Wear Your Love Story: Taking My Wife to James Avery for a Special Valentine’s Day 2018

DISCLOSURE LANGUAGE

James Avery partnered with bloggers such as myself for this program. I received compensation for my time, creativity, and SEO platform. I was not told what to purchase nor what to say about any product mentioned in these posts. James Avery believes that consumers and bloggers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. James Avery’s policies align with WOMMA Ethics Code, FTC guidelines, and social media engagement recommendations.

When it comes to gifts for my wife, she’s always made it easy on me, telling me all she really wants is maybe a new pair of slippers or pajamas, along with a bag of red licorice.

But for this Valentine’s Day, as we are just months away from our 10th wedding anniversary in July, I decided to make this one extra special.

With her mother in town from Sacramento, and our 7 year-old son at school, my wife took the day off from work so we could make the drive in the 2017 Mazda 6 to the Cool Springs Galleria Mall, where there is a James Avery artisan jewelry store.

Honestly, the thought of trying to choose jewelry for my wife is slightly terrifying. For a gift this special, I wanted her not only to have the experience of choosing the gift herself, but also to be able to enjoy seeing all the options in the store; to make the final selection that much more satisfying.

So I figured it would be a lot more fun for my wife, and for me, if we simply went to there together with a James Avery gift card in hand. My wife was able to focus on shopping, as I tended to our 21 month-old daughter in the store.

At the front of the store was a timeless, crafted Valentine’s Day gift set collection. Immediately, my wife was drawn to the Petite Heart Gift Set. She tried on the heart-shaped earrings and necklace pretty much immediately. It’s funny because as long as we’ve been together, I can think of only a couple of times she has worn earrings, but that changed during our store visit.

My wife was sold on the Petite Heart Gift Set, but I encouraged her to take her time and not stop there. I reminded her, “There’s no rush. Enjoy this. Get what makes you happy.”

Meanwhile, I looked over to see how my mother-in-law was doing, and to my surprise, she was in the middle of purchasing a new silver ring for herself.

I smiled as I made my may over to see her selection. She laughed and she explained, “You should have known better than to bring me into a jewelry store and expect me not to come out empty-handed.”

The assistants in the store were extremely helpful and knowledgeable along the way. My wife ultimately depended on their direction, as well as my opinion, in making her final selections.

As I handed over the James Avery gift card to make the purchase official, I realized that the total was a little bit higher than the amount of the card.

Oh well. I didn’t hesitate and just quietly paid the difference.

After all, my wife deserves it. For someone who is content with a new pair of pajama pants and licorice for a typical gift, it was time for me to go way, way beyond her expectations. And I did!

So for this Valentine’s Day, I know my wife of nearly 10 years will feel even extra special. It truly brought me joy in knowing I made her day!

If you would like to see my wife’s final selections from James Avery, just check out our “haul video” below…

What I’ve Learned From 7 Years Of Marriage

Today makes 7 years ago I married the beautiful girl who would change my life for the better…

Joe Hendricks Photography

Looking back on these past 7 years, my wife has taught me many crucial things and I’m absolutely a better person because of her.

Being married to my wife has confirmed my pre-existing understanding of what true romance is:

That a man truly wants to spend the rest of his life learning how to love the woman of his life; that there’s not simply a “happy ending” to the story just because the guy gets the girl.

Real love from a man to a woman is evolving to a stronger, more mature place, along with her love for him. Evolve is the key word.

It’s not about a happy ending, the way the movies end on their 90th minute right before the credits roll. It’s about an overall happy life-long journey, acknowledging the not-so-happy parts in between that are part of that experience as well, leading to that evolution.

Otherwise, there wouldn’t be the need to evolve together.

That’s how I’ve always felt about her.

It’s almost miraculous that nearly a decade ago when she and I met, despite my immaturity and inexperience as a 26 year-old “guy”, I had enough going on at the time to convince her I was worth her investment.

Joe Hendricks Photography

Because now, as a 34 year-old man, I do have the maturity level and life experience I wish I had when I was a single 27 year-old. But it’s only because of what I’ve learned from being her husband.

