Wednesday, June 30, 2004

An open letter to newlyweds  

(inspired by Jessica's comment on Saturday)

Dear newly married person,

I'd give you some sage words of advice, but I know from experience that unsolicited advice has no effect. I'll just try to offer some encouragement instead. Marriage is a gift of God, and as is the case with all Godly gifts, this world we live in is overtly hostile to the idea, institution, and practice. Sometimes your new life will bring you nothing short of absolute bliss. Sometimes your heart will swell with such joy that you fear it may burst. Sometimes your heart will ache with the pain you cause and with the pain caused to you. Sometimes you will find sweet fellowship with others who cherish marriage, though sometimes you may feel that you're the only one(s) trying to honor your commitments. Just know that you're not alone, that others love marriage as much as you do and that marriage can be better than you ever imagined when you were single. You'll cry tears of disappointment, anger, fear, happiness, affection, and gratefulness, just as we all do. Remember that in spite of numerous declarations you'll hear to the contrary, marriage can be enriching, empowering, and full of love.

Here's a bit of unsolicited advice after all. Never take your marriage or your spouse for granted. Revel in the bliss, grow through the heartache, laugh through everything, and always keep your focus on God.

Sincerely,

Curt

 

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

On birthdays, both happy and not  

I celebrated my birthday this past Saturday. The day marked the beginning of my 33d year on this earth, and it didn't depress me a bit. There have been times when I have found June 26 to be a day more appropriately devoted to mourning than celebration, but this year I felt content about my life and excited about the future.

In my childhood and adolescence, my birthday actually marked the passage of significant life events, mainly the graduation from one level of schooling to the next. Since my birthday fell during summer vacation, it always signified to me that one chapter of my life had closed while another was about to begin. That changed during my third (of seven) year of undergraduate study. At the age of 20, I could not imagine my life going anywhere good, or really anywhere at all. Four difficult years of college had brought me no closer to earning a degree than two good years would have (due to a few school transfers, a change of major, a slew of bad grades, and some personal difficulties). I had been working at low-paying manual labor jobs. I had one friend who lived a thousand miles away (2,500 km, I think) but none where I lived. I felt like I had no real home, having moved too many times to grow roots. You know the uncertain man James mentions whose doubts cause him to be tossed about like foam on the waves? That was me. At that point in my life, a birthday served only to remind me that my previous year had been as stagnant as a land-locked, algae-filled swamp, and that the next year held little promise of anything better.

I remember one particular birthday—my 23d, I think—when the future Mrs. Happy took me to a Cajun restaurant for my birthday. At that time, it had not occurred to me that she would make an amazing wife even though I already loved her ("as a friend," I insisted even to myself) more than I had ever loved anyone. She beamed for the entire evening, such was her joy for life and for me. The sight of her almost sufficed to enliven my pathetic existence, and even though I appreciated her efforts I was too caught up in my own perceived misery to enjoy the attention. The cycle of yearly stagnation and birthday depression repeated itself for five years.

If I remember correctly, 1997 (No. 25) was the first happy birthday of my adult life. My Happy Best Friend had earned a Bachelor's degree, and I would received mine in December of that year. We held hands on the day of her graduation, sort of coming to a mutual realization of a love deeper than friendship. I still had no ideas about a career or life after college, but I had grown enough in faith to trust the future to God. Since then, I have made a conscious effort to progress in life every year so that the arrival of my birthday would mark a sort of milestone the way it did in my childhood, only better. I still experience doldrums, of course, but one of the joys of my marriage is that I have someone to help me out of the stagnant times. I also have the privilege of helping her out of her own funks when they occur. It's true what the book of Ecclesiastes says: "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?" I thank God for her. She makes my birthdays happier than ever.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Marriage links for last week  

I'd like to thank everyone who e-mailed me birthday wishes. The day was wonderful. I was just going to skip the links for last week, but the blogosphere had some marriage posts too good to ignore, so here they are:

Stacy reflects on her attitudes toward her husband and ponders what it would mean to honor him in a Godly fashion.

Joe Missionary (another blogger I'll add to my sidebar when I get a chance to fiddle with my template) wrote last week about a husband's influence in a marriage. What he wrote went nicely with my post on the subject, though we each wrote independently.

Jeremy at Parableman offers a stringent test for young couples to see whether they're ready to have children. Funny, but in many ways living with a small child seems a lot like being a bachelor.

Rey sends up a prayer for his son as he grows.

This has nothing to do with marriage, but with my other passion: dogs. It's a story about how a puppy was able to prevent a Canadian man from going on a killing rampage with a car full of guns and ammo.

 

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Happy day  

On Saturdays, I usually collect links from other blogs and from the news and publish them here under the title Marriage links for the week. Today, however, is my 32d birthday, so I'm taking the day off. If you know of a blog post or news story that celebrates marriage, please share it in the comments. Otherwise, have a great weekend.

His and Hers XV  

His and Hers is a weekly discussion of a question or topic relating to marriage. On Friday, my wife and I each write our thoughts on the week's 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 the worst experience you have ever had in a fast food restaurant?

Curt's response

Earlier today, we visited a local restaurant that combines three stores into one front: Togo's (sub sandwiches), Baskin Robbins (ice cream), and Dunkin Donuts (donuts). As we arrived at the counter to order, a young man asked us what we would like. Mrs. Happy said she wanted a bowl of chicken and rice soup. It was the soup of the day, and a sign directly over the counter declared it the soup of the day, but the young man stared at us in confusion, as if my wife were speaking an alien language. "Chicken sandwich?" he asked. "No," she replied, clearly and firmly, "chicken and rice soup." She pointed to the sign that said "Soup of the Day: Chicken and Rice." That confused him even more, and he rushed away from the register to speak to a woman in the food preparation area (a good 30 feet or 12 meters away). They conferred for several seconds, then he looked up in our direction and shook his head, which we took to mean that they had no soup left. He made no move to return to the register, and seemed to expect us to move to the counter nearest to him.

