The American Dream…Nightmare

What is the American Dream? Is it a dream of opportunity and wealth? Is it a dream that is still attainable? Is it even a dream and not a nightmare in disguise? I always saw the American Dream as the ability to reach any goal in life. America was and still is the land of entrepreneurship, innovation, and Cinderella stories. Great men and women came to this country for a better life – many times from places where dreams were never mentioned. My wife and I are blessed to be on the right side of the American Dream (read on to know what that entails), but many people do not have the same position. For a majority of Americans, the dream is no more realistic than an episode of Leave it to Beaver. 

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Everyday people struggle to meet their bills, pay for food, find employment, save for retirement and notice optimism in the nightly news. It is even worse for minorities who not only struggle to find well-paying jobs but also worry about harassment and unfair treatment on an institutional level. To better understand the nightmarish side of America, I read Death of a Salesman by Arthur MillerDeath of a Salesman won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1949 and is one of the greatest American plays of all time. It follows the downfall of Willy Loman – an exhausted salesman who is losing his mind in the rat race of business. It is a gut-wrenching ride that requires you to question the very foundations of success.

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On the surface, Willy Loman looks like a prime candidate for the American Dream: He has a beautiful wife, two sons, a suburban house, a successful traveling sales job, and friends who admire him. These surface level attributes quickly fade away with reality: He regularly cheats on his wife, his one son is a womanizer while his other son is a wandering thief, his house constantly requires repairs, his job no longer pays the bills, and his supposed friends are nowhere to be found. By the end of the play, Willy is completely lost in the past reminisces of “better” times and his dreams of being a respected businessman. Arthur Miller paints a sad picture of what the American Dream can look like – a lifetime of sacrifice only to be fired and thrown to the curb of American capitilism.

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In the end, Willy kills himself so his family can collect the life insurance – his funeral is only attended by a few people. So what should we take away from this anecdote of the American Dream? I think Arthur Miller was pretty spot on. The American Dream is not for everyone and success is as elusive as a fleeting mistress. We should reframe the American Dream from one of material/prideful success to one of relational/altruistic success. Let’s not dream of being loved by everyone and impressing others with our possessions. Let’s dream of lives filled with close relationships that are synergistic – fostering self-actualization. A life well-lived is in our grasp, but we have to reframe our dreams – less external pridefulness and more internal peacefulness.

“Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets.”
-Arthur Miller

A Most Unlikely Emperor

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Today is my third wedding anniversary. Three years ago I read vows to a woman while crying like a little baby. Our relationship since the wedding has continued to mature – our laughs and conversations keep getting better and better. Probably the best part of being married is that I can feel loved even when I am laying on the couch in my underwear while simultaneously eating pork rinds and singing along to Toto’s “Africa.” Without Christina, I would not be able to regularly read and write; it would be nearly impossible to complete classics while getting texts and updates from Tinder or eHarmony. Instead of swiping right or left on an app all I have to do is swipe right or left while cleaning the floor – this causes an immediate summons to the bedroom.

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Thank you, Christina, for helping me to be a better man and helping me get through the tough books which my former self would never have opened. One of those tough books was my most recent classic I, Claudius by Robert Graves. There are some books that are hard but interesting and others that are hard and boring – the latter is I, Claudius. Before reading it, I had the feeling one gets right before running the mile for the Presidential Fitness Test – an increase in heart rate, anxiety, dread, and the overarching desire to play dead on the ground. However, like the mile run, upon completing this story about the Roman Emperor Claudius, I felt a euphoric high that only comes from adversity.

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I, Claudius is technically fiction but written with historical accuracy as the autobiography of Tiberius Claudius. Claudius was a family member of the Roman court and the book details his life from his birth in 10 B.C. to his ascension as Emperor in 41 A.D. What is cool about the autobiography is that Claudius details the lives of fascinating Emperors like Agustus, Tiberius, and the evil Caligula. Claudius was born with a limp and a severe stammer which forced him into isolation from his more “Romanesque” brothers and sisters; at the time physical strength, aesthetic beauty, and elegant speech were desirable attributes in the royal court. Claudius became a bookworm and spent his time writing obscure histories. Most people thought he was stupid and treated him like a second-class citizen.

