Easy As ABC? Sometimes.

You went to school to learn girl
Things you never, never knew before
Like "I" before "E" except after "C"
And why 2 plus 2 makes 4
Now, now, now
I'm gonna teach you
Teach you, teach you
All about love girl
All about love
Sit yourself down, take a seat
All you gotta do is repeat after me

That’s right. Today’s blog post is a lesson from Old Pops, The Love Professor. For those that know their Jackson 5 lore you’ll recognize that the lyrics above are from their song “ABC”. The song continues:

Reading, writing, arithmatic
Are the branches of the learning tree
But without the roots of love everyday girl
Your education ain't complete
Tea-Tea-Teacher's gonna show you
(She's gonna show you)
How to get an "A" (na-na-na-naaaaaa)
How to spell "me", "you", add the two
Listen to me, baby
That's all you got to do

It's easy as, 1 2 3
As simple as, do re mi
A B C, 1 2 3
Baby, you and me girl

This cute little number debuted in 1970 on American Bandstand. I was a freshman in college and had no intention of taking advice on Love from an 11 year-old kid. Looking back on Michael’s answer to Love, I still don’t like his solution.

Valentine’s Day looms. Last February, I did a series of posts with unsolicited advice for guys on how to make the most of the opportunity. This year, I already The Gift taken care of, so I’m just waxing philosophical about Love.

Several years ago I read an essay on “systems”. I wish I had made a copy of it or could remember who wrote it so I could give credit, but I don’t. Basically the author’s point was that we have reduced everything to a system.

In our own bodies we have systems: the nervous system, the circulatory system, the digestive system, etc. In society we have systems: legal systems, political systems, economic systems. Even our cars have systems: the fuel system, the braking system, the electrical system, and so on.

Here’s the thing about systems, when they work they’re wonderful. I’m using a system of ones and zeros, computers, wireless signals, servers, etc. to write and share this blog with the masses. It’s mind boggling to think that anyone around the world could read this if they are in the System.

Another thing about systems, sometimes they break… We have things like the postal system and the healthcare system. The thing about systems is when they do break, we can just blame the system and no one gets hurt. “Who is to blame for these problems?!” “No one really, the system failied.” Do you ever get the feeling that sometimes we create systems so we’ll have something to blame and no one is really accountable?

I’ll be conducting another wedding this Spring. Very soon now I will meet with the beautiful young couple for some “pre-marital counseling.” I hope they are not reading this because I’m going to confess that I don’t have all the answers to Love.

I am pretty sure though that I know a lot more about it than Michael Jackson did at eleven (God rest his soul). I do know that it cannot be reduced to system or a formula like ABCs and 123s.

Several years ago our marriage survived a conference we attended on how to have a successful marriage. I say “survived” because looking back, it was a system some guy had put together. He discovered he could take his show on the road and people would pay money to get the “keys” to marital bliss. And, also a coupon  for the advanced seminar where you got even more secret stuff.

Maybe I shouldn’t be too quick to judge, because actually me and My Amazing-Missus were marriage school dropouts. We ditched the last few sessions and did some Christmas shopping for our boys.

It may sound like I’m taking our 42 years of marriage for granted. I’m not, really I’m not. Nor am I saying I haven’t learned anything. I think I will tell this young couple that there are no magic formulas; there’s not a system. Sometimes it as easy as A-B-C or 1-2-3, sometimes its as complicated as H-E-L-L. Just ask my wife. I will tell them that Love is just the opposite of systematic. It is organic, it is natural, it is beautiful and it is eteneral.

Valentine's Day will be the 43rd anniversary of the day I proposed to My Amazing-Missus. I would do it again in a heart beat. I can only hope she would say, YES! But I would settle for a, “What the heck.” 

Dinner and A Movie

This is the last post in the series on how NOT to massacre St. Valentine's Day.

No doubt, any restaurant that's date-worthy will be crowded Friday night. If you do it right, you could stay in and not seem like a cheapskate. Remember the TV program "Dinner & A Movie"? It's a concept that could earn you two thumbs up.


First, carefully choose the right movie. You probably can't go wrong with something like "Sleepless in Seattle." A logical menu choice would be salmon--you know because of the famous Pike Place fish market in Seattle. If you're not a cook, have some fun with it and fix fish sticks with mac 'n' cheese.

Go classic and rent "Roman Holiday". Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck can hold their on with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. The menu is easy here--anything Italian--spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna or even pizza. Here's a fun tip: buy one of the ready to go pizza crusts. With scissors, cut it in to a heart shape. Add her favorite ingredients and bake up a winner.

Another good choice with Audrey Hepburn is "Breakfast at Tiffany's".  Mix up a pancake mix with fresh blueberries and top it with good maple syrup for the menu.

Want more movie options? Here's one opinion of the "50 Best Romantic Movies of all Time."

Want to go big with the dinner? Here's a romantic menu planner from Epicurious.com.


A little advice: be careful about offering a running commentary during the movie. No matter how tempting it is. For example, in "Sleepless in Seattle", when the kid leaves his backpack at the top of the Empire State Building and they have to return to get it and Meg Ryan is standing there holding the kid's teddy bear, don't say something like, "You've got to be kidding. Stevie Wonder could have seen that coming."

