Friday, April 30, 2004

His and Hers IX  

His and Hers is a question or discussion topic relating to marriage that I post every Tuesday or Wednesday. On Friday, my wife and I each write our thoughts on the topic. I invite other bloggers to do the same with their spouses as an exercise in celebrating marriage. This week's question is:

What pet peeves of your spouse annoy you? In other words, what annoys your spouse that you wish they could just come to terms with?

Mrs. Happy's response

Curt's most annoying pet peeve may be the disdain he directs at people who say "hi" through a third party. For example, if I run into a friend while I'm out shopping, and the friend says, "Tell Curt I said hi," I have to gently explain to them that I can't tell him that without receiving a lecture on what an empty, pointless gesture that is. Then I have to ask for a more substantial message to pass on. Frankly, it's embarrassing, and I wish he could just let it go and accept a "Hi" in the spirit it is intended. Curt doesn't have many serious quirks, but the ones he has are, to put it lightly, real doozies.

Curt's response

My wife's most annoying pet peeve is Jenna Elfman. For those of you who don't know, she is a primarily comedic actress who plays the role of Dharma on the TV series Dharma and Greg. I say she plays that role, but I'm not sure the series is still on the air. I may never know, because Mrs. Happy takes great pains not to acknowledge its existence unless she feels moved to voice her disgust over the presence of its leading lady. I will never be able to see the movie Looney Tunes: Back in Action despite my wife's great affection for Bugs Bunny simply because Ms. Elfman's name is listed in the credits. When I'm watching television and a commercial appears featuring the pet peeve in question, my wife will yell from another room, "I can't stand that woman," repeatedly until I change the channel. I have no strong feelings about "that woman's" work one way or the other, but I can certainly think of more annoying actresses. Even so, I do not begrudge my beloved her irrational reaction to Jenna Elfman except when it inconveniences me, which fortunately is not that often.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

This week's question  

His and Hers is a question or discussion topic relating to marriage that I post every Tuesday or Wednesday. On Friday, my wife and I each write our thoughts on the topic. I invite other bloggers to do the same with their spouses as an exercise in celebrating marriage. This week's question is:

What pet peeves of your spouse annoy you? In other words, what annoys your spouse that you wish they could just come to terms with?

See Angel's comment in Tuesday's post for an example. Her husband's pet peeve about shoes in the living room might annoy her. It would certainly annoy me. Then again, my habit of rarely picking up after myself would probably annoy him, too.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Essential knowledge  

Back in 1992, before I had even met the future Mrs. Happy, I had a job in a door factory where I worked with a married man named Lee. That was the year of the George Bush Sr./Bill Clinton presidential election. That was the first presidential election I could have voted in. I didn't cast a vote that year, but the outcome made me vow never to miss a presidential or congressional election again. Anyway, as you probably know, Bill Clinton won. I was bummed about that, Lee was bummed about that, and we complained to each other about how our new president was going to ruin the country. One day soon after the election, he said to me, "I'm talkin' to the wife last night and she says we finally got someone in the White House who'll actually do some good. Couldn't believe it. Been married to that woman three years and never knew she was a Democrat." They divorced within the year, though I don't think it had anything to do with politics.

When you're married, you're supposed to know things about your spouse. Some things are difficult—especially things tied up in memories that affect a person's reactions in a seemingly illogical way. For instance, I can't stand to hear the song The Candy Man Can. Something about it strikes me as being vaguely demonic, though I can't pinpoint why. I assume that I must have some repressed childhood memory of an unspeakable trauma that occurred while that song was playing somewhere. I don't know. The point is, though, that my wife knows this about me, so she would never do something so insensitive as to throw me a surprise party and blast that evil tune on a stereo while 30 people jump out and scare me. But I'm getting off track.

Some things are easy to know about your spouse, and downright essential. Knowing them will enable you to make your spouse feel special, and not knowing them could get you in a lot of trouble. Here's a partial list of things you should know:

If you think you know these things, check with your spouse and make sure. If you don't know these things, ask. In a marriage, ignorance is farther from bliss than you might imagine.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Mirth  

Marriage is a funny thing, both weird and ha-ha.

