Saturday, February 28, 2004

Marriage links for the week  

Alan at Imago Veritatis examines the question: What is marriage?

University researchers hit upon a novel idea. Instead of studying the things that tear marriages apart, they decide to examine marriages that survive extreme conflict.

Too many people forget the in sickness part of "in sickness and in health."

I've tried twice to do something like this, but lost my nerve at the last second.

There's something oddly peaceful and habit-forming about this game, though even after winning I'd be hard-pressed to explain it.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Quote  

I don't have much time to write today, so I just looked for a few pithy quotes about marriage in my Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. All the quotes I found slyly disparaged the idea of marriage, although this one seemed to slyly promote it.

"Wen you're a married man, Samivel, you'll understand a good many things as you don't understand now; but vether it's worth while goin' through so much to learn so little, as the charity-boy said ven he got to the end of the alphabet, is a matter o' taste."

—Charles Dickens, Pickwick Papers

If you know any witty, pithy quotes that celebrate marriage, please share them in the comments.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Emotional intimacy  

I left home at the age of 18 to attend a college a thousand miles away from my nearest parent (2500 km). There, for the first time in my life, I had to share a bedroom. I was fortunate to get along well with my assigned roommate. We had very little in common, but his friendliness and easy-going attitude made up for my extreme introversion and morose tendencies. Chad and I became friends in spite of our differences. Though we didn't hang out much outside of the dorm, in the confines of our room we conversed and confided and laughed and complained and rejoiced as each day required. Whatever unpleasant thing might have been disrupting our lives, our room was a safe haven.

I especially enjoyed the discussions we would have after the lights went out. We would lay in our beds and talk across the room about anything that might occur to us. During that time when we were tired, relaxed, and on the verge of sleep, facades fell, imaginations ran wild, and we would discuss deep theological ideas as well as fatigue-induced nonsense with equal intensity until unconsciousness overtook one or both of us.

On one such night, our discussion lulled into several minutes of silence that I thought signaled the end of the conversation. I had cleared my mind to prepare for sleep when Chad said, "You know, this is great and all, but I can't wait to be married. I mean you and I are friends, and that's great, but some day I'm gonna have a wife, and she'll be my best friend in the world, and we'll go to bed at night and be able to talk about absolutely anything for as long as we want. That'll be so nice." Having recently left the Army, he was several years older than I was and had a more mature perspective on life, love, and relationships than I did. I immediately thought of a few other benefits a wife could provide that I felt were more important than late-night rap sessions. I told him as much, sending our conversation in an entirely different direction, but I never forgot what he said.

Thirteen years later I find myself living the dream. Some of the most enjoyable and intimate conversations I have with Mrs. Happy occur when the lights go out and we let go of everything the world threw at us during the daytime hours. At those times we can truly be emotionally intimate. At those times we can be mutually vulnerable. We can laugh, we can cry, we can argue, we can tease, we can lower all barriers, and let go of every inhibition without fear. There is no greater intimacy than mutual vulnerability, and that intimacy strengthens our love and trust and builds up our relationship every day.

Chad was right. It's so nice.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Protecting marriage  

I usually try to keep this site focused on its stated purpose of celebrating marriage in a hostile world. I write about things that I hope will encourage, and maybe enlighten, anyone who reads these pages. I write about topics that hopefully inspire a response from readers who can then encourage me as well as each other. My goal is to foster mutual encouragement among people who love marriage and feel little encouragement elsewhere. Because of that, I usually stay away from controversial issues. One time I wrote about same-sex marriage in what I thought was a sensitive manner, focusing on healing a sacred institution rather than on attacking those who wanted to expand its legal definition. That post inspired debate rather than encouragement. I almost regretted writing it. While I enjoy a good, healthy debate and exchange of differing opinions (and I must admit that that debate was both civil and thoughtful), that is not the goal of this blog.

Sometimes, though, controversies just can't be avoided.

Yesterday, President Bush called on Congress to draft an amendment to the U.S. Constitution defining marriage as the legal union between one man and one woman. He said that passing a law would not be enough, since "activist courts" would undoubtedly strike down any such law as unconstitutional. For the record, I agree with him. I hate that the issue has even come up. I hate that marriage and the morals of society have fallen so far as to make this necessary. I wish society respected marriage enough to make the debate irrelevant. Sadly, such is not the case.

I believe society still respects the idea of marriage if not the practice. That same-sex couples want to marry shows that the noble ideal of an emotional, legal, spiritual, and lifelong commitment between two individuals still has enough appeal to inspire even non-traditional participation. That divorce rates continue to rise, that increasing numbers of children are born to non-committed parents, that marriage is ridiculed more than it is revered shows that society cares less every day about the practice of marriage.

