Saturday, September 13, 2003

Marriage links for the week  

Modern television may be eroding marriage (as I mentioned in a recent post), but ancient television probably created unrealistic expectations. From a fellow 5-year veteran: "I was going to be the perfect wife and mother. I was never going to run out of milk, laundry was always going to be done, we would never have to use Kleenex in place of toilet paper, my husband was always going to have a hot breakfast before leaving for work at 4:30 a.m. and the house would always be spotless." Real marriage isn't like Ozzie and Harriet. It's so much better.

Two party people celebrate their 60th.

If you get married to enhance your own happiness, you will find only misery. No person on this earth can make you happy. If two people get married to devote themselves to each other, the experience will be more rewarding than either could have imagined (another person can make you happier). These two perspectives cast radically different lights on marital conflict, both while it is happening and when we look back on it.

Researchers and long-married couples talk about what makes a good marriage.

A happy marriage can help prevent cancer. (Scroll down to No. 3: Lifestyle.)

This article is sort of a commercial for a dating service, so you have to take it with a grain of salt, but it makes a good point about finding a soul-mate (something I discussed in a recent post). Two people don't fit together like pre-cut puzzle pieces. People invest themselves in each other's lives, build a solid relationship, and grow together like grafted plants.

Friday, September 12, 2003

I've got mail!  

One thing I looked forward to when I began blogging was reader feedback. I didn't expect a whole lot at first, since I mentioned the existence of this blog to only a few friends. Since I began on August 20, however, I have received no feedback and few hits. I figure that either I have nothing interesting to say, or else my friends just suck. I received my first piece of feedback today, though, and it contains some excellent and encouraging thoughts, so I'm marking the occasion by sharing the feedback with both of my other readers. This comes from Nick:

TV totally reflects and reinforces society's views against marriage. A friend of mine and I were talking about this a few weeks ago, how people are now wary of anyone who gets married without living together first. Stuff on Friends would have been taboo not more than a few decades ago when we were kids. Even the older generation, the ones who stayed married for 30+ years, happily or for whatever reason otherwise joke about it...this one old guy in one of the bands I play in is always musing how he "would have been a millionaire if he'd stayed single instead of broke and having headaches with his kids," and he berated the band leader's son when he settled down and got married a few years ago for doing so. People feel pressure from peers, from adults, from media to act contrary to traditional values, and it's all flipflopped. Still I look at my parents and how they did things, and I want to follow their example (except for the part where they got married late and now risk not living to see grandchildren at the rate I'm going). They fight sometimes (moreso when they were younger) over stupid things like most couples do, whether it be tracking grease in the house or overwaxing the floor then telling my mom he didn't touch the floor when she gets home even though you can smell it and it's mad slippery etc. But they do stuff together like gardening and shopping, and just the other day they went on a "date" and drove out east to go apple-picking, and they've stayed together for over 30 years and always went to church. I'd love to be able to say the same when I'm in my 70s.

Wow, that set me rambling. Good thought-provoking site, though.

Thanks, Nick.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

A terrible anniversary  

I was looking through some old files today, trying to see if I had a record of writing anything on this day two years ago. I was sure that I had written something, and was hoping that file names might jog my memory. It turns out that I didn't need file names. I found a text file listing 9/11/01, 11:51 PM as its Date Modified. That took me aback. The date still causes me to catch my breath. The file itself, the stuff I wrote, seems pretty jumbled. Reading it again doesn't make me relive that day's emotions. The date itself, though, brings up some turbulent memories. I remember that my wife and I had been living in the tri-state area for exactly one year, almost to the day. I remember thinking about the time I had spent inside the World Trade Center during that one year. I remember that the radio reports were confused, and that the television reports were non-existent because the broadcast antenna on top of Tower 1 had ceased to exist. I remember irrational feelings of guilt knowing that since we didn't live in Manhattan, didn't work at the WTC or anywhere downtown, and didn't know anyone who was killed or injured, that the biggest disruption it would cause us would be the temporary loss of TV reception. I remember writing about it and wondering what name to call the event (there's still no word that adequately describes it). I remember crying compulsively at random moments throughout the day. Most of all, though, I remember stepping outside of my house in the early evening and smelling an acrid odor, and I remember taking a short walk with my wife, crossing a busy street, looking toward Manhattan, and—though we live too far away to see the skyline—seeing a gigantic cloud of smoke.