The other day, I was in the kitchen washing dishes and listening to Caedmon's Call on my iPod while my wife was straightening the bedroom. Just about the time I started working on the plates, the eternally precious Mrs. Happy walked through the kitchen door with a purpose. She strode up to me, planted a kiss on my cheek, then turned around and left the way she came. I didn't bother asking why she did it. I knew that such a conversation would go something like this:

her: <kiss>
me: What was that for?
her: I just love you. That's all.
me: (smiling) I love you, too.
cue Smurf music


Since I have to wash all our dishes by hand, and since drinking glasses are by far the most annoying things to wash, we usually drink out of disposable plastic cups. Since cups cost money, and since we mainly drink filtered water, we try to use cups as much as we can before throwing them away. One day, Mrs. Happy was sitting at the kitchen table producing some artwork. A couple of cups were on the table. Thinking that I might take one, fill it with water, then drink the water, I approached the table, picked up the nearest cup and asked:

me: Is this cup okay to use?
her: Sure.
me: What are these yellow spots in it?
her: Oh, that's paint.
me: (shocked) You were going to let me drink out of a cup that you used for mixing paint?
her: (appallingly unconcerned) It's only watercolor.


Friday night, we watched the DVD version of a movie called Sexy Beast. (It had nothing to do with non-human creatures, sexiness, or sex. I have no idea what the title even means.) My dear wife can't stay awake through a movie that begins at 10:00 p.m. or later, despite her protests to the contrary every fortnight or so. She drifted in and out of consciousness throughout Sexy Beast, catching only glimpses of it through bleary eyes and a half-awake mind. When we finally went to bed, she told me:

her: I couldn't make sense of that movie from what I saw.
me: Yeah. It was pretty non-linear. It jumped from the present to the past, then skipped some of the present to get to the future, then flashed back to the part of the present that it skipped, and threw in some surreal dream sequences here and there.
her: (fading fast) What was it about?
me: Well, it was an inverted heist movie. The first 80 percent of the story focused on the old gang trying to convince the retired gang member to come back for one last score. The next ten percent focused on the actual score. And the last ten percent showed us what happened after the score. It was sort of like Ocean's Eleven meets Pulp Fiction meets Donnie Darko.
her: (with half-open eyelids and slightly blurred speech) Oh! I actually thought of Dokkie Darno.

I was unable to stifle a chortle at her cinematic spoonerism. When I started laughing, she realized what she had said, then burst forth in an uncontrollable guffaw. After a second or two, her laughter outlived any humor Dokkie Darno himself would ever have expected to provide. Her laughing made me laugh, which made her laugh more, which made me unable to stop, which she found hilarious, etc. We were sore and exhausted by the time we actually fell asleep.


Yeah. Marriage is funny. Sometimes weird. Sometimes ha-ha. But very, very funny.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Marriage links for the week  

Doug at CoffeeSwirls celebrated his seventh wedding anniversary on Sunday. Congratulations, Doug!

The Iowa legislature is looking to reduce the state's divorce rate by as much as five percent with new legislation requiring premarital counseling for couples who apply for a quick wedding license. Under the recently passed bill, couples who get counseling would receive their marriage license after a three-day waiting period. Without it, couples must wait 20 days.

One researcher says that the underlying secret to a happy marriage is the ratio 5:1. Successful spouses share at least five positive interactions—such as bestowing a smile, compliment or humorous quip—to counter every scornful comment, condescending sneer or dramatic eye-rolling. I've heard others say 10:1. I strive for 20:1 just to be safe.

Part of President Bush's so-called War on Poverty is a provision of $1.5 billion over five years for marriage education among the poor. One supporter responds to critics of the measure.

Mildred and Sandoe Hanna have been married 70 years. Says 90-year-old Mildred: "It just goes by so fast, you don’t even notice."

Jennifer Lopez quote of the week: "The secret to a happy marriage is… Oh, who am I kidding?"

Friday, April 23, 2004

His and Hers VIII  

His and Hers is a question or discussion topic relating to marriage that I post every Tuesday or Wednesday (I didn't get a chance to do it this week, though). On Friday, my wife and I each write our thoughts on the topic. I invite other bloggers to do the same with their spouses as an exercise in celebrating marriage. This week's question is:

How do you like to spend your Friday evening after a long and hectic week?

Mrs. Happy's response

Relax and watch some DVDs with my husband.

Curt's response

Relax and watch some DVDs with my wife.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

So that's the word  

A couple of years ago I bought a book called They Have a Word for It. It is subtitled A Lighthearted Lexicon of Untranslatable Words & Phrases. That pretty much sums up the book. I was looking through it today and found a listing for the Yiddish word kolleh. It is a noun that means "a beautiful bride." Apparently, the word applies to all brides since all brides are beautiful to the groom, and since wedding guests are meant to see the bride through the groom's eyes. I once heard a preacher say that out of the hundreds of weddings he had performed in his life, he had seen a few grooms that needed work, but he had never once seen an ugly bride. The joy of the day seems to cause every ounce of of a bride's inner beauty to rise to the surface and transcend her appearance, however pleasing it might normally be. Though I'm not even sure how to pronounce the word, I understand the idea. After all, I married a kolleh.

