Since this is my 150th post, I want to do something extra-special, something I don't do often (and won't promise to do often), partly because I'm not very good at it, and it takes much more work to do it well than my way-behind status in working toward my dissertation, combined with my perfectionism when I write about things I care the most about, will allow.
I want to honor my wife and say something about why she's important to me, how she's helped me to be a better person, how she helps balance out some of my own deficiencies or weaknesses, and how she's required me to step forward in ways that are contrary to my own tendencies simply because they're also contrary to her own, but someone needs to do it. This isn't going to capture some of the most important things that I appreciate about her, but it shows some of the ways that we have been able to demonstrate the union that is marriage, complementing each other and forming a oneness that we don't often think about in our daily life with each other.
In some ways we're very different. I'm extremely cognitive, focusing far more on the nature of reality and the evaluation of arguments and views I hear expressed around me. She's quite intuitive, directing much of that intuition inwardly, and so on the outside we both seem to be just introverted people always thinking about something, but what we're thinking about is worlds apart. I'm organizing information, considering whether I disagree or agree with what I see and hear and why I do so. When I read or watch science fiction or fantasy, I'm learning the whole world system behind the author's stories. I learn facts. She, on the other hand, gets absorbed in the story and the way it's told. The world I learn to enjoy is how, for example, Tolkien's history fits all together and provides a background to the story. The world she learns to enjoy is an inwardly visual picture of ordinary events taking place within a mythical world. She's imaginative in a way that I'm simply an information storage unit. She enters the story in exactly the way that I sit back and observe it. (This partly explains why I would like to see The Passion of the Christ at some point, and she doesn't seem as interested.)
When we discuss the kids, she's constantly thinking about how things will go in the future, what things will be like for Ethan as he grows and falls further behind other kids his age in terms of social interaction, how we will teach him to understand things that he just misses out on, and what ways we will encourage our kids to love and serve God. I occasionally wonder about these things and discover that I can't really think carefully about them because I don't see the immediate context. I thus have no information on which to decide anything, so I don't bother to worry about it much. She has the foresight, however, to know that we need to have some sense of these things before they happen. I simply have a harder time even considering what it is we should be thinking about. (Of course, I do tend to balance this out by noticing what's really there now and how that will force us to think about the things we do have enough information to decide. She seems less interested in thinking about such things, with her mind much more involved with potential situations than the actual things I'm focused on.) In other words, she's a dreamer, and her dreams are often wonderful things that I'm less inclined to consider.
She observes things in the kids and in me that I would completely miss. Unfortunately, her big-picture image also tends to add in things that you can see aren't really there when you examine the details. It's imposing a grid on a world that's much more complicated, but the positive aspects of this are that she can see tendencies and commonalities that a detail-monger like me will just miss.
She also seems to be much more sensitive to people's silly reactions to my matter-of-fact statements that simply aren't directed at criticizing people but more having a thoughtful response to what's going on. Often people take offense when I simply notice something that happens, as if my noticing a negative tendency means I hate people. Her constant reminders of when I'm doing the sort of thing that tends to bring out this reaction have helped me tone done my comments with some more sensitivity to how (and I'm not about to back down on this) insensitive they're being to me by taking offense at something that isn't offensive. For the sake of these people's own state, I'm less willing to put them in a position where their weaknesses will make it difficult for them to understand a rational, reasonable discussion of something worth talking about. So I'm more careful about the contexts when I'll do what I as a philosopher will do naturally, and I'm much more careful about what I'll say when I do it, sometimes taking great care to say why I'm saying it and sometimes just being careful to avoid misinterpretation without being explicit that that's what I'm doing.
