Saturday, October 04, 2003

Marriage links for the week  

On Saturdays, I usually just collect links from news articles on the web that in some way celebrate marriage. The pickins were slim this week. I found one article that focused on the topic of marriage, called Marriage: Just Say No, by Darren Blacksmith. Hardly a celebration, or even an affirmation, but it caught my attention because the writer's concerns precisely mirror the fears I had about getting married:

After several years of soul-searching, and before I ever met my wife, I came to the following conclusions:

Marriage is a noble and beautiful enterprise if the two people involved are fully devoted to each other. It's worth doing, it's worth preserving, and it's worth celebrating.

How long can a marriage last? As long as you both shall live. How about 75 years? Wow.

I don't know if any of my readers actually pay attention to the link bar at the left, but I made a few changes to it this week:


Friday, October 03, 2003

Kissing threshold  

See the 10/01 installment of Rose is Rose (link will probably expire after 11/01/03). I would post it here, but I think that's illegal.

A husband and wife stand under a tree, their faces turned upward toward the falling leaves. They embrace in a kiss. They join hands and skip away together. To their side appears the text: "Are falling leaves enough reason to kiss someone? If you answered 'Yes,' you may have a below-normal Reason-to-Kiss threshold. Further testing can be fun."

Heh. Our first kiss occurred when I asked the Happy Just-Friend (see About My Marriage for more info) to pretend I had mistletoe in my apartment. We eventually did some more testing, and we still come in at way below the normal threshold.

Please don't kill me, Rey.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Mutual support  

I was going through some of my old files yesterday and found this thing that I wrote a few years ago:

On a recent morning I was in my kitchen preparing lunches for my wife and myself before we headed off to work. I had just finished stuffing some chips into a plastic bag when I heard a small rustling in the pantry. Before I had time to process the implications of the noise, a mouse came scurrying out and ran behind the refrigerator. I am ashamed to say that I screamed. My verbal explosion did not take the form of a manly shout of anger. No, it was a high-pitched, otherworldly scream. The quality of the sound that came out of my mouth jarred me from my fright and prompted me to think, "Was that me?" Mrs. Happy was doing something in the bathroom at the time. She came running into the kitchen, more frightened by my scream than I had been by the mouse. I told her it was only a mouse and started laughing uncontrollably. I laughed even harder when she told me I had sounded like Ned Flanders. My laughter burst forth spasmodically throughout the rest of the day. I suppose it was a nervous reaction to the fright and the embarassment, mixed with a healthy sense of humor about what an incredible dork I can be.

This writing in and of itself has nothing to do with marriage, but it made me remember what the early days were like. We were learning how to live together peacefully, how to help and build each other up. We were making sacrifices and picking up each other's slack. The mouse incident showed us that we could each overcome an attack of the willies—or heebie jeebies for those of you in a different region—in order to save the other person from discomfort.

In this particular case, we set up a glue trap for the mouse so that we could catch and release it without hurting it. When I found the little critter stuck to the trap in the kitchen, I experienced some impressive willies. My wife stepped in and put the trap, mouse and all, into an empty bucket, and we took it out to a nearby park to release it.

This particular brand of glue trap required us to apply vegetable oil to reduce the glue's stickiness, then pry the mouse off with a stick. At the first drop of vegetable oil, the mouse started squealing, which inspired more willies in Mrs. Happy than I've seen before or since. That fortified me to take the trap from her and release the mouse, which crawled away tired and shaken but still alive.

This is, of course, a silly illustration of an important marital concept: mutual support. Twice so far in my marriage I've been out of work for several months, growing more discouraged, depressed, and even fearful every day. Throughout both times my wife was a rock, always positive, encouraging, and loving. After she earned her master's degree, she experienced a huge letdown and loss of personal momentum. I did my best to fortify her spirit and help her get her groove back. I have comforted her through the loss of her grandmother. She has held my hand through some pretty intense family strife. I guess love makes you strong when you know you need to be.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Honey-coated sugar syrup  

The feedback I have received for this site has been for the most part positive. Yesterday, however, I got a small bit of negative feedback from a member of the group I call "my geek friends." He thought yesterday's post was unrealistically sweet.

From: Rey
Sent: Sept. 30, 2003 4:46 PM
To: Curt, Nick, Jerry
Subject: I may have to kill Curt

I don't have an option. I have to do it. this is WAY too...too...I don't know...Barney Sap? It's like PURE SACHARINE!


From: Curt
Sent: Sept. 30, 2003 4:48 PM
To: Nick, Jerry, Rey
Subject: RE: I may have to kill Curt

I would agree with you if this were a work of fiction, but it's a realistic representation of a rainy morning a couple of weeks ago. The only differences are that we were sitting in our car at the time and I didn't abridge the song lyrics. Don't kill me for trying to cheer up my wife.


From: Rey
Sent: Sept. 30, 2003 4:51 PM
To: Nick, Curt, Jerry
Subject: RE: I may have to kill Curt

do you guys EVER fight? get nauseous? ANYTHING?!?!? I mean, you guys are like the SMURFS!!!

you can quote me on that. =)

It went on like that for a while, back and forth. My geek friends don't do much work after 4:45.