I remember standing at the front of the chapel on my wedding day, watching the bridesmaids walk down the aisle, each one beautiful in her own way. But when my bride appeared, every attendee stood up and gaped in awe at her beauty. I honestly believe that even if standing for the bride weren't a cultural custom, everyone would have stood anyway. I have said before that Mrs. Happy grows more beautiful every day, and it's still true. The more I know her, the more I love her, and the more beautiful she becomes. I may be the only one who notices that, but on our wedding day she exuded a beauty that everyone could see. It transcended her physical features and elevated her grace, charm, loveliness, and force of personality to a level I wasn't sure I could survive. I did survive, though her kollehness so overwhelmed me that I cried through the entire ceremony. According to my book here, the Talmud states as a matter of doctrine that "Every bride is beautiful and graceful." As a Christian, I disagree with Jewish theology on many points. But this is one I would never argue.


And for the record, the fifth sentence on page 23 of They Have a Word for It is "Don't be surprised if future cultural historians find more significance in certain editions of Mad magazine than the events behind a political campaign."

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Indigenous flora  

Jeff made me a little homesick for Texas when he posted a photo of bluebonnets (the Texas state flower) on the Peachwater site. Wildflowers don't last very long there, but when in bloom they are more stunning than any fireworks display I've ever seen. Mrs. Happy and I took a nice walk earlier today, and she took some pictures of the flowers here. In Texas, the flowers grow in fields and by the highways. In New York, they grow on trees.

Click on the photos to see larger images.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Tired post  

Two things:

1) I can't think of anything to write today. This happens sometimes—mostly when I'm tired, and I'm sooo tired right now.

2) Doug posted a picture of his super-hero self at CoffeeSwirls in response to to picture I posted here on Saturday. Today, he followed a meme that has been making the rounds, so I'll do it too. These are the rules:

  1. Grab the nearest book.
  2. Open the book to page 23.
  3. Find the fifth sentence.
  4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.

This appeals to me because my wedding took place on the 23d day of the fifth month. It's probably a coincidence, but maybe not. Anyway, the nearest book to me at this moment is The Thurber Carnival by James Thurber. Sentence No. 5 on page 23 is this: "On the occasion of the hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary of Washington's crossing the Delaware, however, I was sent over to Trenton to report the daylong celebration." Not very exciting. In a variation on this theme, I find that the 23d sentence on page 5 is a little more rewarding: "I hunted for my Chiclets but couldn't find them."

This is infectious. The next nearest book to me is Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis. Here's sentence 5 on page 23: "One day my brother decided it would be a good thing to make a tent." And from the 23d sentence of page 5: "His <drawings> were of ships and trains and battles; mine, when not imitated from his, were of what we both called dressed animals—the anthropomorphized beasts of nursery literature."

I feel like I need to tie this in better to my overall theme of marriage. The nearest book about marriage is called One Good Year. OGY 23:3–5 (sentence 5 makes no sense out of context) is "Once a day for a year catch your LifeMate doing something that you value, admire, love, or respect. Write down in a journal how much that means to you. At the end of the year give it to your LifeMate as a gift." OGY 5:23 is "I find it hard to forgive my LifeMate for not living up to my expectations."

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Marriage links for the week  

When my wife and I were planning our wedding, we had to work with a pretty limited budget. When she told me that the flowers were going to cost upwards around $1,000, I sighed and said, "We don't really need flowers, do we?" I can't remember anything else that happened that day. Jim at Snooze Button Dreams has a similar story. (hat tip: Adrian Warnock)

Dr. Warnock called attention to the Jollyblogger blog this week. There, David Wayne (a Presbyterian pastor in Maryland) is doing a good job discussing Christian topics in an accessible way. His recent post Marriage and the Myth of True Love is excellent reading.

Toni has an intriguing post about ecclesiastical headgear for women and how it relates to issues of submission.

Blake's daughter has a message for everyone over at Statedog.