I like to know well in advance what I'm going to do, and I like to know why I'm doing it. (I'd hate it if I had to serve in the military.) I want to understand why what I'm doing is worth doing, and it's easy for her to take my questions about her reasoning as questioning her judgment, but that's not what's going on. Most of the time she's been very patient with me to explain her motivations for certain things she's wanted to do and her reasoning for certain decisions. On the other hand, lots of what she does is quite spontaneous. She gets these spur-of-the-moment inclinations, and sometimes they don't even last long enough for me to adjust once I've prepared myself mentally for the change. (This happened this week with an urge to go to IHOP, which I eventually came to want also, but by then she didn't want to go anywhere.) As a result, I've been forced to be less focused on doing only what's planned way ahead of time. I had some serious readjustment on this matter when living with someone who's just like her in this way (though I hear his wife has moved him in the other direction), but living with a roommate is one thing. When it involves family decisions, getting kids ready to go somewhere in the middle of winter in Syracuse with all the extra layers of clothing, boots, etc., and things involving being a couple, a unit, as opposed to people who just do lots of things together, we're in a very different mode. I like her spontaneity, and I need it. Sometimes little would happen if I went only with what I plan well in advance, and our lives would be less interesting. Add this to her creativity and love of a change in pace, and our life together is just more interesting and unusual than it would be if I were left to my own deviced in just doing what I can think of a week ahead of time based on things I've done before and know well how to do.
In many ways I've had to learn to do things I'm not good at simply because I'm better than she is at them. I'm an extreme introvert on the Myers-Briggs scale, but I think I'm still more comfortable about making phone calls to people I don't know (in English anyway -- on my two six-week trips overseas, to Tashkent and Berlin, I avoided calling anyone even if it meant failing in my responsibilities to my team). When organizing an event involving people coming over, I end up doing the hard work of getting people together. She deals with them once they're here. This isn't something I appreciate about what she's done, but it's something I'm grateful for in terms of being forced to do things I should be doing anyway. I think this has worked in reverse also. I'm much better at financial things like bills and taxes, though she's willingly taken over those for the sake of my time. She mows the lawn because it ties in with her other outdoor roles (of which that was my only one, and she has always maintained the grounds in other ways) and because my teaching responsibilities in the summer and at the end of the semester in April and May are more intense than ever, and I just took forever to get around to it most times (though this summer may require me to do it more once kid #3, due in October, gets big enough to restrict her movement). So this is a way that our balancing each other has nothing to do with doing what the other is bad at. It has to do with each of us moving toward the middle from the extreme.
This says nothing about some of the things I appreciate most about her. I just enjoy spending time with her, doing things we both enjoy a lot. It's a testimony to God's grace to give me someone who appreciates so much of what I love so much (German board games, scifi and fantasy, even some of the progressive rock I listen to almost exclusively nowadays) who also shares so much with me in terms of basic values and views, spiritual, theological, political, cultural, social, or otherwise. Add to this the unlikelihood that this should take place between people with such different cultural backgrounds and the fact that someone like me isn't the sort of person likely to find any mate to begin with but probably should need one more than many other types of people who turn out to be better at finding someone, and it astounds me. Then she's so appreciative of who I am and what I'm good at (despite knowing more than anyone what I'm very bad at) that she's sadder and more offended than I am when people around me fail to encourage me to contribute to things in ways that I'm really good at (or even actively prevent me from doing so once I've offered). She's done something I have to work very hard at but think should be done. Her emotional sense extend to include how I am affected by things, so that her own emotional state is affected by things that happen (or fail to happen) to me. I only wish I could do so well at that with her.
She's incredibly passionate about her dancing, her craftwork, her gardening, her cooking, and her time with the kids (when she's not burned out from the many hours she spends with them to free me up to teach, get grading done, and have the minimal ministry role I can have on campus). When she gets an idea, she gets all giddy, and I can see the image of the Creator in his creation in his image creating. In her I can see something of what God saw when he saw that his work was good. I see very different aspects of that when I've come up with something that I'm really proud of (more commonly something I've written or an idea I've had in recent years, or occasionally a musical performance or arrangement, whereas in the good old days it involved real musical composition). Seeing these different ways she represents that element of the image of God has helped me appreciate her even more.
Oh, and she's really hot. Check out the picture at the old blog site. I won't embarass her by talking about how that relates to our oneness in marriage.