Saturday, September 20, 2003

Marriage links for the week  

I had a professor in college who had previously been a marriage counselor. He told us about a couple he once counseled who were going through some very rocky times. Their main issue was that the husband refused to let the wife get a dog, so she wanted a divorce. Of course, that was only the surface issue. It could just as easily have been football.

Happy marriages have more benefits than I can name, and apparently it's even good for the heart.

Shocking news, this: If you want your marriage to be happy, be neither a tyrant nor a spoiled brat.

Man has yet to improve upon the family structure of a man and woman getting married and raising their own biological children, despite many claims to the contrary.

In good times and bad, a common faith lays the foundation for a strong marriage.

I grew up in Texas, where parents train their sons to be gentlemen and to treat a woman like a lady. I've been scolded by non-southern women for opening doors, walking nearer to the street, trying to help with unwieldy coats, and more, but the truth is I'd rather get scolded than act like a clod. (Link via The Noble Pundit.)

Speaking of The Noble Pundit, he had some very flattering things to say about me yesterday, for which I am grateful. My friend Jeff also left a nice comment on the post. I love validation.

Speaking of Jeff, he may have figured out why Internet Explorer can't figure out how to space the lines here in this center column. It has to do with paragraph tags in the HTML and the way my blogging service deals with line breaks and blank lines. If his idea works, I'll retract half of the ill will behind my statement that IE is shoddy software. Even so, get Opera (Windows), or Safari (Macintosh).

Friday, September 19, 2003

Cultivation  

"A friendship is like a garden: You have to water it, and tend it, and care about it, or you lose it." That's from a musical called Merrily We Roll Along by Stephen Sondheim. The statement is doubly true for marriages. I know from experience how easy it is to fall into a routine of going to work, coming home, eating supper, watching TV, and going to bed. Routines are hard on marriages, because when a marriage isn't growing it's decaying. Or, to extend the analogy, the weeds grow while the gardener rests.

Early in our marriage, Mrs. Happy and I took sack lunches to work nearly every day. Each morning before leaving for work, I would usually pack the lunches for both of us. In the process of that, I would draw a little cartoon on her sack to make her smile during her lunch break. When I drew a cartoon, I liked for it to be relevant to our relationship at the time. For instance, one day we hardly got to see each other at all because I worked until 5:00 p.m. and she had class (she spent two years in a Master's program) from 5:30 to 10:00. When she got home, there was a gentle rain falling, so we lay down in our bed, which is right next to a window, and talked to each other while we watched and listened to the rain. It was truly a sweet time and a relief after being away from each other for longer than usual. So the next day I drew a little cartoon of the two of us playing in the rain. Back then, I made it my goal to cultivate our relationship in such a way that I always had something to draw on her lunch sack.

She looked forward to the drawings every day. They meant so much to her that she saved them in a sack that I had decorated more elaborately than the others. Last night we looked through them again, reminiscing about the times that each cartoon represented and speculating about the events that led to some of the more bewildering drawings. Mrs. Happy picked out four that she especially loved and allowed me to scan them for posting here. I have included them below, with explanations of each. Click on each image to see the full drawing.

  1. One day I was doing some work in our attic when I heard a crash and a scream. I rushed down the stairs to find Mrs. Happy frantic and crying and running around in circles. I was eventually able to determine that she had spilled boiling water on her foot, so I administered as much first aid and TLC as I could muster. This cartoon is me showing sympathy and kissing the wound to make it better.
  2. A couple of years ago, my wife developed a buildup of impacted wax in one of her ears. She could not hear out of it for about a week, and it made her ear feel large and mis-shapen to her.
  3. It took me seven years of going to school to get a bachelor's degree. It took my wife six years to get both a bachelor's and a master's. I drew this around the time that she received her master's degree.
  4. There have been a few times in our 5+ years together in which it seemed that we might have a Happy and Unexpected Baby on the way. This particular time, we (and me in particular) were nowhere near ready for it, but Mrs. Happy was still a little disappointed when the test came back negative.