Government exists in large part to protect the things that are important to us. The practice of marriage obviously is not important to many, many people. I believe, however, that much of society still values the idea of marriage, an idea that would lose its meaning, and therefore its value, with the first step onto the slippery slope of redefining it. So the federal government is now in the position of needing to protect an idea while neglecting that idea's practice. That puts Congress and the president between a contradictory rock and a hypocritical hard place, making the debate all the more difficult.

I don't foresee marriage or divorce laws improving any time soon, but I'll never give up on marriage. If the government can't make marriage work, then society must. I'm going to continue doing my small part to make that happen. And while the government can't make people love each other, honor their commitments, and treat each other well, it can do something to protect the idea of marriage. That's what I believe this amendment will do, and that's why I'll support it.

I think it will probably be a long time before I comment on political events again. Until then, I'll leave you with these words that closed the president's address yesterday:

America is a free society, which limits the role of government in the lives of our citizens. This commitment of freedom, however, does not require the redefinition of one of our most basic social institutions. Our government should respect every person, and protect the institution of marriage. There is no contradiction between these responsibilities. We should also conduct this difficult debate in a manner worthy of our country, without bitterness or anger.

In all that lies ahead, let us match strong convictions with kindness and goodwill and decency.

 

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Stupid Millionaire  

 

When they state that the ticket does not guarantee a seat, they mean it. After spending $35 on train and subway travel, we arrived at ABC studios (promptly at 5:15 p.m., as the ticket required, even though the taping did not start until 7:00 p.m.) and found ourselves at the end of a very long queue. We had been waiting for about five minutes when a man with an official ID and clipboard came and vertically chopped the air in front of us with his forearm, constructing an imaginary wall, and said, "Okay, we're filled to capacity, so everyone from here to the end of the line might as well leave because there'll be nowhere for them to sit."

I tried to argue with him, but to no avail. I told him I had taken off work and travelled many miles to be there, but he said other people had flown in from out of town and had still been turned away. He said people had been waiting in line since 2:00. He said there was nothing he could do. He was just a lowly peon with no more authority than the dog poop someone had failed to scoop off the sidewalk not five feet away from him. Yelling at him would have produced nothing but hard feelings, so we left graciously.

I was disappointed that I would not get to see the taping and, according to the guy with the clipboard, would never get another chance since the shows are all completely booked up through the remainder of Regis Philbin's life. My wife was disappointed for me, though she didn't have the same level of interest as I did. I love quiz shows, and I've been a fan of Millionaire ever since it premiered. I've auditioned for it at every opportunity. Many times I have passed the first qualifying round (of three), but I've never received a call for the second round. Mrs. Happy has supported me in that, sitting with me as I try to answer qualifying questions over the phone. She has also auditioned herself on the off chance that she might become one of the randomly chosen people to advance to the second round of auditions. I love her.

By the way, neither of us qualified for any of the February shows, so you won't be seeing us on TV any time soon.

Anyway, we left the ABC studios, took a stroll through Central Park, and had a nice dinner at our favorite Manhattan restaurant, La Bonne Soupe. We even found it without much difficulty, unlike the last time we went. Even though there were disappointments, it turned out to be an enjoyable evening.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Nothing today  

Mrs. Happy and I have tickets to see a taping of the new Super Millionaire tonight, so I won't get a chance to write anything of substance until tomorrow.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Marriage links for the week  

Rev. Sensing of One Hand Clapping Wrote several posts this week on same-sex marriage. The issue is really coming to a head here in the United States, with passionate debate on all sides. Rev. Sensing says some thought-provoking things, and though I wholeheartedly disagree with several of his opinions, they're still worth reading:

1. The "gay marriage" controversy: Traditionalists need to get a clue - we lost this fight 40 years ago.

2. Separate the legal and the spiritual in the wedding business: Let the state do the former and the Church the latter; my solution to the "gay marriage" impasse.

3. What makes a thing a thing? The Problem of Universals and defining what is marriage.

4. Answering Andrew Sullivan's "simple question": explaining Jesus' silence on homosexuality.

I don't know how I missed this last week. A Florida newspaper tells the love stories of several local couples.

This is not an endorsement of any disgusting, blasphemous, socially destructive, hilarious, hysterical cartoon, but at the South Park Studios Web site, you can design your own South Park character. This is what I would look like in South Park:

Friday, February 20, 2004

New link  

I've been meaning to update the links in my sidebar for a while now. The URL for Peachwater, Tx. has changed slightly, and now I've updated that. Mainly, though, I'd like to call attention to Ryan's Head, a new link in the Personal Blogs section. I've been reading Ryan's blog for some time now and feeling a sort of kinship since he dearly loves his wife (whom he refers to as Ms. Lovechunk) and says so. Lately, though, I've just been too lazy to mess with my template and add that link.