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Rome was a brutal place, and his family members were routinely killed by rival factions to climb the political ladder. When Claudius was middle aged, his nephew Caligula took over the throne. Caligula was a monster who slept with his sisters, killed his father, and smothered the former Emporer Tiberius. Caligula would end up killing most of his rivals and any family member envious of the throne. The only one who survived Caligula’s insanity was Claudius. Claudius played dumb and used his wit whenever threatened. In the end, Caligula was assassinated, and by accident, Claudius was chosen to be the Emperor. It’s actually a great story because Claudius more than any of his siblings deserves the throne because of his humility, intelligence, and levelheadedness; ironically, these attributes not only make for a great Emperor but also a great marriage. Here’s to many more years with you Christina – thanks for helping me always get to the finish line.

“I am supposed to be an utter fool and the more I read the more of a fool they think me.”
-Robert Graves ,  I, Cladius

War and Peace

Growing up the biggest book in the house was always the Holy Bible. The Bible stood above all other books in its shear mass – the thinness of the pages, the small font, and the endless footnotes made it formidable. Of course the Bible is in a class of its own but my third classic, War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, gives it some competition in the size department: 1,400 pages of 19th-century Russian Literature. I always viewed War and Peace as the ultimate ego-trip – imagine some hipster guy walking down the street holding a copy while curling his mustache and listening to a Walkman. In all honesty, this book almost destroyed my sight; halfway through I bought a magnifying glass from Amazon that had in the description, “GREAT FOR GRANDMA AND GRANDPA.” It took me over three weeks to finish and I felt like a man waiting for his wife to give birth when the doctor says it will take all night – initial excitement, tears at the vending machine at 3:00 AM, and finally exhausted delirium at sunrise. Instead of a crying baby I was rewarded with a new found perspective of what art in the form of writing truly represents. War and Peace is not a novel but rather a philosophical treatise that has the added benefit of a great story. The general plot takes place in Russia from 1805 to 1820 and follows the family life of  a few Russians during the Napoleonic Wars. So what makes this book so great? The complexity of the characters mix with the backdrop of war to form a multilayered cake of delicious metaphor, behavior, and historical understanding.

As the title suggests, War and Peace, is all about contrast. The characters juggle life’s myriad curve balls: young love transforms into mature friendship, an engagement fails after an unexpected affair, happy families suffer with untimely deaths, once bountiful fortunes turn to meager incomes. The backdrop to these life events is a war that sweeps up the individual characters and the nation as whole. War that once seemed so glorious becomes surreal as the years progress. The war symbolizes both destruction and birth: taking the lives of some while bringing together people who may have never met. The philosophical theme throughout the book aims to better understand the meaning of life and man’s ability to express free will. The purpose of life, which is best expressed by the characters who suffered the most, is simply to “live” – every expression is a manifestation and glorification of God. This conclusion is simple on the surface but hard to practice: people seek money, respect, power, and control as their purpose, while “just” living seems inadequate. This purpose is mirrored by man’s desire to express free will while simultaneously being drawn by others into actions that are counter to life – war. Tolstoy makes the point that free will is not an absolute, just as inevitability (no choice at all) is also not an absolute. Thus, Napoleon – with his genius – did not impact his soldiers and the battle’s outcomes as much as he or everyone else thought. The same is true of the individual soldier’s free will – time, space, history, and infinite circumstances swinging the pendulum of choice. History, is not decided by the powerful few but is decided by a irreducible power which is wielded by innumerable individuals – always susceptible to the curve ball of life.

“If everyone fought for their own convictions there would be no war.”
-Leo Tolstoy War and Peace

Escaped Chihuahua!

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Of all the dogs that run away each year, the Chihuahua is the least likely. A Chihuahua by nature is a helpless creature that parasitically thrives off the heat and comfort of its owner. No Chihuahua ever enthusiastically runs to the door to go wee wee. Most Chihuahuas feign the outdoors unless it mirrors their natural desert habitat. Max, my Chihuahua of 8 months now, is almost always by my side. He lies on my lap and I pet him like Doctor Evil. If I have a book in my lap, he lays on my legs. If I have something on my legs he lays on my feet. The dog is always seeking human touch. In general, he has more ADHD than a birthday party at Chuck E Cheese. At any given moment he is alert to his surrounding environment-especially whenever the refrigerator door opens. I believe Max to be some kind of mix between a Chihuahua, a dingo, and Will Ferrell in Elf. I keep learning new things from Max that make me a better person. I would recommend to everyone that they own an animal. Animals teach responsibility, respect, compassion, unselfishness, and patience. So what has Max taught me on this glorious Sunday? Well, that Chihuahuas can run away.