So we walked over to him. My wife told him that she would like a chicken Caesar salad instead. The words "chicken Caesar salad" being part of the same alien language as "chicken and rice soup," we received another stare of blankness and vague panic from the man behind the counter. After Mrs. Happy repeated her order twice more, the young man was able to find his manager and determine that the chicken Caesar salad was indeed still available, though he omitted the word "Caesar" every time he spoke of the "chicken salad" we had ordered—this worried us a little since of the three salads offered by Togo's, three were variations of chicken and salad. The manager assembled the salad, then said, "Okay, well the problem is I only have one packet of Caesar dressing. I have some Thousand Island and some Ranch…" I failed to see why that was a problem since one salad requires only one packet of dressing, but Mrs. Happy prefers Ranch over Caesar anyway, so that's what she got.

The young man took the salad and returned to the bank of cash registers, all three of which at that time were occupied by customers and cashiers. He handed the salad to one cashier, mumbled something in her ear while pointing at us, and walked away. So we stood in line behind people who had arrived after us and waited. When we finally stood face-to-face with the cashier, she said, "Okay, that'll be $6.47." I replied, in a testier-than-usual tone, "Can I have a sandwich?" This flustered her and incited the same look of incomprehension and subtle fear that the young man had mastered so well. She pressed a few random keys on her register, then asked, "What kind of sandwich would you like?" I had decided on a sandwich called the Bruschetta Chicken Sandwich, which combined roasted chicken, pesto sauce, marinated tomatoes, and melted provolone cheese on a toasted bun, so I said, "I'll have the six-inch Chicken Bruschetta Sandwich."

"Okay. What size?" she asked.

I repeated, "Six-inch."

"A large?"

The posted menu did not include size labels such as small, medium, regular, large, x-large, biggie, or lard-butt, so I simply repeated, "Six-inch."

"What do you want on it?"

"What does it come with?"

"Uh…" This stammer was accompanied by the patented Togo's stare®. I pointed to the posted menu that described the sandwich I had ordered. "I want everything it says there," I said.

She nodded as if she finally understood and pressed some keys on the register. She then said, "Okay, that comes to—" but my wife interrupted her tersely: "We'd also like some drinks."

Again, we had caught her off guard. "Oh. You want drinks?" she asked as she fumbled with the register. Mrs. Happy said, "I'd like a small iced caramel swirl latte." The woman asked, "What size?" After a second's hesitation, Mrs. Happy responded, "Small." Before she could total everything up, I said, "And I'd like a small soda." "What kind?" she asked. It was my turn to be caught off guard. Togo's is one of those places that has a self-serve fountain for sodas, and I hadn't yet examined it to see the choices it offered. I repeated, "Just a small soda." The woman insisted on clarification, "What kind?" I pointed to the self-serve fountain and said, "Whatever kind is in that fountain over there." The Togo's stare again flashed across her face. "Oh. I'll just give you a cup then," she said, finding the perfect solution. I would later discover that the soda fountain had no ice. I had to get someone behind the counter to put some ice in my cup for me.

Fast forward ten minutes. We got our food and we got our drinks, and we paid nearly $18 for them. As I sat down at a table and pulled my sandwich out of the carry-out bag (which they gave us even though we were eating at the tables), I found a twelve-inch roasted chicken sandwich. I looked at my receipt and found that they had charged me $7.50 for the sandwich when I had ordered a $4.95 six-inch sandwich. Fast forward another five minutes, during which I stood alone at the cash registers being ignored by the workers. I finally got to talk to a competent manager who refunded me three dollars and let me keep all 12 inches of the sandwich.

I noticed on the menu that adding $1.50 to a sandwich purchase entitled a customer to a drink and a bag of chips. As I was walking away, I saw on my receipt that the price of my small soda was $1.62. I grabbed a bag of chips, ignored the prominently-placed and offensive-to-my-taste tip jar, and never looked back.

Mrs. Happy's response

There was one time at Wendy's that I ordered a "cheeseburger, with lettuce and cheese only" and received a slice of cheese and a leaf of lettuce between two buns, with no hamburger patty. But I think the Togo's experience tops that.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Impact, effect, mark, imprint  

Today I was planning to write about the importance of influence in marriage. I was going to say that a husband should influence his wife by his good behavior. I was going to provide some examples from my own marriage of how I influence my wife. But trying to discern my positive influences on Mrs. Happy was quite a humbling experience.

If influence means "to indirectly or intangibly affect a person or course of events," then I'm hard pressed to pinpoint any influence flowing from me to her. I know that I provide daily encouragement, expressions of love, and practical help, but do my good habits inspire imitation in her life? My bad habits certainly do. My good habits often incite a response, but is that the same thing as influence? Maybe the wife naturally possesses more influence than the husband in the relationship. Maybe she does, but shouldn't. Maybe that's what got Adam and Eve all confused in the first place. Maybe modern husbands should try to overcome Adam's influence on humanity.

I'm rambling. I do that when I'm confused. Any comments from older, wiser, more seasoned husbands would be welcome.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

RLTB™  

Real life trumped blogging so completely yesterday that I didn't even have time to write an RLTB post. Today, life is still holding a hand full of trump, but I managed to squeak in a short blurb here. I'll take this opportunity to draw attention to a recently discovered (by me, anyway) blogger in New York named Kevin McCullough. He's a columnist and radio talk show host who I linked on Saturday because of a post he had written about the science of monogamy. He sent me an e-mail that encouraged me quite a bit:

I was quite impressed with your blog. Thanks for giving me the plug on yours. As a talk show host one of the things I emphasize all the time is the need to strengthen marriage in our world today. I feel very  good about adding you as a blogroll bud to the KMC blog list.