Maybe it’s now in this very moment that I am able to realize that despite all the things I appreciate of my wife, the thing I value the most is knowing she is patient to let me learn and work through my own shortcomings..

She always is understanding. Not to mention, she is always willing to give my crazy ideas a chance.

Honestly, it’s this simple: Without hesitation, I can easily replace the word “love” with her name in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

Jill is patient, Jill is kind. She doesn’t envy, she doesn’t boast, she isn’t proud. She isn’t rude, she isn’t self-seeking, she isn’t easily angered, she keeps no record of wrongs. She doesn’t delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. She always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Jill never fails.

That’s how I see my wife.

Granted, I’m fully aware that she and I are both two imperfect people. But we are two imperfect people who ultimately always protect, always trust, always hope, and always persevere.

Therefore, perfection isn’t necessary.

Photos courtesy of Joe Hendricks Photography.

4 Steps on How To Write Your Wife’s Valentine Card

February 4, 2012 at 12:15 am , by 

14 months.

I believe that most men are wired to appreciate and use formulas to get the job done. That’s definitely the case for me. I just want someone to spell it out for me so I always know what to do the next time I’m in that situation again. I hate having to guess.

Therefore, I will attempt to share my formula for writing a thoughtful and sincere Valentine’s Day card for your wife and the mother of your children.

This year, instead of rushing by the drug store the day before and scribbling in the card “I love you” while sitting at the red light, you can be prepared ahead of time.

You can even have her card purchased and filled out a week ahead of time. Nice plan, huh? Let’s do it.

1. Make it quirky. No matter how serious or funny the card itself is supposed to be, I always like to personalize the card. Like if on the front there are two cartoon cats who are in love, I write in “you” and “me” with arrows pointing to the appropriate characters.

No matter what the writing inside the card says when you buy it, you can always add to it, inserting a line with a specific example of something she did or said that was special and memorable.

2. Use the phrase “in love with you.” It’s a given that you will tell her in the card that you love her. But by proclaiming that you are in love with her, it resurfaces those feelings and memories of when you first fell in love with her and it shows her that you never stopped falling in love with her.

Just be sure you don’t say, “I’m still in love with you.” The word “still” makes the whole thing go south pretty quickly.

3. Use her name at least once. It’s so easy to get in the habit of calling her pet names or even simply nothing at all that you end up not calling her by her name. But there’s a lot of power in saying and/or writing a person’s name. So say her name, say her name.

4. Mention your appreciation of her motherly skills. We all know that parenting is a thankless job. So thank her for how good she is at it. And if your kid is too young to talk yet like mine is, add a little note from your child- pretending to speak for them.

Okay, the card is purchased and written. Now figure out where to display it on that fateful Tuesday morning. Maybe on the bathroom sink? Let it be one of the first things she notices, to help start Valentine’s Day out the right way.

One more thing, save this article in your “Favorites.” You may need to use this card-writing formula in the near future: her birthday, Mother’s Day, Christmas, Arbor Day…

Image: Valentine heart candy, via Shutterstock.

dad from day one: Nervous, Preoccupied and Spaced Out

Thirty-nine weeks.

Today was my wife’s last doctor’s appointment before the due date (November 11th), which it just one week from today.  She is dilated one centimeter and effaced 50 percent.  However, the nurse told us today that it is common for first time moms to go a week past their due date.  But still, it could happen at any time.

For the past week now, I’ve noticed that I have been completely spaced out.  My mind is obviously preoccupied with knowing that our “Jack-in-the-box” could spring out any moment.  People have asked me if I’m getting nervous- to my surprise, the answer is yes.  I thought I was over that stage.  But the first time I got nervous, around a month ago, it was because of the realization I don’t really know what to do with a newborn baby.  Now that we’ve finished our Lamaze course, I’m much more confident on the basics of how to help care for Baby Jack.  The thing that makes me nervous now is knowing that I have to see my wife in pain and discomfort, for hours.  No matter how easy it could end up happening, it will still be difficult.