A story in the Washington Post talks about sociologist Ann Swidler's view of marriage. A few good quotes:

 

A while back I posted a picture of me as a South Park character. Earlier this week my geek friend Nick alerted me to the existence of a site where you can create your own superhero. Here's what I would look like if I had superpowers:

Before any of my friends chime in with how this doesn't look anything like me, let me just confess that I don't have wings, my muscles are not quite that defined, my feet are much smaller than that, and my trench coat is actually green. On the other hand, I am thin, I have short brown hair and an angular jaw, I wear glasses, and I often smirk with the left corner of my mouth.

Friday, April 16, 2004

His and Hers VII  

His and Hers is a question or discussion topic relating to marriage that I post every Tuesday or Wednesday. On Friday, my wife and I each write our thoughts on the topic. I invite other bloggers to do the same with their spouses as an exercise in celebrating marriage. This week's question is:

What is something your spouse has taught you?

Mrs. Happy's response

When I first considered this question, I was thinking mostly in terms of life lessons, or even practical skills that I've learned from Curt since we've been married. I thought long and hard about it for a few days, and this morning it came to me in a half-sleep while Curt was stroking my hair and telling me how beautiful I am: He taught me how I need to be treated. When I was younger, fantasizing about my future husband, I thought I had pretty high standards. This man would have to be cute, intelligent, funny, considerate, affectionate, etc., but I never quite envisioned how exactly he should make me feel, nor did I recognize it when it actually occurred during our happy "just friends" phase. Curt treated me like a queen. He would always put my needs before his, and I could count on him for anything and everything. He showered me with compliments, affection, and affirmation. I could go on and on about all the ways that he exceeded all my expectations, but I couldn't possibly do them justice. The bottom line is that since those very first moments of our friendship, I have felt increasingly more beautiful and more precious than in any other time of my life. I never would have known I could feel this way had Curt not taught me that it is possible.

Curt's response

Short answer: My wife taught me how to be a husband.

Longer answer: My wife taught me how to love a wife and, specifically, how to love her. Before we got married, I was afraid I would be a terrible husband. I didn't even know how to begin taking care of someone, or even whether "taking care" was part of my job. I just knew that I wanted to build a life with one particular woman. In the months leading up to our wedding, we went through eight weeks of pre-marital counseling and spent as much time together as we could. During that time, she communicated how I made her feel in various situations, sometimes good and sometimes not-so-good. I learned to avoid making her feel bad and, more importantly, how to purposefully make her feel loved. I'm still learning, and it's my favorite lesson ever.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Divorce and the Christian  

I recently had a conversation with some friends about biblical issues concerning divorce—if and when it is acceptable, whether God condones remarriage, whether a divorced man should be allowed to serve in the church as a deacon or elder, etc. A lot of interesting things came out of that conversation. More interesting still was a post on Dr. Warnock's blog that I read shortly thereafter. In it, he quotes from a book by Jay Adams concerning the biblical principles involved when two married Christians decide that they can no longer live together. Mr. Adams is of the opinion that churches should excommunicate someone who refuses to be reconciled to their spouse:

"Let us say that a husband who is a professing Christian refuses to be reconciled to his wife. Perhaps he has even left her. Reconciliation has been attempted by the wife. If she continues to insist upon reconciliation (according to Matthew 18), but fails in her attempts at private confrontation, she must take one or two others from the church and confront her husband. Suppose she does and that he also refuses to hear them. In that case she is required to submit the problem officially to the church, which ultimately may be forced, by his adamant refusal to be reconciled, to excommunicate him for contumacy. Excommunication, Christ says, changes his status to that of a heathen and a publican, i.e., someone outside of the church (Matthew 18:17). Now he must be treated "as a heathen and a publican." That means, for instance, that after reasonable attempts to reconcile him to the church and to his wife, he may be taken to court (I Corinthians 6: 1–8 forbids brethren to go to law against one another) to sue for a divorce (only, of course, if the excommunicated one deserts his partner)."

That's harsher than anything on this subject that I've ever heard taught in a church. But if you're so inclined, go read the whole post and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Priorities  

My wife works in a therapeutic environment. Every morning, the staff gathers for a team meeting that always concludes with a sharing of feelings. During this time, each person lets everyone else know how they're feeling and makes a request for any specific support they might need throughout the day. Recently, one of the staff took a week-long vacation, during which she stayed home with her three children who had a five-day break from school. The day she returned to work, she told everyone what a hectic, chaotic week she had just experienced. She said, "But when I walked into this building and I saw how beautiful and tidy everything is, heard the soothing music playing, and smelled the scent of the aroma therapy machine, I said to myself, 'Ah…I'm finally home again.'" The rest of the staff, with the exception of my wife, nodded their heads and muttered their assent.

