Reasons to Have Merciful Wife, #15 (Part 2)

I suppose it’s fitting that a post about being late would itself be late.  Let’s pretend that was an intentional decision.  I was being clever, not delinquent.

Many months ago I started a story about how I essentially failed to get either a birthday present or Valentine’s Day present for my wife.  I didn’t know what to get her, and time kept passing, so I continued not getting her anything.  Then came the point, that terrible tragic moment, when I decided to try to make a present for her.

My daughter makes presents for my wife all the time, and my wife graciously adores them.  The big difference between our situations is that I have no particular explanation for why there isn’t a big difference in the quality of our output.  My crafts would be the charming production of a three year old.  From me they’re just sad.

Either way, in my family there is something of a tradition of making photography themed items.  Every year we make a calendar of family pictures for my mom, for example.  My mom usually likes them, or at least graciously adores them.  I thought perhaps my wife might like something similar.

Two problems emerged.  First and most obviously, my photography talents rival my craft ability for the title of “most pitiable effort of an adult man.”  I recently tried to take a picture of my daughter, but managed only to include her right shoulder and arm in the frame.  She was standing still at the time.

Oddly, this was the less serious problem.

The other was that my wife keeps all our pictures.  Usually this is the practical course of action; my wife is reliable.  Unfortunately, my wife is also preternaturally and inscrutably gifted in the mysterious art of solving gift-based mysteries.

Let me give an example, one of my favorite stories from our marriage, second perhaps only to the time she stole my closet.

Many years ago, when we were newlyweds trying to furnish our first apartment, we had the idea of buying a china hutch.  My wife collects tea cups, and we thought it might be nice if she had a fancy place to display them.  Eventually we thought better of it–our apartment wasn’t quite spacious enough for both us and the tea cups–but I remembered the hutch my wife particularly liked, and filed it away in my brain for future use.

Years passed.  Years passed in which I did not mention hutches at all.  I didn’t look for them, didn’t speak of them, and didn’t even allude to the story of the one time we had found them.  I was a gift giving ninja, a champion of stealth and savvy, the ultimate spy.  Except that my wife was a better spy.

Finally we bought a house and were preparing to move.  As it happened in fact, we were going to move just a few days before our anniversary.  I thought it would be a good time to surprise my wife with not just any china hutch, but the one I remembered from years before.

Everything was going to plan until one night she remarked with surprise that time had flown and our anniversary was nearly upon us.  Being precisely the sort of person who never successfully plans gifts in advance–as evidence I refer you the broader story you’re reading–I couldn’t help but brag a little bit that not only had I already remembered our anniversary, but I even knew what I was going to get her for a present.

That’s all I said:  “I already know what I’m getting you.”  That was the first time in years that I had let even a glimpse of my plan escape the relatively secure confines of my noggin.  That was the only hint she had!  Her response:

“Is it a china hutch?”

That’s what I have to deal with.

Gift Giving

Naturally, I couldn’t ask her for pictures, because she would immediately guess every possible gift idea I could have, and any surprise would be spoiled.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a way to get to the pictures without asking.

Soon, her birthday was upon me, and I had neither bought anything nor successfully crafted anything.

To be continued….

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Reasons to Have Merciful Wife, #15 (Part 1)

Today I gave my wife her Valentine’s Day present.  And her Birthday Present.  It’s possible that I slightly neglected to get either on time.

Just possible.

It started because I listen.  I learned that the key to a really successful gift is to listen all year long to what my wife mentions.  (You know, in addition to trying to listen when she says stuff in general.)  If she says she wants a cutting board in the shape of a weasel, I make a note of it for the next time some gift giving occasion arises.  (So far she has never wanted one of those.)

This year she was mostly silent on the subject of wanting things.  I suppose I should take that as a sort of compliment, but it was really more of a stress.  I get flustered when people shake up my comfortable systems.  What would I do when I needed to buy a present?  (Before I learned this handy trick, my solution was to ask.  As far as I can tell, asking what someone wants you to give them the day before you’re supposed to give it to them doesn’t endear them to you.)

Either way, a few months before her birthday though she started talking about wanting a new purse.  This is far from ideal.  My fashion sense is…  we’ll call it “manly.”  But it was the only information I had.

Then things got complicated, because she didn’t want just any purse, she wanted a specific purse, and she wanted it in a specific way.  She works for a company that rewards people with gifts based on various diverse performance standards.  They were offering a purse as one of those gifts.  That was the purse she wanted, and she wanted it as recognition for a particular sort of success.

