Mark Ballard

This is the real secret to lasting love

Mark Ballard created this Valentine’s Day display. He cut the larger hearts out of plywood and made the chocolate-looking ones out of plastic foam, hot glue and paint.
Mark Ballard created this Valentine’s Day display. He cut the larger hearts out of plywood and made the chocolate-looking ones out of plastic foam, hot glue and paint.

Over the years, I have certainly created my share of hearts to celebrate Valentine’s Day. They have been crafted out of just about everything you can imagine. I have used every shade of paper from the palest of pinks to the brightest of reds. But I didn’t use just paper for my heart creations. Sometimes I cut them out of wood and plastic foam and used hot glue, roses and paint to transform them into something beautiful. Since I got an early start, I’ve had a lot of practice.

Back in my grade school days, long before there were glue guns, thick white paste in plastic jars offered the bond needed to construct heart-themed valentines. The jar’s lid held a spatula of sorts to retrieve the thick, white goo. Once you glued the pieces of paper together, it took days for the paste to completely dry.

I would spend hours cutting red and pink heart shapes out of construction paper to give to my classmates. No matter how hard I tried, I could never leave mine plain. I had to embellish them. Our class even created special cardboard mailboxes to sit on our desks to hold valentines on the special day of love.

A couple of years ago, I decided to use delicate thread to hang some of my paper hearts like a mobile from the kitchen ceiling fan. It seemed like a perfect place to display them in celebration of Valentine’s Day. My wife, Debra, loved them.

Late one night while Debra was away, I decided to bake a caramel cake. I was impatiently waiting for the icing to slightly cool so that I could spread it over the cake. Exhausted from a busy day, I decided to turn on the ceiling fan so that I could speed up the process.

Later, when I turned off the fan, I noticed that the floating hearts had tangled into a spider web of a mess. Hearts and thread were twisted together in all directions. Instead of hanging gracefully, the mobile appeared to be destroyed.

I finished the cake, cleaned up the mess I had made in the kitchen and then turned my attention to the mangled hearts that, upon closer inspection, were intertwined with the fan itself. I surveyed the damage and wondered to myself where I should begin. I knew Debra would be disappointed if she knew I had ruined the hanging hearts.

I finally chose a single heart and tried to carefully untwist the thread that was wrapped around it. Round and round I went, finally freeing it from its tangled web. But that was just one heart. Each heart had to be dealt with separately. It was a very tedious process and gave me a lot of time to think as I slowly but surely untangled each and every heart.

“That’s what love is really all about,” I said to myself. Sometimes everything is perfect, and then at other times it takes a lot of work, perseverance and patience. Just like the paper hearts, sometimes love floats smoothly while at other times, it becomes all tangled up. Nothing is perfect.

Debra and I have been married almost 36 years. When I look back at all those years and all we have been through, only one thing has been constant — our love for each other. Everything has certainly not always been perfect, but when things got tangled up, we just rolled up our sleeves and both worked hard to make sure we got back on track. That is the real secret to lasting love. You have to constantly work at it.

With Valentine’s Day approaching, focus more on the times when your heart floated freely and less on the times when it was all tangled up. Celebrate the good times and be thankful for the precious gift of love. Show the ones you love what they mean to you but not just for this one day. Remember, love has to be nurtured the other 364 days to avoid any major tangles.

Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; call 478-757-6877; email; follow him at; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.