I sign off my show in NYC everyday by saying - "Guys - go home tonight, kiss your wife, play with your kids, and be the 'Kind of man, Every man should be!' - Because in doing so you go further to change the world than anyone else." I've been signing off that way for four years - its a good reminder to myself as well.

I'll be adding his site to the list of links on the left as soon as I get some time to mess with my template. In the mean time, check out his site and the others as well. They're all good reads.

Monday, June 21, 2004

More links  

I missed some links on Saturday due to my performing research on two different computers and not e-mailing the results to myself. I don't want these to go unnoticed, so here they are. Consider this sort of a Marriage Carnival.

Brutally Honest Rick tells his own love story on the occasion of his 23d wedding anniversary.

Miss O'Hara laments the state of modern weddings and reflects on how many of them cheapen the meaning of the ceremony and possibly the meaning of marriage itself.

Messy Christian relates the love story of a couple from two different countries during World War II. As she says, "if there's one thing to be learnt, it is that love can happen during the most difficult times."

Kevin McCullough shares a news item regarding what could be a scientific, biological cure for infidelity and promiscuity.

Another Kevin (Leman, this time), in a Christianity Today article, outlines the concrete reasons a good sex life is worth forethought as well as foreplay.

 

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Marriage links for the week  

Finding herself facing an elegantly circular dilemma, Katy asks for advice on giving advice to engaged couples. Her commenters come through for her.

Donald Sensing of One Hand Clapping offers the opinion that the producers of the new movie The Stepford Wives sort of misses the point when it comes to modern relationships. He later posts a reader's e-mail about how his earlier post missed the point as well.

Check out Rick's story about his wife's close encounter with a dragonfly. A sense of humor about yourself is one of the most important skills for coping with life.

Statedog Blake reminisces about his honeymoon as he, his wife, and his child revisit the same area on a vacation.

According to an article at ABCnews.com, a friendship with a member of the opposite sex can cross a moral line and become an emotional affair. Link via Marriages Restored.

A newspaper columnist reflects on the nature of romance as he looks back on two years of marriage.

Another columnist advises Tiger Woods to call off his impending wedding. I link to this because it's sort of funny and sort of sad and completely ignorant and moronic.

In my earlier post about the joy that dogs bring to the world, I was remiss in not pointing out that Messy Christian has a blog dedicated entirely to her dog.

Friday, June 18, 2004

His and Hers XIV  

His and Hers is a question or discussion topic relating to marriage that I post every Tuesday or Wednesday (though I didn't 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 song reminds you of your spouse every time you hear it?

Mrs. Happy's response

When Curt and I were just friends, we were best friends. He treated me with so much kindness and affection that I grew to love him more deeply than I had ever loved any other friend. I listened to a lot of Jewel back then, and when I heard the song Near You Always, I realized that I was in love with him. I knew, however, that he didn't feel the same way about me (hah) so I had to guard my emotions with every ounce of will I possessed. He didn't make it any easier, though, because he never stopped treating me as though I were a lovely and precious human being. Near You Always always made me think of Curt, and I still do. The difference is that now I can completely omit the word don't from the lyrics.

Near You Always

Please don't say I love you,
those words touch me much too deeply
and they make my core tremble
Don't think you realize the effect you have over me
Please don't look at me like that
It just makes me want to make you near me always
Please don't kiss me so sweet
it makes me crave a thousand kisses to follow
And please don't touch me like that
makes every other embrace seem pale and shallow
And please don't come so close
it just makes me want to make you near me always
Please don't bring me flowers
they only whisper the sweet things you'd say
Don't try to understand me
your hands already know too much anyway
It just makes me want to make you near me always
And when you look in my eyes
please know my heart is in your hands
It's nothing that I understand, but when in your arms
you have complete power over me
So be gentle if you please, 'cause
Your hands are in my hair, but my heart is in your teeth
And it makes me want to make you near me always
Your hands are in my hair, but my heart is in your teeth
And it makes me want to make you near me always
I want to be near you always
I want to be near you always
I want to be near you always

Curt's response

When I was in high school, I had a girlfriend. I dated her not because I loved being around her but because I was lonely and I thought having a girlfriend would solve that. It didn't. But I still behaved the way I thought a boyfriend should behave, which meant that I often told her I loved her. It was a complete lie, but I didn't realize it until after we broke up. Once I understood the weight of those words, I vowed to myself never to tell any woman I loved her until I was ready to marry her. It wasn't that difficult, because I never even felt like saying that to any woman until I grew to love the woman who would eventually become my wife. There was a period of a year or more when I could have truthfully said to her, "I love you," and I desperately wanted to say those words—at the time, I just wasn't ready to marry her yet. I did tell her about my personal vow, hoping that she would realize my feelings without hearing that verbal expression of them, but I didn't tell her I loved her.

When I proposed, I serenaded my beloved with the song Do I Love You by Cole Porter. During a musical interlude in the song, I told her I loved her over and over again. I continued telling her throughout the evening. Since then, not a day has passed without my saying, "I love you." Whenever I hear that song, I think of her and of what a relief it was to finally give voice to my passion.

Do I Love You?

Do I love you do I?
Doesn't one and one make two?
Do I love you do I?
Does July need a sky of blue?
Would I miss you, would I, if you ever should go away?
If the sun should desert the day, what would life be?
Will I leave you, never?
Could the ocean leave the shore?
Will I worship you forever?
Isn't heaven forevermore?
Do I love you, do I?
Oh my dear it's so easy to see,
Don't you know I do, don't I show you I do,
Just as you love me.