People have asked me if I think I will pass out during the delivery.  The answer: a simple “no”.  Blood and guts don’t bother me.  Besides, unlike the reality TV star of the moment Kody Brown (Sister Wives), I will not be on the “receiving end” while my wife is giving birth.  I don’t need to see his head coming out.  Instead, I will be holding my wife’s hand, or at least beside her, as he’s being born.

Speaking of blood and guts, my wife and I have come up with some exciting plans for the weekend- that way, even if our baby isn’t born in the next few days, at least we can be busy and entertained otherwise.  And we don’t have to just sit around getting anxious.  So either way, we win:  Saturday morning we have brunch plans with some friends- I’m very excited about the meatloaf and mashed potatoes at the place we’re going.  Then Saturday afternoon, my wife and her mom (who is in town for the next couple of weeks) will be getting a facial.  (I guess I’ll read a book during that time.)  Next, we will go to the matinee: I will see Saw 3D (finally explaining the “blood and guts” reference), while my wife and her mom see something a little more light-hearted, yet appropriate for the upcoming event: Life as We Know It.

That’s right- my mother-in-law got into town Sunday night and plans to be here through the end of the month.  If the audience of dad from day one was male, I would have to take a page to humorously explain that though my mother-in-law is living with us, it’s not a wacky, cliché sitcom sort of deal.  I can’t complain.  When I come home from work, dinner is already ready- as my wife has had help preparing it.  As well as the fact that her mom immediately takes care of the dishes afterwards.

People have asked me if I’m planning on taking off a while from work once the baby is born.  At this moment, I’m thinking I’ll take off just a couple of days.  Because fortunately, I won’t be leaving my wife alone- she will have her mom there with her until I get home.  We are very blessed that my mother-in-law has chosen to stay with us.

Those are my final thoughts as a man who has yet to see his son.  Everything is about to change.  Unless Baby Jack stays in past his due date, the next dad from day one will be “Baby Jack is Here!”  Pictures of him will be included, of course.

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

This is our friend Nickie's baby, not ours. Did I fool ya?

The Return of the Small Town: Boom Days 2010 in Fort Payne, AL

A glimpse at the culture of Fort Payne, Alabama.

It can be common for people who grow up in a small town to want to move away as soon they graduate high school, as was the case for myself.  Since I graduated from Fort Payne High School in 1999, I have lived in Florida, Virginia, and for the last five years, Nashville.  That means for over 11 years, I have pretty much lived away from the hometown that molded me.  Now, I realize that a lot of this could be that I am married now and have a baby on the way, but I must admit, my old hometown suddenly seems really cool again.  Maybe it’s because the pace of my life is slowing down, compared to my single days and even my married-with-no-children days, and is now starting to match the speed of a small town and no longer a big city.  But I still think something special is happening in this small town, apart from my interference or commentary.

This past weekend my wife and I spent the weekend there with my parents, sister, and her husband.  My sister Dana had mentioned to me that there was this thing going on called “Boom Days” on Saturday in the city park.  She heard something about free pancakes and people dressed up like “old times”.  That’s all she knew.  I was way too curious about this possible Lord of the Rings picnic not to go.  So I went.

Turns out the pancakes weren’t free, but instead they were part of an all-you-can-eat-pancake-buffet for just five bucks, and the people dressed up were Civil War reenacters, not from Medieval times.  There was also a llama, a clown, a car show, a guy on a unicycle, horses, cool crafts exhibits, three concert stages, (four if you count two guys playing bluegrass on the sidewalk), a BBQ competition, and even a dog show.  I had originally only planned to check it out for a little while to say that I went, then leave.  But instead, I was there for over two and half hours and left with a slight sunburn.

In other words, I had a whole lot of fun.  It was a reunion of sorts: I caught up with some childhood classmates like Alex Igou and Tiffanie Baker Vincent, as well as our legendary elementary school librarian, Mrs. Jane Mauldin.  Boom Days 2010 was truly the kind of city wide event that had something for everybody.  I predict that like the days of June Jam (1982-1997), Boom Days will similarly help the culture of the town to resurface.

