I Love You, Man!

love Yesterday at Costco, a place I visit far too often, the cashier handed me the receipt and said “Love Ya..“.

My wife had to take a step back.  Did she just say what I thought she said?

I know I’m not everyone’s ‘cup of tea’, but hey – beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, right?  Maybe I have that endearing look that made her blurt out that precious and coveted word, ‘Love’.  Maybe she was just from Newfoundland, where everyone calls everyone ‘Love‘.

I suppose in the big picture, I shouldn’t be surprised.  Aren’t we taught to ‘Love our fellow man’, ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself’, and ‘Give love freely’?  Okay, maybe that last one could get you in a bit of trouble. But what is it about this simple little word that scares the bajeebers out of young men, and makes young women swoon?  I guess it’s pretty much the same for not-so-young men and women, too. The three word combination, ‘I Love You’ has to be one of the most powerful phrases in the English language.

Growing up in a house of boys, you can imagine that the ‘L’ word wasn’t thrown around very much, other than in the context of general comments like; ‘I love spaghetti night‘, or ‘I’d love it if this house could stay clean for 5 minutes‘.

Love was shown, it’s its unique testosterone-soaked way, just not spoken a lot. We do say it to each other now and again when we talk on the phone, but I suspect that we all find it a bit strange – like when you go to do a hand shake, and the other one tries a fist bump, and you end up grabbing his fist awkwardly.

“I Love You” can be expected and natural at times, like a mother might say to their child in a tender moment, or in a romantic comedy movie, where the ‘best friend’ of the opposite sex says it as he crashes an impending wedding….what a jerk! BECKY He couldn’t declare his love before she booked the caterer and sent out the invitations?

Couples say it to each other – sometimes even during a fight that gets out of hand.  It can be a peace offering of sorts, or used as a form of preface before you say something negative; “I love you, but you make me crazy the way you squeeze the toothpaste”.

I’ve even heard people say it to total strangers, much like my admirer from Costco.  At a restaurant, the waitress brings you a big glass of water just as you start to choke on a dried out piece of chicken; “I Love You” seems totally acceptable in that situation, because we all see it as a ‘thank you’ when their timing is perfect.

I guess the most awkward ‘Love You’ is between guy friends who aren’t romantically connected to each other.  Typically, we like to qualify it with ‘Man’ at the end, so as to not imply any weird secret affection. “I Love You, Man!” – usually followed by a guy hug – pull him in really hard, bear-hug style, and pat him on the back.

Of course, you better reply in kind, right? You can’t just leave that hanging out there without an appropriate response.  That’s even more awkward than the failed hand shake. Proper responses may go as follows, in descending order of acceptability:

  • “I love you, too”
  • “I love you too, man!”
  • “Me too”
  • “Same…”
  • “Word!”
  • “Uh, yeah”
  • “Oh…um, yeah”
  • “Well, good seeing you…”

…and you have like a nano-second to come up with your reply.  Dead air is deadly.  The length of hesitation directly corresponds to the unwillingness to respond properly.  That’s not a ‘guy to guy’ rule either….in fact, with a spouse or other romantically connected person, you better be like Quick-draw McGraw with the ‘I love you, too’, or else!

I think that too often though, the ‘Love’ word is thrown around a little too liberally. I mean, it should be meaningful, right?  It should be a sought-after expression.  So, when people say “I LOVE this show”, it diminishes the word ‘Love’ a bit doesn’t it? Shouldn’t we look at ‘Love’ like we approach the old supply and demand rule?  The less you hear it, the more important and valued it is?  Maybe we should reserve using it for only those things that truly move us spiritually and emotionally.

No more “I (heart) NY”.  That in itself is demonstration enough to argue the point, isn’t it? Have we become so casual with the word ‘Love’ that we can’t even be bothered to say it? Now we just make this weird shape with our hands…swift Should I really believe that when the adorable Taylor Swift looks at the camera and makes that contorted hand gesture, that she loves ‘me‘?  We haven’t even met!  Maybe she secretly follows my blog….hey, you never know! See what I mean?

It’s such a beautiful word, but it’s been cheapened somehow. But then again, maybe we need to say it as a way to fight off all that negativity in the world. God knows, we could stand to love each other a bit more. Am I being cynical about reserving the word ‘Love’ for only the most important moments in life?  Should I seize every moment to tell all of God’s children that as brothers and sisters, I love them?

Maybe Taylor Swift really does love everyone – who am I to judge her?  She’s happy, rich, and has thousands of fans – what’s not be loving about?