As stated previously, Max is always by my side. So how the frick did a seven-pound-deer-headed-pea brained Chihuahua escape from the house? It all started with my desire to talk on the phone with my old roommate-while on the porch of my house. It being almost 70 degrees outside I wanted to bask in the glorious sun which has been absent for the past 4 months. I took my chair, my phone, and my Chihuahua outside. While talking with my roommate, Max sat peacefully on my lap while taking in the rare solar heat. All was well with the world until Max started to get comfortable. See, Chihuahuas are very timid up until a certain point. They have an action potential of meekness which is negated whenever they sit in one place for a period of time. By sitting on my lap on the porch, Max became the king of the porch-anyone who came close was in his territory. While chatting with Chris, his action potential was bathed in some sort of Chihuahua gusto, and Max began to bark at every single thing that came past his wooden domain. Adults. Dogs. Children. Grandmas. Leafs. Paper Bags. Nothing was safe from his wrath and I subsequently threw him inside because of the interruptions to my conversation. As earlier stated, Max must have human contact at all time. After constant whining, Christina opened the door and let him come to me; he quickly regained his state of superiority which subsequently forced me to throw him back inside. It was at this point that I must have not shut the door completely.

In about a half hour, Christina was heard through the window frantically calling for Max. I thought nothing of it because I figured he may be snuggled under a synthetic human substitute-his blanket. But there was no miniature deer to be found under the many blankets which are exclusively for his comfort. This sent a wave of panic through my spine and I thought he may actually have run away. The house was checked and now my wife was going all Filipino on me. I asked myself why would Max leave the porch? He has never left my side. Nevertheless he was gone and we were contemplating the worse – that a hawk swooped down and grabbed his rat-like body. Thinking that he couldn’t have gone very far, I scanned the neighborhood from my porch. I didn’t see anything at first but then my eyes caught a small figure in the far distance. It was Max, in the road, starring at a stop sign as if he could read it-with a car rapidly descending in the foreground. I called his name and as if nothing happened he ran back to me with haste. I embraced him with the utmost ferment as if this little dog was my own child. So why did Max leave the porch? I will never know the answer but it has taught me a lot about my relationship with this dog.

I actually care about him and would be extremely sad if he died. I actually appreciate that his brain and balls may be bigger than I had previously thought. I actually need to respect that he is a strong dog and not a mutated rat. The moral of the story is this: When life gives you a metaphorical Chihuahua, a situation that you don’t respect or appreciate, think twice before making judgments and discounting it. That Chihuahua may highlight your vulnerabilities, making you more emotionally sensitive and more appreciative of what you have. I know my Chihuahua did.

5 Non-Conventional Thanksgiving Facts

This week is my favorite holiday – Thanksgiving. On Thursday I will be smoking my turkey for 5 hours and roasting some dark meat to add extra variety. We will be serving all the best sides: green bean casserole, stuffing, cranberry sauce, corn casserole, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, gravy, apple pie, and pumpkin pie. I really enjoy talking about Thanksgiving with other people and hearing about their favorite dishes; macaroni and cheese seems like a popular one along with yams topped with marshmallows. I always wondered where all these traditions came from? To better understand my favorite holiday, I am reading Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick which is all about the Pilgrims and their first 50 years in the New World. The Pilgrims were the type of people that today you may describe as “cultish.” They believed that their form of worship was the best and they wanted to be completely isolated from the world to practice their extreme form of Christianity. They were so deadset on escaping the Church of England that they risked their lives to travel to a land where death and despair were everyday occurrences. Could you imagine a pastor today saying that he knew the true meaning of the Bible and that everyone should follow him to Antarctica to build a Godly community? It sounds insane but to an extent that is what the Pilgrims did back in 1620.