Ryan has written a couple of recent posts about family that reminded me why I need to link to him. He also said some very kind things about me in a recent post and e-mail message, which made me feel guilty for being so lazy about the link. Plus, I just looked to see how long he's been blogging, and the earliest post in his archives just happens to have been on my birthday (June 26) last year. So now I've finally gotten off my figurative butt and added the link. It's there, now, and should remain there permanently. Please take a look at his site and see how another happy husband lives.

Also, Ryan and his wife are expecting a baby any day now. Very exciting.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Word games  

Yesterday I mentioned some of the games that Mrs. Happy and I play at home. There are a couple of other games we play on the road and away from home, generally while we're in the car or on the train. Today, I thought I'd share those games, and hopefully they can provide entertainment for others as well.

Word Mastermind

This is a take on the traditional game Mastermind that usually involves colored pegs or numerical digits.

  1. Both players agree upon a number (we usually use 5), and one player (hereafter referred to as P1) thinks of a word with that many letters.
  2. Player 2 (P2) thinks of a word with the designated number of letters and says it out loud.
  3. P1 compares P2's word with his own, then tells P2 how many letters the two words have in common and how many letters hold the same position in each word. For example, if P1 is thinking of WITCH and P2 says TINGE, P1 mentally compares them both, finds that both words contain a T and an I and that the I is the second letter in both words. He then tells P2, "There are two letters in common, and one is in the right position."
  4. P2 makes note of the information and guesses again with another word. P1 compares the new word with the word he chose at the beginning and tells P2 the results of the comparison. For example, if P2 guesses GREAT, P1 would then say, "One letter in common, none in the right position."
  5. Players repeat the process until P2 guesses the word correctly.

We generally disallow plural words ending in S. A game might go something like this:

P2: Uh, let's see…how about SPEED.
P1: None in common, none in the right position.
P2: HANDY.
P1: Two and zero.
P2: BRAND.
P1: Three and three.
P2: BLAND.
P1: Four and four.
P2: BLANK.
P1: Well played.
(It actually never goes that quickly, but hopefully you get the idea.)

You can set a limit on the number of guesses, or just play until P2 finds the correct word. You can also try a variation in which both players pick a word, then take turns trying to guess each other's word. That method has the advantage of providing a clear-cut method for determining a winner.

Race to the Finish

This game requires a little more strategy and forethought.

  1. P1 and P2 (this can be played with as many players as you like, but it gets a little hairy if you have more than four) agree on a number, usually no less than five.
  2. P1 thinks of a word containing a number of letters equal to or greater than the agreed upon number, then tells P2 only the first letter of the word.
  3. P2 thinks of a word of sufficient length that begins with the letter spoken by P1. P2 then tells P1 the second letter of that word. P2's word need not be the same as P1's.
  4. P1 thinks of a word of sufficient length that begins with the two letters the players have chosen. P1 then tells P2 the third letter of that word.
  5. The two players continue taking turns adding a letter to the letters already spoken until one of them adds a letter that forms a complete word containing a number of letters equal to or greater than the agreed upon number. The player who does that wins.

That sounds confusing when written out, but in practice it's fairly simple. Here's a typical game in which the two players have agreed to build a word of at least five letters:

P1: A. (thinking of the word ABSTAIN)
P2: B. (thinking of ABJECT)
P1: S. (thinking, "Aha! This is working out!")
P2: O. (forced to abandon ABJECT, considers ABSOLUTE)
P1: L. (thinking, "Crap, ABSTAIN doesn't work now. I'll go for ABSOLVE.")
P2: U. ("ABSOLUTE has eight letters. That would give me the win.")
P1: T. ("Crap again. The only word that starts with ABSOLU is ABSOLUTE. I'm gonna lose.")
P2: E. ABSOLUTE. I win!

It's important to note that players cannot just throw out random letters. They must always be able to complete the word using the letters they have played. At any time, P1 may give up and challenge P2 to complete the word using the last letter played by P2, and vice versa of course.

Both of these games pass the time and stimulate the mind. Try 'em out.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

The games we play  

My Great Uncle Richard and Aunt Neita used to play at least one card, dice, or board game together every day. I don't know how long they were married before Uncle Richard died, but it was somewhere around 50 years, and they were one of the happiest, sweetest couples I've ever known. I don't know whether game playing was a root or a flower in their relationship, but it was definitely something they loved doing. The infectious humor that infused their marriage spilled over into their games and then back into their daily lives.