When Mrs. Happy came home that day, she told me about her coworker's sentiment with incredulity, and of the others' reactions with a shock that bordered on horror. When your place of work provides a haven from your home, she said, your home is seriously screwed up. I have to agree. I'm afraid, though, that it's all too common.

There's probably a technical psychological/sociological explanation for this, but I know that when people feel unloved and/or powerless at home they sometimes compensate by throwing all their energy into work. When a man feels ineffective as a husband and father, he often dedicates himself to being an excellent employee. His job becomes the most important thing in his life. I thought that phenomenon was specific to men, but in light of my wife's experience with her coworkers, I guess not.

The irony, I think, is that someone with a strong family makes a better employee—happier, healthier, more content, more sympathetic, and having a better perspective on things. When priorities are in order—God, family, country, job—life is just so much better.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

RLTB™  

I took the day off of work today. My days off tend to be busier than my days working. Real life trumps blogging today.

Here is this week's His and Hers question, which my wife and I will each answer on Friday:

What is something your spouse has taught you?

Monday, April 12, 2004

Easter music  

According to the book 101 Hymn Stories, from which you can read an excerpt online, a Swedish preacher named Carl Boberg wrote a poem titled O Sotre Gud in 1886. From the Hymn Stories site:

"His inspiration for this text is said to have come from a visit to a beautiful country estate on the southeast coast of Sweden. He was suddenly caught in a midday thunderstorm with awe-inspiring moments of flashing violence, followed by a clear brilliant sun. Soon afterwards he heard the calm, sweet songs of the birds in nearby trees. The experience prompted the pastor to fall to his knees in humble adoration of his mighty God. He penned his exaltation in a nine-stanza poem beginning with the Swedish words O Store Gud, nar jag den varld beskader."

Those words, translated as literally as possible while maintaining a semblance of verbal rhythm, mean Oh mighty God, when I behold the wonder. Boberg presumably published the poem in a periodical that he edited. Years later, he heard his poem being sung to the tune of a traditional Swedish song. The song was later translated into German, then into Russian.

Two English missionaries learned the Russian version while working in the Ukraine. They saw the song affect believers and non-believers alike in powerful ways. Their later travels in the majestic mountains of Sub-Carpathian Russia made them want to share their experiences and the song with their English-speaking friends and congregations, so they wrote new English words inspired by the song and by their awe of God's handiwork. While not a literal translation, it expressed the same deep reverence for God's power and the grandeur of His creation.

They wrote two verses dealing mainly with nature and one verse of praise for His gift of salvation. After the second world war, a fourth verse was added to express hope for eternity. Two words in the modern version of the hymn were changed at some point: works changed to worlds and mighty became rolling. Now it is one of the great hymns of faith, praise, devotion, and adoration. I struggle to sing it without crying. For me, it was the centerpiece of the music in my church's Easter service yesterday.

O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed,

CHORUS:
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze;

And when I think that God, His Son not sparing
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin;

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration
And there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

And now you know…the rest of the story.………good day!

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Marriage links for the week  

I'm adding a new link to my sidebar this week. Marriage Restored Weblog is a blog maintained by Ben Wilson, who acts as Director of Pastoral Care at a church in Colorado and also gives seminars, in partnership with his wife, on healing marriages that have been harmed by infidelity.

Irene offers her thoughts on the benefits of arranged marriage.

Jeremy at Parablemania writes about why he believes the Bible teaches directly against Christians marrying non-Christians.

Joe Carter of the evangelical outpost shares his thoughts on the biblical ideal of marriage in response to an article in Psychology Today about the current state of marriage. Key quote (from the PT article): "Marriage is not supposed to make you happy. It is supposed to make you married. When you are all the way in your marriage, you are free to do useful things, become a better person."

On the ChristWeb site, Rev. Scott Welch poses the question: "What are your children learning about Marriage, Family and Divorce in School? …Our children are being taught about these subjects everyday in the classroom, on the television set and the playground. The good news is you are a more powerful teacher and influence on your children than any of these others."

I'm not sure what to think, much less to say, about this: A soldier in Iraq marries his bride in Italy via two stand-ins in Montana. The rare double-proxy wedding is legal in that state.

A 37-year-old woman expecting her fifteenth child accepts an award for young mother of the year in Arkansas.


If you have any intelligent thoughts on who would win in a fight between Superman and The Hulk, please share them with Bryan so that he can enlighten his son.