Thus I was in a bind.  I wanted to find that purse for her–it was the only gift idea I had–but I didn’t want to give it to her and suggest by so doing that she wouldn’t be able to earn it herself.  (As far as I can tell, suggesting to someone that you don’t believe they can succeed doesn’t endear them to you.)

I decided against the purse.  And it was of course entirely my decision and had nothing to do with the fact that I couldn’t find the picture of the one she wanted anyway.

Unfortunately that pretty much left me in the realm of trying to make a present instead.  I like “crafts,” but a craftsman I am not.  It’s amazing that I was ever allowed out of primary school.

I’m out of time.  This story does not become less ridiculous.  I take gift-giving seriously.  It’s generally best to take seriously what one has some sort of skill at.

In any event, here is the webpage of the nice lady who eventually helped me:  Debi Warford Designs.  She makes nice things.

And Then I Sneezed (Part 2)

The first time I fell down the stairs in our old apartment, I learned two things.  First, I learned that falling down gets more painful with age.  More importantly though I learned that my wife is only helpful in situations that can’t be confused for slapstick.  Sadly, I gave myself countless opportunities to confirm both lessons.  Eventually we moved to a place without stairs.  So far we have never found a place without slapstick.

My wife likes it when people fall down.  She’s not malicious about it–the same part of her likes it even when she falls down–she just appreciates the silliness of it, especially when people fall suddenly.  This is easily the best way to make her laugh.  (In fact as she read the above paragraphs, she laughed heartily just from talking about it.)  I suppose this might be why she married me; it’s the arena in which I am most suited to provide, and being a manly (clumsy) sort of husband (goofball), I provide abundantly and often.

All of which is relevant because my cereal situation had certain hallmarks of physical comedy.  I should have anticipated my wife’s reaction.  I’m getting ahead of myself.

I believe I left off with the sneeze heard ’round the house, by which I mean my average sort of sneeze, which can be heard even by people who are merely near where I live, not only by people who live with me or who are around me.  I sneeze loudly and with commitment.  Consequently, I try never to sneeze with reservoirs of fluid on my body.

I recently failed.

If you’ll remember, I was lounging in bed underneath a veritable vat of chocolate cereal, the size of which can only be properly imagined or justified if you think about the caloric intake that someone of my size requires.  All of those calories have to come from somewhere.  (Not that I’m in danger of wasting away, at least not in anything short of geological time.)  I prefer to get them all at once; that’s just efficient.  I also prefer to get them through chocolate, although that’s more a personal than a practical consideration.

Either way, I was trying to do too many things while balancing cereal on my belly.  In the event you have never done it, when one sneezes, one’s belly moves suddenly.  When a bowl of cereal moves suddenly, the situation can develop into a full-fledged (albeit exaggerated) catastrophe very quickly.

I like to imagine that time slowed down, and that some sort of evocative music played.  It would be like those scenes in movies in which the fragile thing the heroes have heretofore protected gets suddenly tossed into the air and everyone watches, horrified but unable to help.  One person, in such slow motion as to give us time to consider how the human face distorts while shouting, dives toward the object?  Will he or she catch it?  Will it shatter on the floor?  What will happen?  We have time to wonder.

I had no time to wonder.  I found out very quickly.  I would not be able to catch the bowl of cereal, no matter how much I distorted my face in the manner of an action hero.  Instead I dumped the entire thing on my lap.  (It might have made a deep and resonant rushing noise, like that made when someone shatters a large aquarium and the water surges out across the floor as though seeking revenge.  I wouldn’t know, because a part of the heroic face distortion is yelling incoherently.  I take my heroic business very seriously, so I yelled incoherently as is proper.  When someone makes a movie about this–since it is the pinnacle of drama–I will leave it to post-production to add in the surging sound of milk and chocolate spilling across my legs.)

Here’s another piece of important information about me.  Being a large person, I have been gifted with what might be politely termed “a gigantic posterior.”  I suppose it might not seem gigantic relative to the rest of me, but if it were on a smaller person it would certainly inspire something like awe or pity, depending upon one’s view of Sir Mix-a-lot.  It is manifestly heavy, because I am manifestly heavy.