After playing a game of Boggle with my wife yesterday (and again today—this time she only beat me 106 to 104, so I'm getting better) I reflected on the fact that we haven't played a game together in quite a while. We used to spend a lot of time playing games, doing jigsaw puzzles, and filling out crosswords together. Somewhere along the way, though, we seem to have become more interested in television than in shared activities. I think now that we have the game juices flowing again, we'll probably make more of an effort to set aside some time for mutual amusement.

These are some of our favorite two-player games:

Mrs. Happy and I love games, due in large part to the fact that we both possess a competitive streak. Some people find it off-putting when they try to play with us. "It's only a game," they say. I believe that too. A game's outcome doesn't affect the world at large, or even my own life beyond the game's duration. But saying "it's only a game" doesn't change the fact that a game exists for the purpose of competition, and that every legitimate competition has a winner, and that I want that winner to be me. Otherwise, what's the point of playing at all? We grow closer and learn more about each other through competition. It's one way we learn not to take ourselves too seriously.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Boggle  

My wife loves word games. Even though she's an artist and I'm a writer, she regularly beats me in Scrabble and Boggle, though there are a couple of other games we play in which I fare slightly better. For a long time, she's been wanting the Deluxe edition of Boggle, which uses letter cubes on a 25-square grid rather than the standard 16-square. I wanted to get it for her for Christmas, but couldn't find it anywhere. Every time I see a toy or game store, I check to see if they have it, always without success. Even Amazon doesn't list it. I was beginning to think that the edition was limited and no longer being made.

Today, however, I went to lunch with my geek friends and we checked out a toy store next to the pizza place where we ate. While they critiqued the selections in the sci-fi action figures section, I looked and found the holy grail of Boggle editions. So I bought it and brought it home. Now Mrs. Happy is itching to play, so RLTB.

Update: Mrs. Happy wins 121 – 78.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Laughter  

I mentioned recently that most successful couples share a similar sense of humor. It's true for Mrs. Happy and me. We don't take ourselves or each other all that seriously, try to keep a playful outlook on life, and laugh at every opportunity. One problem we have, though, is that I don't laugh out loud very much. I tend to say things like, "Heh, that's funny," instead of letting loose with a hearty guffaw.

Not that I never laugh. Sometimes something catches me off guard and tickles me to the point that I laugh both loud and long, and sometimes just one or the other. My wife can't figure out and can never predict what will make me laugh out loud, and usually the thing that makes me laugh (more often than not it's something she herself says or does) is something she doesn't find the least bit funny.

Earlier today we were watching the President's Day Law and Order Marathon on TNT. During a commercial break, an ad came on for a movie called "Bad Apple starring Chris Noth. Brought to you by Cat Chow." My wife, sitting in her green denim bean bag chair, commented, "I'd be embarrassed to star in a movie brought to us by Cat Chow." That was the funniest thing I had heard all day. I laughed out loud, left my seat on the couch, crawled over to her, and kissed her, laughing the whole time.

Sometimes she tries to be funny and I don't notice. Sometimes she says something witty and intelligent and I smile. Sometimes she makes a joke and I say, "Heh, that's funny." But sometimes she makes me laugh out loud, typically when she can't understand and I can't explain the humor I see. It works the other way too. She gets hysterical over Nickelodeon's Ren & Stimpy while I don't understand how it ever became popular. Still, our individual senses of humor overlap enough that we laugh together a lot, and plan to do so for the rest of our lives.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Marriage links for the week  

According to Theognome, many women suffer from Ugly Wife Syndrome, caused in most cases by an overflow of Stupid Husband Myopia.

Irene reflects on her friend's wedding.

Dr. Warnock provides a ready-made Valentine's poem and gives everyone permission to use it as they need it.

Twenty-five teenage couples graduated from a Long Island high school in the early fifties and got married soon thereafter. Fifty years later, not one of those couples has divorced.

This is sad, but if two people date for 45 years without so much as an engagement ring to show for it, it's probably time to move on.

Friday, February 13, 2004

V-Day  

I've always thought that the Hallmark Company, in conjunction with whatever government officials they had donated lots of money to, thought up the idea of Valentine's Day in an effort to get people to buy more cards and candy. About five seconds of research this morning taught me otherwise. Here are two entries from my Dictionary of Phrase and Fable:

Valentine.  Valentine, St.  A priest of Rome who was imprisoned for succouring persecuted Christians. He became a convert himself, and although he restored the sight of his gaoler's blind daughter, he was martyred by being clubbed to death (February 14, 269).