Will I leave you, never?
Could the ocean leave the shore?
Will I worship you forever?
Isn't heaven forevermore?
Do I love you, do I?
Oh my dear it's so easy to see,
Don't you know I do, don't I show you I do,
Just as you love me.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Canine joy  

Mrs. Happy and I currently rent a house in New York. It has some advantages over owning, but many disadvantages as well. Perhaps the most painful disadvantage is that we're not allowed to have a dog. One of the first things we do when we move into a house of our own some time in the future will be to invite a dog (probably a boxer) to live with us. I bring this up not because it has anything to do with marriage, but because I just got my computer fixed and I'm feeling lazy enough to recycle quotes from some books that I've read as well as a short essay I once wrote.

Jollyblogger recently posted a quote by G.K. Chesterton that I had never read, but that makes me want to read more from Chesterton:

But there is something deeper in the matter than all that, only the hour is late, and both the dog and I are too drowsy to interpret it. He lies in front of me curled up before the fire, as so many dogs must have lain before so many fires. I sit on one side of that hearth, as so many men must have sat by so many hearths. Somehow this creature has completed my manhood; somehow, I cannot explain why, a man ought to have a dog. A man ought to have six legs; those other four legs are part of him. Our alliance is older than any of the passing and priggish explanations that are offered of either of us; before evolution was, we were. You can find it written in a book that I am a mere survival of a squabble of anthropoid apes; and perhaps I am. I am sure I have no objection. But my dog knows I am a man, and you will not find the meaning of that word written in any book as clearly as it is written in his soul.

I don't know if Dean Koontz is a Christian, but he is without a doubt spiritual. And he loves dogs. Here's a quote from his novel One Door Away From Heaven:

Every world has dogs or their equivalent, creatures that thrive on companionship, creatures that are of a high order of intelligence although not of the highest, and that therefore are simple enough in their wants and needs to remain innocent. The combination of the innocence and their intelligence allows them to serve as a bridge between what is transient and what is eternal, between the finite and the infinite.
...
For those who despair that their lives are without meaning and without purpose, for those who dwell in a loneliness so terrible that it has withered their hearts, for those who hate because they have no recognition of the destiny they share with all humanity, for those who would squander their lives in self-pity and in self-destruction because they have lost the saving wisdom with which they were born, for all these and many more, hope waits in the dreams of a dog, where the sacred nature of life may be clearly experienced without the all but blinding filter of human need, desire, greed, envy, and endless fear. And here, in dream woods and fields, along the shores of dream seas, with a profound awareness of the playful Presence [of the Creator] abiding in all things, Curtis is able to prove to Leilani what she has thus far only dared to hope is true: that although her mother never loved her, there is One who always has.

From an essay by Will Rogers in 1934:

I have often thought my friend O.O. McIntyre gave more space in his column to his little dog than I do to the United States Senate. But it does show that he knows human nature better than I do. He knows that everybody at heart loves a dog, while I have to try and make converts to the Senate.

In London, five years ago, old Lord Dewar, a great humorist and character, and the biggest whiskey maker in the world, gave [my] children a little white dog, a Sealyham, saying: "If this dog knew how well bred he was, he wouldn't speak to any of us."

We have petted him, complained on him, called him a nuisance, but when we buried him yesterday, we couldn't think of a wrong thing he'd ever done. His bravery was his undoing. He lost to a rattlesnake, but his face was towards it.

From an essay by me in 2001:

I love dogs because they are without a doubt the most lovable creatures inhabiting this world. Puppies live every day as though it were their first, rushing around, playing at every hint of provocation, rejoicing in their lives as if they remember how it was not to live. As they grow, so does their love. Older dogs are mellower than puppies, not out of fatigue or boredom but rather maturity. An older dog understands the deeper value of life, especially the life of a loved one. An older dog has a better understanding of the complexity of human emotions than many humans do. The very presence of a dog can drain negative feelings out of anyone, and their service to mankind has been well documented in literature, TV, film, and oral tradition. Every single dog that I've had for more than two weeks left an indelible imprint on my life.

I think that people who don't like dogs fall into two broad categories: people who like cats better, and people who don't like animals at all. I can only pity people who don't like animals. They deprive themselves of the unspeakable joy of communing with other of God's creatures. Of people who prefer cats over dogs, I hold the opinion that <deleting some nasty comments about cats and the people who like them more than dogs—I've mellowed a little in the last three years - Curt>.

Any other animal, with the possible exception of the horse, requires little in the way of maintenance, affection, time, and love. And any other animal, again excepting the horse and maybe the dolphin, provides nothing like what a dog does in the way of loyalty, companionship, and unabashed fun. <deleting a few more nasty comments> People who love dogs understand that the rewards of relationship are far greater than the conveniences of coexistence.

I think E.B. White also had some wonderful things to say about dogs, and I know James Thurber did, as well as Fred First, but I've already exceeded—for the first time, I think—my self-imposed limit of 1,000 words per post. I'll have to save those for another time.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

technology is wonderful  

We are experiencing technical difficulties. I may not be posting anything for a few days until I get a computer issue resolved.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Marriage advice  

Yesterday I was cleaning out one of our kitchen drawers and I found what appeared to be a collection of recipes bound together by a single metal ring. I looked at them more closely and saw that the first recipe card proclaimed "Recipe for A Wonderful Christ-Centered Marriage! We All Love You!" It was a party gift from one of Mrs. Happy's bridal showers back in March of 1998. All the ladies at the shower wrote marriage advice on recipe cards and gave them to her at the end of the shower. Here are some of the nuggets of wisdom we received early on. (These were all hand-written. I have tried to preserve all the capitalizations, spellings, and notations as much as possible.)

Make the big effort to "make memories." Right now it will al be special, joyful times. In a year or two…it may take more effort~but it will all be worth it. Have Candlelight dinners once a week! (it makes it all taste better AND do this once the kids come too :) Surprise Kurt with notes of love in his lunch box - socks drawer… Ask His mom how to fix his favorite meal & dessert…then do it! Make every day Precious!