I think maybe I should stop being embarrassed in sharing my true feelings for my friends and family.  Maybe I should tell them all that I love them.

I’m gonna start by heading back to Costco first thing tomorrow!

Yin and Yang – the glue of marriage

Yin YangAfter 28 years of marriage, I think I might just have finally started to begin to think I maybe kinda understand a tiny bit about my lovely bride.  I think she had me down on day 2.

I don’t mean to suggest that I’ve been completely assimilated to her thinking though.  My clay isn’t quiet as malleable as she’d like it to be.

It’s amazing how we ever ‘hooked up’ as the kids say (or do they say that any more?).  I was a city boy, and she was a country girl.  We met in college which, I guess by default, was the great equalizer.  Nothing drives people together faster than hunger and loneliness.

I think there’s real truth to the adage that ‘opposites attract’.  Maybe it’s a core desire to coax the other to your way of thinking, or if I was a romantic, I might say it’s the different way they gaze at the moon, but I think our differences might be more basic than that.  I think we’re just intrigued by a different lens through which they see the world.

I love surprises – the good kind at least.  No one likes the surprises you get in a hospital…”Surprise, we’re gonna have to go ahead and remove that digit after all”.  Not a balloon and cheer kind of surprise.

No, I like birthday surprises.  I really like surprising people!  Maybe it’s a morbid fascination of watching the confusion and disbelief on their unsuspecting faces, but surprising people gives me great joy.

My wife?  Not so much.  In fact, since we first started dating, she regularly reminded me how much she doesn’t like surprises.  She wants to see what’s coming, buster! There was and never will be any confusion about this.  DO NOT SURPRISE HER!

But like those two bumbling guards in Monty Python’s The Holy Grail, simple instructions are completely lost on me, since surprises are fun…..for me.  So, what did I do?

swamp castle

 

 

 

 

For my wife’s 40th birthday, I organized, with the help of a team of scheming friends, the most elaborate ruse ever concocted.  It involved multiple levels of deception, fake parties, hotel bookings, real ‘parties’ to throw her off the scent, even included pseudo-friends that may have never existed, all in the name of….’SURPRISE’!

I’ll save you the gory details – the shock, the tears.  It wasn’t a ‘happy surprise’.

But that’s the stuff of relationships.  Our differences keep it exciting.  Admittedly, sometimes horrible and regrettable differences, but exciting none the less.

We can even watch the exact same program and have totally divergent responses.  Take ‘The Biggest Loser’ for example.  We sit and watch the show.  My lovely suggests we need to take out the bikes and get into shape.  I watch the same show and think ‘Gee, I’m in awesome shape compared to these guys – I’m gonna make some popcorn to celebrate my superb health’.

I’m a glass half-full kind of guy, I guess – fun first!  If we have a busy day lined up, and the weather is nice, I’ll always say ‘fun first’! Lets get outside and enjoy the beautiful day – the work can wait.

While this sounds very ‘in the moment’ and cheery, there’s a big downside to always eating the dessert first.  It means that nothing important really gets done.  Housework; laundry, cleaning, getting groceries, etc., get pushed back, and you end up living in a crazy, chaotic world that just might end up on a TLC show.hoardersSo, me being the ‘surprise me’ guy, needs an adult around to remind me to pay the bills, change the dryer lint trap, and put my clothes away.  That’s my wife’s role, and she’s good at it.

It’s a terrible job to have – at least it seems like it to me – always being the voice of reason.  The practical one. The huge payoff of practicality is almost never fully appreciated, is it?  Our house is mostly tidy, we can find stuff like wallets, keys, and phones, and there’s usually enough food in the fridge to make a meal with.

You don’t notice if your keys are where you left them, but you sure do if they’re not!

Lists! My sweet bride makes lists.  Grocery lists, ‘honey-do’ lists, reminder lists.  For big upcoming events, I’ve even seen her make lists of lists.  Sometimes they’re disguised as sweet notes, but they’re still lists:  ‘Kids, don’t forget to walk the dog, put on your laundry, and put your dirty dishes in the sink.  Love, Mommy – xoxo’.

I’m big enough to acknowledge that those lists are helpful – they keep us on track. And I have to admit, they help me to figure out what needs to be done so I can go and play…a touch of order in my chaos.

It’s those opposing forces that create this weird and beautiful balance in our marriage.  Mix a little salt in the chocolate milk and you get an unexpectedly great taste. Those contrasting flavours bring out something more delicious than the ingredients would be on their own.