I received another Where I'm From poem this week. Please check out the page and see Where Carrie's From. If you haven't already done so, write your own. It's fun, therapeutic, and educational. Before reading others' poems, I had never heard of kielbasa. It's a Polish sausage.

Friday, April 09, 2004

His and Hers VI  

His and Hers is a question or discussion topic relating to marriage that I post every Tuesday or Wednesday (though I forgot to do that this week). On Friday, my wife and I each write our thoughts on the topic. I invite other bloggers to do the same with their spouses as an exercise in celebrating marriage. This week's question is:

What trait first attracted you to your spouse? How do you feel about that trait now?

Mrs. Happy's response

Hugs, hugs, hugs! Hands down, no doubt about it, Curt's hugs are the most wonderfully endearing trait that he possesses. When he and I were "just friends," he would hug me at the end of every get together, whether it was at church or after a long night of card-playing or movie-watching. I remember one Sunday morning that I was feeling particularly lonely and insecure, standing on the outskirts of a group of friends, and as Curt was talking to some of them, he simply reached out his arm and pressed me to his side in a gesture of absolute unconditional love and acceptance. He has a rather small frame, but that hug would just envelop me and assure me that all was right with the world, especially his adoration of me.

Now that we're married, Curt has a much broader repertoire of ways to show his love and devotion every day, but the hugs are no less important. In fact, functionally the hugs have become more varied to adapt to different situations. There's the hug for greeting me at home after a long day, the hug for support when I've had a terrible day, the needy hug when he's had a terrible day, the hug after an argument that says "I'm not upset anymore," and the sleepy hug that ushers us into bedtime, just to name a few. In addition to absolute unconditional love and acceptance, the hugs are now gestures of a sweet familiarity, a solid protection, a tender intimacy, and a warm comfort. And as sure as he is nearby, they are always available. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go make sure I've spoken accurately.

Curt's response

I had a unique relationship with my wife in college. She was young, cute, and sweet, and I had no romantic interest in her. At that point in my life, I would customarily obsess over the romantic possibilities of a relationship with any woman who had even one of those characteristics. I think God must have put a damper on those feelings where she was concerned so that I could get to know her without an agenda, as a person rather than as a possible wife. So it took me a while to see her as a long-term possibility. One of the things that first attracted me to her personality was her compassion and her recognition of humanity in others.

For several years before we married, my wife and I ate lunch together regularly, at least when our class schedules allowed it. One day, she didn't show up for lunch. I waited twenty minutes and saw no sign of her. I then left our regular meeting place to see if she had gone to any of our three regular eating spots. Not finding her anywhere, I returned to the meeting place one last time only to find it completely unpopulated. I figured that she had found something better to do and didn't get a chance to tell me ahead of time. I've had plenty of experience with being blown off by friends who don't realize that I have feelings underneath my well-composed exterior. By the time I entered college, I had resigned myself to the fact that my personal emotions and attachments mattered very little to other people. I didn't think that she would leave me high and dry like that, but I had grown accustomed to disappointment.

I left our meeting place to find a spot where I could eat alone. About a minute later, I heard someone call my name from a distance. I turned around, and there was my wonderful friend running toward me with all her might. She apologized profusely and told me that she had gotten hung up after class with a professor. She said she felt horrible and was worried about how I would feel when she took so long showing up.

That's a small thing, I guess, but her concern about my feelings touched me deeply and endeared her to me forever.

I still love that about her. She's always acutely aware of what others are feeling. She's the only person in the world who can consistently discern what I'm feeling. That's a rare trait in a friend, and it's even better in a wife.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

American marriage  

Jeff (of Peachwater, Tx.) e-mailed me the other day letting me know that the NPR program This American Life devoted its entire show last week to what it called "The Sanctity of Marriage." None of the three segments in the hour-long program has anything to do with sanctity, but they all three take an unflinching look at marriage, divorce, and commitment from a worldly perspective. There's very little encouraging or celebratory in the program, but it's interesting nevertheless. Have a listen if you're so inclined.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Together time/Time together  

In the months leading up to my wedding, I worked at a dynamic, high-profile political consulting firm doing a tedious, low-paying, dead-end job. I desperately wanted to find work more suited to my skills that would also pay a salary more suited to supporting a family. I began looking for such a job, but halfheartedly looking since I would rather undergo a week-long oral surgery than subject myself to the fruitless labor and dashed hopes that always accompany my job hunts. I actually considered quitting my job, thinking that would force me to seek better employment in earnest. I had some money saved up, so it wouldn't have been entirely irresponsible. But I couldn't bring myself to give up my only source of income just as I was about to become a husband with bread-winning responsibilities.