Never go to bed angry with one another.

<this card consisted of a picture of a gingerbread man with the various body parts labeled>
• eyes to always look for the best in each other
• ears to always listen
• arms to give a hug every morning & every evening
• an extra large heart to always forgive and always big enough for growing love
• feet with no heels, so you can never turn & run away, but always move forward together

Always remember to keep God first, then each other. Don't let all the business of life start to become more of a priority than each other. When children come along remember they do not come before the husband or the wife. Remember:
God - first
family - second
everything else - third

One word for your stable marriage: forgiveness. It worked for us!

1) Have plenty of laughs. Make lots of jokes especially when circumstances aren't perfect. 2) Cook in large quantity and freeze the leftovers.

I can say for sure that this is all good, practical advice. Still, we didn't really listen to it or understand it at the time. Having been through six years of marriage and learning this all from experience, it makes a lot more sense now.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Marriage links for the week  

I learned a new word this week, thanks to Jollyblogger. Uxoriousness: excessively submissive or devoted to one's wife; foolishly fond of or submissive to your wife. He explains the word and offers some thoughts on it as it applies to Adam, Abraham, and all men who follow God.

Jollyblogger also expounds on the differences between guys and men this week. He offers a short self-evaluation to discover whether you're a guy or a man based on male role models and women you find attractive. I came down solidly on the man side in the comparison to other men, but solidly on the guy side in the women I find attractive. I think the latter has more to do with the women's age than with my own level of maturity, though.

Lloyd Nichols ponders some issues surrounding sex, marriage, and lust (link via Messy Christian).

IreneQ and her commenters explore the importance of both chemistry and compatibility in a romantic relationship.

According to King of Fools, one Texas politician has his own chapter of supporters living with him in his house.

Ronald Reagan left behind a legacy of love for his family, and especially his wife:

In the written and photographed record of their years together, running for governor, walking in inaugural parades, strolling Camp David, after the attempt on his life and her mastectomy, the Reagans always are holding hands, hers slipped into his. Sometimes, she wanted to hold him with both hands, and she reached around with her free hand to clasp his wrist as well.

One couple kisses for the first time on their wedding day.

I received another Where I'm From poem this week. Check out Where Deb's From.

Friday, June 11, 2004

His and Hers XIII  

His and Hers is a question or discussion topic relating to marriage that I post every Tuesday or Wednesday (though I didn't 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 your favorite expression of physical affection from your spouse?

Mrs. Happy's response

One of the things that made me fall in love with Curt was the way he hugs me with abandon, like I'm the only person in the world. I still love the hugs, but I think my favorite thing now is when he caresses my face.

Curt's response

When my wife lovingly strokes the back of my head and neck, I think that physical act makes me feel more loved than any other.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

My scary week, epilogue  

I rarely saw the man who shared my hospital room due to the privacy curtain drawn between us, and I never spoke to him. Everything I learned about him came from what I heard of the conversations coming from his side of the room. At first, I thought he was a mean, senile old man because he yelled a lot and didn't always make sense. Later, I learned that he could not hear very well and had probably suffered some kind of stroke. He had been in the hospital for a couple of days, and during my time there he began to slowly regain his senses. During my first night there he shouted angrily at anyone who came into the room, operating on the (not unfounded) assumption that anyone standing at his bedside wanted to stab him with a needle. He spoke more kindly once the sun rose, especially after his wife arrived to keep him company.

The first time that his wife visited during my stay, she spoke lovingly to him and he reciprocated. She was relieved that he finally recognized her, and she filled him in on all that had happened. At one point he told her, "I must have been close to death, but honey, I love you so much you make me want to live." He made a point of telling every nurse, doctor, orderly, lab tech, and dietary worker he saw that he loved his wife and that they had been married for 65 years. He also bragged about his children, one of whom owned a local restaurant and brought him French onion soup for lunch one day.

I can't testify with any accuracy regarding the state of that 65-year-old marriage, but the love between them was obvious in the way the two spoke to each other. The love of their daughter was also obvious during her visit. My wife and I have been married for six years. While we were sitting in my hospital bed doing a crossword puzzle together, I couldn't help but wonder what we would be like after doing this for another sixty years. I hope and pray that our love is as obvious at that time as it is in the marriage of my elderly stroke victim roommate.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

My scary week, Part 3  

Read Part 1 and Part 2 before going any further.

At some point during the morning, my doctor asked me about tests that my New York cardiologist had run. She wanted to see the results of the echocardiogram Dr. NY had administered, but I didn't have his phone number. So I told her his name and his city, naively thinking that the hospital would be able to get ahold of, or at least confirm the existence of, any doctor in the country. Throughout the morning, a nurse or an aide would ask me to clarify Dr. NY's name and city because they couldn't find him or even any evidence of him. After several hours of this confusion, my wife called her brother in Austin and asked him to see if he could find the doctor on the Web. He found Dr. NY's number while they were on the phone. That shook my confidence in the hospital a little. I gave my nurse the phone number, but they still couldn't get ahold of the doctor.

A cardiologist in the hospital came to visit me at one point while my wife was there. He told me that he had gone over all the test results and that everything looked normal. He said I probably had mitral valve prolapse, a heart condition that can allow a little blood to flow back into the the left atrium once it has passed into the left ventricle. It can cause symptoms similar to mine and is fairly common. He said he would know for sure once he was able to look at my echocardiogram from New York. He also told me that it is nothing to worry about, that it is relatively harmless, and that it's better to live with the symptoms than with the side effects of the medication that would alleviate the discomfort. Immediately after he left the room, my wife looked at me quizzically and asked, "Did he just tell you to suck it up?" I think he did.

