Saturday, January 03, 2004

Showin' love link-style  

Since I began this Web site, I've received a good bit of encouragement from others online. I actually got a big confidence boost yesterday from Travis at food for fish <>< in yesterday's comments section, and an even bigger boost (in terms of both validation and traffic) from ireneQ in her blog yesterday. Others have sent me notes of encouragement over the past few months and/or plugged me from their own sites. I always try to respond personally, but I don't always get a chance to do so publicly. So today I'm adding a new category of links to the left-hand column called "Blogs with exquisite taste." These are sites that link to me and point their readers here, but that I may not get a chance to read as regularly as I would like. Most of them have many times the number of readers that I have, so their support has been a huge encouragement. I list them in roughly the order that I became aware of them. They're all good, so check them out:

Clarity amidst Chaos
Dr. Adrian Warnock's UK Christian Blog
blogging: mccord style
Patriot Paradox
The Wilderness
Adrian Warnock's UK Blog
Blogdom of God
King of Fools
Broken Masterpieces
Tuesday Morning
My Imagination
food for fish <><

If you link to me from your site and I've missed you, please let me know in a comment or an e-mail. And thank you for your support.

Friday, January 02, 2004

Chemicals and marriage  

I sometimes have a tendency to think too highly of myself. Case in point: I like to think that I am in complete control of my actions, decisions, and words no matter how I might feel physically or emotionally. Eighteen months ago, my underactive thyroid quickly and firmly disabused me of that notion. For nearly a year, I had been getting tired easily, dissolving into tears for little or no reason, snapping at my wife, and generally being no fun at all. I didn't realize anything was wrong with me until I saw my doctor for a routine physical. She said my thyroid levels were low, prescribed me some medication, and sent me to an endocrinologist. The thyroid condition wasn't serious, so I just continued on the medication. A few weeks after I started taking it, something strange happened. One day, my wife and I were teasing and tickling each other, laughing a lot, and being extremely silly, and I got a strange feeling of nostalgia or déjà vu or something similar. I couldn't quite place the feeling for a while, but then suddenly recognized it. I stopped laughing, looked at my wife, and said, "I'm myself!"

I think it's a credit to our marriage and Mrs. Happy's knowledge of me that she didn't immediately cart me off to the nearest mental hospital. Instead, she smiled sweetly and said, "Yeah. You are." She knew exactly what I meant. I meant that I have always been silly and affectionate with her, that I hadn't been that way for quite some time, and that I had finally returned to that state. However much I wanted to believe that my will is stronger than my body chemistry, that I can be exactly the same person no matter how well or ill I feel, the truth is that a low level of whatever hormones the thyroid produces sent me into a tailspin.

It made me realize that I can't take too much credit for the way I treat my wife. And now I know better than ever that I need to keep working to better myself so that even when I'm at my worst I can still be a good, strong, and happy husband.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Layoff recovery  

I'd like to thank everyone who has offered up prayers for me and my wife the past couple of days. My wife has been fluctuated between sadness, anger, and relief—now she doesn't have to work on Saturdays—over the layoff, but emotions are settling down and we're beginning to assess our situation and explore a variety of options. That's what happens when things change: you have to assess, explore, and opt.

Anyway, I've done my best to be supportive and encouraging without smothering her with sympathy. Tuesday afternoon, Mrs. Happy brought home her best friend and partner/coworker, another layoff casualty, and I took them both out to dinner. Then we came home and spent the evening telling stories, sharing memories, laughing a lot, and even singing songs along with my ukulele accompaniment. It was 1:00 a.m. before we said good-bye. Yesterday, we spent a relaxing and enjoyable evening with my mother and her husband. Today, I took her to Best Buy so we could spend a little of our Christmas cash (grandparents are awesome!) and she picked out a CD/DVD from Coldplay, one of her favorite bands.

Right now I need to get back to her so we can spend some quality time before I return to work tomorrow. Again, thanks for all the prayers.

Wednesday, December 31, 2003

More tomorrow  

I have guests at my house today, and guests trump blogging. They'll be on a plane back to Texas tomorrow, though, so please check back tomorrow evening.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Unemployment  

I was laid off from my job with Dell Computer Corp. nearly two years ago. It really hurt. Every day that I didn't have a job I felt more like a failure as a husband and as a man, and I didn't feel any better until I finally started working again three-and-a-half months later. If not for Mrs. Happy's constant encouragement and expressions of love and utter faith in me throughout that time, I don't know how I would have coped at all. Now it's my turn to encourage.

She called me today to let me know she was one of the first casualties in a round of layoffs where she works. Her not having a job complicates things for us. It delays our saving for a house, planning for a child, and preparing for the future. It doesn't kill us, though, or even put us in financial danger. We have made it a point to live a lifestyle that we can maintain on my salary alone.