St. Valentine's Day.  February 14th, the day when, according to ancient tradition, the birds choose their mates for the year. It was an old custom in England to draw lots for lovers on this day, the person drawn being the drawer's valentine, and given a present, sometimes of an expensive kind, but oftener of a pair of gloves. The valentine is now frequently represented by a greeting card of a sentimental, humorous, or merely vulgar character. The custom is said to have had its origin in a pagan practice connected with the worship of Juno on or about this day.

So our celebration of Valentine's Day seems to be sort of an ancient pagan ritual given a Christian name and heavily marketed by card stores, candy makers, and florists. Still, I will commemorate the day by paying even more attention to my wife than I usually do.

I recently came across a collection of letters I wrote to a friend from 1992–1994. I wrote them all before I had even heard of e-mail and the Internet. About half of them I wrote by hand, before I even had access to a computer. My friend (Matt) actually saved all the letters, copied them, and collected them into a binder a couple of years ago and gave them to me. It's almost like a journal of my life in the years before I met Mrs. Happy.

One of the letters is particularly appropriate today. I wrote it in 1993:

It's Valentine's Day and I don't have a girlfriend. But contrary to popular belief, that's no big tragedy. Valentine's Day does, nevertheless, stir up some wonderfully painful memories of grade school days. It seems that I always had a crush on a girl when Valentine's Day came around, and it always suffered the same pitiful end. Since we had to give a Valentine card to everyone in our class, I would pick out the most romantic card I had (usually something along the lines of a picture of a cartoon cat saying, "Purrrrty please, would you be my Valentine?"), or else I would "accidentally" give two cards to the object of my affection. Neither of these unbelievably romantic gestures ever seemed to work. I never received a hug or a kiss or a "Yes, I'll be your Valentine, you big pussycat!" or an "I'll be TWICE the Valentine you thought I'd be." Invariably, my crush would simple hand me a card with a picture of a dog and the caption "Let's be pals!" Some things never change. Let's hope Valentine's Day isn't one of them.

Valentine's Day has changed for me. It is one of the two days of the year that I almost have to get dressed up and take my wife to a fancy restaurant. I personally prefer tangible gifts to fine dining, but Mrs. Happy truly enjoys going upscale once in a while. I want her to feel especially special on Valentine's Day, though, so I'll treat my Valentine to a nice dinner and enjoy every minute of it.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Christian Carnival IV  

Be sure to check out this week's Christian Carnival over at King of Fools.

Long-term harmony  

A single friend of mine recently signed up at eHarmony. He has tried other online dating services without success, but he told me today that eHarmony seems to be a breed apart. Instead of focusing on common interests, they focus on common sensibilities, expectations, and goals. Every member fills out an extensive questionnaire, then receives messages from the service about other compatible members. These members may then choose whether to communicate or not with a questionnaire of their own design, with questions they choose from a long list supplied by the service. One of the possible questions intrigued me:

Besides love, what one trait have you noticed in couples that have maintained a successful relationship for many years?

This differs from the typical "What makes a marriage work?" question in several ways. First, it is objective and based on observation rather than speculation. Rather than asking "What actions and/or habits do you think a marriage needs to succeed," it asks, "What characteristics do you see in successful marriages?" Second, it is descriptive rather that prescriptive. It focuses on what is rather than on what should be. This is important, because the assertions of all the psychological and sociological literature in the world do not even begin to measure up to a single, real example of a man and woman who have spent 40 years together and still love each other more than their own lives. Third, it does not assume that a long-term, intact marriage is a default success. Plenty of failed marriages last many, many years.

I'm not familiar with many long, successful marriages. In the few that I do know, I notice that they all have a common faith.

I asked Mrs. Happy this question, and she said almost immediately "a shared sense of humor."

I'd love to hear others' observations. Remember, the question concerns an observable trait rather than a hidden attitude—results rather than causes.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

A new perspective on an old poem  

Marriage has taught me the difference between isolation and loneliness. Loneliness is an emotion you feel when no one is around. A person living a life full of love can still feel lonely in the absence of loved ones. Isolation is more of a psychological condition in which a person cuts himself off from emotional connections with other people. You can feel isolated in a room full of people as easily as when you're at home alone. I am rarely lonely nowadays since Mrs. Happy and I are almost always together. I still experience periods of isolation because my natural inclinations lead me to withdraw into myself whenever I feel a little "off." I have to fight against that tendency toward isolation because I don't want to cut myself off from my wife. It's difficult, but it gets easier every day.

