It’s not that I hate Valentine’s Day but I certainly have reason to fear it. From my point of view, nothing good comes from this holiday. Forget it and I’m in the doghouse. Use the day to tell my wife I love her and my wife questions me about the other 364 days. Putting in a bird feeder succeeded beyond my wildest dreams but it rapidly hit diminishing returns ( translation: l won’t get away with that again). I’ll be the first to admit that living with me is not easy but our courtship should have given my wife some warning.

As an engineer, I’ve been trained to follow a process in everything I do.

  • Define the desired outcome
  • Research the problem
  • Evaluate possible approaches
  • Create a plan
  • Execute the plan

The process can be applied to almost any situation but I doubt my wife realized it’s the process l used to win her heart.

I first met my wife at the Scarborough Faire workshops. She and I had both volunteered to be actors. My wife because she wanted the fantasy and romance at the Faire. Me, because my years of fencing made me think I could make the stage combat better. Talk about being wrong. It got worse though. They expected me to wear tights and talk to complete strangers. That required every bit of my courage to stay. Strange as it may seem, I stuck with it because I realized those same fears affected my professional life. Here I had the support of the entire cast and so I entered a living hell for the engineer I was back then.

If you were to ask me what it was about my wife that attracted me, I would have had a number of answers but none of them explained why I felt this relationship would be different if I allowed it to go forward. There was also a significant age difference between us and I used it as a convenient excuse to avoid making any overtures in her direction. After many discussions with myself about the wisdom of developing a relationship. I finally convinced myself to let her have a say in the decision. I can only say based on my next actions, I was lying to myself.

With my goal established, it was time to gather data.

Without revealing my interests, I talked to her friends and parents. I quickly found the direct approach was out of the question. She had no desire to be tied down and tended to break off any relationship that got serious. Her interests were horses and medieval history. She also had several prospective suitors. I couldn’t do much with the horses but maybe I could work with the rest.

Evaluating what I had to work with, I was able to formulate a plan. I could share that plan with you at this point but that would make this post far shorter and it’s more entertaining to let you see the execution.

Very seldom will people turn you down if you ask for help so I asked my future wife to teach me how to dance and offered fencing lessons in return. Just so you know, I have zero sense of rhythm, teaching to dance would be impossible. This would get me close to her without giving her a sense of courtship.

Next I evaluated my prospective rivals. Scarborough Faire is a wonderful place for romance and gallantry, two other traits I don’t completely understand but I understood well enough to use gallantry to my advantage. I selected one of my rivals and as a gentleman, let him know we were rivals. As a gentleman, I was able to encourage his pursuit and made sure he always had enough money to buy her flowers. I wanted him in hot pursuit.

There you have the elements of my plan. Get in close as a friend, very light romance. Send my rival in jets screaming. When she broke and fled, I would be there waiting to help her flee, having already created the relationship. Reading this, it sounds very clinical and cold blooded, almost like an engineer executing a plan.

True I had a few breaks in my favor, her parents decided they approved of me, when her horse needed to go to Missouri, my van just happened to have a recently installed heavy duty trailer hitch (yes, I had planned ahead), and I took a minor injury during the Living Chessmatch giving her a chance to take care of me but my plan succeeded.

I still have no rhythm but I did learn how to Waltz with my wife.

I know, it’s a mildly interesting picture of a courtship resulting in marriage. Such things happen every day, why write about it?

On this Valentine’s Day, I want my wife to know I took nothing for granted. I can look back after all these years and realize just how hard it was for the engineer I was back then to take those first steps. I created the plan because it was important to me that I succeed. There were setbacks, like the singing lessons I failed miserably. Apparently rhythm is a requirement for singing too. Who knew? Having and following the plan made it far easier for me.

I also realize how much has changed in my life because I followed my plan. I still tend to seek out dark corners during social events but she nudges me out of my shell when it becomes too blatant. She takes the time to explain how the rest of you think and in doing so has made my life far easier. While I look at the world through the eyes of an engineer, she provides me with a window to humanity.

Through her I understand what drives history and what drives people to interpret history to match their own cultural views, something far beyond the capability of any of my History professors.

Yes, this is where I’m supposed to say I love my wife and I do but love is such a weak and nebulous word. I also love Sundae, our Australian shepherd, but the two emotional bonds are so different as to make me constantly question the meaning of the word (and you wonder why your engineer has difficulty saying, “I love you”).

Perhaps that’s the key. When love is no longer adequate to describe the emotional bond and while your soul may be full of romance but you have no idea what it consists of, you end up writing something like this.

As a side note to my fellow engineers, if this weekend finds you alone and you want to change that condition, you know the process, develop a plan and execute it. It’s easier than you think and you might be forever delighted by the results. We both know none of your projects ever succeeded without a plan.

To the rest of you, Happy Valentine’s Day. May you find someone to share your life with, and to my long suffering wife, thank you for being an integral part of my life all these years.

Feb14 Plan 2

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