Well you're on your own now. Good Luck.

BFFs Are Not Just For Junior High Girls

Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; Friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest. --C.S. Lewis.

I have the necessary credentials to perform legal marriages, and over the years, I've helped tie a bunch of knots--some tighter than others apparently. This quote (above) by C.S. Lewis is from his book, The Four Loves. I have used the quote in almost every wedding I've ever done because I believe it contains an essential fact in any life-long relationship: the people in the relationship must be not only lovers but friends as well. Don't miss the value of that because it seems so simple.

So in today's post on how to make the most of Valentine's Day, I want to throw out some ideas about celebrating the friendship side of the relationship.

yellow rose.jpg

Maybe you've noticed that so far in these posts I haven't mentioned anything about the traditional gifts of the day: chocolates, flowers, jewelry, lingerie, matching bowling balls, etc. Here's a thought though. If you feel you really need to buy roses, buy one, a yellow one, because according to the history and meaning of roses on Pro Flowers website:

"In contrast to the romantic meanings attributed to other roses, the yellow rose is purely a symbol for friendship. This gives it a unique place in the pantheon of roses." 

Or try this: give her two roses: a red one and a yellow one, with a card where you write the C.S. Lewis quote along with something like: "Thank you for being my lover and best friend."

Here's another idea. Take the old concept of a mixtape to the next level. For $49 you can buy an iPod Shuffle. They come in a an array of colors. Check it out here. Take the time to pre-load it with a playlist of good music. Be sure to include at least a few "friend" songs along with some romantic tunes. By all means include "You've Got a Friend". It's a classic from 1971, "written by Carole King, and included in her album Tapestry and James Taylor's album Mud Slide Slim, which were recorded simultaneously in 1971 with shared musicians. Taylor's version was released as a single, and reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. "You've Got a Friend" won Grammy Awards both for Taylor (Best Male Pop Vocal Performance) and King (Song of the Year)."

Here's the link to a great video of Taylor doing the song. 

A few others to consider:

  • Bridge Over Troubled Water -- Simon & Garfunkel
  • You're My Best Friend -- Queen
  • I'll Be There For You -- The Rembrandts

Need a country song, try:

  • My Best Friend -- Tim McGraw

Or maybe something of this millennium, try:

  • Umbrella – Rihanna

Give her the loaded iPod and the yellow rose and celebrate the friendship.

In case you would like to see the context of the C.S. Lewis quote, here's an excerpt from The Four Loves:

Those who cannot conceive Friendship as a substantive love but only as a disguise or elaboration of Eros betray the fact that they have never had a Friend. The rest of us know that though we can have erotic love and friendship for the same person yet in some ways nothing is less like a Friendship than a love-affair. Lovers are always talking to one another about their love; Friends hardly ever about their Friendship. Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; Friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest. Above all, Eros (while it lasts) is necessarily between two only. But two, far from being the necessary number for Friendship, is not even the best. And the reason for this is important.
... In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets... Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth, if only the newcomer is qualified to become a real friend. They can then say, as the blessed souls say in Dante, 'Here comes one who will augment our loves.' For in this love 'to divide is not to take away.”

Navigating St. Valentine's

With Ground Hog Day passed us, we now have to focus on Valentine's Day. This one is scary. There are so many ways to get it wrong and if you get it right, you have to be careful about your expectations of any reward for having done so.

I like to think of myself as somewhat of a romantic; I'm delusional like that. Last Sunday night, without being asked, I quickly switched from the Super(fluous) Bowl to Downton Abbey. Even if it had been a "good" game, I would have made the switch. When we go out to eat, we go somewhere like Cheevers or Charlestons rather than Rib Crib or Western Sizzler.

Relatively, I'm somewhere on a scale between Ryan Gosling and Homer Simpson. And while I do tend to be left of Okie-Normal politically speaking, this time I lean right. But, I do have good intentions.

Because of that I thought I might try my hand at offering some Valentine's Day advice, humbly and from personal experience of course. So over the next few days I'll put up a few posts here at About POPS. Take it all for what it's worth without any guarantee of success however you might define that.


Think about this: Poetry has stood the test of time. Remember Romeo and Juliet? Remember the Song of Solomon? A long time ago I got over that fear of poetry which was strategically implanted in us in junior high. Not only do I love to read and hear poetry, I still try my hand at an occasional verse.

One of my favorite poets is Billy Collins. I'm not recommending Mr. Collins for a poem to slip into a box of chocolates or write in the steam on the bathroom mirror. There are better poets for this kind of thing. Here's an example, Poem #269 by Emily Dickinson written in the mid-1800s:

Wild nights! Wild nights! 
Were I with thee, 
Wild nights should be 
Our luxury!
Futile the winds 
To a heart in port, 
Done with the compass, 
Done with the chart.

Rowing in Eden! 
Ah! the sea! 
Might I but moor 
To-night in thee!

Back to the poet Billy Collins. He gave some great advice. It was not in the context of developing a good Valentine's Day plan, but it is useful.

"If at first you don't succeed, hide all evidence you ever tried." --Billy Collins

When making your plan think it through carefully but don't overthink it, lest it seems too contrived.

See I told you this would be difficult.

If you're curious why I might not recommend Billy Collins for your romantic verse, check out this video.