Now, don’t misunderstand me.  My darling loves having fun, too!  She can party and laugh with the best of them.  Few things please her more than relaxing by the pool with a glass of wine. It just needs to be prioritized amongst the ‘must do’s’, or it won’t be enjoyable for her.  I get that.

And that’s exactly what this goofball needs.  The Yang to my Yin.

Maybe trying to figure each other out is part of the joy and mystery of our marriage. Maybe we aren’t supposed to be able to correctly predict what the other is thinking.  We should, at least, love and respect our partner for what they bring to this dance we call marriage. We should thank God for giving us the strength to bare our souls in trust to another human being, even if that other human being doesn’t understand us.

My Yang is exactly what this Yin needs.  And that surprise party?  Well, in the end, we had an awesome time with our friends.  I also had to swear on my life never to pull a stunt like that again!  Sweet Yang!

The Miracle of Miracles

Miracle

This past weekend, the world watched an historical event take place in Rome, where 2 popes were canonized as saints, while being proceeded over by 2 living popes.  This has never happened before in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, and is unlikely to ever happen again.

I bet the souvenir shop at the Vatican made a killing!

Part of the ‘sainthood’ vetting process is the verification of the act of performing miracles.  I think that most people outside of faith belief systems see the concept of miracles as one that’s limited to ancient writings in the Bible.  Was it just that the people who lived thousands of years ago were more in-tune with the the manifestation of such supernatural events, or was it just a lack of modern knowledge that led them to believe that common things were considered ‘godly’ back then?

I have to admit, I get a bit squeamish when people throw the ‘miracle’ word around, especially when they’re talking about having a parking ticket lost in the government systems or their favourite sports team came back from certain defeat to win a series.  These are probably not the types of miracles that would get anyone designated as a saint (unless your team’s name happens to be the ‘Saints’).

Basically, in our modern and enlightened society, we have managed to relegate miracles to the same interest and legitimacy as fortune tellers and circus side shows.  Miracles to most of us are nothing more than facts that haven’t been explained yet.  I think that’s a mistake.

Miracles, big and small happen all the time.  I know people who have had miracles happen to them over the years.  Some were true medical mystery healings that have happened without explanation – an incurable condition, suffered for years is suddenly absent.  Gone forever.  Others were more practical – someone suddenly and permanently quitting smoking after praying about it.  No withdrawal, no nicotine fits.

Sometimes miracles are as simple as having prayers answered.

I still think though, that miracles get bad press – or worse, no press at all.  It’s because of this that the idea of miracles happening in our digital world isn’t given much credit.

I to get caught up in the cynical side of miracles at times.  I’m not likely to build a shrine in my living room if I found a dust-bunny in the shape of the Virgin Mary.  It’s more likely, my finding a dust-bunny in my living room at all would be a miracle, since I’m never the one to clean under the couch.

But something happened last weekend that made me revisit my belief in miracles.  At the end of our church service, during the announcements, the minister asked if there were any updates from the congregation.   A little girl, about 10 years old, timidly put up her hand.

Her mom has been battling cancer for the past year, and has had a terrible time with it, as you can imagine.  Every time things would look up for her, more devastating news would follow, and she would be sent back to the hospital for more tests, chemotherapy, biopsy’s, and so on.  Mom was brave beyond belief.  Her Maritime strength kept her pushing for any help the medical establishment could offer, but in reality, the prognosis was not very good.

The church has a prayer chain – a group of people who dedicate enormous energy to praying for whatever is given to them, and this mom was at the top of the list. She was added to the prayers at every Sunday service as well, and others who know her said quiet prayers during their day or as they sat for meals.

She was an open book about her pain, suffering, strength, and even the unpleasant details of the extremes the doctors were taking to try to fight this terrible disease.

This Sunday, the little girl who put up her hand was invited to come to the front of the church to speak.  She was too short for the microphone, but it turns out she really didn’t need it.  She loudly and proudly announced to everyone in attendance that her Mom had cancer, but it now it was just gone.  Mom doesn’t have cancer any more.  The entire congregation was in tears.

The back story is that when ‘Mom’ was to have a biopsy on the 10cm tumor last week, the radiologist could find nothing to test.  Just scar tissue remained.  The tumor was completely gone.  A miracle.

And now here we are, you and me, faced with a decision to make.  Do we raise our hands to God and say ‘Thank you for answering our prayers’, or do we scramble for tangible reasons that this tumor could have disappeared naturally, in order to discredit the power of prayer, and any proof of this miracle happening.

It’s not unlike conspiracy theories, isn’t it?  Any doubt is proof.  Maybe she never really had cancer. Maybe the chemotherapy killed the tumor.  Maybe.  I have no doubt the skilled doctors played a role.