Two weeks before my wedding, my boss called me to his office. He knew I had been looking for a job. I had his blessing. He knew that my job was below my abilities and that I had no desire to continue on in political consulting. He told me he wanted to restructure the way my division of the company worked, and that since I was the senior employee in that division and was looking to leave, he didn't want to do anything drastic until I was gone. So he offered me two months pay in one lump sum in exchange for my resignation. He pointed out that this arrangement would allow me to do my job searching full time and still stay afloat for a while and would also allow him to proceed with his plans for my division of the company. I discussed the decision with Soon-To-Be-Mrs. Happy, who at the time worked as a teacher's assistant at an elementary school drawing a paycheck even lower than mine. She agreed that I should take the money, leave the job, and look for another. So I did.

We married at the beginning of the summer of 1998. Our wedding took place on the first Saturday after Mrs. Happy's school adjourned for the summer. We spent a week on our honeymoon, then returned home to an apartment we had set up. I then began fervently looking for a job. The fervor wore off after a few days of fruitlessness. It took all summer, but I finally was hired by a computer company in Austin to write technical manuals.

I am sure that some people familiar with my situation at the time questioned the wisdom of voluntarily terminating my employment on the cusp of husbandhood. I questioned it myself more than once. But I wouldn't trade that experience for the world. Not having a job meant that, in a sense, I had a three-month honeymoon. I was not working, my wife was not working, and we were able to spend every day together getting to know each other as husband and wife. It was a stressful time, but I look back on those days with fondness. I miss them.

We now count ourselves lucky on the rare days that we're able to spend three or four hours together talking and laughing and immersing ourselves in each other's company. Now we have to make more of an effort to set time apart for each other. Sometimes that means letting other things go. Sometimes that means missing a favorite TV show or missing a day of blogging. But it's something we have to do if we're going to continue to be Mr. and Mrs. Happy.

This week's question  

His and Hers is a question or discussion topic relating to marriage that I post every Tuesday or Wednesday. On Friday, my wife and I each write our thoughts on the topic. I invite other bloggers to do the same with their spouses as an exercise in celebrating marriage. Here is this week's His and Hers topic:

What trait first attracted you to your spouse? How do you feel about that trait now?

Also be sure to visit this week's Christian Carnival for some of the best in Christian blogging.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Anatomy of an argument  

The context

The musical worship at my church is usually led by an energetic band and vocal group. They do their thing in our two morning services. Yesterday, due to capacity overload on Sunday mornings, the church offered a third service in the evening for the first time. Our gospel choir debuted to lead the music portion of worship in the third service so that the band would not pass out from exertion. My wife and I both sing in the soprano-dominated choir, and we both stand in front of the choir and sing into microphones (along with two or three other people) so that all harmonies will be clearly heard.

The setup

Our choir director, in an effort to give the group some visual cohesion, tells us to wear black pants or skirts with a white shirt or blouse, or jeans with a black shirt.

The complication

No matter what clothes I wear, I tend to look like a goof who doesn't know how to dress. My wife can, and often does, alleviate that by telling me what to wear. I do own a pair of black slacks and a white dress shirt (my only white shirt), but they were never intended to be worn together. I also own several pairs of jeans and a black shirt, but I am currently suffering from a raging case of dandruff and am afraid that a black shirt will make that condition all too public.

The initial solution

I speak to the director about my problem, and she tells me that I can wear jeans and a light-colored shirt.

Further complication

Mrs. Happy insists that the director is just too nice and too laid back to insist on conformity and tell me that if I dress in jeans and off-white, I'll look like the only one in the choir who didn't get the wardrobe memo. She is fiercely adamant that it is preferable for me to look like the "before" picture in a Head and Shoulders commercial (in jeans and a black shirt) or a New York cookie in awkward human form (in the black pants and white shirt) than to be the only member of the choir wearing neither black nor white. We discuss the merits of our viewpoints for at least an hour before we leave for church. Nothing she says convinces me that looking stupid is preferable to looking different.

The outcome

I dress in jeans and a light-colored shirt. Everyone else in the choir dresses in black and white. I concede to my wife that I look like a pork chop at a bar mitzvah. She apologizes for being such a bear. We sing our songs. We worship God with fellow believers. When the service is over, no one remembers or cares what either one of us wore.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Marriage links for the week  

Read Ryan's take on the importance of not keeping score in a relationship.