Marriage has also taught me that my desire for physical contact, though it sometimes manifests itself in less than ideal ways, has its roots in something good and pure. I wish I could go back to the teenage Curt and tell him how to assuage that desire in a good and pure way. I don't know what I would tell him, though, since the only healthy way I have found to slake that thirst is with a wife. I would definitely tell him to guard his thoughts and stop his bad habits before they start. I would tell him that destructive thought patterns don't automatically go away when you get married, and how much better his life will be when he achieves a good level of self-control. The problem is, though, that the teenage Curt knew all that and still pined and fantasized and let thoughts run wild. College-aged Curt even wrote a whole poem about how he knew better and constantly failed in his struggle to keep his thoughts pure.

Adult Curt is doing better, but still struggles daily, knowing that a daily struggle is much easier and healthier than a periodic purging of impurity.

These things entered my mind today because I came across an old notebook containing sort of a journal I wrote in college. I had written a poem on one of the pages. In my life, I have written three poems that stayed in my mind beyond the day that I wrote them. The first one I wrote in high school. It dealt with the eternal struggle between men and women over whether a man should ever move the toilet seat from its down position. The second was inspired by a nasty foreman I worked under at a summer job during my college years. The last I wrote in my journal during a time when I struggled with loneliness, isolation, and a devastating desire for physical contact:

I know I am a fool because of this:
That no one but a fool would spend his day
In giving full attention to the way
A siren sings him into tortured bliss;
That such a fool is bound by hopeful kiss,
To think of her when "she" is spoken, stay
The heart that has been broken till the gray
Pale ray of sunset sets things more amiss.
My hopeless hope is just a fool's delight.
Conscious folly is a baleful omen,
The deepening of my heart's pleasing plight,
Heightened not by substance, but by woman.
    My mind and body fight a fatal duel.
    The victor shows me sure, I am a fool.

This was my first and only experiment in writing a sonnet in iambic pentameter. I'm not even sure I did it right, but there it is. I wrote it in July of 1994, less than two months before I first asked a Happy Acquaintance to eat lunch with me. That lunch turned into the deepest friendship I've ever had, which turned into my marriage, which I now celebrate every day.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Geek panel art  

I'm participating in a dramatic production at church. We rehearsed today, so my day was pretty full. Let me just offer another piece of panel art (in case you missed it, read the post where I explained the concept). This one was done with four people, the first time I've attempted it with more than two. It is also bigger than any I've ever attempted, the original being 17" by 22" (somewhere around 40 cm. by 55 cm., I would guess), which made scanning it pretty interesting.

My three geek friends helped me out. Two of us are professional artists (Rey and Nick), while two of us are professional writers (me and Jerry). That may sound impressive, but we're really just small cogs in a giant marketing machine. Anyway, beginning in the upper-left and going counter-clockwise (which is the order in which the panels were drawn), the panels belong to Jerry, Nick, me, and Rey.

For some reason I like to draw scenes of traffic and open fields. I don't know why. I also don't know why I felt the need to misspell the word "STOP." There's probably some deep psychological reason for that, but I can't fathom what it might be. The only other thing I'll say about my panel is that it features the best dog I've ever drawn.

I call upon my geek friends to offer thoughts on their own panels in the comments.

Click the image below to see the full picture.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Marriage links for the week  

When Statedog (Blake) titles a post "My Wife Is Awesome!," you have to read it.

Ryan (of Ryan's Head) lets us know how difficult, and how important, it is to provide adequate emotional support to a pregnant wife.

"The grass is always greener, so don't cry over spilled milk," was the sage advice of Dave Meurer's (author of Stark Raving Dad!) grandmother. Indeed. Be happy with the pasture God has given you, and make the most of it (FOTF Magazine).

For my fellow Mac geeks, here's a first-hand, anecdotal history of the development of the Macintosh.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Reminiscence No. 2  

I often have the pleasure of hearing from someone who just discovered this site. Words of encouragement from new readers help keep me going and give me the feeling that others are encouraged by the things I have to say. I imagine new readers stumbling upon atimelikethis.net—perhaps from a Google search, perhaps from a link on another site—and finding it so exciting that they spend hours, maybe days, sorting through the archive links to make sure they haven't missed a single word of mine. It's not true, I know. Posts that I labor over just shuffle themselves into the archives never to be noticed again unless someone enters an odd combination of search terms into Yahoo.

But I think there are some gems in the past. That's why every six weeks I offer links to some of my favorite posts from four months ago. Here they are. Have fun, and please forgive this moment of self-indulgence.

 

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Beauty  

I don't know why, but I've been thinking about my wedding quite a bit lately. A major part of it, one of the parts that I helped plan, was the music. During the prelude, I sang a song that enchanted my bride called I Said My Pajamas. Here's a sample of the lyrics:

I climbed up the door and opened the stairs
I said my pajamas and put on my prayers
I turned off the bed and crawled into the light
And all because you kissed me good night.