Maybe this Mom and her daughter have a little more time to spend together at home planning for the future, instead of sitting in hospitals wondering if there will even be a future.  Maybe, like the 2 popes, a real-life miracle happened, and we should thank God for it.

Maybe you’ll think a bit differently about miracles too, like I will.

 

The Bus Ride

This blog is a departure from my usual style, but I felt compelled to write it.  I hope you enjoy it, or at least see the metaphors in your own ‘bus ride’.

When you’re young and just starting out, you begin a long journey that will last the better part of your lifetime.  Everything you learned up to now was designed to prepare you for a long bus trip, and almost all of us will take that ride.

You stand, excited and scared at the same time, with thousands of other people, young and old alike, waiting to get on a bus.  Buses of all sizes, shapes, and colours, numbering in the hundreds, rev their engines and vie for a spot on the road, or are parked to let people on or off.  You wonder which bus you should try to board, or perhaps more importantly, which bus will let you on.

You stand at the doorway to a bus you seem to like, and the driver may talk to you.  If they like you, they may ask you to board, and travel with them, hopefully to your destination, although that destination hasn’t been determined yet – at least not for you.

You may have to talk to a lot of bus drivers.  Some will close the door without acknowledging you were even standing there.  Others say they have to make a stop first, but will come back for you, but never show up again.

In time, you will find a seat on a bus that will take you.  The bus is crowded, but you locate a seat at the back that you will share with a total stranger for some time.  The air is thick and hot back there.  No windows – at least not clean enough or near enough to see out of – and no air conditioning.  It’s not pleasant, but the promise of a journey into the future keeps you smiling, or at least tolerating it.

The bus begins to move, and you watch as the busy streets blur around you.  Any sense of direction is lost to you, but you put your trust in the driver, and know that wherever you’re going, it’s better than where you were.

There are buses everywhere, big and small – some slow and broken, others shiny and fast.  Most are just like any other bus, though, and that’s the kind you’re on – conservative and consistent.  Just like you.

The bus makes frequent stops, and some people are escorted off, crying or yelling.  Others jump off as soon as it slows down, and run to another bus.  No explanation is given, and you likely will never see them again.  An empty seat becomes a semi-civilized battle with the other passengers, especially those at the back with little air and no space.

If they’re fortunate enough, someone will move up to the vacant seat, leaving a bit more room for you to stretch out and maybe become known as a good passenger to the few around you.  Often, though, the seat is stolen by someone picked up along the way that the bus stopped for.

Not fair!

On the bus, you get to know the other passengers around you.  Everyone has a different reason to be on the bus, but in the end, they are all  looking for their own destination somewhere down that long road.

Some might become friends, although most will remain ‘that guy’ who says hello to you every morning but you still don’t know his name. Such is life when you are traveling on a great journey, and you begin to realize that the expedition itself is as relevant as the destination you were looking for.

If you’re lucky, seats will become empty further to the front on this very, very long trip, and as you move forward on the bus, you become more well-known and liked.  You try to keep in touch with those at the back, but its tough. The air is cleaner up here, and you can actually see out the side windows, although the path ahead is still not fully in view.

You feel glad you got on a bus that could go so long without any breakdowns or getting lost.  You praise the drivers’ skills and work with the other passengers to make sure the bus keeps on the road, straight and true.  Life is good.

Eventually, after a long time, you realize that your destination, although still an extremely long way off, is actually closer to you now than your starting point, and everything you dreamed of for yourself is coming to fruition.  You have moved a long way forward on the bus, and can even talk to the driver occasionally.

The bus still stops, and people get on and off – either voluntarily or by force.  You don’t make contact with most of them, but a few promise to keep in touch.  Most don’t, though.

The bus has become home.  In fact, you realize you’ve spent more time on the bus than anywhere else as long as you’ve lived.

Some people have changed buses many times, but you, with the exception of a few quick transfers early on, have remained on this bus the whole time.  Even the driver has changed over the years, but the bus has stayed, more or less, on the same path the whole time.

At some point, you notice, however, that the bus has begun to move more slowly.  Other newer, faster buses are better equipped for the road ahead, and pass you quickly.  The destination is not approaching at the rate it once was, and more and more seats are now empty.  Fewer passengers are picked up to fill them. The driver isn’t talking as much as they used to, either.

The bus slows even more, despite the lighter load, and people start to whisper about what the driver is going to do about it.  You all trust him – you have to!  He’ll figure things out and you’ll continue on our route like you always have.  You got on the right bus.