Now that I have some distance, it still makes me cry. I've visited the WTC site a couple of times, and it still affects me. And I still have the same inability to express anything meaningful about that day:

I want to say something profound. I want to draw a huge, life-changing insight from the devastation. I want to ask the terrorists what the hell they were thinking and what they thought they would accomplish. But it all seems so pointless. I can only say that in the end, all that matters is how well you know God. And since that's all that matters in the end, maybe it's all that matters now.
Here are some photos I took back in July ('03). Click to see a larger image.


Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Math and cell phones  

This has nothing to do with marriage, but I have to say that sometimes I'm just staggered by the level of ignorance I encounter during the course of my day. I know that "ignorant" has become a synonym for "hate-filled, narrow-minded, and racist," but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the sheer "I-don't-know-squat-about-anything" brand of ignorance. Usually I blame the progressively wretched state of U.S. education for ignorance in people younger than me, but I met two people this past weekend who both had a few years on me and couldn't do simple division.

I won't mention names, but our Sprint phone had died, and the people at the Sprint store were downright rude and condescending to Mrs. Happy when she asked to have it fixed or replaced, so Sprint has lost our business. First thing Saturday morning, I went to Best Buy to check out phones not branded by Sprint and calling plans not on Sprint's network from a company that doesn't manage its stores like a DMV office the way Sprint does. I spoke with a friendly, helpful woman who explained to me that I could get two phones and put them on the same plan. The plan came with 5,000 minutes, which means, and I quote, "that on each phone you could use…um…uh" here she hung her head "I can't think." I suggested that perhaps she was looking for the number 2,500 (minutes), which brightened up her saddened countenance considerably. She quickly agreed that I would be able to use each phone for 2,500 minutes without fear of incurring additional charges. I passed.

From there I visited a local store dedicated to a single wireless company. A salesman there asked me how much time I expected to spend per month using my new cell phone. I told him probably four or five hours. The word "hours" had an affect on him that I would only expect from a word such as "vasectomy." His eyes opened wide and darted around while he stammered under his breath, not knowing what to say. You see, cell phone plans come with minutes, not hours, and he couldn't translate my response into terms he could understand. He managed to find a calculator, and after pressing a few buttons and staring at the floor, he asked sheepishly, "Is 400 minutes enough?" I told him it was, and things went smoothly from there.

Now we have a new cell phone. I think this next Saturday I may go to the Sprint store and tell them about the Let's Make a Deal brainteaser. That'll show 'em.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

A rare occasion  

I would like to offer warm and affectionate congratulations to my parents-in-law, who celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary yesterday. It's because of them and their marriage that my wife has such a strong idea of how good a marriage can actually be. They taught (and, more importantly, showed) her how to maintain a solid relationship through prosperity and hard times, through agreement and conflict, through stability and change. She, in turn, has been able to relate some of that to me, for which I am eternally grateful. After spending 30 years as husband and wife, they still love each other. And after 30 years, they still like each other, which is even more impressive. From what I can tell, theirs is a deep, lasting, intimate marriage of two best friends. My wife and I are best friends as well, so this occasion encourages me to think that we have many wonderful years ahead of us as well. Happy anniversary!

Monday, September 08, 2003

More tennis  

My wife is a big tennis fan. She played in high school and followed the careers of Monica Seles, Steffi Graff, Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Michael Chang, and others who were all in their prime together. Neither of us has really even paid attention to tennis in the last five years except to watch the occasional Williams sister play. This year, though, we lucked into some free tickets to a couple of U.S. Open matches, which had the effect of reminding my wife what it felt like to be out on a court. Her reminiscences of practicing every day and playing in day-long tournaments inspired us to watch every match of the U.S. Open that we could catch on TV.

The semifinal matches provided a lot more excitement than the finals this year. Justine Henin-Hardenne battled severe dehydration and leg cramps to pull off an incredible and epic performance to beat Jennifer Capriati, then go on to dispatch Kim Clijsters fairly abruptly in the final. Both Andy Roddick and Juan Carlos Ferrero played brilliant matches against brilliant opponents in the semifinals, but Roddick won his first grand slam title in decisive fashion yesterday, serving up 23 aces and winning 23 consecutive service points.

All this excitement has made Mrs. Happy want to start playing tennis again. So Saturday we broke out the equipment and went to a nearby tennis court. I have actually never been a tennis player. Everything I know about swinging a racket has come from a lifetime of intermittent Ping-Pong and a short, frustrating period of instruction from The Happy Girlfriend before we married. So after we warmed up on Saturday we played a match. Actually, it was less a match than a single set. And actually, it more closely resembled a 6-game trouncing (30 points to 5) than a real set. But I gave it my all, got in a few good shots, laughed a lot, and spent some quality time with my wife. Athletic humiliation and a resulting sore (in some awkward places, I might add) body don't often add up to a good time, but this was an exception.