<…it goes on like this for two verses…>

I lifted the preacher and called up the phone
I spoke to the dog and I threw your ma bone
'Twas midnight and yet the sun was shining bright
And all because you kissed me good night.

It was a horribly silly song, completely inappropriate for a solemn occasion. But our wedding was the happiest occasion ever, so it fit (though there are some who would disagree). There were several other songs in the prelude performed by my friend Matt, my favorite singer in the world. He let me sing an a capella duet version of It Is Well With My Soul with him (yes, it's traditionally sung at funerals, but it's Mrs. Happy's favorite hymn so it was in our wedding). The prelude also included No One Has Ever Loved Me (from the musical Passion by Stephen Sondheim), Not a Day Goes By (the happy version from Merrily We Roll Along, also by Sondheim), She Touched Me (from Drat! The Cat! by Milton Shafer), and a wonderful rendition of Abide With Me (another funeral hymn that we just happen to love) woven into Pachelbel's Canon.

The centerpiece musical number, however, occurred during the ceremony itself. Matt sang How Beautiful, by Twila Paris. At the time, I thought it was a gorgeous song of worship that also spoke to the beauty of marriage. Now that I've grown a little more as a husband and as a child of God, I see it differently. I see now why God chose the metaphor of marriage to describe Christ's relationship with the church, how He loves the church with every iota of His being, and how He sees only beauty and always forgives. The song draws deep parallels between Jesus' ministry on earth and the church's ministry today, and how the church functions as His body.

I could analyze this song line by line, but I think that would ruin it for me. I just know that I think my wife is the most beautiful thing God has ever created, and that my love for her is only a fraction of what God feels for the church. I know that the Bible commands a husband and wife to become one flesh and that the church, as Christ's bride, is also referred to as His body, and it is beautiful. I know that there are mysteries yet to be revealed in my relationships with both God and my wife, and that this song captures that beautifully.

How Beautiful the hands that served
The Wine and the Bread and the sons of the earth
How beautiful the feet that walked
The long dusty road and the hill to the cross
How Beautiful, how beautiful, how beautiful is the body of Christ

How Beautiful the heart that bled
That took all my sins and bore it instead
How beautiful the tender eyes
That choose to forgive and never despise
How beautiful, how beautiful, how beautiful is the body of Christ

And as He lay down His life
We offer this sacrifice
That we will live just as He died
Willing to pay the price
Willing to pay the price

How Beautiful the radiant bride
Who waits for her Groom with His light in her eyes
How Beautiful when humble hearts give
The fruit of pure love so that others may live
How beautiful, how beautiful, how beautiful is the body of Christ

How beautiful the feet that bring
The sound of good news and the love of the King
How Beautiful the hands that serve
The wine and the bread and the sons of the Earth
How Beautiful, how beautiful, how beautiful is the body of Christ

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

A little something  

Okay, here's a little something extra for today. I recently wrote about a type of collaborative art project I do with my wife sometimes. Another, more simple, thing we sometimes do is called Tri-Fold People. This project requires at least three artists (whom I will refer to as Artist A, Artist B, and Artist C). You take a piece of paper and divide it into three sections. Artist A draws a head in the top section, then folds that section back so that it is no longer visible, then passes the paper to Artist B. Artist B draws a torso in the middle section, then folds that back so it is no longer visible, then passes the paper to Artist C. Artist C draws legs in the bottom section. Throughout the process, none of the artists are allowed to look at each others' work. Once the feet have been drawn, Artist C unfolds the paper and views the complete work. The results are often hilarious.

One of Mrs. Happy's artist friends shared supper with us earlier this evening, and we created three Tri-Fold People, each of us drawing a head, a body, and a pair of legs for each TFP. Click on the image below to see a full-sized picture of our results.

trifold pic

Christian Carnival  

Today is the weekly Christian Carnival, which I will once again use as a poor excuse not to write something myself. Please check out some of the other fine Christian writers out there. I guarantee that you'll find something to surprise you, challenge you, change your perspective, and maybe even change your life.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Pretty Mad Sibling  

I wrote a while back about how my malfunctioning thyroid made me difficult to live with despite my deeply held belief that I'm a pretty nice guy. I and my wife are both fortunate that hyperthyroidism can be controlled fairly easily with medication, which enables me to be the good person I like to think I am. Women in general, however, are not so fortunate in the area of mood-altering biological phenomena.