God had a plan for those crazy Pilgrims because they defied the odds and were able to not only make it safely across the Atlantic but were also able to find a relatively safe place to live – Plymouth. The first winter, half of them died and all looked lost until they met Squanto. Squanto was previously a slave and spent time in Europe before coming back to his homeland. The Pilgrims were desperate for help with planting crops and they needed to make alliances with the local Native Americans to survive. Squanto secured both these things, and that following fall, the first Thanksgiving took place. The first Thanksgiving wasn’t called “Thanksgiving” and it wasn’t connected to any religious celebration. The Pilgrims didn’t believe in religious holidays because the Bible didn’t mention any such events – in their minds the adulterated Catholic and Anglican Church were responsible for them. No, this first celebration was a secular event that mimicked the annual harvest celebration common in England during the medieval age. The Native Americans didn’t split a big table with the Pilgrims and feast on our modern day dishes. The celebration was so large, with Native Americans far outnumbering Pilgrims, that there were several fires scattered outside that hosted small groups. Each fire was used to cook a menagerie of choice meats: wild turkey, eagle, bass, venison, shellfish, and water fowl to name a few. The day was meant to celebrate the alliance and friendship formed between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe.

The rest of history didn’t go so well for the Native Americans but the message of the First Thanksgiving is still vital today. America was founded on friendship and unity between all different types of people. We’re at our best when we let go of our divisions and selfishness so that we can be generous with our unique blessings. Enjoy your Thanksgiving and remember these loving attributes when your uncle starts ranting about Donald Trump.

Here are some really fun facts about Thanksgiving 🙂

  1. Scanto’s name, means the “Devil” or the “Dark Spirit”
  2. There were no utensils at the first Thanksgiving – everyone used their fingers and hunting knives
  3. The beverage of choice during the feast was homemade beer
  4. The Pilgrims believed the apocalypse was near and their settlement would usher in the “end of times”
  5. The Pilgrims didn’t believe in “Hymns” – instead they sang verses directly out of the Bible

Mike Rowe-Not Everyone Should Vote

The election is less than a month away and we are all soaked from the political cloud that has been looming over our heads. This election year has been unique because it seems like facts don’t matter and conspiracy theories reign supreme. I am not a conspiracy theorist and believe that they are very dangerous for our society (The Sexiness of Conspiracy). Believing that there is always some hidden agenda makes people avoid facts (abstaining from vaccines for instance) and react negatively to certain groups (the persecution of Jews in the 20th century). I honestly don’t believe that everyone should vote in the election and Mike Rowe, the guy from Dirty Jobs, made this point perfectly clear when asked a question by a fan.

“Hey Mike, I have nothing but respect for you. Your no-nonsense outlook and incredible eloquence have really had a profound impact in my life. Can you please encourage your huge following to go out and vote this election? I would never impose on you by asking you to advocate one politician over another, but I do feel this election could really use your help. I know that there are many people out there who feel like there is nothing they can do. Please try to use your gifts to make them see that they can do something – that their vote counts.” -Jeremy

Hi Jeremy,
Thanks for the kind words. I appreciate it. I also share your concern for our country, and agree wholeheartedly that every vote counts. However, I’m afraid I can’t encourage millions of people whom I’ve never met to just run out and cast a ballot, simply because they have the right to vote. That would be like encouraging everyone to buy an AR-15, simply because they have the right to bear arms. I would need to know a few things about them before offering that kind of encouragement. For instance, do they know how to care for a weapon? Can they afford the cost of the weapon? Do they have a history of violence? Are they mentally stable? In short, are they responsible citizens?

Casting a ballot is not so different. It’s an important right that we all share, and one that impacts our society in dramatic fashion. But it’s one thing to respect and acknowledge our collective rights, and quite another thing to affirmatively encourage people I’ve never met to exercise them. And yet, my friends in Hollywood do that very thing, and they’re at it again.

Every four years, celebrities and movie stars look earnestly into the camera and tell the country to ‘get out and vote.’ They tell us it’s our ‘most important civic duty,’ and they speak as if the very act of casting a ballot is more important than the outcome of the election. This strikes me as somewhat hysterical. Does anyone actually believe that Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen DeGeneres, and Ed Norton would encourage the ‘masses’ to vote, if they believed the ‘masses’ would elect Donald Trump?