Anyway, the truth is that Mrs. Happy and I do fight. We pick playfully at each other quite a bit, and sometimes the picking goes too far. The scene I illustrated yesterday might easily have turned into strong words spoken with stern voices had Mrs. Happy been in a slightly worse mood to begin with or I in a slightly more annoying temperament.

We also have serious arguments (some might even label them "fights") that involve fundamental disagreements and deeply hurt feelings. We work through them, though. We have to. We are accustomed to enjoying each other's company, and when our moods, circumstances, and opinions put us in contention with one another, the world just doesn't seem right. So we talk things through, we look at each other's perspective, we sacrifice, we forgive, and we, uh…make up.

We don't live like the Smurfs, thank goodness (their peaceful, pastoral existence doesn't exactly stand up to much scrutiny anyway). We might more accurately be compared to Rob and Laura Petrie, or perhaps Rose is Rose with a little more conflict. The conflict always comes, but it brings growth and intimacy with it, along with a healthy dose of friskiness.

Mrs. Happy is this blog's editor. She reads everything before I post it, and by doing so has saved me from embarrassing errors several times. As she read this post, I could hear her muttering, "…that's not even how you spell saccharine…Smurfs? Shut up…" and so on. Then she pointed out that in the paper bag comic, she was in a snippy bad mood until the last three frames and I was being annoying the whole time. Nothing sappy about that.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Here comes the rain again  

Several days ago I blogged about how I used to draw little cartoons on my wife's lunch bag. The very day that I posted those pictures, I received a suggestion from numerous people (by which I mean more than zero and fewer than two, all of them named Nick) to create a sort of comic strip in that style. I can't argue with my adoring public, so here is a completely original paper-bag comic, based on actual events. Click on the image below to see the full strip, and don't be afraid to scroll to the right. And please keep in mind that I'm neither a professional nor even amateur artist, illustrator, or designer, and my handwriting is horrible.

I mentioned Dr Pepper in yesterday's post. I come from Texas, where Dr Pepper is the soda (or coke, as we say in Texas) of choice. My bringing attention to the fact that Dr Pepper has no period in the Dr abbreviation prompted this message from Jeff, perhaps the most prominent honorary citizen of the fascinating town of Peachwater, Texas:

The period after Dr was dropped in 1950 to improve legibility on the 6.5 inch bottles of the time.

Unofficial Dr Pepper Page:

Fairly unrelated:
Claim: Coca-Cola is an effective spermicide.

And, in case you're interested, here's the official Dr Pepper Web site.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Essential humor  

Mrs. Happy and I met some friends Saturday evening to see a movie called Lost in Translation, starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. Bill Murray plays Bob, a famous actor whose career is on a downward spiral, though he can still generate a significant income ($2 million for a week's work) endorsing a Japanese whiskey. While in Japan, he meets Charlotte (Johansson), an American who's in Japan to be with her photographer husband while he takes pictures of a rock band. Though they are at different stages of life (she's young and newly married, he has two kids and a raging midlife crisis), they find each other and develop a (completely non-sexual) friendship that comforts them both.

A couple of scenes really stuck out to me. In one, Charlotte asks Bob if marriage gets any easier. I paid special attention to his reply so I could write it down later, but this is probably not verbatim:

That's hard. We had a lot of fun in the beginning. She would come with me whenever I was shooting a movie, and we would laugh about everything. Later, though, she didn't want to leave the kids. We don't spend that much time together any more.

You can read a lot into that, but one thing I see (which is borne out through phone conversations with his wife) is that Bob and his wife have fallen into the trap of taking themselves and each other too seriously. They have lost the ability to laugh with/at each other. That's death to a marriage.

Last night, Mrs. Happy and I were watching TV (the season premiere of The Practice, if you're interested) together. During a commercial, we had the following conversation:

her: Do we have any of that Dr Pepper left?
me: I don't think so. I'll check… <walks to the kitchen and opens the refrigerator> No, it's all gone.
her: There's no apple juice either, is there?
me: Nope.
her: So we don't have anything to drink?
me: <walks back to the living room> There's some milk.
her: No there's not.
me: Yes there is. I bought some today.
her: Oh.
me: It's two percent, though. (note: Mrs. Happy prefers whole milk for drinking and two percent for cooking.)
her: Okay, I guess I'll just have that.

I poured her a glass of milk, brought it to her in the living room, and turned the light off to enhance the atmosphere of our The Practice experience. A few seconds later her whole body went into a violent spasm, and she stopped just short of spewing a mouthful of two percent milk all over the living room. She glared at me and said, "I thought you were giving me water!"

Being the sensitive soul that I am, I laughed hysterically. And after she got over the initial shock, she laughed too. It turns out that she had said to me, "Okay, I guess I'll just have water," rather than, "Okay, I guess I'll just have that."

I've known married couples who would find no humor in something like that, who in fact would find nothing but offense and an excuse to fight for days. Mrs. Happy and I don't take ourselves or each other that seriously. We both laugh when either of us does or says something stupid or weird, issues forth some sort of bodily-function-related noise, cooks pasta with marinade instead of marinara (I did that), or causes a glass dish to spontaneously combust (she did that). We've been married nearly five-and-a-half years and we haven't lost our collective sense of humor. I hope we never do.

Before you e-mail me to tell me I made a punctuation mistake, look at Dr Pepper's official Web site. There really is no period.