Back in the early '90s, I interrupted my college education (a long story that I won't go into right now) and moved into the house of The Happy Father and Stepfamily for a couple of years. One year, I decided to celebrate Father's Day by treating the whole family (my dad, stepmother, 14-year-old stepbrother, and 18-year-old stepsister) to some culture and taking them to see The Will Rogers Follies (a Tony Award-winning musical based on the life of Will Rogers) at the Music Hall at Fair Park. After church, we all piled into the van to drive into Dallas for lunch and the show. It didn't take long for me to realize that it was not a good day for my stepsister to be near other people. As far as she was concerned, every comment, gesture, and eye-blink perpetrated by anyone but herself invariably revealed a deep and abiding stupidity and/or rudeness in the perpetrator. She had moods like that fairly regularly, and I was pretty sure I knew why, though I thought it wise to never try confirming my hypothesis. I just knew that on days such as that one, it was best not to talk unless absolutely necessary and to make a policy of forgetting everything that happened once a new day dawned.

I managed to get through lunch and the show without incurring any significant wrath from the stepsister. After the show, we were all standing in the lobby waving to the performers and talking amongst ourselves when I, stupidly, said, "Hmm. I'm kind of hungry." I have no idea why I felt the need to say that, or how I thought I would get away with it, but as soon as the words left my mouth I knew I had done wrong and braced myself. My stepsister looked at me and, with a tone more hostile than any she had ever directed toward me, said, "Well, if you had ordered more food at lunch you wouldn't be hungry right now." She turned away, and I breathed a sigh of relief at having gotten off so light.

Unfortunately, my stepbrother had not had enough life experience to understand the situation. So he looked at his sister with an expression of utter confusion and said, "Holy crap! What's wrong with you today?" Before she could answer, my dad said, "Oh, you know. She's got PMS." It all happened too quickly. I didn't have more than a split second to choose whether to cover my stepbrother's mouth or punch my dad in the stomach to prevent them from speaking, or even to dive behind a pillar to shield myself from the explosion that followed.

Looking back on it, I think I can excuse my stepbrother for his ignorance. He was only 14, after all. My father, though, should have known better. He should have known the five iron-clad rules regarding the condition of certain days:

  1. Do not talk.
  2. If you talk, do not argue.
  3. If you argue, do not verbally diagnose the source of the problem.
  4. If you verbally diagnose the source of the problem, do not do it around innocent bystanders who should have eaten more at lunch.
  5. Silently repeat Rules No. 3 and 4 to yourself all day long.

Having some distance from The Incident, I find it kind of funny. Now that I think about it, though, I should state for the record that it has nothing at all to do with marriage. Certainly not with my marriage.

Which reminds me, I should also emphasize that this memory bubbled into my consciousness today for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

I should probably stop writing now.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Servanthood  

I don't remember much about my wedding reception. My emotional high from the wedding and my anticipation of the honeymoon combined forces in an adrenal assault on my brain that had me wandering through the reception in a fairly incoherent haze. I know there was food. I know we had cake. I know that our DJ blew a fuse with his equipment and therefore had to play all the music on a portable boom box. People talked, people danced, my dad handed out cigars, and I'm pretty sure everyone had a good time. But I recall most of that thanks solely to our photographer. Without the pictures, I can't say for sure that I'd remember any of it.

I do remember one thing, though. Before I removed the ceremonial garter from my bride's leg, I asked for everyone's attention for a moment. I then explained what I was about to do:

A lot of people criticize the Christian faith as misogynistic. They point to Paul's letters to show how the Bible instructs wives to submit to their husbands. They say that such statements demean women and treat them as second-class citizens in a paternalistic culture. But they fail to recognize the context in which Paul called women to submit. Because he also instructed husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church. When I think of how Jesus loved the church, it occurs to me that everything He ever did was for the church's benefit and for God's glory. He didn't boss people around. He didn't abuse anyone. He didn't act like He was better or higher than the church, His "bride." He said Himself that He didn't come to rule, but to serve. He dedicated His life to serving the church, building it up, and saving it. One of the last things Jesus did before going to the cross was washing His disciples' feet. He did that as an act of service. Since I hope to be the kind of husband God intended in His gift of marriage, I want to follow Jesus' example and be a servant to my wife.

That's not my speech verbatim—as I said, I was pretty incoherent, so my actual words were less organized—but it expresses what I meant to express. After I finished speaking I turned around to my wife, who was already seated on a bench. I knelt in front of her, removed her shoes, drew water from a basin I had prepared beforehand, and washed her feet in full view of every guest at the reception. I'm sure that some people thought it was weird, some thought it was sweet, and some didn't know what to think. To me, it was the sincerest act of love I had ever expressed, and an act that hopefully set the tone for my entire marriage.