Regardless of their political agenda, my celebrity pals are fundamentally mistaken about our ‘civic duty’ to vote. There is simply no such thing. Voting is a right, not a duty, and not a moral obligation. Like all rights, the right to vote comes with some responsibilities, but let’s face it – the bar is not set very high. If you believe aliens from another planet walk among us, you are welcome at the polls. If you believe the world is flat, and the moon landing was completely staged, you are invited to cast a ballot. Astrologists, racists, ghost-hunters, sexists, and people who rely upon a Magic 8 Ball to determine their daily wardrobe are all allowed to participate. In fact, and to your point, they’re encouraged.

The undeniable reality is this: our right to vote does not require any understanding of current events, or any awareness of how our government works. So, when a celebrity reminds the country that ‘everybody’s vote counts,’ they are absolutely correct. But when they tell us that ‘everybody in the country should get out there and vote,’ regardless of what they think or believe, I gotta wonder what they’re smoking.

Look at our current candidates. No one appears to like either one of them. Their approval ratings are at record lows. It’s not about who you like more, it’s about who you hate less. Sure, we can blame the media, the system, and the candidates themselves, but let’s be honest – Donald and Hillary are there because we put them there. The electorate has tolerated the intolerable. We’ve treated this entire process like the final episode of American Idol. What did we expect?

So no, Jeremy – I can’t personally encourage everyone in the country to run out and vote. I wouldn’t do it, even if I thought it would benefit my personal choice. Because the truth is, the country doesn’t need voters who have to be cajoled, enticed, or persuaded to cast a ballot. We need voters who wish to participate in the process. So if you really want me to say something political, how about this – read more.

Spend a few hours every week studying American history, human nature, and economic theory. Start with “Economics in One Lesson.” Then try Keynes. Then Hayek. Then Marx. Then Hegel. Develop a worldview that you can articulate as well as defend. Test your theory with people who disagree with you. Debate. Argue. Adjust your philosophy as necessary. Then, when the next election comes around, cast a vote for the candidate whose worldview seems most in line with your own.

Or, don’t. None of the freedoms spelled out in our Constitution were put there so people could cast uninformed ballots out of some misplaced sense of civic duty brought on by a celebrity guilt-trip. The right to assemble, to protest, to speak freely – these rights were included to help assure that the best ideas and the best candidates would emerge from the most transparent process possible.

Remember – there’s nothing virtuous or patriotic about voting just for the sake of voting, and the next time someone tells you otherwise, do me a favor – ask them who they’re voting for. Then tell them you’re voting for their opponent. Then, see if they’ll give you a ride to the polls.

In the meantime, dig into Economics in One Lesson, by Henry Hazlitt. It sounds like a snooze but it really is a page turner, and you can download it for free

-Mike Rowe

Don’t rely on Facebook or even news for your primary information. The least everyone should do before voting is to read each candidate’s policies. Start reading now and by the next election you may see the entire world differently.

Rock Star Nurse

Whenever I get sick I turn into a three year old. Whining, tantrums, and self-pity all intermingle with my nose blowing, coughing, and aches. They say men are babies when they get sick. This is 100% true and I may take more advantage of the stereotype because my wife is a nurse.  Christina is a Psychiatric Nurse who enjoys working with mentally unstable patients; her desire to help the mentally ill may be why she found me so attractive. Christina is patient, caring, and simply a rock-star nurse. She is the type of nurse you would beg to have if you were sick in the hospital. There are a lot of mean nurses that really should change careers or retire; to get a truly compassionate and competent nurse is a blessing. Simply put, Christina is the Filipina version of Florence Nightingale. She has to treat people who many times don’t know where they are and what is truly real. There have been stories of patients smashing their heads against the wall, patients running around the unit butt naked, and patients selling sex for pain medications. This all happens during an exhausting 12 hour shift with very little time for rest. A nurse has to chart everything that happens to their patients which makes the paperwork absolutely horrendous. Added to the incessant documenting, nurses must contend with disrespectful and egotistical doctors. Doctors are notorious for belittling and berating nurses in extremely unprofessional manners. I know some doctors are excellent but in general that profession is made up of those who were good at studying but not good at communicating.