Then one day it happens.  The bus stops, and as you look out the window to see why, you find that you are the next one to be escorted off, along with a few others.  No explanation, or forewarning.  Just a somber handshake and some tips on how to find another bus somewhere else.

So there you are.  Standing on the side of the road, watching the bus amble along without you, shakily heading to the destination that you were sure it would take you to. Shock, sadness, and yes, even anger fill you, and for a while, you can’t even think about getting on another bus.  Even if you did, where would you sit?  Where would the bus be going?  Can you trust the driver and the other passengers?  No – just sit a while and think.

You decide to stay and play for a time – stretch your legs and smell the flowers around you that you sped past all those years.  If feels good to do this, but in the back of your mind, you recall just how much further you still need to travel to reach your destination.  That thought is always there, lurking in the recesses of your brain, like a sinister shadow, threatening to step into full view.

The thought of the long path ahead becomes overwhelming, so you make up a little sign “Great Passenger. Hard Working. Respectful. Loyal. Will take any seat”, and you stand on the side of the road, forcing a smile, waiting for a bus to see you and stop.

Buses pass by so fast that you’re sure they can’t even read the sign.  A few slow down and give you a quick glance, but speed off without stopping.  You stand on the side of the road for a long time, wondering how some people get buses to stop and pick them up, but you can’t.  Is the the sign wrong?  Do you look intimidating? Are you too old……?

A few buses stop, and even let you look inside.  They have an empty seat, and need someone to fill it.  You’re dressed well, and are groomed to give a great impression, but the seat they have is pretty far back, and it might not be a good thing for someone so well groomed to sit back there.

The bus leaves without picking you up.  This happens a lot.

Down the side of the road, you see one of the old passengers from your bus, pushing a motorcycle along the soft shoulder of the road towards you.

They stop when they reach you, and show you the motorcycle they have.  It’s not working, but maybe, with the two of you together, you can get it running and zoom right past all those stinky, noisy buses to your destination in record time.  No more bus drivers deciding who gets on or off, and when.  You’re the drivers now!

You have nothing to lose, but as you both push the old machine along in the soft sand, you tape the sign to your back – just in case.

The hope of getting that motorcycle running keeps your energy up for a while, but the tires don’t roll in the sand very well, and for some reason the engine just won’t start.  You keep watching over your shoulder, hoping another bus might just stop and pick you up.  It’s a tactic that’s mixed with wishful thinking and guilt, but one that you hope will pay off.

Others on motorcycles pass along the way.  You are conflicted with desire for yourself, and jealousy that they got theirs working while you still push yours along in the hot sun.  Still, the thought of being in the drivers seat brings new hope, and you push on, despite the odds.

At times, when you’re alone on the road, those dark shadows flow into the light like a river breaking its protective banks.  It wasn’t supposed to be like this.  The bus was supposed to carry you all the way to your destination.  How will you get there now?  It’s way to far to walk, the motorcycle idea doesn’t seem to be working, and despite a few stops, no bus has made a seat available to you.  How did this happen to a good person? It’s not fair.  But, as they say, life isn’t fair.  No one was out to get you.  No malicious intent was a part of anyone’s agenda. S**t happens sometimes.

In the end, there’s no guarantees.  You may never get on a bus to begin with, and even if you do, it might be a short trip.  You were luckier than most.  You had a good ride – and a long one.  Time to stop the pity party, and do what you’ve done before.  You’re smarter now than you were back then.  You know which buses to stay away from and which ones can get you all the way to your destination.

This is nothing more than another new adventure.  A bump in the road, and you should be excited like you were when you stepped foot on that first bus so long ago.

Except this time, the stakes are a lot higher.  You have more skin in the game, and more people are expecting big things out of you. Failure is not an option, and the bus drivers have a lot more questions now than they did back then.

Where will you end up?  Will you ever get that motorcycle running, or will you have to take a few buses to get there?  You’ll never know.  The only thing to do is to know that everyone you’ve ever met is rooting for you, and wants to see you get there, and that somehow, it will happen.

Leap and the net will appear.  Keep those dark shadows behind the banks as much as possible, and when you feel like they’re seeping in, run for the high ground of friends and family.  They’ll always carry you.

Have faith in God.  He has big plans for you.  This change is a chance to reassess your path and to listen to what he’s calling you to.  There’s a purpose for everything, even, if like that first part of your bus trip, you can’t see it yet.

I wish for your bus ride to be full of adventure, great friends, deep faith, and an awesome destination.  You can’t ask for much more than that.

Safe travels, my friend.