Anyway, the NY echocardiogram seemed to be a long time coming, so they finally just administered one themselves. Shortly thereafter, the cardiologist came back to see me and reported that the test displayed no signs of MVP. However much my irregular heart beats disturbed me, they appeared to be benign in nature. The tightness in my chest could have been caused by any of a number of non-cardiac-related events. He said he would recommend to my attending physician that I be released. He didn't say this in so many words, but this is how I interpreted his statements: "You have a strong, healthy, well-formed heart. You don't smoke, drink, or suffer from stress. Your cholesterol level is fine, as is your blood pressure. You have no family history of heart disease. Exertion does away with your irregular heartbeats rather than exacerbating them. All the tests we've run have come back negative. And you're only 31 years old. We can't figure out what's wrong with you, so it's probably nothing serious. Suck it up." Both my regular doctor and my cardiologist echoed those thoughts when I later followed up with them in New York.

So they let me go. The nurse who discharged me assured me I had done the right thing in coming to the hospital. A lot of people with my symptoms ignore them and end up dying as a result. She scolded me a little, however, for coming to the hospital in a car rather than an ambulance. An ambulance has oxygen tanks, medicines, medical tools, and people trained to use them whereas a grandparent's car usually has none of those. Also, people who arrive in an ambulance are usually fast-tracked and not shunted off to the waiting room for seven hours. Now I know.

I thought that I would feel silly if I went to the hospital only to find out there's nothing wrong with me. Instead, I feel relieved. That pressure lasted about a week, and I would have been an absolute nervous wreck after half a day had I not been under the care of doctors. As it is, my mind is now at ease for the most part. I would have preferred to have a more definitive diagnosis, but medicine is an inexact science. Whatever the case, I'll be around for a good while longer, God willing.

The end…

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

My scary week, Part 2  

If you have not read Part 1, read it now.

In the emergency room, I described my symptoms to a triage nurse. She took down my information and sent me to the waiting room, where I waited a few minutes before another nurse called my name. Allowing my wife to tag along, he took me to a room where he asked me exactly the same questions as the triage nurse. He then administered an EKG, drew some blood for a test, and sent me to the X-ray lab for a chest X-ray. After that, we sat in the ER waiting room for six hours. Periodically, a nurse would emerge to evaluate my pulse and blood pressure and quiz me about my level of pain/discomfort. To pass the time, the family and I played Word Mastermind. It took my mind off the situation and alleviated my feeling of impending doom, but I think our fun and laughter may have annoyed the sick and injured people filling up the other seats in the room.

Finally, a little after midnight, a nurse approached and said they were going to admit me into the hospital as soon as they could get a bed ready. They gave me a temporary bed in the emergency room where I could have privacy (essential once they put me into a hospital gown). A nurse gave me an aspirin, a couple of nitroglycerin tablets, a nitroglycerin skin patch, and a shot of something (can't remember what) in my stomach. She also gave me an IV feed of saline (I think) to counteract the drop in blood pressure caused by the nitroglycerin, put an oxygen tube in my nose, and hooked me up to a machine that monitored my blood pressure and my heartbeat, a machine that squeezed my arm at regular intervals and allowed me to hear as well as feel the PVCs. I waited in that rolling bed for more than an hour before they took me to a real room. Mrs. Happy stayed with me and kept me occupied as well as she could.

The next few hours are too tedious to describe. Lots of talking to nurses and a doctor, lots of blood-drawing and blood pressure-taking, and lots of the same questions I had been hearing since the moment I walked through the door. Once I was settled in my room, they gave me a portable heart monitor and a bed pan, one of which I found impossible to use (hint: it wasn't the heart monitor). Eventually, they told my wife that she had to leave since I was in a semiprivate room with another male patient. She reluctantly left and returned to our hotel to get some sleep. Upon her leaving, I immediately drifted into a state of semi-consciousness, unable to fall completely asleep but too exhausted to stay fully awake. The night was broken up by periodic visits from nurses and aids, people yelling at my hard-of-hearing roommate, and a concerned phone call from a distressed Mrs. Happy.

Morning came and brought with it a combination of boredom and anxiety the likes of which I had never known. In the past, I have thought that being in the hospital would be kind of fun, with no responsibilities and all kinds of people paying close attention to you. I no longer think that. The nitro pills and patch in the emergency room had alleviated the tightness in my chest, but it had returned in the night and showed no signs of going away. The PVCs continued unabated. The oxygen had dried out the inside of my nose, leaving it feeling uncomfortably raw and a little bloody. The array of diversions available to me reminded me of the kind of joke I used to perform with my childhood friend Chris:

Me: I was in the hospital and I had nothing to read.
Chris: That's bad.
Me: I asked a nurse and she brought me a magazine.
Chris: That's good.
Me: It was a fashion magazine.
Chris: That's bad.
Me: She also brought me a Wall Street Journal.
Chris: That's good.
Me: I couldn't concentrate well enough to read.
Chris: That's bad.
Me: There was a TV in the room.
Chris: That's good.
Me: My roommate had the remote.
Chris: That's bad.
Me: He watched some interesting shows.
Chris: That's good.
Me: He also watched five episodes of Full House and two episodes of a show that resembled Teletubbies on acid.
Chris: That's bad.
Me: He couldn't hear very well, so he had to keep the volume really loud.
Chris: That's good. No, wait. That's bad.
Me: The TV's sound came through speakers in the bed rather than from the TV.
Chris: That's good.
Me: The speakers in my bed didn't work.
Chris: Crap.

Fortunately, the food was good(!) and nearly all the hospital employees were nice. The air conditioner was a north pole/equatorial jungle proposition. My attending physician spoke to me at length about how I was feeling and what tests she wanted to run. She said that the X-ray and the blood tests showed no abnormalities, and that the EKG had recorded my PVCs. Throughout the day, every three hours, people came up from the hospital's lab to extract blood from my arm. Some time in the mid-morning, they wheeled me to another floor where a woman performed a sonogram on my legs to look for blood clots. She found none.