Our society idealizes doctors for their intelligence, composure, and god-like power. On the contrary, we should idolize our nurses because they are the ones who truly treat the patients. If you are admitted to the hospital, 90% of the care you receive will come from a nurse. The doctor will pop in for 5 minutes and if you’re lucky you’ll receive mediocre bedside manner. The nurse is the one who comes to your call light. The nurse is the one who cleans up your crap. The nurse is the one who sits down with your family to explain care. There is no other career that combines so much responsibility with so little respect. We need doctors to get off their high horses and work with nurses as a symbiotic team-not a authoritarian dictatorship. If you think I am exaggerating these claims just take 15 minutes to talk with a nurse-you will be enlightened with a plethora of anecdotes. We take for granted the care we receive and many times forget that nurses are overworked and unappreciated.  I want to thank all the nurses out there for doing what you do. Christina goes to work and is responsible for multiple human lives all while balancing paperwork, mean doctors, and naked people running through the halls. Thank you Christina for taking care of me when I am sick and taking care of people that truly need your awesome skills.

The Forgotten Elderly

The morals of a society can be best qualified by the treatment of its weakest members. Who are the weakest members of a society? The disabled? The minorities? The poor? The elderly? My grandmother just turned 92 today and is currently residing in an assisted-living home. She has seen so much in the last 9 decades and has lived a very full life: scraping during the Great Depression, reading newspapers of Hitler’s blitzkrieg,  hearing reports of JFK being assassinated, birthing 4 children, and so much in between. Unfortunately, her health is quite precarious and she needs 24 hour care. Thankfully, she has a great family that visits her regularly and brings her copious amounts of tasty treats. The sad reality is that my Grandma is the exception rather then the rule when it comes to visitations. Most of the residents sit in their chairs all day with no visitors week in and week out. They have no advocates. They have limited conversations. They have no hope. They have almost nothing left. Contrast this with the youthful vigor (relatively speaking) making up the rest of the population. Most people are spending time at work, socializing, doing recreation, and wasting time sitting on their butt. Most people have the priorities of pleasure and getting more money to maintain pleasures. I am one of these people and I want to change this about myself.

I want to spend more time with the elderly. I believe that we all have a duty to share our time with those who are most vulnerable. I feel strongly about this because I never want to be a lonely old man waiting to die in a nursing home. Loneliness to that degree is one of the scariest things to think about because I have to share thoughts, laughs, and emotions with people on a daily basis. A paradox exists today; we are more social and connected then ever but more isolated then ever. Kids grow up using social media and it is not uncommon to see whole families at dinner glued to their respective phones. This isolation extends to the elderly and I think we need to look hard at how we prioritize our time. Could we replace one hour of time spent on the internet with spending time with an elderly individual? Could we take our kid to a nursing home for 1 hour instead of the umpteenth soccer practice? Could we watch one less rerun of Friends and go talk with a lonely person? I think we all can and should. America was built by these elderly individuals and they deserve the respect of our time and love. I personally want to play my guitar for the nursing home residents and talk to them about their personal histories. Let’s better our society by bettering those most vulnerable. Taking care of the elderly will send positive ripple effects throughout all generations-increasing our understanding of love, respect, and life’s blessings.

 

The Quirks of Love

Last night my wife and I decided we were going to eat some frozen pizza. Christina was trying to finish some homework and I popped the old Tombstone into the oven for a thorough crisping. Pizza done, I brought a dish to her with a smile and “I love you.” Five minutes into eating the pizza, Christina drops her slice which cascades all over her shirt, the couch pillow, the carpet, and the computer. This small act of clumsiness shouldn’t have bothered me but the unique thing about marriage is that small quirks that your partner does start to build into large annoyances. After the pizza damage had been assessed I went into my normal post-Christina clumsiness routine of shaking my head and asking “how the heck did you do that?” Of course, Christina feels bad when this happens and my little routine makes her feel worse while not benefiting the situation at all. The ironic thing about the whole situation is that I was reading Cracking the Communication Code: The Secret to Speaking Your Mate’s Language by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs which is a book about having a loving and respectful marriage.