These days, we don't take our lunches to work so much anymore. But now I make it my goal to cultivate our relationship in such a way that I have something to blog about every day.


My wife went to a meeting at church last night at which one of our friends pulled her aside and asked her very seriously, "What did you mean about people wearing things across their butts? I can't figure it out and I can't remember anything from the Web site but that." So, in case anyone else is wondering, here's what she meant: She saw a teenage girl walk past our table wearing what appeared to be pajama bottoms with the word LUCKY written across the rear. Mrs. Happy is not opposed to that sort of thing in principle, but she does think it a little immodest to wear lucky pajamas in public.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Freaky stuff across the pond  

File this under People Who Don't Understand the Concept #16. According to The London Mirror and The Washington Times (which ran the story from UPI), Alison Smith married George Greenhowe in Scotland in 2001. Ten days after the wedding, she caught him in bed with Pat, her mother. She filed for, and received, a divorce. Earlier this month (or so it seems—the two articles are sketchy on the actual date), Alison served as a bridesmaid at their wedding, saying, "Mum makes George happier than I did." She even calls her ex-husband "Dad" now, even though he's never even apologized for any of it.

Also disturbing is the fact that Scottish lawmakers actually anticipated this sort of situation, making it illegal for a man to marry his ex-wife's mother while his ex is still alive, which is why they had the wedding in Britain.

Love, fidelity, commitment, honesty, and concern for someone you've chosen to marry…it all seems so simple, but people still manage to get it so, so wrong.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

I love feedback  

I encourage everyone who reads this blog to send me feedback via the e-mail address at the right. Very few people do. I did get some feedback last week, though, so on Friday I posted some comments sent in by Nick, which I prefaced by saying, "Since I began <blogging> 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." It was quickly brought to my attention that I had actually received feedback from my friend Jeff long before Nick contacted me:

I suck??

I've given you feedback... I said that your links had smart quotes in them. And I said something in passing about Dave Barry.

I've been reading your posts on most days, but I haven't had much time to actually write back in reply. I've gotten as far as writing things like "Yes, good point..." and "I agree..." but nothing too substantial, so I didn't send those.

I have had several conversations in the last two months about my perspective on marriage as a single 30-something and as a youth director. I've realized that I have a fairly unique and healthy view of marriage. I'll jot some thoughts down.

My pastor is currently doing a sermon series on Christian Relationships. Some of the sermons are related to your posts. I'll send you copies of the series when it is done.

Oh, and for the feedback: Keep up the good work! I enjoy the site! I highly recommend your website...I've mentioned it to at least two people. You will soon double or even triple your readership!

Jeff

What he says is true. Jeff was my roommate during the time I was courting my wife, and from that time I learned that he has a healthier view of relationships than most married people. Also, he actually played an essential role in this blog's technical refinements. He alerted me to the problem of the smart quotes that prevented certain links from working. He alerted me to a couple of problems with Internet Explorer's interpretation of this page, for which we have found no explanation and therefore no solution—please take a stand against shoddy software and download Netscape, Opera, or Safari (the best browser in existence, but it only works on Mac OS X, the best operating system in existence). And he alerted me to the reason Dave Barry ignores me: "Dave Barry doesn't want to talk with you because you said 'buttload'." He's probably right.

In this past week, I also received feedback from my parents. They both think I'm brilliant, though my mother may change her mind when she reads the Dave Barry post in which I said "buttload."


