now I’m just bragging.) Here’s the thing. You will be tempted to set the tempo of your sex life solely to the beat of your own desire. And, female sexual response being what it is, that desire will not come knocking on your door quite as often as it does on his. But if you say yes, even if you don’t feel like dancing at first, you will usually find yourself getting caught up in the beat. Sometimes you’ll want the seven course meal, and other times, you’ll just be in the mood for a quick burger and fries. (Wow, I’ve got like three sex metaphors going here!) Either kind of meal can be satisfying. The important thing is the nourishment it gives your relationship. It’s amazing how powerful sex is. When you’re stressed out, when he’s had a setback at work, when the argument is over but the tension isn’t — sex says, “I love you. I choose you. We are in this together.” It makes the highs higher and the lows less harrowing. Plus, it’s fun. Do it a lot.

7. Show Paul how much you admire him. You picked him for a reason — lots of reasons. Does he know what they are? When you find yourself appreciating his sense of humor, or his easy way of talking to strangers, or how good he looks in his jeans, open your mouth and tell him! Say nice things about him in front of others, and try not to share stories with your girlfriends that would embarrass him. (I admit that I still struggle with this. See if you can do something about our compulsive oversharing, will you, 22 year-old me?) Be the one in his corner, the one who cheers louder than anyone else, the one who speaks into the self-doubt and discouragement with words that build up and show him who he is in your eyes. He needs that, just like you do.

8. Do new things. Sure, you don’t like football now, and the mention of tabletop gaming makes your eyes glaze over with boredom, but don’t reject his favorite activities out of hand. Give them a chance. Yes, you’ll discover that you truly never, ever want to play Shogun again in your life, but you’ll also be surprised to find out that you quite like fantasy football and computer gaming. And the effort you put into sharing his interests will pay off in a hundred little ways, like the warm smile in his eyes when he has to crown you Queen and Champion of the Fantasy Football League in your very first season..

9. Don’t give up. There will come a time when you think about it, when the wrong turn your marriage has made takes you so far into the weeds that you can’t even see your feet. Don’t give up. You get back to the road the same way you got off of it — one step at a time. In a marriage like yours, made of two people who love and trust God, there is nothing He can’t fix.

10. Finally, I know you hate that ratty plaid flannel jacket that Paul always wears, but do not throw it away and pretend it got lost in the laundry. He will know it was you, and you will still be hearing about it 18 years later. Trust me.

You’re in for a wild ride, Katrina, but the scenery is fantastic. Hang on tight and don’t let go!

Fighting for the Kids

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This morning over breakfast, Caleb turned to me with a serious look on his face and asked, “Do you and Dad ever have fights?”

I almost laughed and blurted out, “Of course we do!”, but caught myself.  Instead, I tried to give the answer a gravity equal to that with which Caleb had asked the question.

“Well, we don’t have the kind of fights where you throw things or hit people, if that’s what you mean.  But we do have arguments and disagreements.  Haven’t you heard us arguing about anything before?”

He thought for a moment.  “No, not that I can remember.”

I was aghast.  I assure you, Paul and I have the normal number of squabbles and differing opinions.

Caleb asked, “What do you argue about?”

I tried to think of the last few times we’d had to work out a problem with each other.  “Well, let’s see… we’ve had arguments about how to spend money, and about the best way to discipline you kids.  We’ve also had silly disagreements–about things like whether or not your dad was going to take cold medicine, or where to store our game controllers.  All married couples have arguments.”

He went back to his breakfast, question answered.  I, however, was still wondering.

Perhaps, I thought, Caleb just hasn’t been very observant and doesn’t notice our occasional moments of discord.  I tried to remember the last time Paul and I argued with each other in front of the kids.  I couldn’t think of one instance.  Maybe we’ve been so deliberate over the years about presenting a united front to Katie and Caleb in matters of parenting and discipline that the habit spilled over into shielding them from all of our conflicts.

I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing.

It’s important for kids to witness the way that adults work things out.  Psychologists tell us that children learn how to handle conflict by watching others, especially parents, handle theirs.  Have we left a void in that part of our children’s education?  How else will they learn the give and take of compromise, or the unconditional love that isn’t shaken by momentary frustration or anger?  If we don’t model the techniques of asserting, listening, and reflecting, where will they learn to communicate effectively?