This book is actually an accompaniment to a book I already wrote about called Love and Respect which essentially says that wives need to give unconditional respect to their husbands and husbands need to give unconditional love to their wives. Christina and I have a great relationship and I consciously make an effort to show her love and affection every-single day. What I need to work on is my insensitivity which makes me seem unloving. I can come off harsh, matter-of-fact, and impatient when I come home from work or when I am flustered in some way. This doesn’t happen all the time but often enough that it is something I identify as a flaw in my communication skills. Cracking the Communication Code resurrected the idea that I need to “date my wife.” If Christina would have dropped a boiling cup of coffee on my crouch when we were first dating I would have laughed it off and smiled. When I was an 18-year-old star-crossed lover all I could think about was how beautiful she was and how blessed I was to be with her. In an attempt to date Christina again I am going to try a couple tangible things: always open the door for her and be extra uplifting when I come home from work. I hope doing these minor things will help me when the next pizza crash occurs and maybe make me respond in laughter instead of head shaking. In the end, I am blessed to have Christina in my life and her ability to deal with my quirks is unbelievable- last night I kept her up because I was constantly saying “chickens” in my sleep :). Respect your husband, love your wife.

The Poison of Unconditional Love and Earned Respect

The wife just doesn’t get why her fat-lazy husband never picks up his clothes. She has berated him over and over about cleaning up after himself and she is at the point of treating him like an over-grown child. The husband on the other hand hasn’t been attracted to his wife ever since she became a frazzled-OCD soccer mom who reminds him of his naggy mother. The closest they get to intimacy now is accidentally touching hands when reaching into the popcorn bowl while watching reruns of Big Bang Theory. This is a fairly common occurrence among married couples and it comes down to two major problems-the wife doesn’t feel loved and the husband doesn’t feel respected. This conundrum was the subject of my most recent book Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. I really enjoyed this book because it gives a different message then the usual rhetoric of, “…you need to unconditionally love each other and pray and kiss and have your penis inverted :).” The focus that love is the primary thing men and women desire is just flat out wrong. Dr. Eggerichs uses the acronym C-O-U-P-L-E to describe the love women need for a healthy relationship: C is for Closeness, O is for Openness, U is for Understanding, P is for Peacemaking, L is for Loyalty, and E is Esteem. Men in general desire respect and the acronym for this is C-H-A-I-R-S: C is for Conquest, H is for Hierarchy, A is for Authority, I is for Insight, R is for Relationship, and S is for Sexuality. Now obviously both genders desire love and respect but in general they find one more important than the other. The point Dr. Eggerichs makes is that women need to change their thinking that respect needs to be earned while love is unconditional; both need to be unconditional to get out of the crazy downward spiral of fighting and misunderstanding. The cycle goes like this-without love she reacts and doesn’t show respect which then makes him react and not show love. This goes round and round and usually ends with the wife thinking “he doesn’t love me,” and the husband thinking “she is not the women I married.”

A healthy relationship has the energizing cycle-with his love she is motivated to show respect and her respect motivates him to show more love. Alright, how do you get on the cycle of true marital bliss. Well, first off, you have to be patient and be the mature one in the relationship to start showing love/respect even if it is not immediately reciprocated. If you are a wife I suggest going up to your husband and saying “…honey I respect you because of (fill in blank).” I bet your man will be surprised and feel great after this comment. If you are a husband go out and buy a card and write one thing you love about your wife. Place the card somewhere she will find it and booyah your wife will feel pretty awesome. Keep up the love/respect attitudes and like a snowball that is rolling down a hill it will grow into a perpetuating cycle of positive feelings. For husbands this may be difficult because your wife is a fat devil and treats you worse than a dog. For wives this may be difficult because your husband is a moron and only associates love with eating chicken wings at Hooters. Alright, you need to step up, be mature, and know that God will be with you through the process. Women, you may have to fake respect for a bit but stick with it because if your husband is good natured he will eventually reciprocate love. Also for those strong willed women out there, it is not chauvinistic or anti-feminist to let your husband make the decisions. A husband will feel immensely respected knowing that you trust his judgement. Think of the power in a relationship as 50-50 with the final decision going to the one who desires respect the most. Let’s all try to improve our relationships with this knowledge. I am going to lift Christina up by giving her kisses and hugs whenever she wants them-even when she puckers her lips half way across the room. Christina is not going to bash me in front of other people because I’m a cheap fricker. Remember, love comes slow but it can be destroyed in a second. Cherish your relationship and treat it as your most valuable possession on this earth.

“Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

-Ephesians 5:33