My wife showed up around lunch time with her parents, two of her grandparents, and her brother. We passed the time amicably for about an hour, then the family went home, leaving Mrs. Happy with me. Our time together was as delightful as it could be under the circumstances. We sat in the bed together doing crossword puzzles. We strolled around the hospital floor and made some phone calls to update family and friends. We talked and laughed and kissed when no one was looking. Perfectly lovely.

To be continued…

Monday, June 07, 2004

My scary week, Part 1  

Imagine you're riding in a car being driven by your friend Frank. Now imagine that a drunk driver broadsides your car on Frank's side so that he's knocked unconscious. An ambulance arrives and takes everyone to the hospital. You walk away with a few bruises. Frank is okay except that he might be a little loopy for a day or two. When you call Frank's wife to let her know what happened, it's a bad idea to say, "Kelli, we were broadsided by a drunk driver. The doctors have Frank under observation right now." It's better and more sensitive to say, "Kelli, everything's okay. Frank and I are both fine, but we were in a car accident. Frank got knocked on the head, so he's a little out of it, but the doctors say he's going to be perfectly all right." The first statement allows Kelli's worst fears to run wild in her imagination and devastate her emotionally. The second puts the accident in perspective so that Kelli knows right up front that nothing is seriously wrong.

In that spirit, I should say right up front that everything's okay. I'm fine, but last week I went to the emergency room with symptoms of a heart attack.

My wife and I had been planning a trip to Arizona for a mini-family reunion. We were set to leave on Saturday, May 29, and return on Wednesday, June 2. We had one small problem, though, in that I have been experiencing irregular heartbeats with increasing frequency for the past couple of months. Thursday night, the premature ventricular contractions (as I later learned to call the irregular beats, or PVCs) were stronger and more frequent than any I had ever experienced. When a PVC occurs, I feel as though my heart stops beating for a split second then resumes, sort of like a car engine missing on a cylinder or two. Thursday night, I developed a fear that my heart would stop and not be able to start again. The fear wasn't bad enough for me to call an ambulance, but it did prompt me to visit my cardiologist's office on Friday.

The cardiologist's assistant said they would order a device that would record my heartbeats so that they could see the phenomenon and evaluate it. She also told me I should be okay traveling to Arizona. So Mrs. Happy and I packed up and got on the plane Saturday morning. I still harbored some fear about my heart stopping. I also worried that my troubles might stem from a blood clot, though I know absolutely nothing about blood clots except that they can kill and are especially deadly on airplanes for some reason.

I reached Phoenix alive, but the PVCs continued to grow in number and intensity. I fell asleep with them Sunday night and woke up with them early Monday morning. They stayed with me throughout the day, sometimes pounding my chest with such violence that they took my breath away or forced me to cough. My wife made a point of sticking close to me when she could and, when she couldn't, making sure I was never alone. Around four o'clock, I began feeling a squeezing sensation in the middle of my chest. I found a computer and looked up a Web site that listed the symptoms of a heart attack. The tightness in the chest was right at the top of the list:

I felt all of these symptoms to one degree or another, though even at the time I could attribute most of them to panic and imagination (pressure in my neck, nervousness, impending doom, etc.) or my natural state (paleness or pallor). But the tightness was unmistakably real, and it terrified me. Though the tightness was not painful—just very uncomfortable—the Web site stated that it is "vital to seek medical attention quickly if you feel the sort of pressing pain or heaviness described above. There is a 90 percent probability that pain of this type is angina. And even if it goes away, the artery blockages that caused it are still there and will grow progressively worse. Ignoring this sort of pain because it is not unbearable or because it goes away is the worst thing you can do. It is the only warning you are likely to get of a potentially lethal condition."

I made my fears known to the family as calmly as I could, and everyone agreed that I should get to the nearest emergency room as quickly as possible. So two grandparents, two parents, my wife, and I all piled into a five-passenger sedan and drove to what turned out to be one of the top ten heart hospitals in the country.

To be continued…

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Marriage links for the week  

Rebecca writes about her casual attitude toward wedding anniversaries has not changed in her husband's absence. Thanks to Rey for the link.

Marla is proud of her husband.

One of the strongest proponents of marriage in the country, apparently and ironically, is a Catholic priest who teaches a class called "Christian Marriage" at the University of Dayton. His class is so popular, and his impact is so profound, that university alumni have set up a scholarship fund in his honor. He says the keys to a successful marriage are "knowing who you are, knowing your spouse and maintaining a focus, passion and dedication to each other."

I love dogs, and Fred's young lab looks like a delight for anyone who doesn't have to live with him. There are a couple of pictures at Fragments From Floyd of the pup chasing a butterfly and leaping for joy in a picturesque creek.

Friday, June 04, 2004

His and Hers XII  

Note: I posted this last week then left town. There was some sort of technical glitch. The post disappeared, and I was unable to do anything about it (and thanks, Rey, for posting in my absence). I'm reposting it again for this week.


His and Hers is a question or discussion topic relating to marriage that I post every Tuesday or Wednesday (though I didn't get a chance 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:

Merriam-Webster Online recently conducted a survey of their readers' favorite words. What are your top ten favorite words, in no particular order and for any reason at all?