I’m not entirely sure that we have a problem in this area (I should probably expand my research pool to include Katie, who’s four years older and probably more tuned in to the adults in her sphere), but it’s definitely something I’m going to be more aware of from now on.  Conflict is a inescapable fact of human existence, and I want our kids to know how to approach it in a healthy way.

Now I just have to pick a fight with Paul.  Hmmm… maybe we could argue about who would win in a cage match between Steve Ballmer and Steve Jobs.  That should keep us going for a while.

Dynamic Marriage

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Paul and I had been married for a glorious eleven days before we had our first big fight.  It was over something silly, of course, but it didn’t seem like it at the time.  I felt like all our future happiness and self-respect was hanging in the balance, teetering on the outcome of our fireworks.  There was a great deal of shouting, a little theatrical crying, a dramatic exit, and a stony silent treatment that would have made Clara Bow proud.  Thankfully, it didn’t last long.  Within an hour, the clouds had blown over.  Our newlywed hearts went predictably mushy, and we approached each other sheepishly, full of regrets and apologies, ready to work out an adult solution to our impasse.

And from that day to this, we’ve never had another argument.

Okay, okay.  If you’re married, you already know that last line is laughably untrue.  In fact, I could barely type it with a straight face.  While Paul and I have what I would call a blessed marriage, we have driven a long and rugged road, full of potholes and wrong turns and flat out car wrecks.  Marriages, the best marriages, can be almost transcendent with joy, but even the happiest ones (I should say especially the happiest ones) require effort, sacrifice, and thoughtfulness to become the fairy tale.

We all believe in the fairy tale, or we did at one time.  If we hadn’t, we wouldn’t have gotten married.  In our hearts, we carry around a beautiful picture of married love: best friends, shared joys, warm affection, great sex, acceptance, supportive encouragement, meaningful conversation.

Unfortunately, many married people have given up on that picture.  Natural conflicts and unmet expectations dull the focus.  Disenchantment sets in.  Some unhappy people leave their spouses, sure that they can create a better picture by starting over with somebody new.  Others, disappointed, simply resign themselves to the idea that “good enough” must be as good as it gets.

I am happy to tell you that it’s not true.  Anybody can have a wonderful marriage.  And if your marriage is already wonderful, believe me:  it can get even better!

This summer, Paul and I traveled to Vancouver to be trained as facilitators for an extraordinary course called Dynamic Marriage.  Dynamic Marriage is an 8-week, interactive course developed by the nationally recognized experts at Family Dynamics Institute .  It meets for a couple of hours once a week and is directed by trained facilitators (like yours truly), who are not just leading the class but are actively participating in it.  It is not just another marriage seminar or lecture.  It’s an experience, one that over the years has changed the trajectories of thousands of marriages across the country.

During our three days of training, we joined a group of other facilitator couples and met in a separate classroom to experience the Dynamic Marriage materials firsthand, as participants.  We had homework to do, both together and by ourselves, just like class participants.  The sessions were structured just like every other Dynamic Marriage session.  What took place was astounding.  Although all the couples in the training already considered themselves to have good marriages, we each found that there were areas of our marriage that needed attention.  Some of the breakthroughs that we witnessed were life-changing.  Paul and I were able to talk to each other about things that had never come up before in our marriage, and as a result, we’ve made changes that have blessed our friendship and our romance.  If this kind of transformation can take place over one weekend, I can’t wait to take part in the 8-week experience.

I came home with a big “Wow!” bubble hanging over my head, frothing over to tell everyone who asked me how great this resource could be for marriages in our community.

Now comes the fun part:  You are invited. We have our first course starting this fall, on September 23rd.  The class is open to any married couple who lives close enough to Coeur d’Alene to attend.  Old or young, Christians or non-Christians, even engaged couples who are soon to be married are welcome.  If your marriage is struggling, you can find healing.  If your marriage is good, it can be great.  If you know of a young couple just starting their married life, encourage them to join; a scholarship to Dynamic Marriage would make a perfect wedding gift!  Unfortunately, there is only space for 12 couples in each session, so registrations will be first come, first served.  But if you don’t make it into this fall’s class, don’t worry; we have another session coming up in February, led by our friends and fellow facilitators, Mike and Cindy Woods.  The registration fee of $150 per couple covers all the class materials and is easily the best investment you’ll ever make in your future marital happiness.