Before I got married, I had never worn a ring for any longer than a couple of minutes. It took me a few months after my wedding to get used to wearing the wedding band. Doug at CoffeeSwirls has been married a little longer than I have, and he claims that he wore his wedding band constantly until a medical emergency forced its removal.

Speaking of Doug, he also shares a story about his mother-in-law telling him that she thanked God for him. My in-laws have only recently begun to like me, so I won't be pushing them for similar treatment any time soon.

The Spring edition of Christianity Today's sex Q&A is online and sort of informative.

American soldiers overseas can take a class in dating and marrying intelligently.

A 105-year-old lady is an inspiration to everyone who knows her due to her devotion to God and family.

Friday, April 02, 2004

His and Hers V  

His and Hers is a question or discussion topic relating to marriage that I post every Tuesday or Wednesday (though I forgot to do that this week). On Friday, my wife and I each write our thoughts on the topic. I invite other bloggers to do the same with their spouses as an exercise in celebrating marriage. This week's question is:

What is one thing that surprised you about being married?

Curt's response

When I got married, I thought it was probably the most stunning and significant event the world had ever seen. I had spent a few years thinking that I would never find a woman willing to marry me, and for some reason I thought that everyone else in the world—even people who had never met me—agreed with that conclusion. So when I found a woman who actually wanted to build a life with me, I felt the foundation of the earth rock. For several months before my wedding and several months after, I would tell people of my engagement/marriage and expect them to react with uncontainable joy and amazement, and it always surprised me when they took the news in stride. All statements of congratulations were offered with little more than a period and a handshake rather than the exclamation point and celebratory dance I anticipated. It's been almost six years since then, and I've come to accept such nonchalance in others. But my mind and spirit still do a praise-God-for-His-blessings dance every time I think about the wonderful woman He put in my life.

Mrs. Happy's response

By the time Curt and I got married, his parents and sister already knew me and had grown to love me. After we got married, I started meeting his extended family. What surprised me was how they all reacted to me. Upon meeting me, every single aunt, uncle, and cousin invariably embraced me as if in an outpouring of love that had been building up their entire lives. They immediately accepted me as family and treated me with affection before I had ever done anything to warrant that. It made me uncomfortable to be on the receiving end of what I considered an unjustified love. I thought they should at least get to know me before thinking that I'm such a wonderful person. Over the years, I have grown to understand and appreciate it more, but it really surprised me at first.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

A new insight  

During my daily devotional yesterday, I came across Luke 14:26: "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." At first, this made no sense to me. Doesn't God call us to love one another? Why, then, would Jesus tell us to hate our own families? But after a while I understood. Jesus told us to "love your neighbor as yourself." Paul also wrote that husbands should "love their wives as they love their own flesh." It's perfectly consistent with scripture to hate your wife as long as you hate your own life as well, which is something Jesus commanded us to do. This is revolutionizing my attitude toward marriage. Thus far in my marriage I've been taking an attitude of love toward my wife, when an attitude of hate is required. So when I came home from work today, I barked my order for supper instead of kissing her and telling her I love her as I've been doing for the past five years. She made me my supper and only cried a little bit, so the hate seems to be working.

All of this is, of course, complete nonsense that I wouldn't write on any day of the year except April Fool's Day.

From the Luke 14:26 entry of The Expositor's Bible Commentary:

Hate is not an absolute but a relative term. To neglect social customs pertaining to family loyalties would probably have been interpreted as hate. Jesus is not contravening the commandment to honor one's father and mother. Moreover, he says a disciple should hate even his own life, whereas he speaks elsewhere of loving ourselves (Matt. 22:39; Mark 12:31). It is important to understand the Near Eastern expression without blunting its force.

From the April Fool entry of Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable:

Called in France un poisson d'Avril, and in Scotland a gowk. In Hindustan similar tricks are played at the Huli Festival, so that it cannot refer to the uncertainty of the weather, nor yet to a mockery of the trial of our Redeemer, the two most popular explanations. A better solution is this: As March 25th used to be New Year's Day, April 1st was its octave, when its festivities culminated and ended.

I've never been very good with April Fool's jokes. One time I went into a cafe and saw a man I didn't know sitting alone at a table, so I sat down across from him and said, "You know, a few of us have been watching you for a while and we're a little concerned. We've been talking about it, and we think you're beginning to exhibit the classic signs of paranoia."

I didn't really do that either, of course. It makes sort of a funny story, though.