It wasn’t really until I was in college and started bringing friends home for the weekend that I realized that Fort Payne supersedes commercialized stereotypes of what a small Southern town is supposed to be like.  Fort Payne is not simply Country music, cows, and tractors- which are all good and necessary.  Being that when I was growing up I was constantly in plays and musicals, most of them written and directed by native Eddie McPherson, I was always aware of Fort Payne’s love of the arts.  It has to mean something when there are two theatres in downtown, on the same street, a block away from each other.

Fort Payne is also set apart from many towns in that half of the city is on a mountain and the other half is in a valley.  I grew up on the mountain side, sandwiched in between Little River Canyon, Little River Falls, De Soto State Park, and the artistic town of Mentone.  So while the valley half is where I learned to be social and outgoing, at school and at church, it was the outdoorsy mountain half that catered to my introspective and artistic side.  Simply put, Fort Payne is the perfect environment to yield well-rounded and level-headed people.

It takes a village.  Mine was Fort Payne.

All of the scenic route snapshots  used in this post were taken during Boom Days 2010, courtesy of Nick Shell.


Why Tap Dancing is Officially Masculine (And Most Other Kinds of Dancing are Feminine)

Le tap dance; la clog.

Unlike the French and Spanish languages, English doesn’t have masculine and feminine nouns.  Yet still, there are subtle gender clues and accents if we look closely enough for them.  Like the way that Coldplay is masculine, while The Fray is feminine (because they got famous by having their songs featured on Grey’s Anatomy). And the way a Dodge Dakota is masculine; while a Nissan X-Terra is feminine (this was referenced in an episode of The Office).

During dinner a few weeks ago I happened to catch 20 minutes of So You Think You Can Dance.  It was a results episode so they were mainly filling the air time with professional tap dancers, all of which were male.  Mainly dancing solo, but there were a few duos.  Interestingly, after each of them danced, they were briefly interviewed.  I couldn’t help but notice that none of these male tap dancers were the least bit effeminate or sexually questionable in any way- they were ordinary, straight dudes.

I’m okay with being politically incorrect in stating this fact that we already know and recognize: It’s common for professional male dancers (especially on reality TV shows) to not be straight.  Which is ironic because as we watch these couples dance, the male is being represented by a man who in reality may not be sexually attracted to women.  Typically, straight men are not the ones representing the guy in the relationship in these dances.

Why are straight men typically inclined not to be good dancers?  Because group dancing and dancing in pairs, as a whole, are more of feminine acts.  Dancing as we know it today is free-spirited and emotionally expressive.  It often shows the ups and downs of relationships and/or life in general.  That doesn’t work for most men, because a man’s mind is wired to be formulaic and often emotionally repressive.  Most men have to “learn to dance”.  Tell me what to do so I can get this right. It’s more about straight memorization for a straight guy to learn to dance.  He’s learning to dance to make his girlfriend or wife happy- not to express himself in a new exciting way.

When I think of famous tap dancers throughout American history, I think of classy Italian, Jewish, and African-American men wearing black suits like Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Gregory Hines, and of course, the legendary Tony Danza.  Although, this isn’t to say that all or even most tap-dancing men are straight.  But what I do recognize is 1) that because tap dancing is simply based on rhythm and formula (which are masculine elements- famous female drummers are a rare thing), and 2) that tap dancing only really evokes one basic emotional feel, which is always positive and upbeat.  I never remember seeing a tap dancing routine which went from happy, to sad, to angry, back to happy, to a feeling of loss, to happy, to acceptance of grief, to contentment, the way a typical 2 minute dance song on Dancing with the Stars or So You Think You Can Dance typically does.

Clogging, on the other hand, though similar to tap-dancing, is not masculine.  It often involves groups, costumes, and festive music- therefore making it a feminine art form, since there is room for “artistic expression”.  But square dancing is masculine because, like in tap-dancing, the mood is always the same (upbeat) and there is no guesswork on how to do it, since the instructions are typically spoken to music.

So how could a man and a woman dance to music and it realistically represent them and their relationship?  I’m picturing a guy tap dancing in his own little world while the woman ballet dances around him, and the guy is seemingly oblivious to what is going on.