Click here for more information, and please contact us or leave a message in the comments if you have any questions.  We are so excited to be able to offer this resource to our community; we can’t wait for class to begin!

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Dynamic Marriage Q&A

*Note: This video is older, so the price of materials has gone up $10 from the price mentioned in the video.

What’s Cookin’, Baby?

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I have some garlic white wine chicken and butter-basted squash in the oven, so you’re getting a rather stream-of-consciousness post today thanks to the large part of my brain that is distracted by the delicious smells wafting around my head.

I can’t believe I typed that last sentence.  I so rarely get to say that I have anything “in the oven”.

You see, I don’t like to cook… but I love to eat.  It’s a problem.  And not just for me.

Sometimes, when I hear other wives talking about their flaky pie crust or their super secret all-day lasagna recipe, I feel a little bad for Paul.  All across this great land, men are trudging home from work, tired and hungry, only to be revived at the door of their warm, well-lit homes by the savory aroma of a lovingly prepared meat-and-potatoes dinner with a buttery homemade roll on the side.

Paul, on the other hand, often has to rustle up his own grub, as do I, in a process we jokingly call “grazing”, as in: “Do you want to go out for dinner tonight, or just graze?”  Grazing can mean sandwiches, or chips and salsa, or even cold cereal.  I imagine it’s how most bachelors eat before they find that loving woman who promises to put their days of Ramen noodles and peanut butter firmly behind them.  And it must bother me, at least a little bit, because I keep bringing it up.

It’s not that I can’t cook.  I’m actually okay at it, when I take the trouble.  I just really, really, really don’t enjoy it at all.

Well, except for making chocolate chip cookies, but we all know that’s just about eating the raw cookie dough.

I told Paul up front, before he signed on the dotted line, about my kitchen allergy.  He didn’t care.  Strangely, he still doesn’t.  Apparently, my performance in all other areas of wifely achievement is sufficient to overcome my culinary deficiency.  And on those rare but auspicious occasions when I do don an apron and work the knobs on the stove, his gratitude is warm and abundant.

In short, he’s wonderful.

Today was one of those days when the sun was shining just right and the wind came from the southeast and I walked through the front door after work with the inexplicable urge to fire up the oven.  Paul will be home soon from karate class, and I’m looking forward to seeing the pleased look on his face when the first whiff of baked chicken reaches his nose.  It may even make me want to do it again sometime.

Next month, maybe.

Prince Charming

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(An online friend of mine who writes a feature column in the local newspaper is doing a special on love stories to celebrate Valentine’s Day.  I was delighted when he asked me to contribute a few paragraphs about my romance with Paul.  I thought I’d post my contribution here, too.  If you’d like, use the comments to share what you love best about your Valentine!)

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He wasn’t wearing armor or waving a banner, and his lemon yellow Oldsmobile Omega was about as far from a noble steed as you could get, so when my white knight showed up one unassuming August day in the hallowed halls of Harding University, I very nearly missed him.

Like so many single girls, I’d spent years dreaming up my own vision of Prince Charming—some impossible combination of Antonio Banderas and Atticus Finch, gorgeous and intelligent and whimsical and high-minded and mysterious and transparent and powerful and gentle and confident and humble and…and, and, and. In short, he was the perfect man.

Thankfully, he was entirely fictional. Had I ever actually met him, I’m quite certain he would have driven me crazy.

Instead, I found Paul. Or he found me. It was sort of a mutual finding, taking shape over long afternoon walks and dollar menu dates. And in the years since, my picture of Prince Charming has been gloriously remade in the image of the wonderful, stumbling, passionate, funny, amazing man that I married. He snores. He tells the same jokes over and over. He forgets to write things down in the checkbook. He gets cranky when he hasn’t eaten in a while. And when I am lying buried under a heap of worries and frustrations, he is the one who puts a strong shoulder under the pile and helps me carry it along. From his willingness to take on the tasks that I hate (like dealing with the phone company) to the spontaneous backrubs he gives when he can tell I’ve had a crazy day, everything Paul does sends the message: “We’re in this together, babe.”