I want to say a special thank you to Chris Noble over at The Noble Pundit. I've been enjoying his political/economic/societal blog for several months now, and today I realized that he has added me to his blogroll (the list of blogs on the left-hand side of the page). It's my first piece of validation from the blogging community, and I am grateful.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

The unbearable perception of being  

People are selfish, which is only to be expected. We see the world from our own perspective, after all, a point of view that makes the self-centered approach to life more sensible than any other. I periodically notice this sort of attitude in myself. I often fail to even fully understand the humanity of other people as I deal with them throughout the day. Since I look out at my environment from behind my own eyes, I tend not to even recognize that other people are doing the same, that behind their eyes lie personalities just as vibrant, thoughts just as complex, desires just as illogical, and emotions just as intense and hidden as my own. Sometimes, though, I do notice:

Mrs. Happy and I visited a local eatery last night. We sat and talked, unwinding from a day that was pretty tense for both of us, enjoying the food and each other's company. There came a lull in our conversation. Neither of us said a word for several minutes, then she looked at me and said, with a disgusted expression, "What is it with people wearing things across their butts?" I had no idea what she was talking about. Furthermore, the fact that I had no idea what she was talking about made me wonder whether a question that begins with the words "what is it with" really makes any sense at all. I was trying to decipher the meaning and hopefully the etymology of those four words when I responded by saying quite seriously, "I don't know. What. Is. It. With. That."

Neither of us knew what to say, so she said, "What is it, indeed… with that." We stared at each other for a beat, then burst out laughing. We kept laughing for a long while. When we both stopped, I looked across the table at her. She was still glowing from the laughter. And she was an individual, complete with a vibrant personality, complex thoughts, illogical desires, intense emotions, and an all-encompassing sense of being. Every day I tell her that she's beautiful and I love her. Every week I tell her that she's "such a person."

My periodic realization of individuality in other people always surprises me. My periodic recognition of my wife's humanity overwhelms me, and I thank God for that.


I told a bunch of people just yesterday that I usually update this blog by 7:00 p.m. Eastern time, and here I am already late. My excuse is that I had to play tennis with my wife before darkness fell. We played one set, which she won, of course. But I won two games and took a third to three deuces. I'm getting much better.

Monday, September 15, 2003

An acoustic afternoon  

I stepped out of my comfort zone again yesterday by taking my wife to a concert in Central Park. (Read my post about the last time I left my comfort zone.) The concert, dubbed "An Acoustic Afternoon" by its promoters, featured Mary Chapin Carpenter, Shawn Colvin, Patty Grffin, and Dar Williams. I'm not familiar with any of them (I didn't recognize a single song they played), but an opportunity arose last week for me to get free tickets to the concert, and my wife is a fan of Shawn Colvin. So I got the tickets, and we caught a train into Manhattan right after church on Sunday.

I'm glad we went. The concert was in the format I like best, with the performer(s) talking to the audience and playing their music without making a huge production of it. In this case, the four musicians sat onstage together and just took turns singing. All four sang backup for each other, and their banter between songs felt lively and unrehearsed (at least I can't imagine Shawn Colvin planning ahead to tell a story about how she peed herself in front of 'N Sync at Disney World). For me, the concert highlights included Mary Chapin Carpenter's impression of Julie Andrews auditioning for Oklahoma! and not getting the part, and a collaborative reinterpretation of the Backstreet Boys' I Want It That Way in an acoustic/folk style.

Afterward, we went to our favorite restaurant in Manhattan. Actually, we tried to go to our favorite restaurant in Manhattan. We both know generally where it is—somewhere within a three-block radius of Radio City Music Hall—but neither one of us can ever remember exactly where it is. That, combined with my abysmal sense of direction and insistence on being the leader, makes for a lot of frustrated wandering. Last night we never found our restaurant, which gave us a good opportunity to practice our conflict resolution and forgiveness skills. We ended up eating at a pretty decent pizza place near Rockefeller Center.

Good music, good fall weather, decent food, and excellent company made for a fun evening all around.

If you're ever in Manhattan and looking for a good and inexpensive place to eat, try our favorite restaurant. It's called La Bonne Soup, and it's located on 55th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues (about five blocks away from Radio City Music Hall).


This is the kind of No Parking sign you find in New York.