Being a Handsome Man Vs. Being a Hot Guy

And why it ultimately doesn’t matter anyway thanks to a little something called “charm”.

Recently I asked my facebook friends via my status update, this question:

Females, I need your input for something I’m writing: What is the difference between a guy who is “handsome” and a guy who is “hot, sexy, etc.”?

To summarize the similarities of the responses, with a man who is “hot” there is an attraction (mostly physical), whereas  with a man who is “handsome” is someone who simply is a good-looking guy, though there is not necessarily any kind of attraction there.  Of course the ironic thing about this can best be summed up by what my friend Holly Arnesen said:

“if i refer to a guy as handsome, it usually means that physically speaking he’s nicely put together, but doesn’t necessarily mean i’m attracted. hot and sexy usually has to do with more than what a guy looks like. like some women think intelligence is sexy so, they’ll go for a smart guy over one that they think is nicer to look at.  i once heard someone say, ‘men fall in love with women they are attracted to, and women are attracted to the men they fall in love with.’ i’m not a guy, but i’m pretty sure this tends to be way things go.”

On the right, Bronson Pinchot, who played "Balki" on Perfect Strangers.

What enticed me to walk up to my future wife on October 5, 2006 and talk to her the very first time I saw her from across a large crowded room was her appearance.  Though it wasn’t until four months later to the day, on our first date (I knew it was a date but she didn’t until it was over), that she actually thought of me in any kind of romantic way.  My physical looks were irrelevant to the equation up until the point I made it clear I was interested in her, given that I’d shared with her my personality and character prior to day that we crossed the line from being friends to dating.

Until we started dating, I was just another average-looking dude.  A forgettable face.  Perhaps the most memorable physical trait would have been my dark hair.  Based on the celebrities that people have told me I look like in the last couple of years (“Cory Matthews” from Boy Meets World, “Balki” from Perfect Strangers, “Ross” from Friends, as well as David Arquette and Paul Rudd), I evidently have the looks of a Jewish-American comedian, which all of those Nick Shell look-alikes are.  Men that are remembered not for their looks, but for their personalities and talent.  Are those men handsome?  Sure, why not.  It’s irrelevant either way.

Ben Savage, who played "Corey Matthews" on Boy Meets World.

Speaking of David Schwimmer, I don’t believe anyone could have played the part of Ross better.  But to be part of one of the most popular romantic American TV couples ever, he was a very ordinary looking guy.  Fans of Friends always think of Ross and Rachel fondly, though never once have I ever heard anyone comment good or bad on David Schwimmer’s looks.  But regarding Jennifer Aniston, it’s not that way at all. Her looks were so relevant she actually started a hairstyle craze in 1995 called “The Rachel”.

When my wife and I reminisce on when we first started dating, she always says, “You always had interesting stuff to say so I knew we’d never run out of things to talk about.”  It’s possible that’s what won her over.  My quirkiness.  Some people would call it my ability to “think some crazy crap up”.  Others more reverently refer to it as “thinking deeply”.   My lifelong habit of daydreaming during math and science class definitely paid off.  I charmed her.

So if a guy is simply average-looking, how can he improve his situation?  The “Makeover Week” on the TV show The Biggest Loser would tell us he would need to slim down, get his hair cut shorter, shave off his beard, and wear nicer clothes.  But I know my wife always prefers me to wear jeans, t-shirt, and a ball cap, and she never notices or cares whether I have a beard or not.  There’s really no official way for a schlub or average Joe to gain “handsomeness” or “sexiness” since that’s up to the girl they’re trying to attract.

The more colorful and eye-catching cockatiel bird is on the right. The female is on the left.

And I think that’s why it’s a guy thing to not care as much about our appearance as females do.  Because unlike male birds (which are always more attractive and attention-grabbing than the females they attract), male humans know they can attract a woman who is out of their league looks-wise as long as they are funny enough, smart enough, rich enough, strong enough, sensitive enough, or whatever else it takes to charm their love interest.  From Doug Heffernan to Barney Rubble, charm certainly has its advantages.