Together, we specialize in laughter and finishing each other’s sentences. We play Scrabble ferociously. We fight and make up in almost the same breath, because pouting wastes precious time that would be much better spent discussing who would win in a fight between Batman and Spiderman. We go out a lot, but we’re secret homebodies, thankful when weather or cancellation or even sickness throws our plans to the wind and gifts us with a sweet night curled up on the couch in front of a movie.

“I married my best friend.” It’s inscribed on countless greeting cards and wedding invitations. It’s also written on the map of my life, the turning in the road that completely and forever changed my story. In this land, hand in hand with a real, live Prince, a two-bedroom apartment is a palace, a mud-splattered Ford Escort is a royal coach, and a Wendy’s Junior Bacon Cheeseburger is a feast.

I defy even Antonio Banderas to create that kind of magic.

So This Is Love

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We were sitting in church this morning when Paul reached over and pulled a single long hair off the sleeve of my sweater.  He held it up and we could both see it shimmering silver in the overhead lights.

I leaned over and whispered, “It’s official.  You’re married to an old lady.”  He chuckled quietly.

I thought a moment.  “Does it bother you?  The gray?  I could color it, you know.”

“No, don’t,” he said, and gestured wryly to the silvery streaks emerging in his own beard and sideburns.

I smiled.  “Well, then–I guess we’ll just go gray together.”

Grinning, he reached over and took my hand before leaning to whisper in my ear.

“That’s the dream.”

Happy Birthday, WDF

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Thirty-three years ago today, through a complex series of small miracles, Paul landed in the world. And today, in commemoration of that blessed event, we ate hamburgers as big as our heads and took a monster nap right in the middle of the afternoon.

Actually, since today was Sunday and already filled up with church and Bible study and all good things, we did the bulk of our merrymaking yesterday, in celebration of both Paul’s birthday and his safe return from a week of teaching at church camp.

Can I just tell you how much I missed my husband last week? A whole long week of no warm body next to me in a bed as big and as empty as the Sahara. A week of watching movies alone and turning around to share my pithy observations with someone who wasn’t there. A week of killing my own spiders, doing the Icky Spider Dance of Girliness to a non-existent audience. A week of missing the love of my life keenly, and realizing (even more than usual) how blessed I am to have someone so wonderful to miss.

Halfway through the week, I sat down with the birthday wish list I had pried out of Paul’s brain before he left and tried to decide what to get him as a gift. Usually, I ask Paul for a bunch of ideas, settle on one, and buy it. He likes it, he thanks me, and everyone is happy. But this year, for some reason, it just didn’t feel like enough. Scanning the list, I considered the possibilities: disc golf equipment, computer software, gift certificates. Any of them would be met with sweet gratitude by my easy-to-please husband. But none of them seemed right.

Let me tell you about my birthdays. Every year, I make a wish list. Paul takes it, reads it over carefully, and throws it away. Then he searches my heart and mind to discover the one gift that I want more than anything but would never dare to ask for because it’s too expensive, too impractical, too extravagant to even be committed to paper. And he buys it. Like my laptop. Like my digital SLR. Like my scrapbooking desk.

For once, I wanted to be a scandalous gift giver. I wanted to make Paul feel like I feel when I tear open the wrapping and my unspoken dream thingy is sitting there. I wanted him to know that he is loved beyond all reason, beyond mere practicality.

So I searched his heart and replayed our recent conversations in my head until I came up with it. The thing he would never ask for, but I knew he really wanted: a Nintendo Wii. Giggling with glee, wild with anticipation, I picked up the phone and started calling around town to locate the gaming system. Target, Walmart, Game Stop, Circuit City–all were out of stock! I was starting to feel a little desperate. It was Saturday morning and I was nearly resigned to having to order one online when my last call, to Best Buy, hit pay dirt! They had just received three that morning, but they expected to be sold out within the hour. I loaded up the kids and burned rubber and before I knew it I was finally holding the prize in my hot little hand. Having completely abandoned myself to the spirit of wild giving, I didn’t stop there. After a brief consultation via phone with Paul’s brother, who also has a Wii, I threw extra controllers, a recharger, and several games he recommended into the cart as well, and before long we were driving home with the precious treasure safely in our possession.