As I'm writing this, she hasn't come home yet. She's still cleaning out her stuff, preparing her space for whatever person with seniority takes over her function. We haven't had a real chance to talk about how she feels, so at this point I can only guess. I think it's safe to say she's upset. However, her reaction to unemployment will be a little different from mine. She will undoubtedly feel bad that we have to delay a few major life decisions, but the monetary concerns will not devastate her. As I said, we can survive on my salary alone. One big difference between her layoff and mine, though, is that I didn't particularly like my job, while she absolutely loves hers.

When I worked at Dell, I wrote technical manuals explaining how to install and operate server management software. Believe it or not, that gets boring after a while. A while more, and it comes to be tedious. Eventually, one grows to despise it, which I certainly did. In a way, my being laid off actually improved my work situation because it forced me to find a better, more palatable job. For Mrs. Happy, on the other hand, the job she just lost was almost her dream job. She has two passions, and her job fused both of them.

Her first passion is art. She has always loved to express herself through acts of creativity, and encouraged others to do the same. She has inspired me to do so on more that one occasion (you may not appreciate the quality of my work, but I think the sincerity transcends the artistic value). Her second passion is people, particularly people no one wants to deal with, people who need more attention than anyone else. She feels a strong desire to help them, to make them feel like someone cares, to make them emotionally and spiritually strong enough to heal themselves. In her job, she uses art to enable people express the (sometimes hurricane-force) turbulence of their inner selves. She helps people make sense of their own thoughts and better understand their own needs.

She helps the people I believe Jesus would be drawn to, and they flock to her in much the same way they would to Him. She offers them grace and non-judgment, and they respond with love and admiration. As we spoke on the phone earlier, she read me a letter written from one of the people under her care addressed to the top administrator at the institution where she works. The letter expressed overtly hostile feelings and questioned the condition and destination of any soul that would prevent such an obviously remarkable young woman from helping people the way she does. It was a testament to the effect she has on people, though that particular client probably has some work left to do on his anger management issues.

My point is that while my layoff shook my confidence and made me feel like a failure, her layoff actually steals from her an enormous source of personal fulfillment. Not that she will never have another job like it—there is probably an even better job somewhere waiting for her—and not that her job is her only source of fulfillment. But the loss is significant, and I only hope that in the coming months I can be as much an encouragement to her as she was to me.

Monday, December 29, 2003

Soup and movies  

I got to do two things this past weekend that I've been wanting to do for a long time.

First, I ordered soup from the real-life Soup Nazi of Seinfeld fame (click on the image to see full-size photos). I have never really understood the nickname. Even on the show, he did not advocate the rise of one race or the destruction of another. He did not rebuild a country out of the ashes only to create a war machine bent on world domination. He was just stern, gruff, and strict to the point of intolerance. I would have called him the Soup Stickler or Tyrant or Despot or something, but maybe that doesn't have the same ring. Anyway, the character is based on a real guy named Al Yeganeh, and he refers to himself as The Soup Man and scoffs at his Seinfeldian nickname. His place is called Al's Soup Kitchen International and it's on 55th St. and 8th Ave. in Manhattan. Al himself is pretty gruff and unsmiling, but I didn't see him refuse soup to anyone. The restaurant itself differs from the place as portrayed on Seinfeld in that no customers are allowed inside, since the entire inside is pretty much occupied by the kitchen. You order from the sidewalk (fresh, hot soup or refrigerated, reheatable soup) and find your own place to eat. The rules for ordering as portrayed on TV were no exaggeration. This sign appeared in no fewer than five languages at the counter:

FOR THE MOST EFFICIENT AND FASTEST SERVICE
THE LINE MUST BE KEPT MOVING.

The quality of the soup was also no exaggeration. I ordered the chicken and vegetable soup, and it was without a doubt the best soup I have ever eaten, even if I couldn't identify every ingredient (there were some big, bulbous, yellow things floating around that I have never seen in my life). All in all, a good experience. And, having also eaten at the diner that provides the exterior shot of Seinfeld's coffee shop last year, I have now had my fill of Seinfeld experiences.

Second, I finally took my wife to see The Return of the King, a satisfying end to perhaps the best movie trilogy ever. Mrs. Happy generally eschews any form of entertainment that suggests science fiction, fantasy, or superhero comics. I've had to find others to accompany me to T3, X-Men, the last two Matrix movies, and Underworld, and I had to see Freddy vs. Jason all by myself. But she saw the first two Lord of the Rings films with me, and though she has protested every day since ROTK opened, she finally agreed to see it. I loved it, she enjoyed it, and as long as she doesn't hold it over my head for more than a few days, we'll consider it a successful outing. Now I'll probably have to take her to see Mona Lisa Smile to make up for it, but marriage often involves give-and-take, and I'm happy to do it. I've discovered a few gems by seeing movies I had no interest in (Gothika and He Loves Me…He Loves Me Not, to name a couple), and she's had her horizons expanded by a couple of movies I dragged her to (she enjoyed both Spider-Man and The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys). Marriage and movies don't always mesh, but it's a beautiful thing when they do.


Check out the Where We're From page for a new poem from Tina. Also take a look at her blog. Keep those poems coming!