Mrs. Happy's response

philanthropic
mandala!
havoc
ensues
globular
heck
heinous
kumquat
excellent (Mr. Burns-style)
entrepreneur

Curt's response

yonder
howdy
wherefore
happy
flappy
hijinks
inspire
askance
eschew
ethereal

Thursday, June 03, 2004

RLTB™  

Real life is holding the Ace, King, Queen, and Jack of Spades right now, compared to the 10 of Diamonds that blogging possesses, which means that real life is trumping the heck out of blogging. I will probably write more about it when I get a chance (maybe Monday), but for now I'll just have to claim my RLTB rights.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

How long has it been?  

by Steve Switzer

18 years, 4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days, 12 hours and 34 minutes…but who's counting?

Many a man (including yours truly) has found himself at an uncomfortable loss for words when confronted with this familiar question, "So, how long have you been married?" The crowd grows silent, the sound of crickets are heard, all eyes are suddenly turned on him (especially the glaring eyes of his beloved). After a brief pause that seems to last forever, he responds cleverly with, "Not nearly long enough!" or "It seems like it was only yesterday!" — Of course, the other infamous question involves the actual date of the blessed event, but that's another story.

It is somewhat of a mystery why many men can remember the box scores of their favorite sports team since childhood, but they seem to draw a blank when it comes to remembering how long they've been married to "the woman of their dreams." But even if the date does escape me, I know that I could never forget the moments we've shared in "18 plus" years of marriage. So far, I can remember times when we laughed so hard that it hurt. There have been times when I, the strong he-man, cried uncontrollably in the loving arms of my best friend. When I stop and think about it, there has literally never been a dull moment in our marriage journey, and we're really just getting started.

I am reminded of the words of the Psalmist, David, "Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom." (Psalm 90:12) I think he is basically saying, "life is brief, and full of wonderful opportunities, so cherish each and every day you have." I also see this applying to the part of my life that I am sharing with my special friend and wife, Shelley. I believe that the better part of the last nineteen years of my life has been "a Gift within a Gift." So, every once in a while I stop and "number the days—cherish the days" of my marriage. Just as in life there are good days and bad days, in this relationship, there are definitely ups and downs. But every time I honestly consider the precious gift from God in the person of my wife, I gain a bit more wisdom. I have come to realize and agree completely with the words of Solomon in Proverbs, "He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord." (Proverbs 18:22)

It is hard to believe sometimes that we've been married almost nineteen years. It really does seem just like yesterday that it all began. While at the same time, I feel like we've been married forever. It is hard to remember a time without her. I cherish the days, each and every one of them, as the gift that they are from God.

So, who's counting the days? I guess I am. There have been 6,720 of them, and I'm still counting—numbering—cherishing each and every one of them.

By the way, the date was December 28th. Honestly, some things you just never forget!

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

An 18-year-old gift from God  

by Shelley Switzer

When my friend Curt asked if I could write something for his Web site about being married for 18 years I was thrilled. We just celebrated 18 years of marriage. We also just celebrated our son's 13th birthday, so now we have 2 teenagers in our home and we enjoy them both very much. We also have a 6-year-old who keeps us young. (Or is she making us old? That's a whole other article!)

I sat down to write and now I don't know what to say. Let's see.

It's been the best of times, it's been the worst of times. No, no. Let me try again.

It seems like yesterday we met for the first time and then it seems like we have been together FOREVER! There have been days when he is just a few minutes late and I think my heart will burst inside if I don't see him soon! There have also been times when I can understand why women run over their husbands with a car. (Don't worry. The way I drive he could lie down in front of my tires and I'd still miss him.) I have to say that in 18 years we have had a LOT more good days than bad. So I sit here asking myself: How did that happen? Why do I smile even now thinking about the day all our kids are grown and gone and it's just the two of us? I can only think of a few reasons:

  1. From day one we always make sure the other knows we love them. In 18 years there has never been a day that Steve left for work and didn't kiss me good-bye. Even when I'd been up all night with a crying baby and I was finally sleeping, he'd kiss me good-bye. (I didn't always appreciate it then, but I do now. Sorry honey! I truly appreciate it now!)

    We also say "I love you" every day. We decided early in our marriage that if the unthinkable happened and one of us died in our sleep or died coming home from work, the other one would not spend days or years regretting they never said, "I love you." So he knows and I know. We are loved!

  2. We keep God in the center of our marriage and our lives. I had to learn this one. Steve can't meet all my needs, but God can. What a load of pressure off my husband when I finally figured that out!

    When we did have young children and it was all I could do to function, Steve would share what he had been learning in his devotion time. There were days I resented him for this. I wanted to have my own quiet time. But every time it got quiet, I fell asleep! Learning from what Steve was learning was not as good as getting it for myself, but in those trying times it kept me going and encouraged me to get back to my quiet times.

    Just a few years ago, God revealed to me to pray for passion in our marriage. I'll admit I fought it for a while. A good marriage should have that, why pray for it? When I finally swallowed my pride and realized Jesus said in the book of John "Without me you can do NOTHING," I started praying for passion and for God to show me how to love Steve more. What a difference it has made in our marriage!

  3. We make time for each other. This has been the hardest lesson to learn. Especially when the kids started coming. We had heard couples need date nights. Let me emphasize it again. You need date nights. Even if it's not out to eat. Just send the kids out and stay home together. Make time for each other. When you do get that time TALK, TALK, TALK. Talk about your hopes, dreams, discouragements, frustrations. Everything. Even if you are not a talker, learn to talk. You need that time to stay in touch with each other.

  4. Last, but not least, keep learning about marriage and each other. We read books or take classes to learn everything from ant farming to zoo keeping, but we rarely read books on how to keep a marriage going. Make it a point to read one Christian book on marriage a year or go to a couple's retreat. You never know when you'll find out after all these years that your spouse LOVES Captain Crunch! (Inside joke.)

So that's basically it. Why after 18 years, I love Steve more than the day we married. Why if he doesn't get home soon, I'm going to eat his sandwich and he'll forgive me. Why I can't wait to see what the next 18 has in store for us. Why I KNOW, marriage is a gift from God!