I can’t remember when I’ve been more excited to give someone a gift. And I don’t know which was better: his amazed reaction, or simply having him back — to kill spiders, to be the big spoon, and to make the joy of living twice as sweet in the sharing of it.

Happy Birthday, love.

May you always bii as happii as you have made mii. (Hii hii!)

Borrowed Bliss

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Of the myriad tiny joys embedded in my day like so many Easter Eggs in the green grass, one of the sweetest occurs in the early evening, when my route home invariably takes me past a little wooden-faced building nestled in the heart of Coeur d’Alene, a place called The Hitching Post. Often, especially in the summer, the golden rays of late sun illuminating the small brick and clapboard structure also fall upon a wedding party milling around on the lawn outside, where a bride and groom and their retinue of devoted friends are either coming or going from the short and intimate ceremony inside the small chapel.

Sometimes the bride is in full regalia–veil, train and all–resplendent and rapturous beside her tuxedoed groom and matching taffeta-encrusted wedding party. Many times, though, she is less formally attired. Passing by the Post day after day, I have seen a Western themed wedding, a Medieval wedding, and even a wedding where everyone involved, including the happy couple, wore matching tee shirts. Whatever they’re wearing, they usually stop and pose for photos in front of the Hitching Post’s famous sign, sharing hugs and smiles with gathered family as passers-by honk and wave their congratulations in the spirit of bonhomie.

Even when the whole wedding party is dressed in jeans, it’s easy to tell which ones are the bride and groom: look for the couple that is gazing intently into each other’s eyes, giddy and slightly off-balance, as if they’ve just been hit over the head with a pillow-encased anvil. Glancing at them is like glancing into the sun. The joy lingers, radiates, spreads out in concentric circles from its source to wash over even me, driving by in my dusty red car, and suddenly I’m grinning like an idiot.

I do love a wedding.

Can’t Buy Me Love

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Paul knew I’d had a busy day today, full of running errands and catching up from our long weekend, and since he was going to be out with the guys tonight, he suggested we stop for fast food on the way home to relieve me of the chore of cooking dinner. I was easily persuaded.

We swung up to the McDonald’s drive-through, ordered our food, and pulled forward to pay for it. A couple of seconds after I had handed my debit card through the window to the smiling octogenarian at the register she handed it back to me, lowering her voice to tell me in embarrassed tones that it had been declined. Puzzled, we tried Paul’s card. Declined. Already my stomach was clenching with the panicky feeling I get whenever money matters go awry. We apologized, canceled our order, and turned toward home.

“I don’t understand!” I started in as we drove away, a note of hysteria creeping into my voice. “The checkbook register says we have plenty in our account! Could there be a problem with the actual cards? Maybe they were flagged for unusual activity or something? I bet we forgot to write something down! How could I have done that? Oh, man…”

My pitch and my agitation climbed in equal measure until Paul, with his customary calm, reminded me that we didn’t know anything yet, and told me not to worry–that he would look at our online account records when we got home to search out the problem.

“Don’t worry.” Ha! And again I say it: ha! I have a long track record of falling apart in the face of financial adversity. Like Chicken Little, I am convinced that the sky is falling at the least little pecuniary hiccup. Bounced check? Shrinking tax return? More month than money? Leave it to me to blow it up into a dark, foreboding future of living out of our car and scraping up nickels and dimes on the street to feed our starving children. That’s why, even though I pay the bills, when something goes wrong, Paul takes over. He’s the only one who can unravel a bank statement without moaning under his breath and beating his head on the table.

Anyway, despite my sepulchral warnings that we were never, ever going to resolve this mystery, the problem became clear within minutes of Paul opening our account records. Every month, I transfer 550 dollars from our savings account to our checking account, and then turn around and send a payment for that amount from our checking account to our student loan company. This month, the transfer didn’t go through, but the check did, and the result was several overdrafts.

Several.

Overdrafts.

With accompanying fees.

Chicken Little kicked it up a notch.

Bookkeeping error! Wasted money! Careless! Costly!

I went on speaking in exclamation points for a while, until Paul reached out for me, mid-rant, and pulled me close. Inside me, all went quiet. Then, touching his forehead to mine, he whispered, “This place doesn’t run on money, you know.”

And you know what? I do know.

But Chicken Little might need a reminder now and then.