You can probably imagine what happened next.  Having cold cereal in my pants, in addition to the general shock of the spill, caused me to sit up.  Sitting up concentrated all of my weight in one area.  The mattress beneath me responded as mattresses do.  Suddenly, I had formed a large bowl shaped impression in our bed.  The cereal obligingly returned to it, like a soggy sort of homing pigeon.

Thus, in a single action, I transferred the bowl of cereal from above me to below me.  First it was sitting on me, and then I was sitting in it.  It was particularly unpleasant, but I couldn’t figure out how to extricate myself without making the mess worse.

Luckily my wife arrived only a second later.  Unluckily, it was not someone else who arrived instead.  My wife came into the room and saw chocolate cereal splattered all over the place, as though someone had edited a crime scene the way television stations edit bad language in movies, through innocuous but thoroughly awkward replacement.  She started laughing.  She kept laughing.

Actually, she just kept laughing.  If you listen carefully, you can probably still hear her.

1427, Apparently. (That was the random identifier given to the draft when it autosaved.)

It’s an awkward feeling to sit down to do one’s daily half hour of writing, and to have the first five minutes pass with no words.

I have no topic, no subjects in which I’m particularly interested today.  Nothing much of interest has happened, or at least nothing much that I know how to discuss yet.  (There’s a four to five day lag between my experience of a thing and my ability to talk about that thing, not because I need time to process, but because it needs time to register.)  I don’t even have any quotes to spring off of, or images to describe.

Those are largely how I start writing.  For example, when I was in ninth grade I wrote an entire book built from the image of a man wearing sunglasses in a starfighter.  (For people who aren’t nerds, a starfighter is a specific kind of space ship, analogous to a fighter jet.)  In college I spawned an entire created universe around the image of two men standing on a road beside a forest in the middle of the night.

So apparently I tend to function off of images, which is interesting because I don’t generally think in images.  I can’t picture anything; I don’t have a visual mind.

And this naturally complicates my ability to discuss theology and philosophy.  Both because images would be simpler if I could make them, and because images are only marginally applicable.  If you try to picture the Trinity, you’re going to do it wrong.  That’s just the way that works.

About half of my posts have been inspired by a quote.  I do like quotes, although mostly because I like words, and quotes are how people’s words are sometimes preserved.

Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t particularly like attributing quotes.  I but them in quotation marks so that people don’t think I’m trying to claim these things as my own, but attribution would seem to do one of two things, either name drop–look at the important people I know about–or indenture: this famous person agrees with me.  Generally when I quote, I’m not trying to do either, I just like the words, or the particular way of expressing an idea.

It may be that the person who said the words would dramatically disagree with how I use them, so citing them would be disingenuous.  It may also be that I know nothing about the person except that they apparently said something, in which case name dropping would be disingenuous.  So I just share the words.

The wonder of the internet probably makes it so that people can find the source themselves.  Or they could ask.

So there’s a portion of my philosophy of quotations.

Even I’m bored with this post.

There is a certain pressure to be entertaining or interesting.  After all, why would I ask people to read what I write if I don’t think it’s interesting or entertaining?  It’s a bit ridiculous to blog anyway, since there’s no reason that people should be particularly interested in what I say at all, regardless of whether I say it well.

But that pressure to please an audience was itself destructive.  It leads too easily into other things.  For me it mostly led to silence.  That’s a problem, as I’ve previously intimated, because I’m pretty sure I was created to use my words for God.  Naturally I am tempted not to use words at all.

It used to lead to a sort of pompous grandiosity.  I think my family can attest to this.  I would get so nervous about speaking at all that I would become a loud obnoxious idiot whenever I tried to do it.  (To be fair, I also became a loud obnoxious idiot because I have other tendencies toward volume, rudeness, and ignorance.  But shyness didn’t help.)

My wife is ineffably helpful at making sure I’m not a loud obnoxious idiot.  This is why I always had her read my posts before I posted them.  It’s why I have her read my e-mails before I send them.  Half the time it’s why I won’t talk on the phone unless she’s around.  She is…  Well, amazing.  She keeps me level.

And I’m out of time again.  I’m going to post this, even though it seems stupid, so as to continue working on writing for God rather than my audience.  If this offends you, dear audience, I apologize.  But take heart, for God takes what is given to him and uses it to benefit others.  Maybe if I write for God, he will make it interesting and entertaining without me.  Or in spite of me.  Or something.  There’s a obvious reference here about seeking first the kingdom of God.

But I am really out of time.